Metal lawn chairs old-fashioned
Version 2.51 (4-Apr-18)
Copyright © 1994-2018
Samuel M. Goldwasser
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Table of Contents
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Author and CopyrightAuthor: Samuel M. Goldwasser
For contact info, please see the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.
Copyright © 1994-2018
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction of this document in whole or in part is permitted if both of the following conditions are satisfied:
1. This notice is included in its entirety at the beginning.
2. There is no charge except to cover the costs of copying.
DISCLAIMERImproper use, testing, or repair of gasoline powered equipment can result in explosion, fire, injuries including loss of limbs or worse, as well as total destruction of your spouse's prized flower bed.
We will not be responsible for damage to equipment or property, your ego, or personal injury or worse that may result from the use of this material.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Can you see above the weeds?
Most problems with gasoline powered rotary lawn mowers as well as other small engines have simple and inexpensive solutions. For example:
- A mower that is hard to start, runs roughly, or dies at the first opportunity may just need a new spark plug or to have its carburetor cleaned.
- A mower that won't start after its blade hits an obstruction may just need one or two 25 cent locking keys replaced.
For electric lawn mower and other electric yard tool problems, refer to the document: Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Small Household Appliances and Power Tools which includes chapters on basic electrical theory (relax, no rocket science) and electric motor testing and repair information.
We will deal with problems the weekend gardener is likely to run into (sometimes, literally!) as well as semi-detailed overhaul instructions. One or more of the books listed in the section: References can be used to supplement this document and can provide much more detailed troubleshooting and repair procedures.
Even if you don't know the difference between a carburetor and a crankshaft, you may still be able to do some of your own work. (Hint: if you drop one of these on your foot, the crankshaft will hurt a lot more!) We begin with an introduction to small engine technology and have more-or-less separate chapters on basic maintenance, intermediate troubleshooting and repairs, and more extensive overhaul procedures.
I welcome comments, additions, hints, corrections, funny or other stories, etc. As the title implies, it is oriented toward the gasoline engine powered rotary lawn mower. However, much of the general information applies to a wide range of yard and shop equipment powered by small 2 and 4 stroke gasoline engines.
SAFETYDespite all the dire warnings (don't forget that the lawyers need to make a living!) it is possible to use, store, maintain, and repair gasoline powered equipment safely. Mostly, the necessary precautions are just common sense - for example, don't smoke around gasoline (well, don't smoke at all but that is not a part of the charter of this document!).
The following represent the basic precautions to take when performing maintenance or service procedures on gasoline powered equipment and dealing with gasoline in general:
- NEVER work on a gasoline powered engine indoors unless it has been totally drained of gas and given time for the residue to evaporate. Gasoline, in particular, is extremely explosive. It is not the liquid but the vapors - at a wide range of concentrations. The various solvents used for cleaning carburetors and degreasing engine parts are also very flammable. The vapors are also not exactly beneficial to good health.
- ALWAYS store gasoline in an approved gasoline can. These will be red in color. They are not the same as (blue) kerosene cans! The round metal or thick plastic type sturdier than the rectangular thin (sheet metal) cans which may collapse in cold weather. NEVER NEVER store gasoline in glass or plastic bottles. NEVER store gasoline indoors or anywhere else that any vapors can build up or in a location near an open flame (gas or oil heater, etc.).
- ALWAYS stop the engine before refilling the fuel tank. If possible, add gasoline when the engine is cold - a splash on the hot cylinder could catch fire. Rinse off spills with water or wait till they evaporate before starting the engine.
- NEVER attempt to run a gasoline engine indoors. In addition to the general fire and explosion hazard, internal combustion engines produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide - a colorless, odorless, deadly gas.
- NEVER ever smoke while working on gasoline powered equipment even if you are willing to kill yourself slowly by smoking.
- DISPOSE of used engine oil in a safe manner - don't just dump it down the drain or in the trash. Your local service station or recycling center may accept engine oil or recommend a place for its environmentally friendly disposal. Used engine oil is also a carcinogen. Therefore, avoid excessive skin contact during servicing procedures.
- AVOID going near the spark plug wire when the engine is running or even if you are just pulling on the starter cord. The high voltage is not really particularly dangerous since the available current is extremely small but it will not be pleasant and the reflex reaction may make you do something you will regret.
- ALWAYS disconnect the spark plug wire and tie it safely away from the spark plug terminal (several inches minimum) when doing any work on the engine's moving parts. You don't want any chance of the engine starting on its own. An even better alternative is to remove the spark plug entirely. Even an engine that normally takes 10 pulls to start can do funny things that might lead to unpleasant accidents. Despite the fact that it will not start now no matter what you do, the underlying problem could actually be a flooded carburetor or something else which may correct itself while you are working. Never take chances.
Note: Modern mowers have at least two systems for stopping blade rotation fairly quickly and keeping it stopped if the dead-man bar is released. These will be either an engine kill and blade brake (on most inexpensive mowers) or a blade brake/clutch which keeps the engine running but stops the blade (on high-end machines).
- NEVER work on or with gasoline powered equipment when overly tired - it doesn't take too many mistakes to ruin your entire day.
- Under no circumstances should the dead-man bar be tied down unless the spark plug wire is removed and safely tied away from the spark plug terminal. Even removing the gas tank isn't necessarily enough to prevent accidental starting. Many types of carburetors contain a reservoir (float chamber) which may still hold sufficient gas for several minutes of operation.
- Older mowers (or other yard equipment) may have no blade brake and only a momentary contact for stopping the engine by shorting the spark plug terminal to the frame. These mowers are on a hair trigger and just rotating the blade can start them up when you least expect it.
Tools and suppliesWhile you probably did not purchase your lawn mower specifically for the joys of repairing it, there is always a chance that despite all your precautions, the blade will strike a rock that just happened to grow out of the ground when you weren't looking. Therefore, it makes sense to be prepared.
Basic servicing of small engines doesn't require a 0 tool caddy. However, some basic hand tools and other items will be needed.
- A good quality set of socket wrenches is essential. For small engine work, a 3/8" ratchet and a set of sockets from 1/4" to 1" as well as a special spark plug socket. Usually a deep 13/16" type - check for your particular engine(s) will suffice.
A basic set from Sears (Craftsman) should be fine and will come with a lifetime replacement warranty as well! If you have never invested in a socket set, now is the time. Forget about those specials, however, as they are generally worse than useless. A word to the wise: you really must have a socket set to do any kind of work on small engines. Slip-joint pliers or worse yet - ViseGrips(tm) - just will not do!
While open-end or box-end (closed) wrenches may be used for certain bolts, some simply are not accessible without a properly sized socket (like cylinder head bolts).
- An impact wrench may come in handy for removing those really stuck bolts and screws. These accept standard screwdriver bits and sockets (via an adapter) and convert a hammer blow to rotary motion. First try penetrating oil like Liquid Wrench(tm) and normal tools though.
- A variety of good quality screwdrivers - both straight and philips.
- Needlenose and utility pliers.
- Wire cutters and strippers.
- Ball-peen hammer or other metal hammer.
- Rubber mallet.
- Funnel, drain pan, plastic milk jug for used oil. These can be discards from the kitchen.
- Old rags, cotton swabs, paper towels, etc. for cleaning. An old but soft paint brush for getting dust and dirt our of various places.
- Wood blocks for propping things up or securing the blade or flywheel when loosening or tightening. Other drift (scraps) of wood and soft metal.
- Torque wrench. An adequate model that will work with your 3/8" sockets can be purchased for around . Setting the torque - tightness - on certain engine bolts is critical to proper operation and long life.
- Feeler gauge - a set of precise thickness strips or wires for setting spark plug and point gaps. The .020" and .030" sizes should suffice for basic maintenance.
- Flywheel puller - build or buy. See the sections starting with: Flywheel removal. If purchased, it must be one designed for your model engine, not just something you picked up in the hardware store marked 'flywheel puller'! Briggs and Stratton, Tecumseh, and others sell tools specifically for their engines. This is the easiest way to remove the flywheel.
- Carburetor cleaner - this comes in a spray can. It is also probably as flammable as gasoline, toxic, and will eat plastics and painted surfaces. Therefore, use only in a well ventilated area or outdoors and take appropriate precautions.
- A tube of thread-lock comes in handy as well as some anti-seize compound like graphite grease for the muffler/exhaust bolts and spark plug.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Lawn Mower Basics and General Maintenance
Gas, electric, or manual?Many people who have never used a gasoline engine powered piece of yard equipment are intimidated by all the warnings with respect to the explosive nature of gasoline. They then opt for an electric lawn mower instead of gas. For many, this is the correct choice. There are a different set of precautions to follow but they are fewer and seemingly less of a threat.
Electric equipment is in some ways more environmentally friendly generating no pollution (though the electricity had to generated somehow). Once the equipment is unplugged, there is nothing to worry about with no gasoline to store. Little maintenance is needed and there is never any issue of disposing of used engine oil - since there is no engine oil. Electric equipment is also usually - though not always - somewhat quieter.
The main disadvantage of line powered electric equipment is that it is tethered to an electric outlet by the power cord. This can become quite a nuisance after a short while. Battery powered equipment has tended to less powerful and more finicky to deal with than similar equipment powered from a line cord. And, electric mowers tend to be less powerful than similar equipment using a small gasoline engine.
Where your yard is relatively small (say, less than 50 feet to an electric outlet from the farthest point), a corded mower may be a good choice. It will be less expensive than typical battery powered mowers and most gasoline powered mowers, and virtually maintenance-free. Just make sure you use a proper outdoor heavy duty extension cord - probably one size LARGER (lower AWG wire size number) than what the manufacturer recommends. This will assure minimal loss of voltage due to its resistance - and every bit of power you have available will help! A somewhat lighter duty outdoor cord can be used for the first few feet if that makes maneuvering the mower easier. The main thing to watch out for is accidentally cutting the cord by running over it. Mowing in a back-and-forth pattern while moving away from the outlet helps. If you do cut the cord - don't panic. At most, you will need to shorten it a couple of feet and install a new socket on the end of what is left AFTER pulling the plug! If the outlet is now dead, at most you have tripped the circuit breaker or GFCI, or blown the fuse. Of course if you make a habit of this, your cord could get to be quite short. :-)
Battery powered yard equipment and power tools have improved greatly over the years. Some of the newer models are quite capable of cutting a modest size yard (e.g., 1/4 acre, manufacturers specifications may still be a bit optimistic) on one charge with ample power for moderately thick grass. But, there is quite a bit of variability in cutting performance and battery life so shopping around, consulting Consumer Reports, and making sure you get a return option if you are not satisfied are all well worth the effort - to save effort in the long run.
It is interesting, however, that quite capable battery powered tractors for example, have been around for a long, long time.
See the section: Comments on electric mowers for more information.
Having said all that, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of lawn mowers used for modest or larger lots are gasoline powered.
Of course, if you have a postage stamp size or even a small suburban lot, a manual reel mower may be your best choice - and you get some good exercise as part of the deal as well.
Also see the comments in the Chapter "Items of Interest" on electric and manual mowers.
Types of lawn mowersDepending on the size of your lot, glowing conditions, and your energy level, one or more of the following options will fit you like a glove:
- Reel mowers - manual type are still available and suitable for small lots. Safe, non-polluting, quiet, low maintenance, and low cost substitute for aerobic workout.
- Rotary mowers (gasoline powered) - Most common type, convenient, relatively low maintenance, some pollution, generally noisy.
- Rotary mowers (electric, AC line or battery powered). Convenient, low maintenance, non-polluting, usually quieter than gasoline powered mowers, limited by cord length or battery charge.
- Teenage kid - low maintenance but variable performance and possible reliability problems.
- Landscaping service - expensive but consistent and may occasionally mow your valuable flower bed as weeds by mistake.
- Cow, goat, or other herbivore - mowing performance quite variable, fencing required, excellent source of fresh fertilizer. The extended warranty is essential! :-)
Large mowers (those which carry you) may be of either the rotary or reel type, usually gasoline or diesel powered but some electrics have been produced. For information on riding mowers, lawn tractors, garden tractors and estate tractors (also known as compact diesel tractors), see the Small Tractor FAQ.
Consumer Reports regularly provides reviews and ratings of most common types of lawn mowers. These articles are a good place to start as they include a great deal of the basic information needed to decide on the lawn mower type best suited for your property. They compare a selection of typical models based on features, safety, price, and their tests of performance and operator convenience. If you do not subscribe to Consumer Reports, your local library will likely have access to several years of back issues.
For even more advice, see Consumer Reports Books' Yard and Garden Equipment Buying Guide. It is sold at bookstores and newsstands and is also available directly from Consumer Reports Books using the order form in the back of every issue of Consumer Reports.
Reel mowersThese may be manual or engine powered. A spinning set of sharp spiral cutting blades working against a fixed 'bedknife' snips off grass like a scissors. In principle, reel mowers can produce an exceptionally consistent manicured lawn. However, small reel mowers may have serious cutting height limitations and also result in a wavy uneven appearance.
- The common (some would say old fashioned) manually operated push reel mower is simple in construction, easy to operate (if you have the energy), safe, quiet, compact to store, and modern ones in particular are quite light in weight. However, blade sharpening is something best left to an expert. If your lot is small and/or you like the exercise, a manual reel mower may be for you.
- Small engine powered reel mowers do exist but I do not know if they are still readily available. I have seen them at garage and estate sales. While I have never seen an electric powered reel mower, this would seem to make a lot of sense for battery operation as the power requirement of a reel mower are much less than for a rotary type.
- I don't know if commercial battery powered reel mowers exist but it would make sense as they should be much more efficient than rotary mowers.
(From: Nigel Cowburn ().)
"A neighbor of mine had a homemade car-battery-powered reel mower. He used his actual car battery and worked out a mowing time that allowed him to start his car again after mowing."
I suppose he had to factor in the height of the grass to guarantee that his car would start. :)
- Professional landscapers often use large engine powered versions of these machines which may have multiple cutting heads and are self propelled, ride-on, or pulled behind a tractor.
Rotary mowersThese may be gasoline or electric (AC line or battery) powered. A spinning blade or blades whirls at the selected cutting height and lops off the tops of you grass by side impact. This is most definitely brutal treatment of your poor defenseless grass! The length of the cutting blade determines how much of a swath is cut on each pass - typically 18 to 24 inches for a walk-behind mower; up to 36 inches or more for a riding mower. Mowers with large swath widths may use two or more smaller blades instead.
The uniformity, consistency, and just general appearance of a lawn mowed with a rotary lawn mower is not quite up to the standards of that of a professional reel mower. You will never get the perfect manicured look though some models may come close. However, the simplicity, lower cost, and need for less and more easily performed maintenance will generally overcome the desire for perfection unless your lawn is featured regularly in "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine.
Gasoline powered rotary lawn mowers are by far the most common type used by homeowners and many professional landscapers as well. Most walk-behind mowers use a manual recoil (pull) starter though electric start is available on more sophisticated (and more expensive) models and generally standard on riding mowers and lawn tractors.
The main disadvantages of a gasoline powered mower are the need to deal with the handling and storage of gasoline and routine engine maintenance at the end of the mowing season to assure easy starting next season and to prolong engine life. However, most of this is pretty straightforward. See the section: General preventive maintenance. Small gasoline engines also do contribute to air pollution but new mowers must meet more stringent EPA requirements as of September, 1996.
Electric rotary mowers are also available in both plug-in and cordless (battery powered) versions. However, since gas mowers are generally more powerful and not limited by the length of a power cord or charge of a battery, they continue to dominate the market. Electric mowers are, of course, non-polluting but the electricity had to be generated somehow.
Dead-man controlAll rotary mowers manufactured within the past 15 years or so must have a dead-man control to stop the blade quickly (within a couple of seconds) if the handle is released or the operator falls off of the seat of a riding mower or lawn tractor. While not foolproof, this feature greatly reduces the chances of serious injuries due to accidental slipping or falling - or attempting to make adjustments while the blade is spinning.
WARNING: Never defeat the dead-man control for any reason unless there is no chance of the mower starting.
- For gasoline powered mowers, this means that the spark plug wire had been pulled and tied a safe distance (a few inches minimum) away from the spark plug terminal or the spark plug has been removed entirely. Even draining or detaching the fuel tank is no guarantee that the engine will not start as the carburetor often contains a few minutes of fuel reserve.
- For electric powered mowers, this means that the wall plug has been pulled or the battery disconnected and the wire tied or taped to prevent any accidental contact.
Types of rotary mowersIn addition to options with respect to gasoline or electric power, rotary mowers can be classified based on such things as: walk-behind vs. ride-on, to bag or not to bag, and rear or side discharge or mulcher:
- Walk-behind mowers may be either of the push type - you provide the power to move the mower; the engine or motor spins the blade - or self propelled where the engine (usually only for gasoline types) drives the front wheels via a fixed or multiple speed transmission. Typical engine power is from 3 to 6 HP with the trend nowadays toward the higher end of this range especially for self propelled models.
- Side discharge mowers eject the grass clippings from the right side (usually) to the rear. These are probably the most common type in use today due to their low cost. Some perfectly serviceable new mowers of this type sell for 0 or less. Optional grass catcher bags permit some of these to be converted to side-baggers if desired but the bags tend to be much smaller and thus less convenient than those for rear bagging mowers to prevent them from becoming side-heavy when the bag fills up.
- Rear baggers eject the grass clippings into a bag mounted behind the mower. Bags tend to fill quite quickly - especially if you keep putting off your mowing assignment - and need to be emptied or changed frequently. The weight of the grass clippings in the bag also contributes to the mass of the mower - which you have to push if it is not self propelled.
WARNING: Rear baggers should never be operated without a bag unless the opening is fully blocked or the proper deflector is installed. Grass cutting performance will then be similar to that of a mulching or (side) discharge type mower respectively but since this is a compromise, the resulting appearance of the cut lawn may suffer.
- Mulching mowers do not discharge the clippings but continue to chop them up under-deck until they are small enough to cease being sucked up by the airflow. The best will result in almost no detectable evidence of grass clippings though the worst may leave big clumps behind. The appearance of the lawn from a mulcher may be as good or very nearly as good as that from a bagger but this is not assured. Some mowers - both discharge and bagging types - can be converted to mulching mowers by using a special cover to block the discharge port and possibly a different mulching blade.
Side discharge and bagging mowers can often be converted to mulching with the use of a mulching kit which includes a means of blocking the discharge port and possibly a special mulching blade. However, performance of one of these may not be as good as that of a mulching mower since the airflow requirements differ and these are largely determined by the design of the deck.
- Riding mowers are basically larger versions of the self propelled bagging mower with a seat for the operator, steering wheel, and more controls for cutting rate and forward speeds. The engine is typically in the 8 to 10 HP range and is mounted in the rear beneath or behind the seat.
- Lawn tractors may be even more sophisticated than riding mowers with larger blades and additional options for non-lawn mowing tasks. The engine is higher power - 12 to 18 HP or more - and is mounted up front under a hood as in a real tractor.
WARNING: Most lawn mowing accidents result from reckless or careless use of riding mowers and lawn tractors, not walk-behind mowers. These are not as stable as an automobile especially when their large bags are full of heavy, wet, grass clippings and may tip over on inclines that would not be a problem with someone in control of a walk-behind lawn mower. They are best and safest for use on large flat open lots. A walk-behind mower - perhaps even a manual reel mower - should be used for sloping or irregular areas and for mowing or trimming around obstructions like trees, shrubbery, landscaping timbers, posts, fences, planters, boulders, and so forth.
Putting a mower into service for the first timeIf this is a new purchase, you should have a users manual - READ IT!!!
Above all, understand the very important SAFETY information.
If there is some 'simple assembly required', take your time and follow the instructions step-by-step. Despite the apparent efforts of the designers of the mower and the manual writers to make everything as obscure as possible, it will probably go together without undo difficulty if you use the proper tools. With some, all you need to do is unfold the handle taking care not to pinch any control cables - oops - and you are ready to go to work. Happy times are here again!!
IMPORTANT: For 4 stroke engines, make sure there is oil in the engine!!! Learn how to check it and fill it to the proper level if there is none or it is low. See the section: Checking the oil.
WARNING: Running an engine without oil can ruin it in a few minutes and your warranty will not likely cover such stupidity. Since the lawn mower may be shipped without any oil, it is your responsibility to check this and then add the proper amount of the correct type of oil to the crankcase!!!
For 2 stroke engines, special oil (not the usual 10W-30/40 type motor oil, nor WD40 or 3-In-One!) must be mixed with the gasoline in the correct proportions IN THE GAS CAN - not the fuel tank of the mower! See your users manual! Forgetting to use the proper mixture can ruin a 2 stroke engine in a matter of minutes and your warranty will not likely cover such stupidity. Adding the oil to the fuel tank is not recommended because thorough mixing cannot be assured.
If you have yard equipment with both 2 stroke and 4 stroke engines, clearly label the two gas cans to indicate which equipment each is used in.
GasolineUse only fresh unleaded gas. Regular octane rating (87) is fine - small engines operate at relatively low compression ratios so knocking should not be a problem. There is likely no benefit to using anything higher. In fact, I've heard that small engines may actually be harder to start and run poorly on expensive high octane gas due to their low compression ratio. Gas that is over a month old may have lost some of its more volatile fractions resulting in hard starting, possible varnish formation, and other undesirable effects. At the end of the season, dump the unused unmixed gas into your car (preferably when its fuel tank is at least half full so your old gas gets mixed with fresh gas). This way you won't be tempted to use it at the start of the next season.
Note: Apparently using a 2-stroke gasoline mixture in your car may actually cure some types of valve problems, at least temporarily. This is similar to adding stuff like "Marvel Mystery Oil(tm)", but is probably a lot cheaper. You didn't hear it from me though. :) In general, adding some 2-stroke mixture to an automobile's fuel tank isn't going to cause any harm unless it's a high concentration in a steady diet.
If the tank detaches easily as with many Tecumseh/Craftsman engines, just lift it off and drain the gas into a gasoline safety can reserved for this purpose. If the tank doesn't come off easily, I typically use a cooking baster to do this (you know, the thing you use when baking turkeys!) although the gas tends to destroy the rubber. There are similar devices or gas siphons available at auto parts stores that survive better.
For 4 stroke engines, gasoline is used as-is since there is a separate oil supply. For 2 stroke engines, you must mix the proper amount of the correct 2 stroke engine oil (outboard motor oil or whatever is recommended by your engine's manufacturer). Fill your '2 stroke mixture' gas can with about half the amount of gas you are preparing and add the proper amount of 2 stroke engine oil. Put on the top and slosh this around to thoroughly mix the oil in with the gas. Then add the remaining gas to the total amount for which your oil measurement was made.
