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Cold Starting Tricks?

4161 Views 24 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  jiveturkey692000
OK, so what's the trick to get a tractor to start when stored outside in the cold?

I have always had to keep mine in the garage, ever since my 2003 DLT3000 (briggs twin) wouldn't start when the temps were under 20F. It would crank over, but never start (acted like the gas was frozen, no matter how much dry gas I added). This happened a few times, and it would start once it warmed up enough outside. Never had the problem when the tractor was inside the garage.

Now I have a 2003 GT5000 (kohler twin) and I've never even tried to start it outside.

My only snowblower is the one on the tractor, so I've been hesitant to take the risk of it not starting.

I'd love to free up the garage space!

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a short spray of carb cleaner(NOT ether) helps to fire them up. in my experience ether is too volatile for small engines, it is easy to put too much and blow out a carb or worse.

you can also tarp it and direct a heater under there for a few minutes before cranking, but if you do this you must be very careful to make sure the tarp can't come in contact with the heater nor get hot enough to melt. i'd use a canvas painters tarp vs an el cheapo plastic/vinyl one if you do think about this method.

lastly, and safer than the tarp/heater combo, you may want a block heater. plus this gets the oil warmed so it is not too thick.
a couple of people i know that park them outside has put block heaters on them and it works great. if i have to park mine outside in the cold i put a bullet heater next to it for a few minutes and it starts right up
My GT likes full choke when cold, but my Noma likes no choke. With no choke, the Noma will fire and stumble, then I pull the choke. Runs like a champ after about 5 seconds.
Make sure you are using a "Winter" weight motor oil.
Many people like to run a straight 30 weight which really impedes fast cranking when cold.

IF you have the Kohler Command, they recommend 5W-30 below 32F.

Also, make sure the choke plate fully closes on the carb.
Usually, pull the choke on the Onans, crank till it fires, push choke in 3/4 of the way run it for a minute, push it the rest of the way in- The Tecumseh is cold blooded- pull choke all the way out, crank till it pops- push it half way in crank till it fires and runs , put it to half throttle, run a minute or two then push choke all the way in- The Greyhound close choke, open gas, crank till it fires, then open choke half way, run for about 2 minutes, then shut choke off, let it run for another minute then drive it. Thats it.
I have a small magnetic "tank" heater (it's tiny--about the size of my fist) I set on the cyl head for a few minutes, then shoot a quicky shot of carb cleaner on the air filter, while cranking the engine.
On my Tecumseh I just pull the choke about half way, crank it, it fires, I push the choke it right away so it wont choke out, and I'm good to go, or I can give it a minute to warm up.

Every engine I've ran always likes choke, and hates carb cleaner or ether. My machines sit out in a non heated shed, outside, or in a nonheated garage.

I'f try playing with throttle position and how much choke you give it first, if none of that will work try some carb cleaner. If that wont work, try a block heater.

My Tec likes full choke, crank engine over, push throttle up a little, then it "idles". After about 30 sec - 1 minute, I can start advancing the throttle. Have to advance choke proportionally though, as this engine is real sensitive. My tractor's transaxle was apparently very cold last night, as I could hardly shift! Guess the oil was too thick. Carb cleaner does help for cold starts.
Both of my tractors are pretty easy to start. Full choke, half throttle, crank it over. My SS/16, I just push the choke in so its 1/4 choke, then run it 10 seconds, then push the choke all the way in. My 19.9 needs choke a little longer, but I have some tuning to do on that.
Thanks guys.

It's been about 8 years since the last time I left a tractor outside in winter for this reason. That was with the 2003 DLT3000 (25HP Briggs Intek twin). I was able to get it started with carb cleaner (or starting fluid), but it wouldn't stay running, which is what made me think there was an issue with the gas being left out in the cold. My detached garage was neither heated nor insulated, but when I left the tractor in there, it would always start.

OK, we're in a different house now, and new (used) tractor. This garage is attached, but is also neither heated nor insulated. We had the same old tractor up until last year when I caught it on fire while chopping up leaves (long story), so I bought the used 2003 GT5000 (25HP Kohler twin). Never had any trouble starting it in the garage last winter.

