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I have a 318 that has to sit outside all winter. Every now and then the choke cable likes to freeze up making it impossible to start. I've tried to get something inside that cable to displace the water but never had much luck. To get it going I end up having to open the hood, remove the air filter cover, filter and 3 legged block plate in order to give her a shot of Start Dammit down the carb. She fires to life and then I have to pull all that crap back together.

While I tried to figure out a way to get my cables to not freeze, I remember growing up that the 4020s on my aunt and uncles farm and maybe the Case 995 of my grandpa's had a screw in mount at the operator station designed for a can of ether that one would give a little push on and spritz the engine for cold weather starts. Talk me out of running a 2 cycle fuel line into my air filter housing, pointed down my carb that I could give a little spritz instead of ripping everything apart.
 

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There is water in between the solid wire and the outer jacket of your choke cable. Once it freezes, it keeps the solid wire from sliding.
Other than waiting for a warm day to thaw it or letting engine heat thaw it if you can get the engine running, using a hair dryer or electric heat gun are probably the safest ways to thaw it. Be smart and safe whatever you use.
Because the cable basically lays flat, the water typically does not run out once you get the ice melted. The key is to displace the water however you can and then keep the tractor covered so the choke cable and also the throttle cable do not get wet again. If you can easily remove the cable and bring it inside a heated space and hang it vertically, it should dry and then you can lubricate it with a waterproof lubricant. If you can’t, do your best to lube it, free it up and then keep dry.

The choke cable closes the carburetor air intake allowing the engine to pull a richer air/fuel ratio so it can start easily.
If there is any way you can limit air intake without unbolting the 3 legged plate, you will be doing the same thing as closing the choke plate.
As for ether, most folks will tell you not to use it. I would get the choke cable dry and fixed and you won’t need ether.
 

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My cables are all the open spiral type so I periodically squirt WD40 on them. The cables are both out in the open so it's easy to do. Condensation forms and freezes them sometimes. Forgot to do that and my blower 400 was in the cold bay and the throttle was frozen Sat morning. It also wouldn't stay put after the ice was melted by the engine heat. It would idle back down as soon as I stopped pushing it up but that was because the pivot bolt/nut was a bit loose.
 

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I've never actually used ether on a gas engine. We had a big old Koehring backhoe with a 471 Detroit diesel in it that wouldn't start any other way though. Not even in the summer. That thing was so frickin loud my dad's buddy who lived about 2 miles away on the edge of town could hear him start it up.

I park mine with the choke cable pulled out. If it freezes it's already choked. If it starts the choke cable thaws pretty quickly. Too much ether is not good for small engines.
 

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I've never actually used ether on a gas engine. We had a big old Koehring backhoe with a 471 Detroit diesel in it that wouldn't start any other way though. Not even in the summer. That thing was so frickin loud my dad's buddy who lived about 2 miles away on the edge of town could hear him start it up.
The pulling tractor took at least a full can to start.
 

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My backhoe came from the factory with an ether button for cold starting but I’d never use it. I’ll plug it in and wait. You’d be surprised what an engine can run on though. Sunscreen, bug repellent, silicone, wd-40, most likely the propellant in the spray though 🤣
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Back when I used to teach small engines I had the opportunity to discuss starting fluid with a Briggs rep and a Kohler rep at a convention. I was asking specifically because I was searching for something to have the students use to diagnose fuel delivery issues that was not dribbling gasoline down a spark plug hole. Kids can't handle not getting gas everywhere and I didn't particularly like the idea of random unlabeled ag syringes full of gas laying around my shop.

Anyway, apparently a lot of the concern that people have with ether is that it is a solvent and washes down the cylinder walls. But so does gasoline. The engine is designed to over oil for this reason so that isn't as much of a concern. The ether does wash a bit better but if you aren't using it as a primary fuel you probably are ok. The actual concern is the predetonation that can happen as the ether compresses toward TDC. That causes the engine to experience extra force on the journal/rod, rod/pin and pin/piston connections which can develop a premature rod knock as those surfaces wear.

If we want to check if the ether is pre-igniting or not the easiest way to do that is to pull the spark plug or in a diesel, stop the fuel. Shoot some ether in, give it a crank and see what happens. In my experience it doesn't fire. The gas engine still needs that spark and the diesel needs the extra material of the fuel spray in order to have enough compression. Your mileage may vary obviously. For cold ass engines I am going to keep risking it. I'm also going to keep giving her a shot down the carb in order to diagnose fuel delivery issues.
 

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Arnard,

It sounds like you are conscientious and paying attention to things in your use of the ether in your gas engines.

The Onan engines are all about 7 to 1 compression ratios or less, so pre-ignition may not be much of an issue for those. For the gas engine in the 322 from Yanmar, there is a specific caution against using any starting fluid:
Rectangle Font Parallel Pattern Circle

That little 3-cylinder engine is only 8.7 to 1 compression, but it is notably more than the Onan engines...maybe it is a significant difference, or maybe the Yanmar folks are just very cautions.

Chuck
 

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I have a 318 that has to sit outside all winter. Every now and then the choke cable likes to freeze up making it impossible to start. I've tried to get something inside that cable to displace the water but never had much luck. To get it going I end up having to open the hood, remove the air filter cover, filter and 3 legged block plate in order to give her a shot of Start Dammit down the carb. She fires to life and then I have to pull all that crap back together.

While I tried to figure out a way to get my cables to not freeze, I remember growing up that the 4020s on my aunt and uncles farm and maybe the Case 995 of my grandpa's had a screw in mount at the operator station designed for a can of ether that one would give a little push on and spritz the engine for cold weather starts. Talk me out of running a 2 cycle fuel line into my air filter housing, pointed down my carb that I could give a little spritz instead of ripping everything apart.
There are starting fluids that have oil incorporated into them.If you must use it source one of them. I have a couple of hard starting machines around that need an extra shot of gas depending on the weather. I have a large pump oil can that I mix 2cycle oil in at approximately 40:1. Much easier on the cylinder bores.
As far as the choke cable you could replace it with a totally vinyl covered cable. Many motorcycles have them or cover the one you have in shrink fit tubing after lubricating it with Fluid Film.
 

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I can't remember if it's possible with the Onan but with my Honda repower, I put a small chain between the end of the choke cable and the choke linkage.
This way if the cable is frozen, I can open the hood and pull on the choke linkage.
 

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I'm surprised you didn't go with a hydraulic cylinder instead of the choke chain Andre. :D
 

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Deere diesel combines and larger tractors used to have an ether button that could be activated anytime the key was on. Too much before you started cranking would temporarily stop the engine from turning over. Once cranking, you could spray a whole can if you wanted. Deere didn’t seem concerned.
 
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