When it’s time to break out the summer equipment, it’s tempting to just fire it up and go. But you may need to do some prep first. Whether it’s a motorcycle, boat, ATV, small engine or other gas-powered equipment that’s been parked for the winter, follow this checklist to minimize trouble and maximize your summer fun.

Use this 5-point checklist before firing them up

1 – Check your spark plugs to ensure your engine has a healthy combustion. For a two-stroke engine, a plug that is covered in gum or heavy carbon deposits indicates poor oil performance or that the gas is old. Address this situation with more than just new plugs! Also, inspect and replace any worn plug wires to ensure a strong ignition.

2 – Take a fuel sample and check for water contamination. Contaminated fuel should be discarded to avoid engine problems. Also, look for fuel deposits, a sign of oxidation, which can result in gum, varnish and other deposits that clog carburetor jets and filters — leading to starting difficulties, power loss or engine failure. That’s why using a quality fuel treatment prior to storage is essential for combatting potential problems.

3 – Check the oil — most engine oil should be replaced prior to storage, so the engine’s vital internal moving parts have a fresh corrosion prevention treatment prior to the offseason. Consult your owner’s manual for the correct changing frequency.

4 – Make sure your battery holds a full charge if you have an electric-start engine. Batteries that are suspect should be load tested. If the terminals are coated with corrosion, clean them with a wire brush or steel wool. You want a solid electrical connection, so perform the same routine on the cable connectors and fasteners, too.

5 – Check the lower-unit gear lube to ensure outboards and stern drives are properly filled. Changing the lube helps extend equipment life. Replace fuel filters periodically, too. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, which are set forth by the engineers who designed the products.

Do a final once-over, cleaning the equipment and using a quality spray lubricant on all moving parts and cables. When you’re finished, be sure to record the dates and work performed, so you don’t leave these important details to memory.

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT ETHANOL

Is E10 potentially harmful to small engines?

Ethanol is corrosive, degrades quickly and is prone to water contamination — problems that can be highly damaging to outdoor equipment and recreational engines.

How long does E10 last?

Oxidation can cause fuel to break down in as little as 30 days. E10’s shelf life is greatly reduced in engines with vented fuel systems such as outdoor power equipment. Marine engines are usually in moist environments and ethanol naturally attracts moisture, increasing the risk of water contamination in your fuel.

Can I use E10 in my small engine?

While non-oxygenated gasoline is preferred, E10 can be used safely in your outdoor power equipment — with proper storage and a fuel treatment. Corrosion, clogging, gumming and other problems are more likely when engines are used less frequently. A quality fuel treatment is the best prevention.

Can I use E15 blended gasoline?

E15 is only approved for 2001 and newer cars and trucks. No small engine manufacturer or motorcycle, snowmobile, ATV or marine engine manufacturer has approved the use of E15.