How do you tell if a lawn mower you just inherited has a 2 stroke or 4 stroke engine? The vast majority are 4 stroke - look for an 'oil filler cap'. On many, this is clearly marked with words like 'oil' or 'oil fill' or with a suitably ambiguous icon. Removing it will reveal a dipstick. (Note that unlike the engine in your automobile, this is both the test and filler location.) However, on more basic models, it may be near the base of the engine and be unmarked. In addition, there will generally be markings as to the need for the gas/oil mixture somewhere on the cover. The only major manufacturer of lawn mowers I know of that has used 2 stroke engines in recent designs extensively is Lawnboy.
If you are unsure of the correct mixture ratio - they typically range from 16:1 to 32:1 gasoline:oil by volume - 16:1 is probably a safe choice, though newer engines will probably be safe with 32:1 or even higher. The worst that can happen with too low a ratio is that the spark plug may be more likely to foul (and you will pollute more than necessary) but at least you won't risk damaging the internal parts from lack of oil. It is of course best to determine and use the recommended mixture ratio.
(From: Mike's Small Engine ().)
Today's manufactures are having to comply with the EPA standards for small engine emissions. Although you will see gas:oil ratios as high as 40:1 or 50:1, it is perfectly safe to use a little more oil in your gas. For each 1 gallon of gas, I would recommend 4 ounces of 2-stroke oil. This translates to a 32:1 ratio. Since oil is added to the gas mixture to lubricate and protect the internal engine parts, having a little bit more oil will only help your 2 cycle engine last longer.
Where to buy gasolineYour nearest auto service station will sell you small quantities of gasoline. As noted in the section: SAFETY, you must use an approved gasoline safety can which will be red in color. These come in sizes from 1 to 5 gallons or more and may be made of plastic or metal. A convenient size is 2 to 2-1/2 gallons. The fuel tank on a typical walk-behind mower will be between 1/4 and 1/2 gallon.
WARNING: When filling your gas can, place it on the ground a few feet from your vehicle - never fill it inside the trunk or truck-bed. See the section: Where to fill gas can.
However, a gallon of gas goes a long way with a walk-behind lawn mower. I don't have exact numbers but a gallon will probably do several acres of mowing (assuming you aren't chopping foot high grass!).
If you must transport gasoline in a vehicle, make sure the container is secured in an upright position and tightly capped (both the filler spout and vent openings). Provide adequate ventilation so there can be no possibility of fume buildup in the trunk or passenger compartment.
Where to fill gas canAlways remove the gas can from vehicle before filling it. In addition to common sense 'what ifs' with respect to spills and fume buildup, there may be an added risk of the buildup of static electricity:
Also see the section: Explosion risk when filling a metal gas can.
(From: Joyce ()
Please be careful about filling the gas can. I saw something on one of those PBS How to do it shows (or was it in the newspaper?) that said that people are filling their plastic gas cans with them still in their trunks or hatchbacks. They said this is dangerous because the can isn't grounded or something and a static electricity spark could make the thing to explode.
Gasoline additives or stabilizers?The use of a proper stabilizer can often substitute for the task of draining the gas between seasons by preventing the formation of insoluble gum that would otherwise eventually clog up your carburetor.
"Isn't there a gasoline additive you can add to the gas which will keep it 'fresh' for up to 24 months? I've seen it at Home Depot, though have never used it. I think a tube was less than .00."
(From: Floyd Reed ().)
Being an old small engine mechanic from way back, I suggest that you don't use any additives to keep your gasoline 'fresh'. Dispose of old gasoline (end of season) by dumping it in the (nearly full) fuel tank of your car, then refill your gas can at the beginning of the mowing season. It should last you the season. With this method, you spend no extra on additives (that are no good for an engine), you don't waste 'old' gasoline, and you don't dump raw gasoline into the environment.
(From: Dan Weise ().)
I have found the commercial product Stabil the best thing since sliced bread. It prevents the gasoline in the gas tank from gumming up. I'm too busy to run around emptying gas tanks in the fall.
Instead, I shoot in a squirt of Stabil, run the engine for 5 minutes, shut the gas valve off (unless it's a suction carb mounted on the gas tank) and the engines start next spring.
That was not the case before Stabil. I can't count the number of times I've disassembled a carb and sprayed Gumout trying to unclog the main jet or the idle jet. Or had the float stick down and flood everything in sight. All because of gummy gasoline.
I've used Stabil for about 10 years with great success.
I also use that Slick 50 teflon stuff, but have no idea whether it does any good or not. But for the investment in an engine, I can't see that it hurts. The intermittent duty of many engines makes them more vulnerable to oil run-off than vehicles that are used daily.
Before you start mowingNote: while written with gasoline powered rotary mowers in mind, most of these comments apply to electric models as well.
- Reread the section: SAFETY, particularly with respect to the storage and handling of gasoline.
- Make sure you understand the operation of your mower. In particular, how to stop it! On most modern inexpensive mowers, the engine should stop as soon as a dead-man safety bar is released. This is supposed to both kill the ignition to the engine and apply a brake to the blade (usually to the flywheel). On more sophisticated machines, releasing the bar disengages the blade but does not stop the engine - do you know how to stop the engine?
- Check, and if necessary, set the cutting height. (I will leave it to the gardeners to determine optimal height. Around 2 to 2-1/2 inches is probably acceptable unless you are mowing a putting green.) This is usually accomplished either with levers on each of the wheels or by removing and reinstalling each of the wheels into one of several holes. A few mowers use a single control for all wheels - very convenient. Always make sure all (4) wheels are set at the same height.
- Check the oil and if necessary. top it off.
- Remove any obstacles or debris in your path - rocks, stones, wood blocks, branches, etc. These are a safety hazard and killers for your lawn mower. If the blade hits something small, it can become a high speed projectile traveling at up to several hundred feet per second - this is a substantial fraction of the muzzle velocity of a handgun. If the blade tip contacts something larger, the engine will stop and serious damage may be the result. See the section: Why you really don't want to attempt to move an immovable object. Mark immovable obstructions with Dayglow orange paint or something else you won't miss!
In some cases, obstructions like tree roots cannot be moved. In this case, you will either have to mow around them or raise the cutting height of the blade to clear.
- Make sure all protective devices are in place on the mower. Rear baggers must have a bag or proper cover installed (many are automatic). Side baggers must have a bag or deflector installed. Change bags only with the blade stopped - and preferably the engine stopped as well.
- Wear proper clothing and sturdy fully enclosed shoes with non-slip soles. Avoid mowing when the ground is wet and slippery.
- Wear proper eye protection - plastic eyeglasses or safety glasses - to protect your eyeballs from flying debris.
- Use some kind of hearing protection - ear plugs or muffs. Even just a wad of cotton or tissue will greatly reduce the noise level to your ears.
- Keep curious kids and pets a safe distance away.
- Avoid mowing a highly sloping area in the up and down direction as the mower can slip or you can slip. Even with the safety blade brake, it takes a couple of seconds for those knife edges to come to a stop. If you must mow such an area, do it from side-to-side and be careful of side-bagging mowers that may tend to tip over particularly when their bag is filled with grass clippings. Better yet - only plant rocks on highly sloping areas!
Starting the mowerMost mowers and other small pieces of gas powered yard equipment use a self retracting recoil type starter. You pull on a handle attached to a cord wound around a one-way clutch affair. Pulling on it rotates the engine's crankshaft and the clutch allows the engine to run without pulling you back into the mower! If yours has an electric starter, then you don't need to tug on anything - plug it in and push a button or turn a key. Of course, finding an outlet at the far end of a large yard may prove to be a challenge. With larger equipment like riding mowers, power is usually provided by an on-board rechargeable battery. In either case, there will be some kind of backup recoil or rope starter should the electric start be unusable or inconvenient.
For the following, we will assume you pull a self-retracting starter rope. With an electric starter, replace the words: 'pull...times' with 'crank for several seconds'.
Move the mower or other equipment to the place where it will be used - no sense in dragging a chugging lawn mower through the neighborhood. Position it on a solid level surface. Make sure there are no loose stones, twigs, branches, logs, etc. underneath to get sucked up and thrown about once you succeed in getting the engine started (if you ever do).
When attempting to pull on the starter cord, it may be helpful to put one foot on the mower deck to brace it. Whether this is needed will depend on the design of your mower and in what direction the cord exits from the starter.
You or the starter motor supplies the power to get it started. However, at the low speed of starting, special modifications may be required to the fuel system for the engine to catch. These may take one of the following forms:
- Primer - a rubber bulb or pushbutton squirts a little extra gas into the intake pipe. Your engine manual will detail the procedure and number of 'pushes' required under various conditions - typically between 1 and 12. Too few and nothing will happen. Too many and you will flood the engine (excess gasoline will prevent it from starting). See the next section.
A typical starting procedure for an engine with a primer might be:
- Set the throttle control (if any) to the START or HIGH position.
- Push the primer 5 times.
- Pull the starter cord once or twice (if it doesn't start on the first one).
- If it still doesn't start, prime 2 more times.
- Pull the starter cord again.
- Set the throttle control to the desired speed once it starts.
- Automatic primer - a chamber in the carburetor which fills with the engine stopped and provides an additional squirt of gas when starting.
Automatic choke - temperature and engine vacuum control the fuel-air mixture.
A typical starting procedure for an engine with an automatic primer or automatic choke might be:
- Set the throttle control to the START or HIGH position.
- Pull the starter cord once or twice (if it doesn't start on the first one).
- Set the throttle control to the desired speed.
- Choke plate - a control on the carburetor which partially closes off the air intake and forces additional suction to increase the amount of fuel drawn into the cylinder. Normally, the choke is closed when starting cold and gradually opened in the few seconds after the engine starts. It is left fully open once the engine is running and may not need to be closed when starting warm.
A typical starting procedure for an engine with a choke might be:
- Close the choke (usually on carburetor).
- Set the throttle control (if any) to the START or HIGH position.
- Pull the starter cord once or twice (if it doesn't start on the first one).
- If it still doesn't start, open the choke half way.
- Pull the starter several more times until it starts (hopefully).
- Gradually open the choke to keep the engine running smoothly.
- Set the throttle control to the desired speed.
If the appropriate procedure is not successful, the engine may be flooded. You can give it 15 minutes or so for the gas to evaporate and try again or, if there is an IDLE or LOW speed position, open any choke and pull the rope several times in this position which should clear out the excess gas. Then repeat the recommended starting procedure.
If none of this works, you may have a starting problem and should refer to the section: Lawn mower will not start. Probably, you forgot to fill the gas tank!
A primer on primingMany small engines have replaced the choke with a primer - a rubber bulb or button that is supposed to be pushed several times before attempting to start the engine. Under the right conditions, this is a very effective approach. However, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- The number of times the manufacturer recommends for pressing the primer is just an average - in many cases, more is better and won't hurt. (The instruction manual probably even says something like: "If the engine doesn't start and run after N pushes of the primer, do it N more times and try again"). While it is possible to flood the engine with too much priming, it would probably take more than just 2 or 3 times the recommended number of pushes.
- If the ambient temperature is low, priming will be less effective. The engine may run for a few seconds and then die since its interior parts having heated up enough, requiring repeated priming and starting. If the engine then runs fine, there is probably nothing actually wrong. If you work at it, this might be a good excuse to put off the first mowing of the season. :)
Where behavior seems to have changed, first confirm that environmental conditions are the same and the gasoline is fresh before blaming the engine on starting problems.
If the engine operates normally once started (assuming you can get it started by some other means like squirting some starting fluid into the cylinder), then dirt may have made its way into the priming mechanism. Disassembly and cleaning may be all that is needed. However, there really isn't much to it: Pressing the primer just pushes some air into the carburetor, which squirts some gas via the main carburetor jet to the intake pipe. There really isn't much that can wrong as long as the rubber primer bulb and connecting tubing (if the primer isn't on the carburetor itself) is in good condition.
Stopping the engineOn most inexpensive lawn mowers manufactured within the last 10 or 15 years, releasing a dead-man bar on the handle both kills the engine and applies a brake to the blade (well, actually the flywheel of the engine). In this case, there is nothing to think about - just release the handle and it will stop within a second or two. These are quite reliable. The usual problem is that you forget to engage the dead-man bar and attempt to start the mower despite the basic fact that this is quite impossible!
More expensive equipment will have a blade brake clutch meaning that while there is still a dead-man bar but instead of killing the engine when released, it disengages the blade (clutch) and brings it to a rapid stop (brake). This is more convenient especially with a balky engine. There will then be a separate engine stop switch - possibly combined with a speed/throttle control.
Equipment with an electric starter may have an ignition switch just like an automobile and there will be three positions: STOP, RUN, START.
Some older equipment just has a stop contact that grounds the spark plug. Pressing on a lever connects the spark plug terminal to the engine chassis and kills the spark. While this is fairly reliable, it may be a momentary contact meaning that the engine may be on a hair trigger and even rotating the blade a fraction of a turn may cause the engine to take off again. Thus, disconnecting the spark plug wire or removing the spark plug is even more critical when working on this sort of equipment.
Suppose it fails to stop?What should you do if the engine stop switch has no effect? Probably the safest and surest is to use a wooden stick to pop the spark plug connector off of the spark plug terminal. This will stop the engine.
The most likely cause of such misbehavior is a stop wire that has become disconnected or has broken. This is easily remedied.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
General preventive maintenanceHere is what you should do at the end of the mowing season:
- Change the oil. If you do nothing else in this list, at least change the oil. Old dirty oil will shorten the life of your engine and affect its starting and running performance eventually.
- Drain the fuel tank (see the section: Gasoline for tips on doing this). Put this and any fresh (unmixed) gas remaining in your gas supply can into your car's fuel tank (preferably at least half full to dilute it) so you won't be tempted to use it next season. Or, discard it in an environmentally friendly manner. Then run the mower until it stops from lack of gas which will use up the gas still remaining in the carburetor (at most a couple of minutes). Purging the engine of old gasoline is particularly important for float type carburetors. Otherwise, evaporation and oxidation may result in the formation of insoluble gum which will eventually clog up your carburetor.
Also see the section: Additional comments on winterizing - draining versus the use of fuel a stabilizer. The use of stabilizer is convenient but I think draining is preferred as it is safer not storing garden equipment over the winter loaded with gasoline.
- Inspect the air filter (and fuel filter if present). If dirty or clogged, clean or replace as appropriate.
- Remove and inspect the spark plug. The curved electrode and tip should be smooth and light gray or brown in appearance. If they have deteriorated or are damaged in any way, replace the spark plug. Engine repair books usually recommend replacing the plug in any case - they are inexpensive, under . Use the proper small engine spark plug - not one you found in the corner of your toolbox or removed from your automobile! A bad spark plug is a major cause of a hard-to-start engine. Check the spark plug gap (new or used) with a feeler gauge - it should be .030" for most small engines. Carefully bend the curved electrode to adjust - do not file the center electrode!
- Squirt a teaspoon or so of fresh engine oil into the spark plug hole so that it coats all sides of the cylinder. WD40 will work as well since its purpose is protection and not lubrication. Then crank the engine a couple of times to distribute it. The oil will protect the cast iron cylinder liner and piston rings from rust during the off-season.
- If you reinstall the old plug, it is generally good practice to replace the metal washer. Install the spark plug finger tight and then tighten another 1/2 to 3/4 turn or to 15 to 30 ft-lbs with a torque wrench using the proper deep (spark plug) socket.
- Clean above and below deck to remove dirt, leaves, and other debris. Pay particular attention to the area around the cylinder under the shroud (blower housing). Remove any leaves or other debris that might impede the all important air flow.
- While underneath, inspect the blade for serious damage that would require resharpening or replacement. It doesn't have to be honed like a scalpel but there should not be too many deep nicks and it should not wobble noticeably or be bent or have bent or distorted tips.
- If you have a battery for electric start, make sure the water reservoir (if not the maintenance-free type) is topped off, the terminals are clean and tight, and that it is fully charged.
- Put a light coating of oil on any exposed unpainted steel parts. Check any front wheel drive components - chains, idlers, pulleys, and clean and lubricate if necessary. Dribble a few drops of light oil into any throttle, choke, safety interlock, or other cables.
- Store the mower in a dry location supported off of the floor on wood blocks if there is any chance of flooding.
Then, when it comes time to start mowing again (yes, I know, you can't wait), all you should have to do is add fresh gas (don't use last season's). The mower should start on the first (well, maybe, second) pull. There may be some white/blue smoke for a few seconds from it burning off the oil coating on the cylinder walls but this should quickly disappear.
The Lawn-mower-shop.com Web site has great deal of useful information including diagrams of popular carburetors and links to small engine manufacturers.
Here is another recommendation:
(From: Bill Harnell ().)
Change the oil at the end of the season. No need to leave the acid charged oil in the crankcase over the winter to corrode the engine.
Then add a couple of teaspoons or so of Stabilit to the gas tank. Run the engine for approximately 5 minutes and while you're at it, inject some fogging oil through the carburetor to thoroughly coat all of the interior surfaces. Directions are provided on the fogging oil container.
Wipe the frame and handle with an oily cloth and oil all pivot points lightly. Clean the crud from under the deck - you do that frequently all summer - right? Remove all the grass clippings from around the flywheel and the cylinder fins.
Then store it in the shed or garage.
It will start on the first or second pull every spring.
BTW, you should be able to get both Stabilit and fogging oil at any reputable engine service center.
Checking the oilThe following applies only to 4 stroke engines. For 2 stroke engines, special oil must be mixed in proper proportion with the gasoline.
The proper amount of oil is critical to the happiness of your engine. Too little and it may overheat, cause excessive wear, and in extreme cases (but not unusual), cause engine parts to seize and fail - very expensive. Make it a habit to check the oil regularly. Doing this after about every 5 hours of operation is generally recommended. More frequent checks - such as before each time you mow - are fine as well. A typical small engine in reasonably good condition does not use up a lot of oil but checking oil is easy and will not hurt.
Oil should be checked when the engine is cold or after waiting 10 minutes for it to drain back into the oil sump after running the engine.
- Place the mower on a level area.
- If there is a dipstick - remove it, wipe it with a rag, and then reinsert it as directed on the information sticker or on the stick itself - usually threaded fully back in place and then removed to read. Look at both sides of the dipstick to make sure it didn't just pick up oil from the filler tube AND reoeat the entire procedure be sure of the results. If the level is below or near the empty mark, slowly add the proper new oil to bring it up to just below the full mark.
- If there is just a filler plug near the base of the engine, the correct level is just below the top - almost to overflowing. If lower than 1/4" or so below the lip, add new oil to top it off. (There may be exceptions to this but filling to near the top should be safe if you do not have your lawn mower engine manual handy.)
If the oil level is high - you just bought the lawn mower or were careless in filling it last time - drain enough oil to bring the level back down to the full mark. Too much oil can result in problems as well - oil spraying out of various orifices or getting into other places where it should not be like the combustion chamber.
If you find the oil level over the full mark or higher than it was before, gas may be leaking into the oil due to a flooded carburetor - a stuck inlet needle or bad float. If this is the case, the oil will need to be changed once the underlying cause of the leakage is determined. (This is only likely with float type carburetors such as those used on the Tecumseh engines used in a variety of Sears/Craftsman models equipment.
If the oil is very low and you have been performing regular maintenance, there may be a leak or your engine may need a ring job. Excessive oil under the deck - on the shaft or blade adapter - would indicate a bad bearing or oil seal. Noticeable blue smoke while running would indicate that excessive oil is getting by the rings into the combustion chamber.
Typical oil capacity is just over 1/2 quart (usually about 1-1/4 pints).
About engine oilFor the common 4 stroke engines such as Briggs & Stratton or Tecumseh, you don't need to buy specially high priced engine oil. The type likely used in your automobile will work fine and will be much less expensive. Although small engine manufacturers may recommend SAE 30 oil, they usually also state that 10W-30 or 10W-40 are acceptable substitutes - and these are what your car probably uses. New oil should have at least the SG rating though if you have some SF in your garage, that will be fine also (for your lawn mower, not your car!). However, there are situations like equipment that must run in extremely cold weather (probably not a problem with grass mowing!) where specific alternative oil recommendations should be followed.
The capacity of a typical small engine is just over a 1/2 quart. This will probably cost you about 50 cents - a very worthwhile investment!
However, some people do swear by synthetic oil. I remember it worked pretty well on my bicycle as well :-):
(From: Daniel Pope ().)
Synthetic Motor Oil in the crankcase and Marvel oil in the gas is the only way to go!
I have a ,900 MTD tractor style mower with B&S engine (L head twin). It has over 800 hours and 9 years on it and I mean rough hours (bahaya grass and hot weather). The engine does not use a drop of oil (changed every 30 hours) and the compression is the same as when new. These other guys can have there ,000 fancy mowers. I'll use that money to buy a truck.
Oil changeIf you don't do anything else to prolong the life and happiness of your small engines (and your automobile, for that matter) it should be an oil change at the recommended interval. Oil loses its lubrication and cooling effectiveness with use and this will gradually take its toll on your precision engine parts. Even a simple lawn mower engine is machined to very precise tolerances and any contamination will increase wear. Ultimately, its performance - starting and running - will suffer and its life will be shortened.
Since there is typically no oil filter, all the grit, metal particles, and other undesirable stuff continues to circulate with the oil to find its way in between precision engine parts.
For small engines, the oil change interval is usually specified to be about 25 hours of use. More frequent oil changes may be desirable if the equipment is operated in an extremely dusty environment.
A typical mowing season for a modest size lot is around this amount of time so an oil change once a season is probably satisfactory. I recommend this be done at the end of the season so that the old contaminated oil does not sit in the crankcase during the winter months and you will not (conveniently) forget to do this at the beginning of next season when you are eager to get at that straggly lawn.
An oil change isn't really a big dealThe oil change procedure is a lot simpler than for an automobile as everything is readily accessible and there is no oil filter to worry about.
- You will need a funnel, low wide container or drain pan for the used oil, and a container like a plastic milk jug for temporary storage of the used oil for disposal.
- Spread adequate newspaper on the ground to collect any drippings.
- Run the mower for about 2 to 3 minutes to allow the oil to circulate and warm up so that it is less viscous and will flow more easily. Stop the mower and remove the spark plug wire.
- If the fuel tank is less than about 1/3 full, then you will probably not have any problems, otherwise you will have to drain some gas or remove the fuel tank so that gas does not spill out of the breather hole in the cap.
- If there is an oil drain plug, you can use this to drain the oil. However, it is usually more convenient to just turn the mower on its side, carburetor side up. This is usually acceptable for the short time that will be involved. Immediately check for any oil leakage - if there is any, we will need to avoid tipping the mower as much - look for the drain plug.
- Wipe around the oil filler cap with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove the dirt and grime that has likely collected there. The oil filler will either be on or near the bottom of the engine or at the top of the shroud (Eager 1 type). If it is not right at the bottom, there will be a dipstick attached to it.
- Place your wide mouthed drain pan under the oil filler cap and remove the cap. The oil will flow into your pan. Let it continue until the dripping stops - probably 10 minutes or so.
- Set the mower upright on a level surface. Wipe any drips on the engine and deck up with a clean rag or paper towel.
