How to Fix a Honda GCV160 that won’t start

Starting your Honda GCV160 should be a routine affair, but every so often, things don’t go as planned. An engine that doesn’t respond can be a source of frustration, especially when you’re not sure what’s causing the hiccup.

The no-start problem is especially common among the pressure washer that uses the GCV160, however, it doesn’t matter which appliance you might be using with the engine, the troubleshooting process remains mostly the same.

Based on experience and numerous case studies, a significant majority of starting issues, I would say, 85% of the time, point towards the carburetor, specifically a clogged main jet or Emulsion tube.

Of course, the carburetor isn’t always the guilty party. There are instances where a malfunctioning spark plug or a defective ignition coil may cause a no-spark condition, preventing the engine from firing.

And on some rare occasions, you might face compression issues or other manufacturing defects. Quick Note: If your brand-new engine isn’t working, try to get it replaced by Honda instead of trying to fix it!

As a starting step, always ensure the basics: Verify that the gas tank is adequately filled, the engine has the required amount of oil, the fuel lines are not cut from anywhere, and confirm the fuel shut-off valve is in its operational position.

Having established these preliminary checks, let’s move forward with a comprehensive troubleshooting guide for your Honda GCV160:

1. Determining if the Carburetor is the Culprit

The Engine’s carburetor is responsible for mixing the right amount of fuel and air, ensuring a seamless ignition. A clogged carburetor will prevent the engine from getting the right ratio of Air-Fuel mixture.

Here’s a quick method to determine if it’s the problem:

Materials Needed: Starter fluid or carburetor cleaner


  1. Locate the air filter of the engine and take off the Air filter cover.
  2. Spray a modest amount of starter fluid or carburetor cleaner through the air filter or directly into the carburetor.
  3. Try to start the engine.

If the engine starts momentarily and then shuts off, the carburetor is the issue, and you can rest assured that cleaning the Carburetor will fix the issue.

You can get the Carb cleaner for pretty cheap on Amazon

However, if the engine still doesn’t start, you should skip the next step in this article and directly move toward checking for Spark.

2. Cleaning the Carburetor

You’ll need a Carb cleaner, cleaning wires can also be useful if you have them already (don’t necessarily need to buy them) and 10mm sockets to remove all the bolts to take out the carb.

Note: If your engine is old, or if you don’t necessarily want to bother with the cleaning process, you can buy a new Carb for $15-20 on EBay or Amazon.

  • Comes with Spark Plug and Air-Filter
  • Will boost the performance
  • All required Gaskets

In case you want to clean the carb, it is easier for you to watch the cleaning process in a video format, however, to summarize the process, follow the below steps –

Removing the Carburetor

  1. Begin by removing the air filter and turning off the fuel supply.
  2. Disconnect all the fuel lines from the carburetor and remove the throttle linkage.
  3. Take out the carburetor and make sure to handle all the gaskets safely.

Dismanttling the Carb

While disassembling the carburetor, take note of the position of all components for reassembly.

  1. Remove the bowl from below of the carburetor
  2. Carefully remove the needle that is holding to the float (float is the white rubbery substance)
  3. Use a screwdriver to remove the main jet and the emulsion tube

Cleaning and Reassembly

  1. Spray the carburetor cleaner or brake cleaner into all openings, holes, and jets.
  2. Use the small wire to poke through any blocked holes or jets, ensuring they’re free of debris.
  3. Allow the carburetor to dry completely.
  4. Reassemble the carburetor, ensuring all parts are in their correct positions.
  5. Reattach the carburetor to the engine and turn the fuel supply back on.

3. Checking Spark

We have a very detailed blog post on the “no spark” condition troubleshoot for this engine.

However, to summarize it quickly –

  1. Spark Plug is directly above the cylinder head in the GCV 160
  2. Take out the plug with the boot and ground the end of the spark plug
  3. Try to pull over and see if there is any spark
  4. If no spark, then disconnect the ground wire and check again
  5. If still there is no spark, get a replacement ignition coil and Spark Plug

4. Compression Test

If none of the above seems to resolve the issue, then I’m afraid, I have some bad news for you! It is best if you take the machine to a professional. If you have some experience, then feel free to follow these steps

Potential issues: The air-fuel mixture is escaping the chamber during compression. This can be due to the valves not opening or closing properly or other leaks in the cylinder. (Missing gaskets can also lead to low compression)

To measure compression accurately:

  1. Secure a compression tester kit in place of the spark plug.
  2. Pull to start the engine, and observe the pressure indicated on the gauge.
  3. Ideal compression pressure ranges between 80-100 psi. While a slight dip may not halt the engine entirely, a significant drop is concerning.

For a quick and rudimentary compression test:

  1. Remove the spark plug and place your thumb over the hole.
  2. Pull the engine starter and feel for any pressure against your thumb or finger. A lack of pressure indicates possible compression problems (the pressure should be enough to blow your finger with a pop)

In case the engine has low compression, it is very likely that either one of the valves might be stuck in a possition Open or closed. Try to free it up if you notice it being stuck.

5. Valve Adjustment

It is possible that your intake and exhaust valves are too loose or too tight. In that case the timing of the opening and closing gets all messed up. Here’s a useful video on Valve adjustment –


Navigating the intricacies of a Honda GCV160 engine that’s reluctant to start can seem daunting, but with the right guidance and a systematic approach, even the most stubborn issues can be diagnosed.

While the carburetor remains a frequent culprit, this guide has equipped you with the knowledge to inspect every potential source of trouble – from spark issues to valve adjustments.

Remember, regular maintenance and keen observation can prevent many of these challenges. Should you ever encounter a starting hiccup again, you now have a roadmap to resolution. Safe and efficient troubleshooting to you!

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