The bolt that holds one side of the upper handle of my push lawnmower fell out this morning. Here’s how I scrounged an upper handle bolt for a lawn mower to fix it without a trip to the hardware store.
In my case, on my Craftsman mower, a 7/16 bolt about 2 1/2 inches long fits the stock handle knob. All of my 7/16 bolts were slightly longer than ideal, but they worked. In this case, being too long is better than too short, anyway. I probably salvaged those bolts from a piece of furniture we threw out. I added 3/8-inch washers on each side of the bolt to improve the fit and tighten things up, since the bolt is general purpose, not designed for a lawn mower application.
It took me five minutes to find a suitable replacement part, which is far less time than it would have taken to run to the hardware store. I probably saved a couple of dollars. But more importantly, I probably saved 30 minutes of precious Saturday morning time.
But what if you can’t find a perfect fit in your stash? Or if you lose both the knob and the bolt? Not all is lost.
Substituting imperfect matches for a lawn mower upper handle bolt
If you lose both the bolt and the handle knob, or if you don’t have a bolt that fits your handle knob, of course you can use whatever nut and bolt you have on hand that fits to get you through. Don’t use something super thin like a 10-32. But something in the 3/8-1/2 inch range will hold up. You want something thick and rugged enough to do the job. A #10 nut and bolt will fall out if you don’t use some large washers on each side. But worse yet, it will soon bend under the pressure.
I’ll probably buy the correct part at some point. A general purpose bolt doesn’t have the square head to keep it from spinning while you fold the handle down. But this kept an unexpected project from getting in the way of getting the lawn mowed while the weather was cooperative.
Salvaging parts from household items before discarding them used to be a common practice. It’s not popular in today’s society. But we throw away a lot more than we did in the past, which provides lots of opportunity for salvaging nuts and bolts and other useful parts. Parts organizers aren’t expensive and don’t take much space.
This wasn’t even the first time I needed 7/16-bolts. I bought a dual-monitor stand a couple of years ago and it didn’t come with the hardware. I could have complained to the seller, and maybe I should have. But I had a stock of 7/16 nuts and bolts on hand so I got the job done right away, and with less stress than arguing with the seller and possibly having to file a claim.
The money I save may not be huge, but it’s also not zero. Nuts and bolts in small quantities tend to sell for a couple of dollars. Maybe it saves me $10 a year, but it also saves me time. Organizing the parts takes some time, but that’s a good winter project when the weather is cold and we don’t have those outdoor responsibilities like mowing the lawn. And when I do have to buy hardware, I buy in larger quantities. A little package of five might cost $2, but a box of 50 costs $5. So I buy the box and it may very well last me 20 years.