- Use the recommended oil for your engine. SAE30 is usually specified by the engine manufacturer but they will usually state that 10W-30 or 10W-40 (SG rating) are acceptable substitutes. These 'multi-weight' oils are widely available and inexpensive. Typical small engine oil capacity is just over 1/2 quart. Start low and incrementally add oil until just below full on the dipstick or at the top of the oil fill hole if there is no dipstick. DO NOT overfill. Give it time for the relatively viscous oil to find its way into the crankcase. Tipping the mower back and forth a bit will help this process.
- Replace the filler cap. Wipe up any additional drips.
- Replace the spark plug wire. Then, start and run the engine for a couple of minutes. Wait a few minutes, then recheck the level. Top it off if needed.
- Transfer the used oil from your drain pan to the storage container and dispose of it in an environmentally safe manner.
Blade sharpeningThe blade in a rotary lawn mower doesn't need to be sharp as a carving knife or scalpel but serious dents and nicks will result in a less than perfect lawn (to say the least!). In addition, a seriously unbalanced blade can result in excessive vibration and eventually, possible internal damage as well.
First, drain the gas or remove the gas tank. If you will be filing steel, you get sparks. Sparks are not the greatest thing to have around gasoline vapor. Enough said. Disconnect the spark plug wire and tie it safely away from the spark plug or remove the spark plug entirely. Turn the mower on its side.
CAUTION: Immediately check for oil leaks at the oil filler pipe or elsewhere. If there are any, you will need to work on the mower just propped up by 45 degrees or so. Or, use this as a good excuse to perform an oil change and drain the oil (even if the engine is cold, most of the oil will drain out but it will take a little longer). Just don't forget to refill the crankcase with fresh oil once you have completed work on the blade!
Check that the blade isn't bent. Locate a reference point on one side and note the height of the blade tip at that location. Rotate the blade 180 degrees and check the height of the opposite blade tip. There should be no significant difference - say no more than 1/8" or so. If it is greater, the blade is bent or the crankshaft is bent. Either will require further investigation as running the mower under such conditions will probably result in excessive vibration and can be dangerous.
Assuming this is fine, inspect the blade:
Slight nicks and dents can be cleaned up with a file while the blade is still installed on the mower. Unless you have run into a curb, this is probably all that is needed on an occasional basis. Removing this small amount of metal will also not unbalance the blade enough to worry about. Refer to the section: Non-violent blade removal if it needs to come off the mower.
If the damage is severe, consider replacing the blade entirely - they are not that expensive (usually under ). Otherwise, you can use a file, a bench grinding wheel, or a grinding wheel mounted in an electric drill (there are special attachments for this specific application).
Since the rotating blade also contributes to the proper air flow, you do not want to upset the shape. Grind in such a way that the original blade angle is preserved. It doesn't need (or want) to be razor sharp. A 1/64" edge is fine. Anything finer will quickly be dulled by little bits of stone and dirt in any case. Safety is not the main concern here - if any part of your anatomy contacts the whirling blade, you will be in trouble no matter how dull or sharp the blade might be!
Attempt to remove approximately equal amounts of metal from both ends and in roughly similar areas if possible. If there are a few large nicks, it isn't necessary to remove them completely - your lawn (and neighbors) will never know the difference.
Check the balance by positioning the blade at the center hole location on a pencil or other rod - you don't need a fancy blade balancer but can use one if you like. If it tips one way or the other, remove more material from the heavy side a little at a time.
Replace the blade along with all its mounting hardware. Make sure you get all parts in the same relationship as they had originally. The blade must have its sharpened edges pointing downward. Don't forget the install the key if it is separate and DO NOT substitute a hard steel key for the soft metal one that should be used. See the section: Why soft metal keys must be used. If the locking key or blade adapter key appear damaged in any way, replace it.
Non-violent blade removalFor just some minor touch up, there is no real need to remove the blade. For major grinding and balancing, removal will be needed. Removal will also be required to inspect for a damaged or sheared blade lock key and to replace the blade or blade related parts if necessary.
In either case: disconnect the spark plug wire and tie it safely away from the spark plug terminal (several inches minimum) or remove the spark plug entirely to prevent accidental starting.
If the nut holding the blade on is just on very tight, use a block of wood to prevent the blade from turning. Use a good quality socket wrench or box-end wrench of the correct size. An adjustable or even open-end wrench may not be enough and will damage the nut and tend to slip off, possibly quite violently. The nut usually unscrews counter-clockwise. However, check this out first! A careful inspection of the threads on the end of the crankshaft will reveal the direction. Or, determine the direction of rotation which will be designed to tighten, not loosen the blade. Most, if not all, single blade mowers rotate the blades clockwise as viewed from above which will therefore use a normal right-hand thread nut.
CAUTION: Make sure that if the wrench slips, your flesh will not contact the blade or other sharp sheet metal - liberal use of rags or newspapers is a good idea. Arrange your position and the mower so you are pulling towards you - this is a more stable controllable arrangement.
Pay close attention to the arrangement of the blade and associated hardware so you can replace everything properly. If the (Woodruff) key waas damaged or sheared replace only with a similar soft key. Else, you'll be replacing the engine next time there is a minor incident. Tighten the blade nut to the recommended torque. If it's too loose, the key may shear fairly quickly from normal start and stop cycles as the blade whacks back and forth.
The blade replacement procedures for riding mowers and lawn tractors generally differs significantly from that of walk-behind mowers. At the very least, it's probably not possible (or at least easy or desirable) to turn them on their side. Some may require removing the deck or it may be possible to work from underneath (with appropriate precautions and accident insurance). Refer to your owner's manual.
(From: Graduate student of school of hard knocks.)
"I'd wish I'd read this a few years ago. I used an open-end wrench and it 'flexed' off of the bolt. Needless to say, my next week wasn't a lot of fun with 10 stitches in my hand."
Use some penetrating oil (e.g., liquid wrench or WD40) on the nut and threads if there are signs of rust or corrosion. Allow it to soak in for a few minutes before attempting to remove the nut.
You will prevail. A hammer or other more violent approaches should not be needed.
Once the nut is loose, unscrew it the rest of the way by hand and remove any washers or mounting plate and note their exact position and orientation. The blade and adapter should come off easily. Some penetrating oil (e.g., WD40) may help if it is difficult to remove.
If your adapter/blade doesn't pop off after removing the nut or bolt, it may be mounted using a taper like the flywheel. This is somewhat unusual on a walk-behind lawn mower but might be present on a larger machine like a lawn tractor. A wheel puller is best for dealing with this situation but first see if it isn't just gummed up or rusted in position - try the WD40.
Inspect the key or locking tab for damage. You may have:
- A rectangular blade adapter with a welded-on soft metal ring with a tab protruding into a slot in the crankshaft.
- A blade adapter that locks to the crankshaft with a rectangular or D-shaped (Woodruff) soft metal key.
If the adapter's tab is broken off or the key is sheared or damaged, then replacement of the entire blade adapter or just the key (depending on your mower's design) will be needed upon reassembly. For now, if you will be sharpening the blade, replace all the hardware in the correct positions (except the blade) and finger tighten the nut so you won't lose anything.
WARNING: Do not install a hard steel key in place of the recommended blade lock key as you will lose the protection that the soft metal provides and the next incident may be the last... See the section:Why soft metal keys must be used.
Once you have reground the blade or obtained a replacement, reassemble in reverse order and then tighten the nut to the proper torque.
(From: Gib Gahan ().)
Another way to remove a stubborn blade is to take it to your friendly garage or tire changer and have them put an impact wrench on it. Saves knuckles, tempers, etc. Just don't put the blade back on without a touch of oil or anti-seize compound and of course, don't use an impact wrench!
Carburetor adjustmentsIf your engine is relatively new (made within the last 10 years or so) and has only one speed, then there may be no adjustments (like the one discussed in the section: Cleaning Craftsman (Tecumseh) carburetors. It will either work or it won't - in which case it needs cleaning or parts replaced. Or your overhaul was less than 100% effective. You can tell if your carburetor is of this type as there will be no adjusting screws on the carburetor. For Craftsman types, there will be a solid hex nut on the bottom holding the float bowl in place. There may or may not be a primer button.
For adjustable types, it is best to refer to your engine manual. However, here is the general procedure. Some of the specific numbers may differ for your engine, however.
In all cases, before touching any adjustments, make sure your air filter is in place, and clean (or new). Fill the fuel tank about half full with fresh gasoline.
There are three adjustments on a typical carburetor:
- Main mixture - Bottom of Craftsman (Tecumseh) float carburetors.
- Idle mixture - Side into body of Craftsman (Tecumseh) float carburetors.
- Idle speed - Sets relaxed position of throttle plate.
Initially, carefully and gently turn the two mixture controls in until they just seat.
Note: "In" means clockwise (the way you would tighten a normal screw) and "out" means counterclockwise (the way you would loosen a normal screw).
CAUTION: do not force them - you are not trying to tighten anything - as you will damage the needles and seats which will require replacement of the needles or entire carburetor. Then back them out 1 to 1-1/2 turns. Set the idle speed screw 1 to 2 turns beyond where it contacts the throttle plate. Refer to your engine manual for specific recommendations! These settings should allow the engine to start and run, though perhaps not entirely smoothly or with great enthusiasm.
- Start the engine and allow it to reach normal operating temperature - a couple of minutes. Make sure any choke is off once it is started and running stably. This will also flush any old deteriorated gasoline from the carburetor!
- With the engine throttle control set for the maximum recommended rpm, very slowly rotate the main mixture screw counterclockwise (loosen) until the speed begins to drop off due to too rich a mixture. Then, rotate the screw very slowly clockwise (tighten) until the engine begins to cut out. Very slowly means a fraction of a turn at a time - then wait a few seconds for the adjustment to have an effect. Note the number of turns between these two positions and set the screw in the middle of this range.
- Repeat this procedure with the engine throttle control set to the idle or slow speed position but using the idle mixture screw instead.
- If there is a high speed adjustment - possibly on the throttle control itself or the throttle control bracket, it is best to set it using a tachometer. However, it is possible to do a very good job by comparing the speed by ear to an identical type engine that is set correctly. See the section: Setting engine speed.
WARNING: if in doubt, set it low. It is better to end up with a scraggly lawn than bodily injury or a blown engine! Note that by ear, 2 stroke will always sound faster than 4 stroke engines for the same output speed because they have twice as many explosions per rotation of the crankshaft!
- Set the idle speed adjustment just high enough that the engine idles smoothly and isn't about to cut out. A tachometer can be used to set it to specifications but there is no risk is just adjusting it to idle smoothly.
- Test the engine under load. It should respond to load pickup immediately. An engine that dies is set too lean. An engine that runs roughly when picking up load is set too rich. Make a small adjustment (i.e., 1/8th turn) and test again.
Notes on Briggs & Stratton tune-up(This assumes foam type air filter that needs have a film of engine oil in it to trap dust.)
Once the air filter is saturated it must be wrung out. I typically place them in a paper towel and squeeze. Then possibly a second paper towel. No oil should be dripping out of the filter when gently squeezed. Chilten's B&S engine section says to simply squeeze the filter of excess oil - no mention of a paper towel, etc.
In adjusting the carburetor, Chilten says about 1-1/2 turns but 2 turns is my standard.
I get the engine running first - warm it up to general operating temp. No applied choke, air cleaner installed. Adjust the main jet if you can get it to run at rated speed - preferably under load (turn in to the lean studder, out to the rich studder then back in about 1/2 way between these extremes). Then adjust the idle, at idle - at no load - using the same operation as the main jet. You may then go back and repeat/refine the process a second time as the idle adjustment may affect the main a bit.
For the 92000 in particular (typical but refer to your specific engine model for exact specifications), from Chilten's second edition, "Repair & Tune-Up Guide for Small Engines" (successor to ):
- Plug type: 1.5"/2.0"
- Champion CJ-8/J-8
- Autolite A-7NX/A-71
- A.C. CS-45/GC-46).
- Plug gap: 0.030"
- Point gap 0.020"
- Armature air gap:
- 2-leg 0.006" - 0.010"
- 3-leg 0.012" - 0.016"
Setting engine speedMany inexpensive mowers don't even have a speed adjustment screw. Spring tension and the linkage to the governor set speed - period. Note that actual speed is rarely that critical for engine driven equipment as long as it is within safe limits. See the comments below on string trimmer speed settings. However, what options do you have where there is a need to set the precise engine speed?
- Use a tachometer designed for small engines. If you do a lot of small engine work, this may be a worthwhile investment. For most of us, it would gather dust.
- Use a tachometer designed for automotive engines. You may already have one of these if you do your own tune-ups. Sure, right, that went out of style about the same time as emissions controls! OK, maybe your father did his own tune-ups :-).
Since an automobile engine spark plug fires on every other revolution of the crankshaft rather than every revolution as with most single cylinder 2 and 4 stroke engines, it will probably be necessary to multiply the reading by a factor of 2. (Even though there is a power stroke every other revolution for the 4 stroke engine, the ignition system is usually active on every revolution. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.)
- If you have electronic test equipment such as almost any oscilloscope or frequency counter, it is a simple matter to couple its input to the spark plug wire on its insulation (not to the plug itself!). Then, the speed is equal to the pulse rate for most single cylinder 2 stroke and 4 stroke engines.
- Compare it by ear to another engine of the same type (2 stroke or 4 stroke) that is correctly set (i.e., you didn't muck with it!). This is actually a remarkably accurate way of setting the speed.
For equipment where a shaft with a known speed ratio to the engine crankshaft is available (i.e., a power take-off or trimmer head), an optical stroboscope of one form or another may be used. You will just need to paint or tape some stripes on the rotating part to put under strobe illumination:
- A fluorescent lamp powered by a magnetic ballast (not an electronic ballast) flickers at 120 Hz (in the U.S., 100 Hz in countries with 50 Hz power) and may be all you need to accurately set speed.
For example, for something like a string trimmer which has a direct coupled hub, strobe disks with 2, and 3, and 4 radial lines will appear stationary under fluorescent illumination for 3,600, 2,400, and 1,800 RPM respectively.
There can be ambiguity but if you are already in the ball park, this sort of approach may be all you need.
- Use a stroboscope which is calibrated in RPM or Hz. You may be able to borrow one from a high school physics lab or Disco!
(From: Philippe Habib ().)
Go to a hobby shop that sells radio controlled airplanes. Plunk down or so and get an optical tach. Paint 2 strips on the (crankshaft) hub of your equipment to simulate a propeller, and you're done.
(From: J. Matthew Good ().)
You shouldn't need a tachometer on a trimmer. Two stroke engines in the size and power range of line trimmers can't overspeed as they don't have the power with a line head installed. Just set the carburetor up so that it 'two-fours' at wide open throttle and you should be all set. If it needed to be adjusted with a tachometer, it would have some kind of governor on it.
(From: Mowerman ().)
B&S engines have a spring in the governor arrangement. You want to change tension on the spring to change the speed. (This is basically true of most other small engines as well but the details will differ.) The spring is attached to a metal tung (strip) in the linkage at front of motor, this is made of a tinny metal so you can easy bend this tung. To lower speed you want to lessen the tension on the spring. You can do this while the motor is running at top speed but it would be safer to do the bending while mower is not running. By pushing in tung you will lessen top speed gently as it doesn't take much to alter that speed. Often this tung gets knocked in while mowing around bushes or other protruding material and "hey presto" your engine is only idling. It is a design problem that briggs should be working on, however I love B&S engines with their simplicity and ease of maintenance.
Adjusting the carburetor on a 2 stroke engineThis is generic advice but probably a good place to start. It assumes that there are 2 adjusting screws - idle and high speed mixture.
I would start with them both backed out from the closed position to 2 turns open, for starters. One should be idle mix and the other should be high speed. Crank the motor, get it warmed up. You may have to fiddle with the throttle and or choke until its warmed up. Then slowly turn in the low speed jet, until it starts to die, then back it out another 1/4 to 1/2 turn. Then hold the throttle wide open, and slowly turn in the high speed, until it really starts to smooth out and rev high, and start screaming, then back this out until it starts to run rough or slow down, and then turn it back in to midway between these two positions. Keep playing with the low speed needle until you get rapid immediate response from the throttle, and good idle with the idle adjustment. Then play with the high speed needle, but always back it out from the setting about 1/4 turn or so, from where it runs the smoothest. This setting of backing it out will allow more fuel when under a load, and keep your 2 cycle motor from running too lean. Put a load on it and just tweak the settings just a hair at a time. If you're in the ball park it won't take much adjustment either way to make a difference. Better on the rich side than lean side. Also make sure your oil / gas is mixed at the proper ratio. 99% of 2 cycle motors are adjusted the same, no mater what brand they are. Most will start and run with both screws open 2 turns initially. Just don't close the high speed off any more than necessary no matter how well it runs.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Instant troubleshooting chart - most common problems and possible causesThe following chart lists a variety of common problems and nearly all possible causes. Diagnostic procedures will then be needed to determine which actually apply. The 'possible causes' are listed in approximate order of likelihood. Most of these problems are covered in more detail elsewhere in this document.
While this chart lists many problems, it is does not cover everything that can go wrong. However, it can be a starting point for guiding your thinking in the proper direction. Even if not listed here, your particular problem may still be dealt with elsewhere in this document.
(Portions of the following from: Chilten, Small Engine Repair 2-12 HP, (1).)
- Problem: Engine will not start or is hard to start.
- Fuel tank is empty or shutoff valve is closed, or fuel line or fuel tank cap vent is clogged.
- There is water in the fuel.
- Carburetor is overchoked.
- Carburetor is improperly adjusted or needs service.
- Ignition system or its wiring is defective or ignition switch is off, or timing way off (e.g., broken flywheel key).
- Deadman or other cutoff switch is open or defective.
- Spark plug is fouled, improperly gapped, or damaged.
- Engine compression is poor.
- Operator needs to read user manual. :)
- Problem: Engine starts easily but dies after a few seconds.
- Fuel tank is empty or shutoff valve is closed, or fuel line or fuel tank cap vent is clogged.
- Carburetor is overchoked.
- Carburetor is improperly adjusted or needs service.
- Problem: Engine idles roughly, unevenly, or surges.
- Carburetor is dirty.
- Air leak in carburetor or intake manifold (e.g., bad O-ring, gasket, primer).
- Carburetor is improperly adjusted or needs service.
- Problem: Engine misses under load.
- Spark plug is fouled, improperly gapped, or damaged.
- Breaker points are pitted or improperly gapped, breaker arm is sluggish, or condenser is bad.
- Carburetor needs adjustment or service.
- Fuel line, fuel filter, or fuel tank cap vent is clogged, or fuel shutoff valve partially closed.
- Valves not adjusted properly or valve springs weak.
- Exhaust ports blocked (2 stroke).
- Problem: Engine knocks.
- Magneto is not timed properly.
- Carburetor is set too lean.
- Engine has overheated.
- Carbon buildup in combustion chamber.
- Flywheel is loose.
- Connecting rod is loose or worn.
- Cylinder is excessively worn.
- Problem: Engine vibrates excessively.
- Engine is not mounted securely.
- Blade or other driven equipment is unbalanced.
- Crankshaft is bent.
- Counterbalance shaft is not timed correctly.
- Problem: Engine lacks power (possibly after warmup).
- Old gas, bad spark plug, very thick/dirty oil.
- Choke is partially closed.
- Carburetor needs adjustment or service.
- Ignition not timed correctly.
- Air filter is clogged.
- There is a lack of lubrication.
- Valves are not sealing properly.
- Piston rings are not sealing properly.
- Head loose or head gasket blown or damaged.
- Exhaust ports blocked (2 stroke).
- Problem: Engine operates erratically, surges, and runs unevenly.
- Fuel line or fuel tank cap vent is clogged.
- There is water in the fuel.
- Fuel pump is defective.
- Governor is not set properly, sticking, or binding.
- Carburetor needs adjustment or service.
- Loose carburetor/intake pipe resulting in vacuum leak.
- Problem: Engine overheats.
- Magneto is not timed properly.
- Carburetor set too lean.
- Air intake or cooling fins are clogged.
- Shroud or blower housing missing.
- Excessive load.
- Insufficient or excessive oil.
- Improper oil viscosity (4 stroke) or mixture (2 stroke)
- Valve clearance is too small.
- Excessive carbon buildup in combustion chamber.
- Problem: Crankcase breather passing oil.
- Too much oil in crankcase.
- Engine speed is excessive.
- Oil fill cap or gasket is damaged or missing.
- Breather mechanism is dirty or defective.
- Piston ring gaps are aligned.
- Piston rings are worn.
- Problem: Engine backfires.
- Carburetor set too lean.
- Magneto is not timed correctly.
- Valves are sticking.
Lawn mower will not startThis is probably the most common problem you are likely to encounter. The cause is very often the same - lack of maintenance.
Note that the assumption here is that it cranks - the crankshaft and blade rotates in a normal manner but the engine never catches. Some larger (Briggs and Stratton) engines may have a low-oil cutoff switch which will stop the engine if the oil level is inadequate. However, this is not likely on a push mower.
- In the case of a recoil starter, you are able to pull on the cord and the crankshaft with the blade rotates and it feels normal but the engine does not start. If it feels like nothing is engaging, then the starter mechanism or clutch may be broken. Of course, if the cord breaks, then the problem is obvious! See the section: Recoil (pull) starter repair for more information.
- In the case of an electric starter, the engine cranks but never catches. If there is no response to the button or key, then the outlet may not be live, the battery may be weak or dead, or there could be a bad connection or bad starter motor. If the motor spins but doesn't engage the engine, the overrunning clutch or gear could be broken.
If you are unable to pull the cord (or the auxiliary starter on one with electric start), there may be a clump of grass stuck between the blade and the deck or there could be serious internal damage, especially if you just encountered an immovable object. See the section: Lawn mower will not start after the blade hit an obstruction. However, you didn't forget to engage the dead-man bar, did you? On most inexpensive mowers this safety interlock is needed to both enable the ignition system and release the blade brake.
Lawn mower is hard to startMost of the time, the possible causes and solutions will be similar to those where the engine doesn't start at all. So, see the following sections for more information. However, here are some specific issues dealing with engines that do start eventually and then run fine:
- Cockpit error: If you have a user manual, read it! The starting procedure for all engines is not the same. Make sure you are following the recommended starting procedure. This may not always be best but it is a starting point (no pun....).
- Number of priming cycles: The instructions on priming are often optimistic. In colder weather, twice as many presses of the primer may be necessary. However, overpriming and flooding is also possible. Don't overdo it.
- Condition of gasoline: Old or contaminated gas will make any engine harder to start. If the problem is with an engine using last year's gas, drain the old gas completely and dry out the residue in the fuel tank if possible. If debris or water is found in the old gas, the carburetor may need to be drained and cleaned as well. Then add fresh gas (not from the batch sitting in the can since last year!). In cold weather, the water can turn to ice inside the carburetor float bowl casusing all sorts of problems including flooding of the engine.
