The part(s) or condition(s) listed below for the symptom Small engine runs poorly are ordered from most likely to least likely to occur. Check or test each item, starting with the items at the top of the page.
The carburetor might be clogged. A clogged carburetor is most commonly caused by leaving fuel in the engine for a long period of time. Over time, some of the ingredients in the fuel may evaporate, leaving behind a thicker, stickier substance. This sticky fuel can clog up the carburetor and cause the engine to run roughly. If the carburetor is clogged, try cleaning it with carburetor cleaner. If cleaning the carburetor isn’t effective, rebuild or replace the entire carburetor.
Inspect the spark plug for signs of wear or damage. If the porcelain insulator is cracked, an electrode is burned away or damaged, or there is heavy carbon buildup at the electrode, replace the spark plug. To determine if the spark plug is defective, use a spark plug tester. You should see a strong spark between the tester’s terminals when the engine is cranking. If there is no spark, this indicates that the spark plug is defective and should be replaced.