Leaf Blower Maintenance Tips
How to Tune-Up a Leaf Blower
Autumn is an excellent time to check on the condition of your leaf blower, but it shouldn’t be the only time. Just like any other power tool, your leaf blower needs regular maintenance.
Every type of leaf blower benefits from frequent checks and tune-ups:
- Handheld gas leaf blowers
- Backpack leaf blowers
- Walk behind leaf blowers
- Electric leaf blowers
Basic maintenance checks can also help you troubleshoot your equipment if it's not running well, although if they fail to address the issue and you're not sure how to repair your leaf blower, it's best to take it to a service center for a professional assessment.
No matter which kind of blower you own, though, the tips below will help get it ready for fall cleanup and keep it running throughout the entire year.
General Maintenance Tips for All Leaf Blowers
There are some steps you can take to care for any kind of leaf blower. The most important ones involve keeping it clean.
Whenever you use your leaf blower, take some time to inspect and wipe the parts that are most likely to accumulate dust and debris:
- Air filters
If you notice dirt or dust covering your leaf blower’s exterior, wipe the casing and handle with mild soap and water. Never use ammonia, turpentine, or any other harsh solvent or cleanser that can damage the housing.
Finally, every week, check that the throttle or trigger still works, even when you’re not actively using your blower.
Handheld Gas Leaf Blower Maintenance
Gas leaf blowers provide extra power, so it makes sense that they would require extra maintenance! Every gas-powered blower has the same components that need to be checked at the start of the season and then on the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule (usually found in the product manual).
More than many pieces of power equipment, leaf blowers depend on open air flow in order to function. This is why you’ll see manufacturers recommend cleaning the air filter after approximately every 10 hours of use.
To thoroughly clean the filter, wash the reusable parts:
- Remove any sponges or felt pieces that are part of it
- Soak them briefly in warm, soapy water
- Rinse them with clean water
- Allow them to dry
- Squeeze a few drops of oil into the filter or sponge
If your blower uses a paper filter, tap it against a hard surface to loosen any dirt. Replace it once a year before it becomes filled with dirt.
If you use your gas handheld leaf blower regularly (for example, if you’re a landscaping professional or you clean a large lot every week), replace your air filter with a new one monthly.
The spark plug is an essential component of any engine-powered tool, no matter how small that gas engine is.
Because leaf blowers demand so much power from their 2-stroke engines, it’s recommended that users disconnect the spark plug, check it for corrosion, and make sure it meets the manufacturer’s specifications once a week while the blower is in regular use.
Replace the spark plug with a new one at the start of fall or after every 25 hours of use, whichever comes first. Measure the spark plug gap after replacement to check that it matches the manufacturer's recommendation.
The fuel isn’t one of your leaf blower’s mechanical parts, but it’s an important part to consider. Not only does fuel quality start to degrade after 30 days; fuel left to sit longer than that can damage the blowers tank and fuel lines.
Be sure to drain and replace your leaf blower’s fuel monthly in addition to draining the tank, running, the engine dry, and leaving it empty before putting the machine into long-term storage.
For 2-cycle engines, be sure to mix the right amount of 2-stroke oil with the fuel (50:1 is a common ratio) and only mix enough for a one-month supply. Do NOT use motor oil; it will damage the engine.
A fuel filter traps dirt that might be present in fuel and keeps it out of an engine’s small mechanical parts. It sits at the end of the fuel line that feeds into your blower’s fuel tank, so removing it takes some ingenuity.
Disconnect the spark plug, and use a small hook or a wire clothes hanger bent to form a narrow hook to snag the filter and pull it out of the fuel tank. Replace it with a new fuel filter, and gently push the assembly back into the tank.
If, while you're replacing the filter, you notice that the fuel line is cracked or broken, bring your equipment to a service center. Professionals are equipped with special tools to handle this difficult job.
A common recommendation is to change your leaf blower’s fuel filter once per year.
While 2-cycle leaf blowers will use a mixture of fuel and engine oil in their tanks, 4-cycle leaf blowers will have separate tanks for oil and fuel. Just like the fuel, however, the oil in a 4-cycle blower needs to be changed regularly.