- First start of the season: If no maintenance was done at the end of the last mowing (or whatever) season, the first time the engine is started may be tough. However, this may be a one-time problem. Hopefully, maybe. :) Even if all the recommended maintenance was done, the first start may not be perfect. And, for float-type carburetors, after filling the fuel tank, wait a minute or so for the gasoline to fill the float bowl before pulling the cord!
(From: Mike's Small Engine ().)
Nowadays, a lot of mower/equipment is using OHV (OverHead Valve) style engines. This in itself causes many starting troubles. These engine use a compression release on the camshaft to allow for easy starting. Once the engine has started and reaches a speed of over 700 rpm, the weight on the compression release swings out and allows the engine to gain full compression and full power. After awhile, the valve lash/clearance begins to widen and the first thing that goes wrong is the compression release doesn't work properly causing the engine to drag which may sound to some as a dead or dying battery. I'm sure there are untold thousands of people that have replaced batteries, solenoids, starters, switches, etc., only to find themselves going to a repair shop and letting a trained mechanic do what is a simple maintenance adjustment.
Determining why it won't startThink: FAST - Fuel, Air, Spark, Timing. Diagnosing a balky engine is not difficult but a step-by-step methodical procedure will make it a lot less traumatic. Despite all the warnings, serious problems rarely develop on their own. Most likely, there is a simple, easily remedied cause.
FuelObviously, the engine won't run without gas!
- Is there some in the fuel tank? If it is near the bottom, add enough so that there is no doubt about there being enough to reach the outlet pipe regardless of any slant on which the lawn mower is located.
- Make sure any shutoff valve is open.
- Check for a clogged fuel filter, if there is one. There may be a sediment catching screen at the bottom of the tank as well.
- If your engine uses a primer bulb, does it feel like it is doing something? There is a distinctly different feel when it is actually squirting a little gas into the intake pipe. Check that the rubber hasn't deteriorated but if many pushes still doesn't do anything (and you're sure there is gas in the tank and the engine hasn't flooded from TOO MUCH gas), the carburetor and/or fuel line may need cleaning.
- If you are using gas from last season, discard it and start fresh. While old gas will usually work in an engine in good condition, this is not always the case, especially with one that has seen better days. The more volatile fractions evaporate leaving behind higher flash point gas. Why add another unknown factor to the puzzle?
- There may be water in the gas. If the carburetor has a drain plug, operate it to rid it of the bottom layer which would have the water. If there is no drain, repeated pulling on the starter cord should eventually clear any reasonable amount of water.
Once you have exhausted these obvious problems, determine if gas is reaching the cylinder as follows: Perform the normal starting sequence and then, assuming it shows no signs of wanting to start, immediately remove the spark plug. If fuel is reaching the cylinder, the spark plug should be damp with gas and there should be a very distinct odor of gas from the spark plug hole. If there is none, then there could still be a blockage in the fuel line or the carburetor may need cleaning.
A flooded engine, most likely due to extended unsuccessful attempts at starting or a defective carburetor (float valve stuck open or gas-logged float) will result in inability to start as well and a distinct odor of gas. You might find raw gas coming our of various orifices - air filter as well as exhaust. (Note that in severe cases, enough gas gets mixed in with the oil to significantly increase the level in the crankcase and reduce the effectiveness of the oil. This will require an oil change.
AirThe optimal air:fuel ratio is around 14:1. This must be lower for a cold engine and thus a choke plate or other means to increase the richness of the mixture is usually provided. A choke plate restricts air intake forcing more gas to be sucked into the cylinder. A primer bulb effectively squirts gas into the intake pipe to augment the normal carburetor action. Some carburetors have no choke and no primer but incorporate a small gas reservoir which fills when the engine is off and provides some extra when starting.
To much air results in a mixture that is too lean, burns too quickly, and can result in engine damage over extended periods of operation.
- Check that any choke is not stuck in the open position and not doing its job.
- The carburetor may need adjustment or cleaning.
Too little air results in a mixture that is too rich - there will be loss of power and possibly black smoke from the exhaust. This could be due to several factors:
- Check the air filter. For testing, it can usually be removed to see if the engine will start. However, do not run it for an extended period of time without a properly functioning air filter in place. Some are designed to be washed and reused while others must have their elements replaced.
- Check that any choke is not stuck closed. Though needed to start cold, if the choke remains closed, the engine will not restart and will quickly stop (truly choke!) due to an overly rich mixture.
- A defective carburetor may also cause the mixture to be too rich or too lean.
SparkAll common lawn mower engines require a precisely timed spark to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder. The existence of a spark can easily be tested as follows:
WARNING: make sure there is no gas in the vicinity when performing the following test!
Remove the spark plug wire and insert the blade tip of an appropriately sized and well insulated (plastic) screwdriver inside the boot or clip in place of the spark plug. While holding the insulated part of the screwdriver, position the metal part of the blade about 1/8th inch from the block or frame.
An alternative technique is to use an old, but good, spark plug whose gap has been increased to about 1/8 inch or one specially made for exactly this purpose. In this case, simply connect the spark plug wire to the test plug and hold its threaded part against the cylinder head or other part of the chassis (away from the gas tank!!).
Note: Just positioning the spark plug wire a short distance from the spark plug terminal is not recommended as the results of this test will then depend on the condition of the spark plug as well since the spark will have to jump two gaps.
Have a buddy crank the engine at normal starting speed so that you will be able to hold the screwdriver or test plug steady and be close enough to see any spark clearly. Shield the gap from the sun or bright light if necessary.
You should see a nice healthy spark jump the gap several times on each pull (actually, once per rotation of the crankshaft/blade on both 2 and 4 stroke engines). Note: 4 stroke engines ignite the air-fuel mixture on every other rotation of the crankshaft. The extra sparks fire harmlessly into the exhaust gasses and are wasted. Can you believe it?!
CAUTION: if you are not well enough insulated, you will jump several times per rotation of the crankshaft/blade if the ignition system is functioning properly! Hey, that is a valid test!
If this test confirms the spark, it is still possible that the spark plug is fouled or bad. See the section: Checking the spark plug.
If there is no spark, then there is a problem with your ignition system.
Lack of sparkIf your mower is less than 15 years old, there is an excellent chance that if uses an electronic ignition system. These are very reliable as there are no points or condenser to go bad and no need for routine tune-ups.
However, a number of other problems can result in lack of spark:
Make sure stop switch/stop wire is in appropriate position - confirm with a multimeter, check that flywheel is being spun by starter and that flywheel key is intact to assure proper timing, check condition of points/condenser and setting (if applicable), test magnet (on flywheel) for strength, check the gap between flywheel and magneto core. If these are all fine, test or replace the magneto.
In more detail:
- Check for a faulty or misadjusted STOP switch. This may be activated by releasing the dead-man bar or by a throttle control lever (STOP, RUN, START). Inspect the cable, linkage, and wiring for damage or for something that may have come loose. Make sure you have the controls set properly to run!
- Check that your starter is actually spinning the flywheel. If the flywheel is not rotating properly when you pull the cord or turn the electric start key, then there is a problem with the starter, not the ignition system. Or, the flywheel is not tight due to a sheared flywheel key or improperly torqued flywheel nut.
- Check for a flywheel that is loose and not seating properly on the taper. This could result in no spark if the air gap between the flywheel magnet and magneto core is then incorrect. However, due to the close spacing, you would probably feel and hear serious scraping in this case.
Items (2) and (3) are likely if your just attempted to move a curb with your mower blade (or if someone inadequately tightened the flywheel nut during some previous maintenance).
- Check for bad connections or defective wiring including faulty or water logged insulation. If you just gave the mower a shower, wait ample time for it to dry out. High humidity may result in more problems if the insulation is not in good condition as well.
- Check for a weak (or missing) flywheel magnet. Both of these faults are extremely unlikely unless you have been hammering and whacking the crankshaft and flywheel in an effort to remove the flywheel. (This is not recommended - see the section: Flywheel removal.)
- (a) Electronic ignition - There is likely a single potted module which includes the circuitry and ignition coil. If anything goes wrong with this module, replacement is the only option. Once the wiring and resistance of the secondary has been checked, there are really no addition tests that can be performed on an electronic ignition module without special equipment. A defective ignition module will have to be replaced.
- (b) Breaker point ignition - Possibilities are bad, dirty, corroded, or loose points or points that are grossly out of adjustment, a bad condenser, or a bad magneto coil. See the section: Maintenance of point-type ignition systems.
See the section: Testing the magneto.
First, check that the dead-man bar is properly disengaging the stop switch when pulled and/or throttle control is properly disengaging the stop switch when in the start or run position.
For anything beyond this, disassembly will be needed to identify and replace any defective parts.
If the no-spark condition happened after the blade hit an obstruction, (1) or (2) are likely. See the section: Lawn mower will not start after the blade hit an obstruction.
Checking the spark plugUse the proper socket to remove the spark plug and inspect it for damage and general appearance:
- Light gray or brown and smooth - this is the normal appearance. The mixture is correct and there likely no major problems with the engine.
- Excessive black carbon - the mixture may be too rich or the spark plug may be the wrong type for your engine.
- Damage to the electrodes - the mixture may be too lean, timing may be set incorrectly, or the spark plug may be the wrong type for your engine.
The best thing to do at this point is just replace it with a new spark plug and worry about the old one later. Actually, nearly every small engine maintenance book will recommend changing the spark plug every season anyhow.
Testing the magnetoThe magneto, like the ignition coil on an automobile, contains two windings:
- Problem: Engine will not start or is hard to start.
- A primary with a few turns of heavy wire.
- A high voltage secondary with thousands of turns of super fine wire.
In an automobile, the battery supplies the primary current; in a magneto, the magnet on the flywheel moving past the core at high speed acts as a generator and induces current in the primary.
As the magnets spin past the pole pieces of the magneto core, the points are closed and current builds up in the low voltage winding (and flux builds up in the core). At or slightly before Top Dead Center (TDC), the current (and flux) should be maximum and at this instant the points open. The flux then collapses (and the condenser (capacitor) across the points acts as a snubber allowing the current to bypass the open points and preventing arcing at the point contacts). This rapid decrease in flux results in coupling of the stored energy to the turn high voltage winding and results in up to 10,000 V or more at the spark plug.
(For EE types, this is somewhat similar in basic operation to the flyback converter in a switchmode power supply except that the moving magnet supplies the input power instead of the rectified AC line and the points act as the switch instead of a power transistor.)
The secondary will always be accessible for testing but the primary of an electronic ignition may be not be due to the electronic components:
- Secondary: 3 K ohms (maybe a little higher but not open). Much lower would indicate a shorted winding.
- Primary (if non-electronic and accessible): very low - guessing less than an ohm.
Wires can break due to corrosion or vibration. This would result in an open winding - infinite resistance. Shorts can develop between adjacent windings or to the core. This may be detectable as reduced resistance but without knowing exactly what it should be, there is no way of knowing if a slight discrepancy represents a problem or just slight variations in design or manufacturing.
A more complete test would involve checking the 'Q' or doing what is called a 'ring' test and even more for an electronic ignition. This requires special equipment. Therefore, it is best to swap in a known good unit. They are not that expensive.
TimingFor power to be developed, the ignition of the compressed air/fuel mixture must take place at exactly the correct instant - just before the piston reaches Top Dead Center (TDC) on the compression stroke. With automotive engines, there are mechanisms to advance the spark at higher revs but simple lawn mower engines do not have this complication, at least.
Timing is set on older mowers with point type ignition systems by adjusting the point gap and generally only changes due to wear. However, these changes are gradual and unless the points come loose for some reason, will not likely suddenly prevent the mower from starting. On newer electronic ignition systems, there is basically no adjustment as the position of the electronic ignition coil/module fully determines ignition timing and this is fixed.
However, timing can be grossly messed up if the flywheel key gets sheared and the flywheel then rotates a fraction of a turn on its mount on the crankshaft. The result may be a mower that does not start, backfires or runs erratically, lacks power, won't run and/or start when hot, etc. This is very likely to happen should the blade strike a rigid object causing the mower to stop instantly. In this case one or both of the blade lock key and flywheel key have sheared to (hopefully) protect the very expensive internal parts from damage.
There are likely not going to be any timing marks for that old timing light you have sitting gathering dust somewhere. The only test really is to inspect the flywheel keyway to determine if damage has occurred.
See the section: Lawn mower will not start after the blade hit an obstruction as this is the most likely cause of a sheared flywheel key.
Lawn mower will not start after the blade hit an obstructionThe following description applies to most small rotary lawn mowers with direct driven blades. The vast majority of these use either Tecumseh (as found a variety of Sears/Craftsman equipment) or Briggs & Stratton engines. However, similar comments apply to others as well including Lawnboy two stroke engines and the more modern Honda and other overhead valve type of engines.
The assumption is that the engine started and ran normally prior to the incident. Now, no matter how many times you yank the starter rope or run the electric starter, it will not start at all, bucks, kicks back, backfires, or fails to develop enough power to keep going on its own.
If the blade struck a solid boulder while the engine was set on 'high', more severe damage is possible as even with soft metal keys locking the blade and flywheel to the crankshaft, the inertia of the rotating blade is acting sideways against the crankshaft in addition to suddenly stopping its rotation. This can result in a bent crankshaft. The end of the crankshaft with the blade adapter could be bent without affecting the bearings or internal parts. This would need to be tested for as well. Not that such an occurrence is that much better - the crankshaft would still have to be replaced but at least the bearings in the crankcase will not be damaged.
If the starter will not turn the crankshaft (assuming you remembered in your haste to engage the safety bar) - it is seized or will only rotate part of a revolution before hitting against something solid inside - then you probably have serious internal damage that will require a complete strip down and replacement of some (expensive) parts. If it turns but much more tightly than you recall (assuming you do have the safety bar engaged!) then the crankshaft may be bent - again very expensive. Repair may not be worth it.
However, in most cases, what has happened is that either or both of the blade lock key and/or flywheel key have sheared to protect the crankshaft from serious (and terminal) damage.
If the blade lock key broke, the blade will no longer turn rigidly with the crankshaft and provide the inertia required by many small engines with undersized flywheels. In this case, the engine may try to start but die out with a few "putt-putts" or even kick back on the starter cord. (As a side note, attempting to use a lawn mower engine as a replacement on a piece of equipment that doesn't have something to substitute for the blade's inertia may not work for this reason.)
If the flywheel key broke, the ignition timing will likely be totally wrong and the result may be no ignition, backfiring, kickback, or weak or total loss of power.
To diagnose, proceed as follows:
First, pull off the spark plug wire and tie it securely away from the spark plug terminal (several inches minimum) or remove the spark plug entirely so that there is no chance of the engine accidentally starting. Even though it will not start now no matter what you do, the underlying problem could actually be a flooded carburetor or something else which may correct itself while you are working. Never take chances.
Drain the gas or remove the fuel tank. This will prevent gasoline from spilling out the gas cap vent hole or flooding the engine through the carburetor since you will need to tip the mower to get underneath.
Set the mower on its side (carburetor side up).
CAUTION: Immediately check for oil leaks at the oil filler pipe or elsewhere.
The mower can usually be set on its side for a few minutes without harm but if these occur - you will have to work with it tipped less than 45 degrees or so - propped on wood blocks. Or, use this as a good excuse to perform an oil change and drain the oil (even if the engine is cold, most of the oil will drain out - it will just take a little longer). Just don't forget to refill the crankcase with fresh oil once you have completed your work!
Using an old rag and/or proper work gloves, grasp the blade and attempt to rotate the blade and crankshaft.
CAUTION, despite your lack of maintenance, the blade may be sharp!).
The blade and crankshaft should rotate together. If there is slippage, the key has broken and will require replacement of just the key or the entire blade adapter plate depending on design. If it appears to be intact, then you can assume the flywheel key has broken. The blade key may be broken as well but it is not likely the reason for your failure to start. You should remove the blade to determine this for sure before restoring the mower to service in any case. See the section: Non-violent blade removal.
You can possibly avoid removing the flywheel for inspection of the key by unscrewing the sparkplug, rotating the crankshaft so the piston is at TDC, and noting the location of the magnet on the flywheel relative to the magneto coil pole pieces. The magnet should be pretty close to the magneto in that position. If this is not the case or just to be sure, the flywheel will have to come off to inspect and possibly replace the key.
To get at the flywheel key itself, some disassembly is required.
Flywheel removalRemove the shroud (blower cover) if you have not done so already. This is usually fastened with 4 screws and hopefully does not involve any head bolts - if so, you will need to tighten them to the proper torque using a torque wrench once you have remedied the problem. You may need to remove the fuel tank (if you have not done this already) and other trim pieces as well.
You should now see the top of the flywheel. In most cases, a large nut fastens the flywheel to the crankshaft. (However, in some designs, part of the starter mechanism is actually used and this is supposed to require a special wrench to remove. However, using a piece of wood as a buffer and tapping the ears in a counterclockwise direction will work also. Refer to your engine manual for details.) Use the proper socket to loosen this nut (counterclockwise). It may be necessary to brace the flywheel securely to gain enough leverage. Make sure this is done against something that can stand the force. Once loose, remove it by hand and then remove any washers or other parts that are under it. Make a note of how these were positioned including which side is up on some cupped washers.
You should now see the keyway. The slots on the crankshaft and flywheel should be aligned. There are two common types of keys:
- A rectangular or D shaped piece of soft metal that locks the flywheel and shaft. You should be able to see if the two identically sized slots are still aligned.
- A piece of soft metal with an L-shaped cross section. The slot on the crankshaft is narrower than the slot on the flywheel and is slightly offset (thus, the L). Again, it should be obvious if the two slots are still aligned.
You may even find that the flywheel is relatively loose on the crankshaft if rotating the blade while holding the flywheel stationary is possible. Either the blade key or the flywheel key or both are broken in this case.
You will have to remove the flywheel to replace the key if it is broken or damaged.
If the flywheel is loose at this point, then the following will not be needed as it can be lifted off.
There are several approaches to flywheel removal:
- The best way by far is to use a special puller designed for your particular engine. Briggs & Stratton and Tecumseh flywheels usually have 2 or 3 holes placed around the center of the flywheel which are used with special puller blocks. These have self tapping bolts which you thread into the holes and then tighten down nuts to pop the flywheel off of the crankshaft. I have made my own blocks for this purpose from scrap steel. If you have a drill press, it is not difficult. Alternatively, you can purchase these from the engine manufacturer. The use of a puller really does reduce the use of 4 letter expletives and virtually eliminates the chance of damage to the flywheel or crankshaft by the alternative techniques. ___ ___ |___| |___|<-------- Self tapping bolts or pretap holes. | | | | _|-|_ _|-|_ | |-| | | |-| |<------- Tighten nuts to release flywheel. ___|_|-|_|__________|_|-|_|___ | |-| |-| |<--- Plate or block - 1/4" or thicker steel |_____|-|______________|-|_____| |-| .-.----.-. |-| |-| | :----: |<-|-|---------- Flywheel nut - loosen slightly. |-| |_:----:_| |-| ______|-|___ :----: ___|-|______ //////:-:///|:----:|///:-:////// //////:-:///|:----:|///:-:////// <-- Flywheel comes with predrilled holes. //////'-'///|:----:|///'-'////// (taper not shown - ASCII limitations!) //////| |///|:----:|///| |//////
Bolts are screwed into holes in flywheel. Then, plate bears against the flywheel nut (slightly loosened) and the nuts are tightened alternately until the flywheel pops off.
WARNING: do not use an ordinary gear, clutch, pulley, bearing, or other puller unless this is specifically mentioned as a recommended technique in your engine manual. The flywheel could be damaged - possibly not immediately obvious - but the result could be catastrophic failure once the engine is put back into service.
- A 'knock-off tool' is a special closed-end nut that you thread onto the crankshaft in place of the normal flywheel nut. You then are supposed to pry under the flywheel with a pair of large screwdrivers while tapping the knock-off tool with a soft hammer. Aside from the fact that as described, this requires 3 hands, this may or may not work easily. Depending on conditions, the flywheel may pop off at the first tap or may stubbornly refuse to budge no matter how much you whack. If not done properly, it is possible to bend the crankshaft - very expensive. Some people also worry that the shock will damage internal parts or even partially demagnetize the magnet on the flywheel. Thus, my preference for the puller unless the first couple of taps releases the flywheel.
- Many engine books will simply recommend threading the flywheel nut back on flush with the end of the shaft and tapping this with a hammer as above (with the 3 hands). The risk here is that the threads may be damaged in addition to the possibility of bending the shaft or causing other damage. Use a piece of soft metal - aluminum, brass, or lead - to protect the end of the shaft and nut. In any case, only use this approach as a last resort.
Flywheel removal on Briggs & Stratton enginesThe following applies to most B&S engines with the square starter shaft. This procedure will be needed to gain access to the points and condenser (on engines without electronic ignition), oil seal, etc.
(From: Foxeye ().)
The square shaft which turns one direction but not the other is the recoil starter pawl. This can be pulled straight up from the round cup that it sits in. There should be a couple of steel balls inside. Some models have a large internal snap ring that holds this in the cup. Remove ring, and pull it straight up. Use a magnet to remove the steel balls. Once you have this starter pawl removed, and the steel balls, hold the flywheel, stationary, and using a block of wood, bump one of the lugs on the outside of the starter cup in a CCW direction.
Once you break it free of its torque, it should be able to be spun off CCW. Remove this starter cup, and the beveled bellville washer under it. Now your ready for your flywheel puller. A strap wrench can also be used to turn this starter cup loose. When installing the starter cup, make sure it is clean and free of grease and oils. A drop of oil or a light coating of grease on the crankshafts stub end (over which the starter pawl goes) is usually recommended. The starter cup only needs to be snugged down, and you don't have to go overboard trying to torque it to ungodly tightness. Snug is sufficient.
Drop in the starter pawl, into the cup over the stub of the crank, and drop in the steel balls, replace larger flat cover over this assy, and insert snap ring if there was one.
Flywheel inspectionOnce the flywheel is off, inspect the keyway on the crankshaft and flywheel for damage. Serious damage will require replacement of the affected parts. Slight burrs can be removed with a small file. If there are any cracks in the flywheel radiating from the hole, the flywheel MUST be replaced as this is a serious safety risk - the flywheel could literally explode when run at full speed. However, don't be concerned by surface flash - lines that look like fine cracks resulting from the molding process. To confirm that these are not cracks, there will be no visible penetration inside the shaft hole and fine sanding will quickly remove all traces of this flash.
Assuming there is no serious damage, a new flywheel key should be all you need - about 25 or 30 cents. To confirm that this is all you need, replace the flywheel without the key but line up the two slots as they would be if a key were present. Tighten securely (but it doesn't need to be to the full torque as this is just a test). This should permit the mower to start and run normally but I would not recommend using the mower to actually cut grass until you replace the flywheel key.