This year, we haven't had snow yet, so I have been very slow to get the garage cleaned out to make space for the tractor. I did try to start it yesterday (18 F outside), and now all I get is a loud click, and the engine isn't turning. I'm assuming it's the battery, but I certainly don't know if I'm having the same gas issue. I do have 5W-30 oil in there.

The choke/carb is another issue. The engine hasn't been running right since last year when I ran out of gas once. Must have picked something up that got by the brand new filter, and clogged the carb, because it will only run on partial choke (after starting). Towards the end of the fall, it also is acting like it's not getting gas when going up hills. Not sure if that means the gas pump is on its way out?

I always start it with full choke. And, the choke cable likes to freeze in place, even in the summer time. I've tried lubing all the obvious points, must be missing something.

So, I need to finish cleaning the garage, strip the carb and replace the battery.

OR... just find a used GT5000 with a manual tranny so I can swap over my 46-inch snowblower and be done with this thing...

"Towards the end of the fall, it also is acting like it's not getting gas when going up hills. Not sure if that means the gas pump is on its way out?"

IF the fuel filter is restricted enough that it runs marginally on level ground, it's going to be worse going uphill. The engine simply needs more fuel to work harder.

Get the battery charged & tested before replacing.

Note battery capacity vs temperature-
Thanks Bill.

I'm sure it's due for a battery soon, as this one is of unknown age and didn't like to be cold last year, either.

Maybe I'll put a thermometer in the garage so I can compare to what it's doing outside.

OK, quick update...

The weather got a little warmer today (after this weekend's snow, of course). Tonight after work it was about 37 F outside, and the starter turned over, no problem.

I think the problem is that the battery (not original Die Hard, installed at some unknown time by PO) is undersized. It's a Tractor Supply Huskee 280 model, which is only spec'd at 235 CCA.

The Kohler engine manual defers to the equipment manual for battery specs. The tractor manual says to use a minimum of 280 CCA.

I do have an older Die Hard Gold L&G battery (340 CCA, at least 3 years old) sitting on a Troy Horse tiller. I only used it a few times, and the engine on the tiller has since broken internally.

That battery has been sitting outside, uncovered, unused for over a year. Do you think there's any hope of saving it, or would it be unsafe to charge after all this time out in the sun, snow, heat and cold?

The choke cable is really driving me nuts, worse than ever tonight. I had to yank on it with channel lock pliers tonight to pull it all the way out to get the engine to start.

I bought all new filters, so I'm going to try to keep this thing...

Could the choke cable have moisture in it that's freezing?
One of the few REAL GOOD uses for WD-40!

I'd probably try charging the battery, but it might be better to charge it outside if you have concerns.
IF the battery has been sitting dead for a while, it's probably done for.
Might be a broken, rusted,or bent/kinked spot in the choke cable somewhere since its "freezing" in the summer time to. Probably time to replace that cable for your own sanity lol. If those filters dont work then rip that carb apart and clean it really good. Also could be your fuel pump. I dont know what kind it has but if its vacuum you may need to disassemble it and soak the gaskets in oil to soften them up and check for rips. Those are all actually easy things to do so dont get to discouraged and give up yet.
A trickle charger and a charger with a Starter option have helped me a lot in addition to the comments above.
Great. Get an Interstate Workaholic battery (home depot), clean the carb and put on a new kit, then use this weather break to clear a slot in the garage. You can slide that thing across the floor and you'll be amazed how little of a space you can tuck it in.
Thanks guys, very encouraging...

Yeah, the cable must have an internal issue. I've tried WD40 and PB Blaster, no dice. Works for a while, then freezes right up again next time (and by "freeze" I don't mean temperature, it just sticks in place, even in the warm/hot months as mentioned). I'd definitely be willing to bet it's a rust issue that I just can't see.

I got the tractor out of the backyard, and into the driveway to finish thawing in the sun today (with surprisingly no trouble, seeing as the chains aren't on yet, but the mower deck still is, and we had about an inch or two of wet snow left on the grass). I do have the wheel weights still on there, and I'm not light, so that probably helped a little.

Anyway, I have been chipping away and do have enough room cleared out of the garage to get the tractor in to get started with the carb, battery, etc. I have more work to do to make room for the blower and rear weight bucket (it's amazing how much real estate these things eat up when completely geared up for winter!).

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