A common suggestion is to perform the first oil change on a 4-cycle gas leaf blower after the first 20 hours of use, then to change the oil every 50 hours of use afterward.
A clogged or dirty carburetor can prevent your leaf blower’s gas engine from firing properly or even starting at all. Depending on the model, cleaning it can be as easy as removing an external panel and spraying a few bursts of carb cleaner into the choke.
On other models, you might need to locate your blower’s fuel tank and find the tube that extends from the bottom. Detach the tube from the end opposite the fuel tank, which is where the carburetor is located, and drain any fuel inside it.
Spray carburetor cleaner into the hole where the tube had been attached and reattach the tube. The cleaner will start to remove built-up residue the next time you use your blower.
For the best performance, clean your leaf blower’s carburetor once a year.
Leaf blowers that have a catalytic converter to reduce emissions also have a spark arrestor attached to the muffler. The part that needs to be cleaned is the screen, which collects carbon deposits and can be detached from the exhaust pipe.
Remove deposits from the detached spark arrestor screen with a brush once a month.
Not every gas handheld blower has a built-in vacuum mode or function. However, if yours does, be sure to take the bag outside and clean it annually as described in the Electric Leaf Blower Maintenance section below.
Backpack Leaf Blower Maintenance
Backpack leaf blowers also draw on the power of gas engines. As a result, maintaining them is similar to maintaining regular gas handheld leaf blowers, but with a few additional parts to check:
- Shoulder straps:
Your backpack blower will be impossible to use without straps to hold it in place. Check them for wear and readjust their position with every use.
- Flexible hose:
Unlike handheld models, backpack blowers have a flexible tube or hose that connects the blow pipe and the control handle to the engine on its frame. Because any flexible part stands a chance of tearing, it’s important to inspect it regularly for cracks or damage.
- Cooling system:
The cooling system that prevents a backpack blower from overheating may be as simple as a set of fins attached to the cylinder that work in tandem with an air intake screen. Brush those fins and the air intake screen free of dust once a week.
Walk Behind Leaf Blower Maintenance
Like backpack leaf blowers, walk behind or wheeled leaf blowers are another style with similar parts to maintain as a handheld model. Also like backpack blowers, walk behind leaf blowers will have a couple of additional parts to inspect.
The parts that distinguish wheeled leaf blowers from other models are, of course, the wheels. Whether the tires are plastic or pneumatic, check them every time you use your blower for damage or deflation. Furthermore, check the axle monthly to see if it needs to be greased.
Every leaf blower contains an impeller, which is a fan that creates the force that pushes air through the blower tube. Because the impeller on a walk behind blower is what allows it to produce a greater volume of air than a handheld blower, it’s especially important to maintain. Once a year, disconnect the blower’s spark plug, remove the housing, and inspect the impeller’s blades for cracks and other damage.
Electric Leaf Blower Maintenance
Electric leaf blowers are known for being low-maintenance tools. However, they still need some regular care.
If you own a battery-powered or cordless leaf blower, inspect the battery for leaks and check the amount of charge it has left before every use. Be sure to keep the batteries charged but not inserted into the equipment or the charger, as the connection will drain the battery when not in use.
At the start of the season and once a month after, clean the battery contacts on the blower by wiping them with a soft, dry cloth.
If you own a corded leaf blower or leaf blower and vacuum, always inspect the cord and its connection point before plugging it in. A frayed wire or a missing grounding pin on the plug could cause an electric shock.
Additionally, if your model has a vacuum bag, clean the bag annually:
- Remove the bag from the blower
- Turn it inside out (wear a dust mask!) and hang it outside
- Spray the bag with a garden hose
- Let it hang outside until dry
Keep Your Leaf Blower Running
The tips above don’t just cover routine maintenance. They can also be part of your leaf blower troubleshooting technique if you notice any of the following problems:
- Won’t start
- Starts, then stops
- Runs or idles roughly
Again, if these tips don't get your leaf blower running, the best choice is to bring it to a service center for professional repair.
By taking care of your equipment, however, you can reduce the odds that your equipment will need professional service. A little bit of maintenance now will get you lots of use from your leaf blower for years to come.