To install the new one, insert the key into the slot in the flywheel first and then slip the entire affair onto the crankshaft (I like to use a bit of WD40 for protection as well). The flywheel should seat securely with no detectable free play - it should be on straight and not rock back and forth at all. If this is not the case, the key may be in upside-down or there may be something or some particles of dirt or metal blocking it. Replace the washers, dirt screen, etc., and then hand thread the flywheel nut as far as it will go. Tighten to the specified torque (typically, 30-33 ft-lbs).
Note: There may be a cupped washer between the nut/screen and flywheel. This must be installed cupped-side facing the flywheel or else you will be probably be replacing the flywheel key again very soon :-(.
WARNING: Do not install a hard steel key in place of the recommended flywheel key as you will lose the protection that the soft metal provides and the next incident may be the last... See the section: Why soft metal keys must be used.
Then, replace the shroud, fuel tank, etc. If head bolts had to be removed, it is probably a good idea to slightly loosen all of the head bolts and then retorque them to the proper value in the recommended sequence for your engine.
Why soft metal keys must be usedNormally, the soft metal keys lock the blade and flywheel to the crankshaft. However, should the blade strike an obstacle and stop suddenly, one or both key(s) will shear and reduce the likelihood that the very expensive crankshaft or other parts will be damaged. The reason is that the substantial inertia of the crankshaft and that of the flywheel will tend to try to keep them rotating. Something has to give and you want it to be the 25 cent key and not the crankshaft! However, this isn't foolproof as explained in the section: Why you really don't want to attempt to move an immovable object.
Note that the soft metal flywheel key can also be damaged without totally shearing which may result in slightly incorrect timing. Symptoms may include a mower that is hard to start, runs rough or lacks power, or cannot be restarted when hot. Therefore, always replace the key if there are any signs of damage or wear.
Engine dies or won't restart when hot(From: Wild Bill ().)
There can be numerous reasons for the engine to quit running when it gets up to operating temperature.. expansion of metal parts where bolts/screws aren't tight enough, breakdown of the condenser for the ignition points (if equipped), or a possibility of a crack somewhere. An overall inspection of the tightness of fasteners would be a good place to start.
- If the miss is a miss, the problem probably has to do with ignition or the fuel mixture. Check the tightness of the carburetor mounting bolts and where the intake manifold/air-fuel mix tube fastens to the engine block.
- If instead, the miss is popping through the exhaust, this might be caused by a bad exhaust valve or valve seat.
- If there is puffing or popping near the engine head, the head bolts might not be tight.
- If the engine spins over too freely when it's hot.. indicating much lower compression, check the torque of the head bolts.. if they were loose, the engine should now restart.
- If it won't restart until it's cooled down, the exhaust valve (and/or valve seat) may be the problem. If you can remove and disassemble the engine yourself, this isn't expensive to have corrected. If not, the shop labor for tear-down and reassembly will be fairly costly. A common reason for exhaust valve failure is that grass clippings become embedded in the cooling fins around the exhaust port area.
- If the engine is just failing to fire the spark plug when it's hot, there's a good chance that it's time to change the (points and) condenser. This can usually be confirmed by quickly removing the spark plug after it quits running, and grounding the sparkplug base securely to the engine (away from fuel vapors).. then spin the engine to see if there is a hot blue spark with an audible snap, snap noise.
(From: Walt Conner ().)
As soon as the engine shuts down, turn the flywheel by hand or DISCONNECT the plug wire and turn the blade by hand to see if there is any compression. I have had several B&S engines that did not have enough valve clearance and when hot, the valve stem expands in length enough that the valve does not properly close. After cooling, engine will be OK. Also could be a bad condenser or the other faults listed above.
(From: Michael Stevenson ().)
Problems with the ignition coil can make an engine impossible to start when warm (or even stop running when it warms up), apparently this happens on motorbike engines quite often and is caused by a break in the HT coil.
A carbon track forms inside the coil where the wire is broken. When the engine is cold the carbon track has a low resistance and it conducts well enough so the spark is strong enough to start the engine, when the engine is warmer the track resistance is greater and the spark less strong. This problem gets worse over time as the carbon track gets bigger and bigger, the only remedy is to change the coil or electronic ignition module.
Smoke signalsFor the most part, smoking is just as bad for a small engine as it is for you. Excessive smoke from the engine may be an indication of problems with the carburetor, rings, or gasoline:
- Black smoke is a symptom of an overly rich fuel-air mixture. This could be caused by a choke that is partially closed, a faulty carburetor, or the need for a carburetor adjustment. Make sure the choke if fully open. See the sections on carburetor adjustment and carburetor cleaning.
- White or black smoke may also result from yard debris, oil, or other contaminants on the exterior of the cylinder as the temperature after a few minutes of operation will reach several hundred degrees F even with proper cooling. Stop the engine and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, check around the cylinder, cylinder head, and under the shroud for grass clippings, leaves, oil or other spills, dead rodents, etc.
- 2 stroke engines will always produce some fine white/blue smoke since the lubricating oil in the fuel mixture is being burnt along with the gasoline. However, excessive white/blue smoke could indicate an incorrect ratio of gasoline to oil or a mixture which has been sitting around for a while - the more volatile gasoline evaporates leaving behind the oil. It could also be an indication of contaminated fuel.
- 4 stroke engines should produce virtually no smoke while running. At first startup of the season, there may be a few seconds of white/blue smoke resulting from the oil squirted into the cylinder at the end of last season (you did the preventive maintenance, right?) burning off as well as white smoke/steam from accumulated moisture. If you tip the mower on its side routinely (to clean out grass clippings, for example), oil may seep into the cylinder resulting in white/blue smoke at startup as well.
White or blue smoke while running may be an indication of an excessively worn cylinder or rings or a clogged or inoperative breather (the breather assures that there is always negative pressure in the crankcase - if not, oil can get forced up into the cylinder). Or, you may be using the fuel mixture for your 2 stroke weed whacker by mistake!
Lawn mower smoking after oil change(From: Wild Bill ().)
I'm assuming that you were trying to use the drain plug at the bottom of the engine, not where the oil is added. Draining is done most effectively when the plug on the bottom is removed and the mower is placed level again, over a catch basin and left to sit.
Oil has gotten into the combustion chamber area. The muffler (if it now contains oil) can be washed (flushed out) in a safe solvent, and allowed to dry.
When tipping a vertical shaft engine to get to the drain plug, keep the sparkplug end of the engine higher than the rest of the engine.. and follow the safety precautions.
Tipping the crankcase end up will put oil at the combustion chamber end of the engine, and seep into the combustion chamber.. and sometimes through the crankcase passage into the carburetor area. In cases where a lot of oil gets into the combustion area.. the engine might not rotate (due to a hydraulic lock), until the oil has returned to the crankcase.
If this should happen.. allow the engine to sit for an hour or so, with the sparkplug end elevated, and most of the oil will return to the crankcase.
If the air/fuel intake area has become flooded with oil, you might need to have the engine serviced.. the carburetor might need to be removed to evacuate the oil from that area.
When the oil gets into the combustion area, the sparkplug is usually soaked.. and after cleaning or replacement, the engine will smoke (for a short time) like a fog machine. This will often foul the plug again, and create a lot of carbon in the combustion area. There isn't an effective way of removing the excess carbon aside from removing the cylinder head. For an old mower, that might not matter much.. for a new one that you'd like to get years of trouble-free service from, you might want to consider having the head removed and the oil & carbon cleaned out.
About squeals and other animal noisesWhile some may describe the engine of an antique automobile as 'purring', this will not likely apply to most gasoline powered lawn mowers. It would seem that noise reduction is just not a high priority design issue with lawn mower engineers or marketing types. However, even if not exactly quiet, the sound made by a healthy mower should not be similar to that of a pig being tortured.
- A screeching or squealing sound may be the result of worn bearings or inadequate lubrication. This could be due to lack of oil (!!) or a problem with the oil distribution system (pump, passages, slinger, etc.). It could also be a problem with auxiliary mechanical parts - power take-off, front wheel drive, or a starter clutch that fails to disengage.
- Banging or rattling noises may be due to parts that have worked loose due to vibration or by being inadequately tightened (by someone else, of course). The entire engine may be bouncing around on its mount. Or, the flywheel, blade, attachments, or chassis parts may be vibrating. Even if everything appears secure, there is quite a bit of energy associated with an engine running full throttle and parts can work loose.
- A low frequency shuddering or vibration may be due to debris under the deck. Check for wads of matted grass, twigs, branches, and 3 foot logs, caught in the baffles or exit chute. Sometimes, globs of this stuff fall off and get slung by the blades with all sorts of associated strange sounds.
A combination of the above are also possible. For example, a loose flywheel could result in it scraping against the magneto yielding a sound like a cat being squeezed to death (or that of a first year violin student) but possibly only at high revs :-).
Of course, a badly worn engine can also result in piston and rod slap and other mechanical noises as internal parts with excessive clearances whack one another. A complete engine overhaul may be in order or just tolerate it and plan for a new mower when the final day arrives (or your neighbors take up a collection).
Lawn mower fuel tank leakingFuel tanks can leak for a variety of reasons including defects in manufacturing, abuse, corrosion, etc. However, before you buy a new tank, a couple of notes:
- If this is on an Briggs and Stratton engine there are known problems with some models - check with your local small engine repair shop as it may be under a (hidden) warranty.
- A tank that is filled to the top may appear to be leaking when in fact it is just seepage from the cap vent hole. It may even attempt to fool you into replacing the tank by appearing to come from the seam!
If the tank is truly leaking, DON'T use the mower and drain the gas - you don't want to take chances with a possible engine fire or worse.
Lawn mower too loudSmall engines - especially those on cheaper mowers - are usually loud, no question about it. However, if yours sounds like it is about to explode or take off, there may be something actually wrong.
Obviously, if it is backfiring every other stroke, you have a problem with the ignition timing, mixture, valves, etc. What this section deals with is just the normal noise assuming the engine runs properly - and how to reduce it. Else, you need to perform the proper maintenance first.
- Make sure everything is tight - it may be the engine rattling against the deck or something simple like that.
- Your muffler could be worn out - probably rusted out. Inspect it and if in doubt, just replace. They only cost or so.
Some lawn mowers discharge under the deck. This should reduce the noise level but the proper (probably spark arresting) muffler must be used or else you risk igniting dry grass or whatever as you mow!
- It may be possible to purchase an after-market quieter muffler - check with the suppliers listed in the section: Mower and engine parts sources.
Note that for a 2 stroke engine, the muffler is particularly critical for proper operation and substitution may be more difficult.
Lawn mower wheelsWheels tend to get banged about and damaged or may just become loose and unstable due to wear. Wheels and wheel bolts are readily available at home centers (or Sears for Craftsman mowers).
- If really frozen, the use of penetrating oil like WD40 or Liquid Wrench should permit the old bolts to be removed using one or two wrenches (sockets preferred).
- In some cases, adding some metal washers on the axle may help to reduce wobble on a worn wheel which is too loose.
- The best type use ball bearings and will outlast the mower but I wouldn't expect to see this on anything less than the gold-plated model! However, ball bearing wheels can be installed as replacements.
- Use of WD40 can help to ease the pain of switching the cutting height of lever operated wheels.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Intermediate Level Maintenance and Repair
Cleaning Craftsman (Tecumseh) carburetorsSimple float carburetors are found on a variety of equipment including many engines made for Sears by Tecumseh. The basic procedures applies to the float carburetors of other manufacturers as well.
If you have been following the recommended preventive maintenance procedures, this may never be needed. But, face it, you do not! The most important PM that is not likely done by 90 percent of mower owners is to drain the gas at the end of the season. With float type carburetors in particular, the result is a buildup which eventually clogs the very fine passageways in the carburetor. What happens is that the gas in the carburetor bowl gradually evaporates leaving behind the gunk and varnish. New gas then flows in from the fuel tank which then evaporates leaving behind more gunk and varnish, and so on and so on and so on. This eventually, well, gums up the works by interfering with float movement and clogging the precision metering holes. Thus, the need for cleaning. Symptoms include difficulty in starting, flooding, surging, lack of power, difficulty in restarting when hot, etc.
The following procedures are specifically for the common non-adjustable carburetors used on the vast majority of Craftsman mowers manufactured in the last 10 years. Carburetors with adjustments and/or a choke are slightly more complex and may differ in other ways. Refer to a small engine repair book or your engine manual for further information.
- Drain the fuel, close the shutoff valve if any, or remove the gas tank. On the common Craftsman mowers, the tank either slips off or is fastened with a couple of screws. The gas line should pull right off. Inspect the fuel line for damage or cracking and replace it if these are severe.
- Remove the air filter, inspect, and set aside. The small plastic enclosed air filters twist off counterclockwise. If it is clogged and of the paper type, replacement will be needed. If it has a foam element, this can be reused if it doesn't fall apart. Remove the foam element, clean in soap or detergent and water, dry, and then coat it with a few drops of fresh engine oil. Work the foam with your fingers to distribute the oil. For other types, see your engine manual.
- Use a large philips screwdriver to loosen the two screws fastening the intake manifold to the cylinder block. If the gasket separates easily and cleanly, then it can be reused though a dab of non-hardening sealer is advisable once you have tested the mower to be sure that your newly restored carburetor is functioning properly. If it tears or is damaged in any way, then it should be replaced.
If the bolts are really tight, an open end wrench may be of help but common sockets may not fit around the bottom bolt. Thin walled sockets may work.
- Disconnect the throttle linkage and governor spring noting which holes they go in. IMPORTANT: If you get this screwed up you could have a runaway situation on your hands when you go to restart it. This can destroy the engine in a few seconds!
- Disconnect the rubber tube from the primer bulb, if any. It should pull off. If it tears near the end, there is probably enough slack so that a new tube is not required.
- Disconnect the speed control and stop switch wire, if any. Note how they are installed.
The carburetor can now be moved to the convenience of your workbench.
WARNING: there is still likely a significant amount of gas inside the float bowl. Initial disassembly at least should be done outside so that you can dispose of this safely. Working outside is advisable in any case as the common carburetor cleaning solvents are both flammable and bad for your health.
DisassemblyMost carburetors on Craftsman mowers are variations on a common float design. Newer mowers tend to have no adjustments and no choke - which greatly simplifies cleaning and adjustment. With respect to adjustment, there is none - it either works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, your cleaning was not thorough enough, some parts need replacement, or the problem is not in the carburetor.
IMPORTANT: Before removing any linkages or springs, make detailed diagrams as to how everything goes together. You will NOT remember this several hours later!!! Reassembling the linkages EXACTLY as your found them is critical to the happiness of your engine.
- Under the bowl is a large hex head bolt. On the non-adjustable carburetor, this is closed on the bottom. It is also not a simple bolt but includes the precision main fuel metering hole which will need to be cleaned thoroughly. Use a proper socket to unscrew this bolt (counterclockwise). Drain any residual gas from the bowl. CAUTION: I've heard of people breaking the bolt by either attempting to loosen it the wrong way or overtightening upon reassembly to stop leaks.
- There is a fiber washer under the bolt. There may also be a fiber washer on this nut inside the float bowl. Don't lose these or get them mixed up.
Turn the carburetor upside-down.
- Carefully remove the bowl and O-ring. Inspect these for damage. (Note: there is probably a dimple in the bottom of the bowl in the lower level side. This is normal and probably there to keep the float off of the bottom where gunk and varnish collect because you didn't drain the gas.)
- The float will now be visible. Rotate it to the fully up position. The inlet needle will come up with the hinged part of the float. It is held in place by a wire clip but will now be free. The inlet needle is actually a four sided metal rod with a polished conical tip. Remove the needle and clip.
- Use a pair of needlenose pliers to pull out the hinge pin which will free the float. Careful - the float is made of relatively thin brass and is susceptible to damage.
Check the throttle plate for free movement - there should be absolutely no hint of binding or tightness. If there is, then this will need to be disassembled as well and cleaned:
- Use an open-end wrench to loosen the intake pipe and then remove the nuts and bolts. The manifold will probably come free with the gasket intact. Don't lose the metal strip to which the governor spring attaches. Check for dirt and other debris and set aside.
- Use a 1/8" straight blade screwdriver to remove the screw in the center of the throttle plate. Note the position of the hole in the plate and the orientation of the plate. (The hole should be toward the engine side with the carburetor body upright. Mark it before removal if in doubt.)
- Tap the carburetor if needed to remove the throttle plate.
- Pull the throttle shaft out of the carburetor body. Take care not to lose the spring with the felt and/or metal washer. Note their positions.
Cleaning the carburetor partsUse carburetor cleaner and lint free cloths or paper towels to remove all built up brown or green gunk, varnish, and other contamination from the metallic parts. Pay particular attention to the machined passages and metering holes.
WARNING: Carburetor cleaner is both flammable and the fumes are toxic. Do all cleaning away from open flames and outdoors if possible. Wear eye protection. The stuff will also eat plastics including some plastic eyeglass lenses.
Take care where non-metallic parts are still in place as extended contact with harsh solvents may degrade their properties (inlet seat and primer bulb, if present). Low pressure compressed air may be used to blow out passages but only use this on the fuel line from inside the carburetor body - else you may end up with the inlet seat clear across the driveway never to be found again.
DO NOT use wires or metal instruments to clear any of the passages as their size is critical.
The small hole in the hollow bolt on the bottom is most critical. Make sure it is cleaned down to the shiny brass and that this hole is unblocked and fully open:_ _ | | | | | | | | | | |_| | | _ Hole in nut (approximately .025") - use carburetor cleaner | | | | and wooden toothpicks to clear it out down to shiny brass. | | | | DO NOT use metal wires! _| | _ | |_ | \_/ | |___________|
If you are absolutely sure there is no hole in the bolt (some models may forgo this), check further up on the central tube - there may be a tiny hole about 1/2" from the bottom. There has to be a hole somewhere for the gas to be sucked up through the carb!
I first use carburetor cleaner inside and out with cotton swabs to remove all traces of gunk from the inside. Use as many as needed till no more discoloration shows up. Then, use the broken end of a wooden toothpick or popsicle stick to clear the .5 mm diameter hole in the side. In severe cases, this hole may not even be immediately visible due to the varnish and gunk buildup.
If this hole is narrowed or clogged, the engine may start but then die in a few seconds. Gas enters the reservoir in the nut slowly or is forced in by priming but the normal suction cannot replenish it quickly enough.
Fine steel wool may be used on the float hinge pin if it is rough or there is evidence of rust but do not use anything abrasive on any of the other parts. Persistence with carburetor cleaner and cloths or paper towels should prove sufficient.
Inspect the inlet needle and seat. The needle should have sharp uniform edges and no visible damage to the conical tip. Any damage half way down the conical part - where it actually contacts the seat - will result in leakage and flooding. The seat can be removed if damaged by pulling it out with a hooked wire - careful - you do not want to scratch the body! If removed, do not reuse but install a replacement. The new seat goes in groove side first (lubricate with a drop of oil) and can be pressed home with a blunt rod.
If the throttle plate was disassembled, clean these parts with carburetor cleaner. Use a cotton swab to get into the bearing surfaces in the carburetor body.
DO NOT attempt to disassemble the carburetor beyond this point - the pressed in main fuel nozzle is precisely fitted and is not removable. The welch plug (pressed in disk) should not be removed unless you suspect contamination in the primer chamber (if any).
Carburetor rebuild kits are available and are economical where almost any parts need replacement.
(From: Jim Williamson ().)
If soaking the carburetor in cleaner:
When you remove each part from the dip tank rinse it with warm/hot water (as hot as your hands can reasonably stand). The parts that have passages - force water through the passage. This does two things: (1) rinses the internal passage of the cleaner and any old junk (2) gives you a VISUAL check that water is coming out the other end of the passage. The visual check is the key here - you could use compressed air to rinse the passages but you don't see the exit stream. On a clean passage the exit stream will be nice and solid indicating no particles hanging up in the passage.
Now as for the hot water - this is to help dry the parts off - evaporation. Sometimes once I've rinsed the parts off I'll use compressed air to further dry the passages - or at least manually blowing through them.
Critical considerations for proper operation
- The inlet needle and seat must be in good condition or else the carburetor will flood due to leakage or result in erratic operation due to uneven gas flow. If there is any evidence of damage, these parts will need replacement. The 4 edges of the needle should not be worn (the sharpness would change about 2/3 of the way from the pointed end). If the edges are noticeable rounded, replace the needle. There may be varnish deposits on the needle, rubber seat, and the metal casing in which it is installed. These must be totally removed using carburetor cleaner and soft (wooden or plastic) tools.
- The float height adjustment should be fairly accurate. With the float and inlet needle reinstalled (and the seat replaced if it was removed), invert the carburetor - the float should sit just about horizontal. For more precision, a .210" (#4) drill bit should just fit between the body and the non-hinge end of the float.
- The machined passages must be free and clear and not damaged - never use wires to clean them. Use compressed air, carburetor cleaner, wooden sticks, etc. However, do make sure that they are fully open. There are no blind passages in these carburetors so a strong light should permit you to see that they are unblocked (the following are typical - your model may differ slightly):
- Air bleed, inlet side angled down toward main jet.
- Passage to primer chamber, inlet side.
- Slot towards center at edge of welch plug (may not be present).
- Pair of main fuel passages in central cylinder in main body.
- Main metering hole in bowl bolt.
- The hole in the bowl bolt is the main metering orifice and it is critical to the proper operation of the carburetor. This area also tends to collect a lot of crud. It will yield to repeated use of carburetor cleaner, cotton swabs (Q-tips), and wooden sticks. Continue cleaning until you are down to shiny brass. Just don't become impatient and use any wires or sharp tools to speed the process!
- Any primer should be air-tight for it to function properly and for the engine to run properly. Any leaks will result the primer being partially or totally ineffective. In addition, the engine will run rich and contaminants may enter the carburetor. Check for damaged rubber parts or hoses that have fallen off.
If the primer bulb is on the carburetor, there is a 'welch plug' (a metal disk pressed into a mating cavity) sealing the primer chamber. On the side toward the center, there is a tiny rectangular hole that must be open - it often gets clogged and may not even be readily apparent. Do not attempt to remove the welch plug unless you seriously suspect something is inside. If pressing the primer bulb results in a blast of air out of the hole, it's probably fine. Where the primer is separate from the carburetor, there is usually no welch plug.
- The float must be air (and gas) tight. Shake it - if there is any gas inside, the float will need replacement. (It's possible there may be metal particles or other debris sealed inside at the time of manufacture - this will cause no harm.) Put the float under water - there should be absolutely no evidence of bubbles and leakage. Pinholes sometimes develop in the thin brass and while these can be soldered, this practice is not recommended.
- The large O-ring must seal properly. If it leaks, the engine will run rich and contaminants may enter the carburetor bowl. Replacement is usually recommended whenever the carburetor is disassembled. However, if it is in perfect condition, you can try to reuse making sure that the mating surfaces are clean and smooth. Use some engine oil on the O-ring to assure a tight seal.
