What are the major components of the fuel system? How do they function together?
You may have heard people jokingly comment that the fuel in the tank is so low the engine is running "on vapors." Technically, they're right. Gasoline won't burn in its liquid state; it must be converted to a vapor first. The vapors that burn in your small engine are formed from a mixture of fuel (typically gasoline) and air. And you need the right amount of fuel and the right amount of air to maintain whatever engine speed you select. The best way to understand the fuel system is to begin at the tank.
From The Fuel Tank To The Carburetor
Locate the fuel tank on your engine. If you have an older engine, it's probably made of steel or aluminum. Newer tanks are made of plastic and are built into the molded plastic shroud over the engine. Now, look for a fuel line, a hose connected to one side of the tank. The fuel line carries the fuel to the carburetor, a mixing chamber that contains a throttle and (if equipped) a choke, attached to the equipment controls.
On most engines, the force of gravity carries the fuel through the fuel line. However, if the fuel tank is mounted low on the engine, gravity may not do the trick. In this case, a fuel pump uses low pressure in the crankcase to pump fuel. The pump is located between the tank and the carburetor or in the carburetor itself.
Some engines eliminate the need for either a fuel line or pump by mounting the carburetor directly on the fuel tank and using a pick-up tube in the tank to draw fuel.
Into The Carburetor
On most engines, fuel from the fuel line enters the carburetor's fuel bowl, a reservoir where a float, similar to the float ball in a toilet tank, regulates the fuel level. From there, a metering device called a jet lets fuel into the emulsion tube inside the pedestal, where fuel and air first mix. (Older models include an adjustable jet; newer models contain a fixed jet.) Fuel travels through the emulsion tube to the main passageway in the carburetor, called the throat or venturi, where further mixing occurs.
If your carburetor is a tank mounted type, fuel from the tank may be supplied directly to the emulsion tube, without the need for a float.
The Role Of The Throttle
At one end of the throat is a throttle plate. The throttle plate is connected to your equipment control lever (often referred to as the throttle) and opens or closes to increase or decrease engine speed. As the throttle plate opens, more air is drawn into the carburetor. Air flow, in turn, determines how much fuel is delivered for combustion.
Many carburetors have an idle speed screw to stop the throttle from closing too far at low speed, and an idle mixture screw, which increases or decreases air and fuel flow to prevent a stall.
Using The Choke
A throttle works fine in warm weather. But when it's cold, fluids don't vaporize as easily. The engine may need extra fuel to start.
This is the role of the choke plate or primer. They compensate for the cold by increasing the fuel-to-air ratio. The choke is located in the throat between the air filter and the throttle plate. Closing the choke reduces air flow. Low pressure created inside the engine keeps the fuel flowing. The use of the choke "enriches the mixture." It's not an effective way to run an engine all the time, but it helps a cold engine start. Once the engine reaches its normal operating temperature range, you can open the choke to let in more air, for a cleaner, more efficient burn.
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