Vocations for a New America: Small Engine Repair

I can hear people now–“If it’s a collapse we’re all going to be walking or riding a bicycle/horse/insert preferred beast of burden! There’ll be no gas! Eleventy!!”

Ah, not so, Grasshopper. While a grid down collapse is what many think of when prepping, the truth is that the worst case scenario rarely happens. Thinking that it always will is known as “catastrophizing” and we’d all be a lot better off if we stopped doing it. (Subject for another post on another day, perhaps.)

The truth of the matter is that something less than Mad Max is going to be what we find ourselves dealing with. That doesn’t mean it won’t be bad, it just won’t be the worst. Let’s say the US and China decide to have a war over the status of Taiwan. While one or both sides may think it’s possible to “win” a nuclear war, the odds will be against either side starting it. Both sides simply have too much to lose. It’s in both sides best interests to keep this contained, and they hopefully will.

So we have our happy little war, and someone “wins”. Which side won’t really matter. As soon as the fighting started, perhaps sooner, trade between the two countries ceased. What was on the container ships going each way across the Pacific was all there is going to be for a long while. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Sometime after all the dust settles, you decide it’s time to run the generator. The power has been out for a few days–AGAIN–and you need to do some laundry. Unfortunately, of late you’ve had to stretch the oil change intervals because that’s not been available and you didn’t stock up nearly enough when you could have. Mr. Generator starts up, spews smoke, backfires and dies.

Grumble, grumble, grumble, harsh language. You go get a few tools and start dinking at the generator, but you really don’t know much about it past filling it up and changing oil and you don’t get far. You didn’t think to buy a Haynes manual for it. You, my friend, need a small engine mechanic.

Even today, small engine mechanics aren’t a dime-a-dozen, and good ones are even harder to find. I’m fortunate enough to know one and know a little more than our unfortunate generator owner above. I know a little, and while the skill set to take them apart and put them together isn’t too hard to learn, it’s more difficult to analyze the problem and know what it takes to fix it. That takes some education, usually available at your local community college, and some practice, perhaps repairing things for friends and neighbors. Even better is for it to be a side gig now, while things are still relatively normal, and make it a full-time job when normal is only a memory.

The good thing about this as a side gig is that you don’t need a huge investment in specialized tools or a lot of room–a workbench in the back of the garage will get you started. Parts can be ordered online. Low investment, decent return. You’ll get the usual jerks saying it costs too much, but that goes with any endeavor I’ve ever seen.

Getting parts in the period “after” will be a problem, and stocking up now on common things like shop chemicals, spark plugs, pull rope and so on would be a good idea. If you have long enough before things go sideways, start throwing in larger, more expensive parts like mufflers, air filters and the like. Go for the things are are common among engine families first, then branch out if you can. Your experience will guide you as to what to buy and what not to buy. I think you’ll also be able to scavenge some parts now if you wish. Just find out what the trash pickup days are in the nicer neighborhoods and ride through the evening before, picking up every old mower you can find. Yes, your wife will have a fit about the mess, so plan on a nice fence to hide it behind so she doesn’t see it. When you start having the extra cash to take her on her favorite getaway now, or when you’re bringing home the literal bacon later, she’ll see that mess for what it is–a pot of gold.

3 thoughts on “Vocations for a New America: Small Engine Repair

  1. There are always old mowers and other small engines available. People can’t fix them, or just decide it’s time for new one and junk the old. We have several, and scavenge parts off them. Gas line and hoses are another good spare part, we’ve had mice chew through lines over the winter. Craigslist free stuff is a good source too.

  2. Cant fix the old mowers ’cause parts are an issue….either Unobtanium or too costly compared to another unit. (try fixing a newer unit before you doubt me).

    Getting pats post war will be an issue. It’s an issue now, and will be worse when there is no chia resupply and/or the US distribution network is nonexistent….the parts have to be in stock somewhere, someone has to know where they are in stock, you gotta find ’em, you gotta get them to you somehow (ya think UPS and the post office are gonna be working when TSHIF?). Who is gonna be keeping those parts in stock, who is gonna be manning the warehouse when it takes time to simply survive?

    If you don’t have it in stock RIGHT NOW then you won’t likely be able to get it when it breaks unless you can scavenge it or make it.

    1. B, your point is taken. New stuff is unholy expensive to repair. I’m $2500 into my John Deere in the last two years. But there is still a lot of the cheaper new stuff that is using common components in their lines. A lot of old stuff is still out there in sheds and behind garages. I think some strategic buying and scavenging now plus some hard-core scavenging later will provide a nice income source. Get started now, before the rush.

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