Note: When tightening the float bowel, take care that the O-ring doesn't get pinched or kinked resulting in an inadequate seal or no seal. A narrow stick may be useful to help it along. If the carburetor hasn't been removed from the engine, a mirror will be needed to inspect it.
ReassemblyOnce all parts have been cleaned and inspected - replaced where needed, proceed as follows:
If you removed the throttle assembly:
- Reinstall the throttle shaft along with its spring and felt and/or metal washer. Hook the spring onto the ridge on the carburetor body. Make sure it moves freely. DO NOT lubricate.
- Attach the throttle plate to the shaft with the original screw. Make sure the plate is correct side out and that the hole is positioned on the right facing the upright carburetor from the throttle plate side. As you tighten the screw, slightly rotate the throttle shaft to allow the plate to seat properly - jiggle it a bit at the same time. When properly installed, the plate itself limits the return movement of the throttle. It should be fully closed at this point.
Confirm that the throttle plate moves freely between a fully closed and fully open position - there should be no hint of binding or stiffness.
- Reattach the air inlet pipe with gasket using the two sets of nuts and bolts. Don't forget the metal strip for the governor spring if your carburetor uses this. Tighten securely - 4 to 6 ft-lbs if you use a torque wrench.
Now for the main event:
- Install a new seat if you removed the old one. The new seat goes in groove side first (lubricate with a drop of oil) and can be pressed home with a blunt rod.
- Install the float using the hinge pin.
- Insert the inlet needle hooking the retaining clip on the tab near the float hinge. Check for free movement of the float.
- With the carburetor body inverted, check the float height adjustment. It should seat almost horizontally. For a more precise test, use a 0.210" (#4) drill bit as a gauge across the outer ring of the carburetor body - the float should just touch this. Bend the tab on the float to adjust. (Note: unless you replaced some parts, this setting will probably be fine.)
You can test for proper operation using low pressure compressed air (i.e., by blowing into the fuel hose), or water or gas. Water is safest but you must make sure to dry everything thoroughly before final assembly. To do this, temporarily reassemble the bowl with the hex head bolt. With the carburetor upright, dribble water into the fuel hose until it accepts no more - perhaps an ounce or two. There should be no leakage - the level of water in the hose should not change at all once it stops. If there is any leakage, there is still a problem with the inlet needle or seat - or the float is gas-logged.
- Install the large O-ring around the carburetor body. Use a small amount of engine oil to aid in assuring a good seal.
- Place the bowl over this assembly making sure that it does not pinch the O-ring. Orient it so that the deep part is almost opposite the float hinge (it should actually point directly away from the engine when the carburetor is mounted.)
- Install the hex head bowl bolt and fiber washer. Tighten securely (one Tecumseh service manual lists 50 inch-pounds, but others have no recommended torque for this bolt). CAUTION: I've heard of people breaking the bolt by either attempting to loosen it the wrong way or overtightening upon reassembly to stop leaks. If gas leaks out in the area of the bolt head, the fiber washer may be missing or damaged. For testing at least, a non-hardening gasoline resistant sealer like Form-A-Gasket B(tm) can be used.
Carburetor installationWith the carburetor positioned in its approximate location on the engine:
- Reinstall the throttle and governor linkages Where there is no speed adjustment or idle position, the direct governor linkage goes in the hole closest to the engine and the spring hooks onto a fixed vertical metal strip with only one hole at one end and the lower hole in the governor lever at the other. Thus, in operation, the spring attempts to keep the throttle open and the governor pulls on the throttle to close it. Increased spring tension results in higher speed. Don't get these backwards when you go to reinstall the carburetor on the engine!!! See the section: Throttle/speed control linkages on Craftsman/Tecumseh engines.
- Reattach the primer tube, if any.
- Reattach the stop switch wire, if any.
- Install the carburetor onto the engine with a new gasket if needed. Tighten securely (6 to 8 ft-lbs).
- Double-check that the throttle linkage and governor spring are in the proper holes and nothing is binding - you should be able to move the throttle back and forth without any sticking or tightness. It should return to the full counterclockwise position instantly as a result of the governor spring tension.
- Do not replace the air filter at this time.
- Reinstall any throttle selector or cable. Confirm that it operates properly - usually STOP, LOW, HIGH. STOP should engage the stop switch. LOW should leave the governor spring tension where it was. HIGH should increase the governor spring tension slightly. If there is an IDLE position, the throttle plate should be almost closed.
- Reinstall any trim pieces that were removed.
- Reinstall the fuel tank and fuel hose with clamp, if any. Open the fuel valve, if any.
Throttle/speed control linkages on Craftsman/Tecumseh enginesThe following is for one model! NOT ALL ENGINES ARE SET UP THE SAME! It is best to consult your engine manual. Getting it wrong is not something you really want to do! :(
The user speed control (if any) pulls on a spring which is attached to the 2nd hole from the top on the governor lever. For engines with no speed control, there is a fixed plate or tang to which the spring is attached. Some amount of adjustment is possible by bending this plate.
The carburetor throttle plate has several holes in it. The one that is probably used is that closest to the little cutout (which I can't show with ASCII art) and the tip of the throttle plate return spring. You can probably confirm this by looking for which hole has the paint worn off!__ _ Open <-- / \ --> Close | | |o=========. ,=======o| Top hole \ O / '=============' | | \_/ Carburetor +-- ===========o| Next hole _ Throttle | | | |o| Plate +-straight-+ | | | | | | | |o=====o---/\/\/\/\/\/o========== ---+ | | | | Spring | | | O | | | Speed Control | | or Fixed Tang Governor |_| (linkages may cross) Lever | O | +---+
See: Neil's Tecumseh Throttle and Carburetor Linkage Page for some slightly better diagrams. :)
Initial testsAdd a small amount of gas to the fuel tank - perhaps half a glass or so. Just enough to assure that it will reach the carburetor even if the mower is slightly tilted or jostled.
Inspect around the fuel hose and carburetor body for fuel leaks. If gas starts dripping from the air inlet or anywhere else, there is still a problem with the inlet needle and seat. Disassembly will be required.
Only a few seconds are needed for the gas to fill the carburetor bowl.
Assuming there are no leaks, install the air filter and reattach the spark plug wire or reinstall the spark plug. Attempt the normal starting procedure - prime if recommended.
The engine should start on the first pull! Immediately move the throttle selector to LOW if you have this option. Confirm immediately that it stabilizes at a reasonable speed - stop it quickly if it sounds like the mower is preparing for takeoff - your governor connections are incorrect or binding. If it runs at a fast speed with the speed selector set at LOW, the governor spring is probably in the wrong hole. Check it.
Listen and feel for any significant unevenness, surging, or other unusual behavior. Stop the mower, wait a few seconds, and restart. It should restart with a single pull without priming.
Mow for a few minutes. Stop the engine and confirm that it restarts without priming. Listen and feel for any indication of lack of power or other unusual behavior.
Go take a dinner break. Then confirm that the engine will now start - priming may be needed since it will now be cold.
Maintenance of point-type ignition systemsIn most cases, missing or total lack of spark will be due to dirt, pitting, or corrosion of the points or a failure of the condenser. Timing may affected as well by excessive wear. The following procedures should restore the ignition system to good health:
First, test for spark. If there is a spark, try replacing the spark plug since this is the most likely cause of ignition problems. With a spark present, there could still be ignition system problems but this is much less likely.
You may be able to test the points to some extent if you can get to the wire that connects to the magneto or the STOP switch. A multimeter on the low ohms scale will the permit you to watch the opening and closing of the points.
If this confirms that the points are operating the condenser could still be defective, the breaker arm could be sluggish, or the point gap could be grossly out of adjustment.
To proceed further:
- Remove any trim pieces and the shroud/blower housing to access the flywheel, magneto, and points assembly under the flywheel.
- Check the flywheel magnet to magneto core air gap. While it is extremely unlikely that this increased, it is an easy test. The correct value is usually .015 inches but some engines use other gap spacings. A non-magnetic feeler gauge is best for this. If it is much larger than specified, adjust it and test for spark again.
- Remove the flywheel. See the section: Flywheel removal.
- Test the flywheel magnet. No actual strength is usually published but if it attracts a steel screwdriver from at least a 1/2" distance and seems strong, the magnet is likely fine. If it is weak (or missing, though this is mostly a theoretical possibility!), the flywheel will need to be replaced.
- Remove the cover over the breaker points assembly, if any.
- Inspect the points. There should be no serious pitting, corrosion, evidence of arcing or sparking. Nor should they be welded together!
If any of these problems are present, replace the points and condenser as well - a bad condenser may be the cause of the points failure it is not really possible to fully test it.
You can also test for electrical operation of the points using a multimeter on the low ohms scale while rotating the crankshaft (you will have to use the blade - careful) or operating the breaker arm manually.
Or better yet, just replace the points and condenser. The cost is minimal (probably under for a rebuild kit) and you have already done most of the work.
- Note the mounting arrangement and remove the old points and condenser and install the replacements. Do not tighten the locking screws at this time.
Setting the point gap and ignition timingPerform the following whenever the breaker points assembly is replaced or where a timing problem is suspected.
- Rotate the crankshaft so that the cam that operates the points is at the highest location and the points are wide open.
- Adjust the point gap setting to specifications using a feeler gauge. This is nearly always .020 inches.
- Set the crankshaft position. This is usually done statically and does not require a timing light (Darn!).
- On many engines including Tecumsehs, there is a timing dimension in the engine specifications. This is the distance of the piston below Top Dead Center (TDC) at which the points should just open.
While measuring piston position with a scale through the spark plug hole, rotate the crankshaft until the piston is precisely at TDC and note this distance. (There are special timing gauges for this purpose with lock screws to hold the setting but a little ruler will work just fine.)
Now, turn the crankshaft in the opposite direction from normal rotation (usually counterclockwise as viewed from the flywheel end) until the piston moves down .25 inches or so and then turn it slowly in the normal direction of rotation until the piston position is precisely at the timing dimension listed in your engine specifications.
- On some engines there will be timing marks on the flywheel and engine block or the manual may tell you to line up the one edge of the flywheel magnet with one of the magneto pole pieces.
The flywheel should be temporarily re-installed without tightening the nut.
Rotate the crankshaft until the timing marks are precisely aligned.
Carefully remove the flywheel without disturbing the crankshaft position.
- On many engines including Tecumsehs, there is a timing dimension in the engine specifications. This is the distance of the piston below Top Dead Center (TDC) at which the points should just open.
- Adjust the timing. Loosen the locking screw on the points assembly. Rotate the points assembly until the points just open (use a thin piece of cellophane or a multimeter on the low ohms scale. Lock the position by tightening the set screw.
- Double check that your settings have not shifted.
- Replace the cover over the points assembly, if any.
- Reinstall the flywheel and associated hardware and tighten to the specified torque (30 to 33 ft-lbs). Make sure the cupped washer, if any, has its cupped-side facing the flywheel. (Defer tightening to full torque if the engine is not presently mounted solidly on the equipment. Just don't forget!)
- Check, and if necessary, adjust the magnet to magneto coil spacing using a non-magnetic (preferably) feeler gauge or shim stock (typically .015 inches though some are .005 to .008 inches, see your engine manual).
- Replace the shroud/blower housing and any trim pieces that were removed if no other servicing is to be performed on the engine.
Recoil (pull) starter repair
- Broken starter ropes or failure to retract are both repairs that are fairly easy. However, the spring can be nasty as it is under tension (or should be when reassembled). This can be risky if you are not familiar with the internal construction as you disassemble the unit.
The cause of a broken cord is obvious. The cause for a failure to retract could be a broken spring, tangled or frayed rope, or some other mechanical failure. A broken spring will require total disassembly of the starter mechanism - fortunately there really isn't that much involved.
With some designs, it is possible to replace the cord without fully disassembling the starter mechanism - by threading the cord in and tying a not in the end - but after rotating it several turns to put the proper tension on the spring. This is relatively safe but may be frustrating as 3 hands are sometimes needed.
Where safe disassembly is not obvious, I would recommend that you refer to a book on lawn mower or small engine repair from the library or the service manual for the mower, if possible. You may be able to find specific step-by-step instructions which will minimize your risk of injury from an encounter with an uncontrolled spring.
- When the rope pulls out and retracts normally - but doesn't do anything else - the most likely cause is a problem with the one-way clutch. This may be part of the spring-rope assembly - usually removable as a unit - or attached to the flywheel. The most common problems are gummed up lubrication or a broken spring or other damaged or worn parts. For common engines:
- On Briggs & Stratton starters, the clutch is often part of the flywheel nut assembly. The entire unit can be easily removed and replaced if it fails to engage reliably.
- On Tecumseh starters, pawls in the starter assembly engage a serrated cup held in place by the flywheel nut. Check for damaged parts or gummed up lubrication.
WARNING: Take extreme care should you need to disassemble the portion of the starter that includes the mainspring - that can be nasty.
Broken lawn mower handleShould the tubular handle on your mower break at some point (yes, I know this should be unlikely but I know of two people who have managed to do it!), the use of a splint is probably the best approach. Obtain a length of steel pipe with an inside diameter just a hair larger than the outside diameter of the handle. About 8 to 12 inches should be enough. Even electrical conduit may work. Use this to splice the joint. Drill holes through both the pipe and handle and secure with sheet metal screws. This will maintain the required strength and keep the handle the same length as it was originally so you will not have to become a midget to mow your lawn.
Metal gas tank repairYes, you have to remove the gasoline first! And, make sure all traces of vapors are gone - if it smells like gas, it may very well explode! However, this isn't as much of a problem as with an automotive gas tank.
(From: Greg Fretwell ().)
The best way is to braze it, but before you get your torch out take a bottle of ammonia to the car wash and have them steam the tank out, pour in some ammonia and rinse. Repeat a few times. Ammonia will remove the residual gasoline and make it safe to weld on. This is the procedure required by the welding shop that fixed my tank. They needed to see the receipt from the car wash before I could even bring the tank on the property.
(From: Doug Younker ().)
I have gotten lucky and have been able to solder repair leaks in small engine tanks using my 140 watt soldering gun after leaving the tank to preheat in the sun all afternoon while I was at work. You have to be patient to do so...
(From: Jeremy ().)
If you want to work on a metal gas tank, empty the gas and put some dry ice in the tank. The dry ice will vaporize, filling the gas tank with carbon dioxide thus removing oxygen and gasoline vapors.
Carburetor rebuild or replace?(Portions from: Jeff Liebermann.)
Rebuilding works 98% of the time on chain saws or lawn mowers. However, I'm zero for 5 attempts on automobile carburetors. After 5 disasters, I gave up.
What to look for to determine if replacement is needed. And then it doesn't necessarily mean the entire carb needs to be replaced, only the bad parts:
- Missing parts.
- Broken parts.
- Brass needle valve with a circular grove and a matching grove in the seat.
- Clogged intake to the cylinder.
- Clogged fuel line.
- Clogged fuel filter.
- Clogged air filter.
- Debris in the carb after the air filter was punctured.
- Wrong fuel or bad fuel/oil mix.
- Far too much Sta-Bil in the fuel.
- Water in everything.
- Mangled throttle linkage.
- Automagic choke stuck either open or closed.
- Timing adjustment on magneto position.
And the winner that took me several days to find:
- Permanently shorted cutoff switch. :(
Running swill like Arco gas through it will certainly cause any soft parts to degrade and need replacement a lot sooner. You should see what's left of my Homelite EZ when my semi-brilliant neighbor used Coleman camp fuel (naphtha) and a 50:1 oil mix. Worked great until the piston froze in the cylinder. I'll fix it one of these days when I feel like relieving my frustrations by pounding out the piston with a 2x4 and a sledge hammer.
Some solvents, cleaners, and gas additives attack rubber parts. The same neighbor mentioned that the saw seemed to be leaking oil, which I confirmed. What he didn't tell me is that he put some kind of solvent in with the chain oil to "clean it" resulting in all the rubber seals turning to slimy goo.
Diaphragm carburetor problems
"I Recently inherited a BobCat Snow Blower from the 60's or 70's. It has a Lausen 3.5hp (HR35P-2403P). I just installed a Tecumseh Rebuild Kit#631893. The unit runs way too rich, I run out of gas in 10 minutes, the muffler starts to glow red. I cannot get it to idle. I installed a new needle, seat/jet and diaphragm. During the rebuild I did not remove the welch plugs. I tried swapping the idle screw with the high speed screw (not sure which is which). One screw has a smooth taper while the other has a taper with a step to it (no evidence of scoring). Could I be missing a key piece that regulated fuel flow? The rebuild kit did not come with directions, so I just installed everything in reverse."
The idle mixture screw is the one with the step.
I assume you have any choke off, throttle connected properly with spring return, etc.
What happens if you close both idle and main jets? Does it starve? I would expect that you should be able to stop fuel flow totally. If this is not possible, your needles or something else is incorrect/worn or fuel is somehow bypassing the jets which is also wrong.
Did you compare the old and new parts to make sure they gave you the correct kit?
It also recommend removing the Welch plug and blowing compressed air through the passages to clean.
It might also be a problem in the diaphragm spring pressure but without seeing it, no way of knowing. The diaphragm acts against atmospheric pressure. There is a spring on the inlet needle which if missing would run very rich. Chilten has a detailed diagram - really no way of knowing if your assembly was done correctly. Also, warns again using harsh cleaners on non-metallic parts and clearing all vent holes.
However, I rather suspect that comment about running rich is not correct as an engine running very rich would lack power if it continued to run at all. Your throttle may be stuck wide open and it may be over revving.
Your public library should have some Chilten or other books like those listed in the section: References. These should include diagrams of the diaphragm type carburetor.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
When does this information apply?This chapter deals with the following:
- Indications for the need for an overhaul.
- Engine disassembly down to the last nut.
- Inspection of major parts for wear and damage.
- Basic replacement or repair of any broken or damaged parts.
- Engine reassembly.
- Post overhaul testing.
For detailed instructions on valve grinding, cylinder reboring, or main bearing reaming, for example, you should refer to one or more of the books listed in the section: References. However, this chapter will give you the general feel and basic information needed to perform many common types of simple overhaul operations and to evaluate the need for more drastic action - such as a trip to the new lawn mower store!
Depending on your particular problem(s), only a subset of these sections may apply. For example, inspection and cleaning of the valves and combustion chamber - even valve regrinding (but we said we weren't going to talk about that!) can be done with a minimum of engine disassembly.
Do you need an overhaul?Many common problems can be remedied without going into the deep dark recesses of the engine. However, some will require either a partial or total overhaul. Eliminate all other possibilities from consideration before considering an overhaul - it will not be a fun afternoon (or weekend, or week, or month,....).
The following are indications that at least a partial overhaul may be needed:
- Mechanical damage - broken, damaged, or bent parts resulting in inability to start or even turn the crankshaft for starting or excessive vibration while running. In most cases, this will be obvious - the mower died very suddenly - possibly with a loud clunk or p-ting and now the crankshaft hits something really really solid inside when attempting to pull the starter.
- Low compression - this is due to wear or abuse (lack of oil) of parts like the rings or valves or due to a blown head gasket. Perform the compression test described in the section: Compression testing. Symptoms would be difficulty in starting and unusually little resistance when pulling the starter cord, and perhaps, loss of power once you get it started. If rings are bad, there may be excessive oil consumption and blue exhaust smoke. If only the valves are involved, only the cylinder head may need to be removed.
- Excessive oil leaks - a failure of the oil seals (the lower one on mowers at the PTO/blade end, most likely) will result in oil dripping or pouring from under the mower deck. The blade will be coated with oil and there will be a puddle where the mower is stored. Of course, if this is severe enough or neglected, you may end up with much more serious problems when the internal parts fail due to lack of lubrication. Replacing an oil seal is not difficult. The old seal is removed by piercing its thin metal shell with an awl or ice pick and carefully prying it out. Take extreme care not to scratch or dent the mounting surface or crankshaft. This may be possible without extensive disassembly. The new one is then pressed on. In fact, installing the new seal is best done with the crankshaft in place as there will be less likelihood of damage to the new seal and it can then be driven in straight. There is a special tool for this but a piece of pipe that just fits over the crankshaft cut off square will work just as well. Remove any burrs on the crankshaft to prevent damage to the new seal and take care that any rubber lip on the seal does not get folded over.
- Excessive noise - knocking, banging - while an engine powered piece of machinery is not exactly quiet, there should not be unusual or excessive mechanical noises. Such noise can be an indication of an excessively worn engine or of some part that is about to fail. Should you strip the engine based on this? I cannot say - it is a judgement call. It something about the sound suddenly changed, then investigating the cause is certainly warranted.
In some cases, multiple problems may be present and/or there may just be excessive wear of parts like the cylinder, rings, and piston. Under these circumstances, the cylinder may need to be rebored to accept a replacement oversize piston and ring set. The cost of the parts and labor (you really don't want to rebore a cylinder) will likely be more than you want to spend. This is when a new engine or mower is the best option.
Comments on engine rebuildingWhile the specific question dealt with a medium size snowblower engine, the comments should apply to other yard equipment as well.
"Is it economical or feasible to properly rebuild a 7 HP Tecumseh engine on a snowblower? Compression seems fine. Has been burning oil to some degree for the last 3yrs, but this year its' burning a lot - maybe 1/2 pint oil for each gal of gas. Until last year, was using 5W30. This year, switched to straight SAE30. I could get a new Tecumseh SnoKing engine for about 0 including shipping."
(From: Mother ().)
As a finalist in the All-American Engine Repair Championships formerly held at the Outdoor Power Equipment EXPO (an industry trade show) in the Tecumseh division, and as a Briggs and Stratton Master Service Technician, it has been my experience that:
- Yes it is POSSIBLE to rebuild one successfully, although if it is not an HH model with cast iron bore, it probably will not hold up (single H models are aluminum bore).
- It is not cost effective to do so.
- Short blocking this engine requires special tools if it is more than ten years old, as the ignition timing is not fixed, as it is on newer, solid state models.
- Engines from companies like Northern Hydraulics may be adaptable to your unit, but will likely not just bolt on.
If this engine is on a top of the line product, such as Ariens, Snapper, or BearCat, it is probably worth repairing, as a new comparable product is big bucks (and overpriced).
If this engine is on a mid-range product, such as Toro, Simplicity, John Deere, Husqvarna (European product, not USA built), etc., then repair is probably still a good option, due to the overpricing of similar replacement products.
If it is on a Murray, Noma, AMF, Dynamark, Ultra, Sears, MTD, YardMan, White, Husqvarna (USA built by Murray/Noma), or other discount store brand, go buy a new machine. The cost of a new unit is not much more than the cost of the engine repairs, and then you won't have a worn out piece of discount store equipment to break down again in three weeks when something else goes bad...
Compression testingSpecial compression gauges are available at auto parts stores or small engine parts suppliers. These will catch and hold the highest pressure reached so you don't need to be in two places at once.
