My lawnmower adventures

I’ve had the same lawnmower for the last 4 years or so. Maybe three. I lose count. It’s a piece of junk–worth slightly more, perhaps, than what I paid for it (nothing) but it didn’t work right when I got it, and this mowing season it just fell apart. And besides falling apart–the wheels really were coming off, and I couldn’t find anyplace that sold new ones that fit–it was getting to be impossible to start.

My wife found another one at a yard sale for $25. It didn’t start either, but at least it was in good physical condition and it was only a year old.

So this weekend I put my mad mechanic skilz to work. I know from my three years’ experience fixing Lionel and Marx trains that the main thing that keeps those motors from running is crud. That’s a technical term for the junk that builds up inside over the years. This mower hadn’t had years for crud to build up, so I figured I could probably keep it running, even if, as I suspected, the original owners did what you’re not supposed to do and kept gas and oil in it all winter.

I know that can’t kill a two-year-old mower, because I’ve done that with the mower I already had. Twice, even.

The previous owners said it needed a “carburetor flush” and it cost $2. So I went to the hardware store, hoping to find something I could just pour in somewhere and make the thing run again. No such luck. They pointed me to the automotive section, to Gumout Carb & Choke Cleaner. I looked at the ingredients. Yep, every nasty solvent I’ve ever heard of. That’ll clean out anything that might be in there, and I could use the leftovers to build plastic models with. The guy warned me that I’d have to disassemble the carburetor to use it–otherwise I’d dissolve the rubber seals. Fabulous.

I did some reading beforehand, because I’ve never disassembled a carb before. And everything I read said to do three things before messing with the carb: Change the oil, pour out the gas and use new gas, and change the spark plug.

So I did that instead, and used the carb & choke cleaner to clean up the mess I made. The oil was black as coal, and the gasoline, well, I’m not an expert on stale gasoline but I’m pretty sure the stuff was well over 30 days old. Briggs & Stratton says to not use gasoline more than 30 days old in its engines. The spark plug could have been worse, but it had clearly seen better days.

After all that, I gave it a pull, and I could hear the engine trying. I primed it a bit more and pulled again. It started and ran for a few seconds. Eventually I was able to get it to keep running long enough to actually mow the yard with it.

So the lawnmower that my wife paid $25 to get and originally cost $199 new needed a $3 spark plug to get it to run again. Being a $199 Home Depot special, I don’t expect it to have a long life. But hopefully I can keep it running for 3-4 years, by which time I may very well have the house paid off and I’ll be able to afford a Snapper.

Unless one of us sees a Snapper at a yard sale or an estate sale before then… I won’t rule it out.

3 thoughts on “My lawnmower adventures

  • November 12, 2006 at 9:51 pm
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    Such a homeowner!

    Nice work, Dave…

  • November 13, 2006 at 6:33 am
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    It’s the old 80-20 rule again, and that’s plain uncommonsense. 20% of the input (effort, expense, expertise) gets 80% of the result. Also the K.I.S.S. principle.

    Incidentally, when a pull-start mower is being difficult, get the mower working for you. Have it on a flat, level surface. As you’re about to pull towards you, roll the mower away from you, then pull. Keep it under control – keep your pushing hand on the handle. The mower is pulling one way, nearly for free, while you’re doing the standard hard work the other way. Astounding how much easier it is. Good tip for family members of the elderly or female persuasion who need to start mowers too.

    • November 15, 2006 at 12:52 pm
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      I’ll definitely try that the next semi-warm day I have. Given the part of the country I live in, that could be April, or it could be this weekend. I’m male and reasonably young, but I’ve never been known for my massive biceps, if you know what I mean. Thanks for the tip!

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