Note that this procedure may always yield a very low reading if there is a compression release mechanism on your engine - which is very likely. In this case, the crankshaft must be spun in the opposite from normal direction by the flywheel (counterclockwise when viewed from the flywheel end, with the starter removed).
- If the compression gauge has a screw thread, install it in the spark plug hole so it snug - it doesn't need to be really tight. If it just has a rubber boot, have a buddy hold it in place in the spark plug hole as you perform the following tests.
- Pull the starter cord several times or use the electric starter in the normal manner.
- New Tecumseh engines should have a compression reading of at least 80 psi. If your reading is at least 60 psi (or the specification found in your engine manual), then compression is acceptable.
- If it is less than expected, squirt a small amount of engine oil in through the spark plug hole so it coats all around the edge of the piston and cylinder.
- Repeat the compression test.
- If the pressure reading is now acceptable, then the rings need replacement or the piston/cylinder are excessively worn. If there is little change, there is a valve problem.
- If the measurement is very low under both conditions, there may be a blown head gasket or damaged (punctured) cylinder or head. (Or your engine has a compression release mechanism which is reducing the reading - see the note above).
For Briggs & Stratton engines, the manufacturer simply recommends spinning the crankshaft by the flywheel in the opposite from the normal direction with the normal spark plug installed. A sharp rebound (as it compresses the trapped air since the compression release mechanism is not active in reverse) indicates good compression. Little or no rebound indicates low compression and need for service.
Should you even bother?Only you can decide if the time and effort will be worth it. If you enjoy a challenge, then engine overhaul may be for you. However, this is probably not going to be your idea of fun. Doing something like this for the first time will result in scraped knuckles and the liberal use of 4 letter expletives. If the mower was a Hechinger's 0 special and has seen several seasons of use, then it may be time for a new one.
If you are not the detail oriented meticulous type, you may be better off leaving this sort of overhaul to a professional or buying a new engine or mower. Most parts must go back in exactly the same orientation as they were originally - including matching of timing marks on the crankshaft and cam gears. Even the piston is not symmetrical - though this is not obvious except by taking detailed measurements. Nonetheless, it will not work well if at all, or will wear quickly if rotated 180 degrees upon reassembly.
Furthermore, once a wear pattern has developed, it is generally a good idea to replace parts in exactly the same position - the direction of the piston (wrist) pin or location of the intake and exhaust valve lifters. Violating this rule won't result in immediate failure but could lead to excessive wear and reduced life
What this means is that you cannot assume anything about the parts you remove. Even if they look identical at first glance, they may have a definite right and wrong orientation and/or may want to be replaced in exactly the same location. Even lowly head bolts may be of different lengths. Make notes and diagrams. Most of these will be pretty simple but they will save your hide in the end!
Bearing surfaces are very finely ground and polished - just dinging the crank pin journal surface against a steel part will put a nick in the relatively soft bearing which will need to be carefully removed as best you can - affecting as little else as possible - with very fine emery cloth.
In addition, if you don't like to get your hands dirty and oily, forget it. You will have disgusting black crud under any surviving fingernails for days. This is a messy operation! The outside of the engine will be coated with decayed grass clippings, dust, and dirt. The inside of the crankcase will have the remnants of old used motor oil (also a carcinogen) and the combustion chamber will be coated with filthy carbon deposits.
At the same time, cleanliness is critical when reassembling as any particles of dirt or metal will find their way between rotating parts resulting in excessive wear or worse.
Having said all that, overhauling a small engine is not like overhauling an automobile engine. In the words of a colleague: "It's just a frick'n lawn mower". What this means is that you can get away with tolerances, imperfections, and mistakes in dealing with a small engine that would be unacceptable for the health of your Chevy or Porsch.
Special toolsFor most of the procedures described below, the basic set of items listed in the section: Tools and supplies will suffice. However, some of the following more specialized tools may be needed depending on how far you go:
- Micrometer - many of the measurements of wear to engine parts requires determining the diameter of shafts or bearing surfaces. Except for the piston, most of these can be accommodated by a micrometer with a maximum opening of 1 to 1-1/4 inches. However, in many cases, what is important is not actual diameter but clearance - and this can be determined with the inexpensive 'plastigauge' or a substitute.
- Plastigauge - these are disposable pieces of calibrated plastic used to determine the critical clearance between the rod bearing and crank pin journal.
You place one in between the rod bearing and crank pin journal and tighten to specifications. When removed, simple measurements on the markings on the squashed plastigauge will very precisely determine the clearance, taper, and out-of-round specifications for your bearing. It is also possible to obtain most of this information by using slips of paper or foil of known thickness but this will not be as accurate or convenient.
- Flatness gauge - a good machined straight-edge and a set of feeler gauges will suffice for checking the mating surfaces of the cylinder and head.
- Ridge reamer - the 1/8" or so above where the piston slides in the cylinder will develop a buildup of carbon. In addition, if the engine has seen really heavy use, the metal in this area will be higher (less worn) than the section below. In order to remove the piston, this ridge must be eliminated or else it either won't come out or you risk breaking the rings.
Fortunately, the metal ridge is rarely a problem on lawn mower engines and the carbon ridge can be removed with a simple homemade tool which is just a soft metal (i.e., aluminum or brass) piece with a straight edge or inside right angle. You probably will not need an expensive commercial ridge reamer tool. You will not need one at all unless you will be removing the piston.
- Piston ring compressor - when reinstalling the piston and rings, it is virtually impossible to squeeze the rings together to fit into the cylinder without some help. Commercial piston ring compressors are available for about or you can make your own from a large hose clamp and strip of sheet steel (say, 1" x 12" x .020"). This tool is not needed unless the piston is being removed from the cylinder.
- Piston ring expander - this allows the easy removal of piston rings from the piston. With care, you can do this by grabbing the two sections of the ring and guiding it off the piston by hand. In any case, unless you will actually be removing the rings from the piston, this tool will not needed.
- Valve spring compressor - in order to remove and reinstall the valves, their rather powerful spring must be squeezed together tightly. This is almost impossible to do without this tool. I have done it with an improvised clamp designed for holding lab equipment but it was barely up to the task and not fun. However, unless you are going to remove the valves, this tool will not be needed.
- Rubber mallet - the engine overhauler's 'persuader'. In particular, to break free the crankcase/oil sump joint and for reinstalling the piston using the piston ring compressor. A small one will be more than enough.
- Scrapers - to remove built up carbon deposits and stuck gasket material - start with a strip of aluminum. For stubborn deposits, a flat edge paint scraper or straight blade screwdriver will come in handy. Take care not to scratch any machined surfaces. Coarse steel wool can then be used to finish up after the major deposits have been removed. For fine work, an X-acto knife also is useful.
- Wood blocks (4" x 4" x 8" typical) for supporting the engine on your workbench.
- Rags, paper towels, and more rags. Just make sure to dispose of oil soaked material safely. Plenty of old newspaper to protect the ground or table top.
Prepare your work areaOnce the gasoline and oil is drained, all overhaul work can be done indoors. Without gas, there is little risk and working indoors is generally much more convenient. Therefore, you need to decide where to set up for the overhaul. The best location will be relatively dust free, well lit, and not likely to be required for other purposes. Your engine may be remain in a disassembled state for some time if you need to obtain replacement parts. Also, even with its bodily fluids removed, an old engine will stink. Therefore, the dining room table is probably not the ideal choice!
Lay out a healthy layer of old newspapers to protect the workbench from oil and solvent drips and damage from heavy tools and parts.
Engine overhaul procedureThe following description applies directly to a large number of Craftsman mowers using Tecumseh engines (most do). However, with minor modifications, it is also applicable to most other mowers using 4 stroke engines.
Mechanically, 2 stroke engines are very similar. In many respects, they are simpler having no camshaft operated valves or oil pump. There is no oil to drain or change. However, needle bearings are used in key spots which complicate matters slightly. Refer to one of the books listed in the section: References for detailed 2 stroke overhaul procedures.
Prepare the engine for removalWhile for certain repairs it is quite possible to work on the engine while still mounted on the mower or other yard equipment, it will almost always be much more convenient to disconnect and remove the entire engine to the convenience of your workbench. There are generally only a handful of actual connections. A typical small engine is remarkably light and compact once stripped of the mower deck!
- Disconnect and secure the spark plug wire.
- Drain the gasoline or remove the fuel tank and store in a safe place.
- Drain the oil from the crankcase/oil sump. While this is not essential for all overhaul operations, it will eliminate any risk of oil pouring out or going where it should not when you turn the engine over or on its side. In addition, this further reduces the risk of explosive fumes which might result if excessive gasoline has contaminated the oil. Finally, now is a good time for an oil change! Refer to the section: An oil change isn't really a big deal. (However, you won't be refilling until later.) Don't reuse the old oil even if you recently changed it and dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner.
- Brush or vacuum off the exterior of the engine above and below the deck and then wipe it down with an old rag to remove decayed leaves, grass clipping, dirt, oily grime, dead (or live) rodents, whatever. The cleaner it is when you actually start work, the better off you will be and there will be less chance of contaminating the interior.
- Detach (and label if there is any doubt about how they are connected) any throttle or dead-man control cables.
- Remove the blade (or anything else driven by the crankshaft). See the section: Non-violent blade removal. Don't lose the locking key if it is separate!
- Remove any auxiliary drive (self propelled) or power take off. This may be a belt or chain above or below deck.
- Disconnect any electric start wiring from the mower.
- Check for and remove anything else that would prevent the engine from being detached from the equipment.
Remove the engineAt this point, the engine should be free of all its attachments to the mower except for its mounting. For a typical rotary mower, there will be three large bolts accessible from under the deck. Removing these with the proper socket will allow the engine to be lifted and moved to your workbench. You will probably be surprised at how light it is! I recommend just screwing the bolts back into their threaded holes finger tight. That way they will not get lost and the threads will be protected. Also, Protect the threaded end of the crankshaft with a bit of rag or paper towel fastened with an elastic band.
Engine disassemblyThe following sections provide the detailed procedures for disassembly and initial inspection for major damage. As noted, these apply directly to most Tecumseh engines but most other 4 stroke engines are very similar.
Removal of the accessoriesNow it is time to get down to business! As noted, depending on your situation, not every step will be needed.
- Remove any trim pieces which cover the engine. Depending on how much you paid, the engine may be nearly bare or have multiple plastic doodads covering up what is essentially that same bare engine!
- Remove the gas tank if you have not done so already. A spring loaded screw clamp may be used to attach the fuel line to the tank - use a pair of pliers, socket, or screwdriver as appropriate to loosen it.
- Remove the oil filler pipe, if any. This is usually fastened to the shroud/blower housing with one or two small screws. Thread these back into their holes finger tight so they will not get lost.
- Remove the shroud/blower housing. This is usually fastened with 4 small bolts (they may be different sizes - replace in the threaded holes so they will not be lost. If there is a primer tube running to the carburetor, disconnect it at whichever end is convenient.
- Remove any electric starter components - starter motor, gears, etc.
- Detach the throttle control (may not be present on all models). Two screws hold it to the carburetor. Replace these screws so they will not get lost. (Yes, I know this is getting kind of repetitious!)
- Disconnect the stop wire if there is one.
- Use a large philips screwdriver to loosen the two screws fastening the intake pipe to the cylinder block. If the gasket separates easily and cleanly, then it can be reused though a dab of non-hardening sealer is advisable. If it tears or is damaged in any way, then it should be replaced.
If the bolts are really tight, an open end wrench may be of help but common sockets may not fit around the bottom bolt. Thin walled sockets may work.
- Disconnect the throttle linkage and governor spring noting which holes they go in. IMPORTANT: If you get this screwed up you could have a runaway situation on your hands when you go to restart it. This can destroy the engine in a few seconds!
The carburetor can now be set aside or disassembled and cleaned. (See the section: Cleaning Craftsman (Tecumseh) carburetors.
WARNING: there is still likely a significant amount of gas inside the float bowl. If turned on its side or upside-down, this gas will come gushing out. Therefore, it is best to set the carburetor aside in an outdoor area in an upright position. Plug the intake manifold and fuel pipe with wadded up paper towels or rags to prevent the entry of dirt.
MufflerNote that in addition to decreasing the noise from your engine, the muffler serves a very important spark/flame arresting function. Therefore, it is important that it be in good condition.
Some mufflers simply screw into the cylinder using pipe threads. Others are mounted with a couple of bolts.
- Remove the muffler. Use penetrating oil (e.g., Liquid Wrench or WD40) if the mount is heavily rusted or corroded and does not yield to normal efforts.
- It is ok to ruin the muffler in the process. Mufflers are inexpensive and you probably needed a new one anyhow. Just do not damage the cylinder threads as the metal is relatively soft.
- If the muffler comes off intact, inspect for serious corrosion, holes, or other damage and figure on replacing it if needed.
- If you will need to remove the crankshaft or get under the flywheel to check or adjust the points (non-electronic ignition), then now is as good a time as any to remove it. See the section: Flywheel removal.
- Inspect the flywheel and set it (and associated washers, starter clutch, etc.) aside in a safe place - away from steel filings that will be attracted to the powerful magnet!
- Thread the flywheel nut back onto the shaft and then protect it with a rag or paper towel secured with an elastic band.
IgnitionThis can be left in place but will be susceptible to damage.
- Inspect the high tension lead for cracking or broken insulation. Temporary repairs using several layers of electrical tape may be made but replacement is best for long term reliability.
- Inspect the stop wire and any others for similar damage and repair or replace parts as needed.
- The electronic (e.g., Goldkey or Magnetron) ignition can be removed as a unit since there is nothing under the flywheel except possibly a (plastic) sleeve/spacer. Inspect the potted unit for cracks or other damage.
- For point type ignitions, the magneto coil along with the components under the flywheel (points, condenser, cam) can be easily removed if the flywheel has been pulled. Inspect for worn, pitted, welded, or corroded points and other damage.
- Use the proper size spark plug or deep socket to remove the spark plug counterclockwise. Inspect the spark plug and threads in the head for damage.
- Use the proper size socket to remove the (usually 6 to 10) head bolts counterclockwise. It is best to loosen each a half turn at a time in an alternating pattern until they turn freely to minimize possible stress on the head. They will be fairly tight but should not be frozen. Check each one after removal as some may be longer than others and then must go back in their respective holes. Hold the head with one hand as you remove the last couple bolts - it should pop right off.
- Separate the head and head gasket from the cylinder. This should occur easily without requiring your persuader.
- Inspect the head, head gasket, and cylinder mating surface for major damage. While it may look really ugly, once the carbon is removed, the metal should be virtually like new.
- Remove built up carbon from the head, valves, piston, and cylinder. This is best accomplished by chipping it away with a soft metal tool like a scrap of aluminum. Take care if you use a steel paint scraper or screwdriver not to scratch the relatively soft cylinder or piston. WD40 will often help to loosen this carbon buildup. Most of the carbon will probably be on the exhaust valve and on the exhaust valve side of the head and piston.
ValvesYou should only need to do this if you are replacing or grinding a valve. In most cases, the valves are undamaged but may appear in poor condition due to carbon buildup - which can be removed in-place fairly easily.
- Remove the valve cover on the side of the engine next to the valves.
- Use a feeler gauge to check the gap between the valve lifter and valve stem with the valve lifter in the relaxed - lowest - position. A typical value is .010 inches. Excessive clearance will require replacement of the valve or valve lifter. There could also be too little clearance - which is also bad - but the valves stems can be ground down to repair this problem which is either a defect in manufacturing or a result of a cam shaft replacement which is oversize.
- Use a valve spring compressor to remove pressure on each valve.
- The retaining clip or split cup should now be free. Remove these.
- The valve should now slide out.
- Loosen the valve spring compressor and remove the spring and any other hardware. Don't interchange the intake and exhaust valve springs.
- Remove the built up carbon deposits from the valves and valve seats using a soft metal scraper. Some WD40 may help to loosen the caked on carbon.
- Inspect the valves for serious burning or pitting especially on the seating (angled) surfaces. Once free of any carbon, they should be smooth and undamaged.
- Similarly, inspect the valve seats for serious burning and pitting.
- Inspect the springs for rust or other damage. Stand them on a flat surface and check for serious droop/tilt. Measure their free length and compare with your engine specifications.
(From: Brian ().)
On old 3.5 and 4 HP Briggs and stratton engines the cam acts weirdly and opens the exhaust valve slightly on the compression stroke thus loosing air and fuel mixture and compression. This is probably due to wear of the valve or valve seat resulting in the cam pushing the valve up when it's really not supposed to be touching the tappet. You need to pull the head off and crank it slowly and watch the exhaust valve, if both valves close and then the exhaust valve pops up, an adjustment is required. To fix this grind the exhaust valve tappet side down 0.5 MM put the valve back in and check it out if it still does grind a little more off. the engine will run smoother than before and a little better
Note that many small Briggs and Stratton (and other) engines include a compression release feature to make starting easier. This has a similar effect in that it opens the exhaust valve during part of the compression stroke reducing the effort needed to pull the starter rope. This should not be confused with what Brian is describing, above. At normal operating rpm, the governor moves a secondary piece on the exhaust valve cam out of the way so that the behavior returns to normal. Unfortunately, unless the crankcase is open, there is no easy way to determine whether the compression release is present on your engine without a service manual.
Oil sump/crankcase coverWe are now going into the lower section. I can hear you saying "Joy!".
- Check the crankshaft for burrs at the blade lock key or other key and/or where any front wheel drive pulley setscrew was tightened. It is essential that these be carefully removed with a fine file before you attempt to remove the cover to avoid damage to the main bearing. In addition, any rust and/or dirt buildup must be removed with steel wool, sandpaper, or emery cloth to allow the shaft to pass through the main bearing without damaging the bearing or oil seal. Remove all traces of rust and grime but don't go overboard - it doesn't need to shine. Wipe with a very slightly damp cloth to remove all abrasive residue.
- Set the engine flywheel-side down on wooden blocks so that the flywheel mounting shaft is clear of the table.
- Once again, wipe down the underside of the engine, especially around the crankcase/oil sump mounting bolts and the seam where the cover will separate from the engine block.
- Remove the 6 to 10 hex head crankcase/oil sump mounting bolts and set them aside.
- Use a soft rubber mallet if necessary to help free the cover. If mild persuasion doesn't work, check for any bolts you may have missed.
- As the cover comes free, gently lift and turn at the same time. It should slide right off the crankshaft. If there is any resistance, you probably didn't find all the burrs or rust. Go back, identify, and correct the problem. Don't force it as you will end up with scratches on the bearing surface and/or damage to the oil seal.
- The gasket will likely tear in the process of removing the cover and will need to be replaced. It is not worth trying to repair it. You will have to scrape the remnants of the old gasket off of both mating surfaces before installing the new one (later).
- Check for any washers that may come free with the cover. There will be at least one on the crankshaft. It may be sticking to the bearing surface on the cover.
- Usually, the flyweight governor is just left in place unless parts need to be replaced. Inspect it for damage to the gears, flyweights, or cup. Individual parts can be replaced if needed (and if you can get them!). The post is a press fit and should not be disturbed unless damaged.
- Remove the camshaft driven plunger type oil pump. This is in two sections which have a definite relationship (the flat faces out). Inspect for damage and set aside.
- Carefully rotate the crankshaft until the timing marks align. These will be a line, dot, or hole on the camgear and crankshaft gear. For most engines, these should line up perfectly with each other at one position of the crankshaft. However, on some Craftsman engines, the timing is advanced by one tooth - the spark should occur earlier. Check and note this before removing the camshaft/camgear! If you didn't (as with 99.99999 percent of DIY'ers!), it is best to check with Craftsman or Tecumseh (assuming it's a Tecumseh engine) to be sure. Not advancing the timing probably won't make a huge difference in performance, but will have some impact on power and efficiency.
- With the timing marks aligned, valve pressure should be released (if you removed the valves, this won't matter) on the camshaft and it should slip out easily.
- Inspect the camgear for chipped or broken teeth and wear. There should be no chipped teeth and no detectable wear on any of the gear teeth. Chipped teeth or significant wear will require replacement.
- Inspect the cam lobes for wear or wear. There should be no detectable wear and no damage.
- Check the compression release mechanism on the camgear for damage and free operation. The weight should snap back to the shaft when released. The little lift pin should move smoothly.
- Remove each of the valve lifters and inspect for wear. There should be no significant wear. Note which went where so that they can be replaced in the same location. Most are of the same length but once a wear pattern is established, replacement in the same location is desirable. Sometimes, they are of different lengths and then this is more critical.
- Rotate the crankshaft so that the rod bolts or nuts are accessible.
- Bend out any lock plate that may be associated with the rod bolts or nuts. Many Tecumseh engines use 'Durlock' rod bolts with integral locking serrations and there is no lock plate and no lock washers. Note: Durlock bolts, lock plates, or lock washers should always be replaced with new ones if removed and not be reused. You really don't want the rod coming apart!
- Use the proper size socket to loosen the rod bolts or nuts counterclockwise. Start with small equal increments on each of them until loose to equalize stress.
- Remove the bolts or nuts and cap. Note the orientation of the cap and rod. If yours is the slant type, this is easy. Otherwise, look for match marks, casting numbers, or other identifying marks and make a diagram in any case.
- Where bolts protrude from the rod, immediately cover these with some bits of rubber tubing or tape to prevent them from hitting and dinging the crank pin journal or other precision surfaces.
- Remove any carbon ridge you find at the top of the cylinder. This will catch the rings and prevent you from removing the piston or if force is used, break the rings. Usually, it is a simple matter of scraping with a piece of soft metal like aluminum. On rare occasions with a really well worn engine, enough of a metal ridge will also be present to require the use of a ridge reamer tool.
- Push the piston up and out of the cylinder bore. The rings will expand but will not pop off unless they are actually broken.
- Replace the rod cap and finger tighten the nuts or bolts. This will help to protect the bearing surfaces from accidental damage.
- Inspect the piston for damage. There may still be significant carbon deposits but once these are carefully scraped off, the piston should be fairly smooth. There may be some vertical scoring but a modest amount of this is not serious.
- Inspect the rings and ring grooves for damage. It is usually not necessary to actually remove the rings from the piston to do this - which should be avoided if possible to minimize the chance of breakage. The outer surface of the rings should have an almost polished appearance with no significant pits, scratches, or corrosion. There should be no chips or other visible damage.
- If you must remove the rings, use a ring expander if possible and make sure you note the exact orientation - top/bottom and location - for each.
- If you are removing the piston pin, note the orientation of both the rod and pin as they must be returned in the same relationship. Pistons are not symmetric! Look closely and you will see that the pin is offset a fraction of an inch to one side. This is done to optimize the center of force on the rod bearing and rotating crank pin journal.
- Use a pair of needlenose pliers to remove the 'circlip' from one side. The piston (wrist) pin usually floats (moves easily) in between the two circlips but a slight lip of metal (probably resulting from the pin banging back and forth) may prevent it from being easily removed. Very slightly scraping around this lip will free it up or you can remove the other circlip and then use a drill or arbor press to push the pin out far enough to free the rod. There is no need to remove the pin entirely. Then, there will be no question as to the direction upon reassembly.
- Lift while rotating the crankshaft out of the top bearing. There should be no resistance (unless you forgot to remove something).
- Inspect the crankshaft to determine if it is bent. Any deviation from perfection is cause for replacement. The proper way to do this is with some V-blocks and a run-out gauge. However, you won't have these tools so a visual inspection is the best you can do. However, unless your blade kissed a boulder, a bent crankshaft is not likely.
- Inspect the small gear for broken teeth and wear. There should be no chipped teeth or detectable wear of the gear teeth. If there are chipped teeth or significant wear, then this gear and the camgear will need replacing.
Note: the small gear on the crankshaft may be a press-fit and may not be considered serviceable by itself without replacing the entire crankshaft. However, I have been able to remove it non-destructively by gently tapping on each side using a soft metal bar (e.g., brass) and a small hammer. (When I had to do this, the guy at the engine parts store was surprised that I was able to get it off without damage.) Heating the replacement gear will expand it and reduce the force needed to press-fit it onto the crankshaft. Similar gentle tapping will then work once the gear is aligned with the indexing pin.
- Check for any washers at the flywheel end of the crankshaft and set these aside. There are probably none.
- The breather allows the pressure inside the crankcase to vent to the outside and should result in negative pressure inside as this contains a (leaky) one-way valve.
- The breather cover is under where the flywheel is located.
- Remove the screw to remove the cover plate. There is a gasket but it will probably separate cleanly.
- Check the spring and valve disk for rust, dirt, and wear. They will likely be fine. Make sure the small vent hole is clear.
- Replace the cover as there is nothing else to do in there.
- Do not remove the oil seals unless you intend to replace them. If oil leakage has not been a problem and you don't think any damage resulted from removing the crankshaft, leave them alone. It should be possible to replace the oil seals after reassembly if oil leakage turns out to be a problem.
- It is very unlikely that the flywheel side oil seal would be defective or damaged.
- The PTO/blade oil seal can be damaged by neglecting to completely remove burrs from the crankshaft before removal of the crankcase/oil sum cover.
- To remove the oil seals, use a screwdriver to pry them out from the crankcase/oil sump cover and/or the flywheel side of the crankcase. Take care not to gouge the mounting surfaces.
Detailed inspectionA complete overhaul can restore a small engine to like-new condition. Any parts that are found to be damaged or out of tolerance are repaired or replaced.
Determining this requires a visual inspection and taking measurements of all critical dimensions of bearings, cylinder, piston, and rings. Some of the inspection is subjective - how badly scored a bearing surface is before it must be replaced or reground. A few score marks around the circumference of a bearing surface will not adversely affect operation or wear. How few is a few? Perhaps if less than 10% or so of the surface is affected. You are not going to spend as much to repair the mower as it cost in the first place in any case so don't lose sleep over it.
Measurements may come up marginal as well. For example, if the limit listed in your engine specifications is .0015" and you measure .002" will this be a serious problem requiring the replacement of expensive parts? Probably not. You may get less than optimal life out of the engine but it will probably still work fairly well and for a long time. So many other factors can affect life that this may have no effect at all.
The following items should be visually inspected. If any significant wear is indicated, precise measurements should be made:
- Crank pin journal and rod bearing. Inspect for wear, pitting, and scoring on both the crank pin journal and the inside bearing surface of the rod and cap. On a new engine, both of these surfaces are nearly mirror smooth. On a well worn engine, there may be significant scoring due to particles from the oil getting trapped. An engine that has failed due to a severe lack of lubrication may result in some pretty spectacular failures of these parts. Minimizing wear and the change of catastrophic failure is the primary reason for performing regular oil changes.
- A few score marks around the entire circumference of the journal are unimportant as long as they represent a small percentage of the surface area.
- Scratches, pitting, or score marks that run side ways are more serious. If slight, polishing with very fine emery or crocus cloth may be all that is needed. If they catch a fingernail, this may not be enough.
- A serious out-of-round condition is unacceptable.
Follow the instructions that came with the plastigauge to take measurements. Consult your engine specifications for acceptable limits. Use judgement in determining whether slight out-of-spec measurements will necessitate replacement or major rebuild.
If you had a rod failure due to lack of oil (remember what we said about the importance of oil - see the section: Rod disasters - or why the oil and governor are kind of important) - then there could be a variety of types of damage that will make these measurements academic. The rod my have broken in half or the cap may have literally exploded into multiple pieces. In many cases, the crank pin journal will escape relatively unscathed but needless to say, you will need a new rod and cap - not cheap!
- Main bearing - PTO (blade) end. Inspect for severe scoring, corrosion, or other damage. It may no longer be mirror smooth but should not appear excessively worn.
- Main bearing - flywheel/magneto) end. Inspect for severe scoring, corrosion, or other damage. This will probably appear almost like new even on an old engine as there is a lot less load on this end and it is relatively well protected and well lubricated.
- Cylinder. Inspect inside the cylinder for excessive wear and scoring. If it appears fairly smooth without much scoring, it is probably ok but only exact inside measurements would confirm.
- Piston. Examine the sides for vertical scoring. There will probably be some but as long as the piston is not mostly score marks, it is probably fine. Only exact measurements would confirm. Check for damage to the lands - the surfaces between the ring grooves. If any are cracked or broken, the piston will need to be replaced.
- Piston (wrist) pin. This should be mirror smooth. There should be no detectable free play if you try to jiggle the rod.
- Rings. Inspect for damage, pitting, and scratches. The outside surfaces should be pretty much mirror smooth. Use an appropriate sized feeler gauge to check clearance between the rings and piston grooves.
- Oil passages. Inspect and use compressed air if necessary to clear the various oil passages in the crankcase/cylinder, camshaft, connecting rod, and crankshaft. The typical small Tecumseh engine has a hollow camshaft which is part of the oil pump and drilled passages in the crankcase. The oil path is from the plunger/barrel oil pump up through the center of the camshaft, over top via the passages in the crankcase to lubricate the main bearing (flywheel/magneto end) and also to drip on the connecting rod and crank pin journal. Some larger engines also have drilled passages in the crankshaft and connecting rod. There is even an oil pressure test port normally sealed by a small screw. A typical pressure measurement on an engine running at full speed is 7 psi but you won't measure this so just make sure everything is clean and clear.
Engine reassemblyOnce you have performed whatever magic is required to repair or replace broken or damaged parts, here are the steps that will transform your pile of parts into a (hopefully) working engine.
If any filing, sanding, or grinding was involved, make sure all traces of abrasives have been removed from every part. The best approach is to clean with soap and water or mild detergent and dry thoroughly. Then immediately coat all ferrous parts with engine oil to prevent rust.
Where the internal moving parts are involved, liberal use of fresh engine oil will also make things to go together smoothly and help protect the surfaces from damage due to initial lack of lubrication.
- Oil seals: If you removed the oil seal(s), clean the inside surfaces where the seals go and install new ones by pressing them in straight and square with a block of wood and rubber mallet or better yet, use a drill press or arbor press. Make sure you get the correct side facing out! Installing the new oil seals after the crankshaft has been replaced may be easier. There is a special tool for this but a piece of pipe that just fits over the crankshaft cut off square will work just as well. Remove any burrs on the crankshaft to prevent damage to the new seal and take care that any rubber lip on the seal does not get folded over.
- Breather: If this was removed, replace valve plate, spring, gasket, and cover. However, this is probably already assembled.
- Valves: Use a valve spring compressor to fully compress the spring for the intake valve and install the valve, any washers, and retaining clips. Do the same for the exhaust valve. Install the valve cover. <>
- Piston rings: Replace any that were removed. Use a piston ring expander if available or your hands to expand the rings and slip them over the piston and into their proper grooves. Note orientation and position! Avoid scratching the relatively soft piston. Do not expand more than needed - the rings are fragile.
Note the typical arrangement (from top to bottom):
- Compression ring (solid).
- Compression ring (solid).
- Oil ring (slotted with internal expander spring).
But, you drew a diagram, right?
Note: if new rings are installed, you should deglaze the cylinder wall with fine emery cloth in a cross-hatch pattern (diagonal strokes). This is needed break in the new rings. Then very thoroughly clean the cylinder to remove all traces of abrasive residue.
- Piston pin and connecting rod: Put a few drops of engine oil on the pin, position the rod, and then slide the pin into place. Use a press if it is a tight fit. Use new circlips to secure the pin. Make sure you get the orientation of both the rod correct! It is also desirable to install the pin in the same orientation as it was originally. If the pin was never entirely removed, this should not be a problem.
For the following, position the crankcase flywheel/magneto side down on some wooden blocks so that when the crankshaft is installed, it's end will be clear of the table-top.
- Crankshaft: Using a gentle rotating-while-inserting, place the crankshaft into the flywheel/magneto-end bearing. Use engine oil to prevent scratches. Take care not to bend over the lip of the oil seal.
- Piston into cylinder: Coat the piston and cylinder wall with engine oil. Orient the rings around the piston so that the gaps are staggered by 90 degrees and not above the pin location. Suggest from top to bottom: 45, 135, 225 degrees. Use a piston ring compressor (commercial or home-made). Tighten until the rings are fully compressed and then release just a hair. Position the piston in the correct orientation - rod with respect to crankshaft - and gently tap into cylinder using a wood block and rubber mallet. If it hangs up, the compressor is too loose. If it does not move at all, the compressor is too tight.
CAUTION: Do not use a metal hammer - there is a good chance you will crack the fragile aluminum piston.
CAUTION: Don't let the bottom of the rod or rod bolts hit the crankshaft! Put a wad of rag inside to prevent this.
- Rod and cap to crankshaft: Coat the crank pin journal with engine oil. Position the crank pin journal and rod bearing so that they are in contact. Place the rod cap in position - noting match marks. Using a new lock plate, lock washers, or rob bolts, as appropriate, hand thread the nuts or bolts on as far as they will go. Jiggle the cap to adjust and then tighten some more by hand.
CAUTION: double check that you have the match marks aligned. If correct, the bearing formed by the rod end and cap will fit the crank pin journal perfectly - seated fully - with no free play even when only finger tight. If you attempt to fully tighten the rod nuts or bolts and the cap is backwards, you may ruin the rod and cap by distorting the soft metal.
Now, use a torque wrench to tighten the nuts or bolts to the proper torque as listed in your engine manual. Alternate between the two nuts or bolts tightening in small equal increments until the proper torque is reached. Where a range is specified, aim for the middle.
Where a lock plate is involved, torque to the middle of the acceptable range and then tighten the nuts or bolts just enough further to align a flat with the edge of the plate. Then, bend the plate over to lock it in place. DO NOT reuse an old lock plate.
It may be a tight fit to get a torque wrench inside the crankcase. Here are a couple of comments:
- I use a basic 3/8" deflecting beam type torque wrench - nothing fancy. To this, I add a 3/8" to 1/4 inch adapter (short) and a 1/4" socket.
- Position the piston/crankshaft to provide the most clearance for each nut or bolt. These will differ.
- This can also be done with an open end wrench and spring scale but the torque wrench is so much easier!
It is just possible to get both the clearance and angle to use the torque wrench effectively. With a ratcheting torque wrench it would be easier but this is not essential.
THIS ASSEMBLY IS MOST CRITICAL and is probably the single most important place to get the torque just right. Too tight and (especially for aluminum alloy rods/caps) you will strip the threads and/or distort the precision fit. Too loose and the bolts will eventually work their way out. You really don't want the cap to pop off while the engine is running at full power!
- Valve lifters: Install the valve lifters in their respective holes.
- Camshaft/camgear: Carefully rotate the crankshaft until the timing mark faces the camshaft bearing location. Slip the camgear in place so that the timing marks exactly align (or if your engine is one of those exceptions, so they are off by one tooth - see your engine manual if in doubt). For most Tecumseh's:
- The camgear timing mark (if not marked) is in line with the center of the hobbing hole (small hole in the face of the gear).
- The corresponding timing mark on the crankshaft is either a beveled tooth on its gear or in line with the keyway.
- If the engine has a Craftsman type (float) carburetor, advance camshaft 1 tooth clockwise (except for the Craftsman variable governed fuel system, whatever that is!).
- Oil pump: Install the two piece oil pump. The flat must face out.
- Crankcase/oil sump cover (temporary): Install the washer(s) that go on the crankshaft. Without using a gasket, install the crankcase/oil sump cover. Use a gentle twisting motion and take care to avoid damaging the oil seal. Slip the ball end of the oil pump plunger into its cavity in the cover before it is fully lowered. With a little jiggling, the cover should seat properly. Thread a couple of the mounting bolts in hand tight to hold it in place.
- Test for free rotation: Use the blade adapter and key as a means of grasping the crankshaft and rotate it through two complete revolutions. There should be no binding of parts though you will feel the resistance of the piston as it moves up and down in the cylinder and the valves as they are lifted once in every two revolutions (which you will also see from above).
- Remove the cover. Double check that the mating surfaces are free of old gasket material and dirt. Use a new gasket. Again, take care not to damage the oil seal and line up the ball on the end of the oil pump plunger so that it fits in its cavity in the cover as it is slid into place. Install all the bolts and tighten in a staggered order incrementally to the proper torque.
- Cylinder head: Position the cylinder head and new head gasket and install all the head bolts finger tight. If any are of a different size, make sure they go in the proper locations so that they do not bottom out or engage too few threads. (Tecumseh bolts seem to be all the same size.) Tighten the head bolts in the recommended sequence in 3 or 4 equal increments to the torque specified for your engine.
Engine repair manuals always recommend using a new head gasket. The old one has shaped itself to the texture and imperfections of the head and cylinder and you could never match this up perfectly upon reassembly. The result can be leakage of hot combustion gases and ultimate failure of the gasket and possible damage to the mating surfaces.
However, if you have not done anything to the head or cylinder surfaces and the gasket is in essentially perfect condition, you can risk reusing it but I won't guarantee long term reliability! My general recommendation is that you use a new head gasket once you are sure that everything works properly and thus there will be no need to remove the head again. Unless the old one is damaged, it will work fine for testing purposes.
A typical Tecumseh bolt tightening sequence is shown below (except 8 HP). Check your service manual for the specific recommended procedure for your particular model engine.Flywheel/magneto end ___________________ /| | | | | | | | 8 | |5| | | |3| | | |=|=O | | O=|=|=|=O=|=| | | | | /| | | | | | | | _ | | |1| | | | | | | | |O| |2|__ | O | | | | Spark Plug O | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | \|7| | | |4| | | | | | | | | O=|=|=|=O=|=| | |6| | | /\| | | | | | | |=|=O |__| ___/____\|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|___\___ ----------------------------------- PTO/Blade end
- Ignition: Install the components (if any) that go under the flywheel (e.g., points, condenser, cam). Install the magneto coil or electronic ignition module. Temporarily position it so that it is as far away as possible from where the flywheel will go. Tighten the bolts.
- Set the point gap and ignition timing (point type ignitions systems only). See the section: Setting the point gap and ignition timing.
- Flywheel: Place any inside spacers proper side up onto the crankshaft. Position the flywheel key in the keyway and then install the flywheel onto the shaft. Jiggle it a little to seat solidly. It should not now move from side-to-side at all. Add the washers, starter cup, and flywheel nut. Screw the nut on by hand and then tighten securely (but not to full torque necessarily at this time) using a socket wrench. Torque to specifications once the engine is mounted as this will be a lot easier.
- Set the flywheel magnet-magneto gap (if you have not done this already): Place an appropriate spacer (e.g., .015 inches) between the flywheel magnet and magneto pole pieces. Loosen the magneto coil mounting bolts. The magnet will draw the pole pieces tight against the spacer. Tighten the bolts to the recommended torque.
- Install the spark plug with a new washer (and a dab of anti-seize compound). First, thread the plug in by hand to get it started and then tighten to specifications (15 to 30 ft-lbs typical).
- Install any electric starting components.
- Install the muffler. A dab of anti-seize compound will make removal of exhaust system components much easier at a later time should the need arise.
- Carburetor: Position the carburetor assembly in its proper location.
- Reinstall the throttle and governor linkages: Where there is no speed adjustment or idle position, the direct governor linkage goes in the hole closest to the engine and the spring hooks onto a fixed vertical metal strip with only one hole at one end and the lower hole in the governor lever at the other. Thus, in operation, the spring attempts to keep the throttle open and the governor pulls on the throttle to close it. Increased spring tension results in higher speed. Don't get these backwards when you go to reinstall the carburetor on the engine!!!
- Reattach the primer tube, if you removed it at the carburetor end.
- Reattach the stop switch wire, if any.
- Install the carburetor onto the engine with a new gasket if needed. Tighten securely to the proper torque (6 to 8 ft-lbs).
- Double-check that the throttle linkage and governor spring are in the proper holes and nothing is binding - you should be able to move the throttle back and forth without any sticking or tightness. It should return to the full counterclockwise position instantly as a result of the governor spring tension.
Engine installationIt will be easier to tighten the flywheel nut to the recommended torque once the engine has been reinstalled on the mower. Therefore, now is a good time to install the engine to the mower deck:
- Remove the three mounting bolts from the bottom of the engine. Position the engine on the mower deck and install these bolts finger tight. Then, use a socket wrench to tighten securely.
- Tighten the flywheel nut. Brace the flywheel against something solid and tighten the flywheel nut to the recommended torque (30-33 ft-lbs).
- Shroud/blower housing: Position and install using the proper bolts.
- Oil fill pipe: Put a little engine oil on the O-ring. Position the fill pipe into the oil hole in the base of the crankcase/oil sump cover. Make sure the O-ring seats inside the oil hole. Tighten the screw(s).
- Gas tank: Slip the gas tank into its mounts and tighten any screws. Connect the carburetor fuel hose to the gas tank.
- Trim pieces: Reinstall any trim pieces.
- Reattach any dead-man and throttle cables to the engine.
- Install any front wheel drive components - pulley to crankshaft (using proper key) and belt, or chain drive.
- Install the blade adapter and blade. Tighten to the recommended torque.
- ADD OIL!!! Add fresh engine oil to just below the top of the oil filler hole or just below FULL on the dipstick. This will be about 1-1/4 pints.
- Use the starter cord or electric starter to crank the engine a few times. This will help to distribute the oil.
- Add a small amount of gasoline to the fuel tank - say, a half a glass.
Initial post-overhaul testingAssuming you didn't make any mistakes, the engine should start on the first pull. As you start it, look and listen for any abnormalities and immediately stop it if any are detected:
- Engine overspeeds due to screwed up governor or linkage.
- Unusual knocking or banging due to parts hitting one another.
- Excessive black, white, or blue smoke from exhaust (or 3 foot flames, I suppose).
- Leakage of oil or gas.
Assuming nothing appears wrong, run it for a while at slow speed (if you have the option). Continue to be on the lookout for anything unusual. After a few minutes, stop it.
Let is sit for 10 minutes or so and then check, and if necessary, top off the oil.
Now, restart and run it at high. Mow a few lawns.
Congratulations! Hopefully, your engine will now serve you for many more years - or until the blade hits the next curb!
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Items of Interest
Explosion risk when filling a metal gas canAlthough rare, there have been reports of fires resulting during fuel transfer. Simple precautions can minimize this risk.
Here is how to fill a gas can to minimize the danger of fire:
- Turn off your vehicle's engine.
- Use only an approved container.
- Do not fill any container while it is inside a vehicle, a vehicle's trunk, pick-up bed, or on any surface other than the ground. This includes pickup trucks, sports utility vehicles, vans and others.
- Remove the approved container from the vehicle and place it on the ground a safe distance away from the vehicle, other customers and traffic.
- Keep the nozzle in contact with the can during filling.
- Never use a latch-open device to fill a portable container.
- Follow all other safety procedures, including No Smoking.
More information can be found on: Chevron's Technical and Safety Publications Page.
Why you really don't want to attempt to move an immovable objectThe rotating blades and mass of the internal engine parts pack quite a punch. Speeding along merrily mowing away one doesn't think about this. However, if the blade should hit an obstruction, you may have no choice.
There are various safeguards to protect the mower from damage should a blade tip hit something but these don't always work. Why?
There is protection for the upper and lower parts of the crankshaft after all:
- The soft metal blade lock key can prevent damage due to excessive torque on the blade-end of the crankshaft when the mass of the engine parts continue to attempt to rotate after the blade hits something solid. The blade adapter then breaks away allowing the crankshaft to rotate freely. A 25 cent blade lock key or a blade adapter will remedy this.
- The soft metal flywheel key will protect the upper part of the crankshaft and flywheel from damage should the blade and crankshaft stop suddenly and the inertia of the flywheel attempts to keep it rotating. A 25 cent flywheel key will remedy this.
In many cases, both of these will break free at the same time.
However, if the shock is severe enough, much more serious damage can result. Here is why: When one end of the blade hits a curb, for example, the inertia of the mass of the blade alone (rotating at high speed) will attempt to push the shaft sideways. This is pretty much independent of the rest of the engine.
In the diagram below, the blade is rotating clockwise. When the left-hand tip hits the curb, the right-hand side due to the inertia of the entire right-hand half of the blade wants to continue to move (down in this diagram) with the 'X' as the fulcrum. The entire left-hand half section of the blade contributes relatively little. This results in a net significant sideways (downward in the diagram) bending force on the crankshaft. The unavoidable arrangement of the fulcrum at one end and the shaft in the middle makes the situation even worse as the force resulting from the blade tip (the right hand one in this example) is amplified by the up to 2:1 mechanical advantage of the lever arm (the tip is twice as far from X and the shaft).Blade tip / hits curb. X-------____________________________________ Ouch! / | | Inertia of this / | - O - | | side of blade / |____________________________________ | | attempts to | | | | ------- | continue in same V v v v v v v direction. Net sideways force on crankshaft
While the rotating mass of the engine is attempting to shear the blade lock key, the inertia of the blade is trying to push the crankshaft sideways. The net result could be a severely bent crankshaft - a very expensive repair. An 8 to 10 degree bend is not unusual for a typical Craftsman-class mower running at full power. Any detectable bend in the crankshaft requires replacement - it is not safe to attempt to straighten it. A bend resulting in the blade tips wobbling by more than a fraction of an inch, there will be unacceptable and dangerous vibration when the mower is run. In addition, the original trauma (as well as attempting to run with a bent crankshaft) can damage other parts like the main bearings and connecting rod. The blade lock and flywheel keys will likely be broken as well but these are insignificant in comparison to the cost of major replacement parts and the labor involved in their installation.
The time and effort needed to disassemble the engine is significant and the crankshaft is probably the single most expensive part of the engine. In fact, purchasing a new crankshaft may be more expensive than an entire new lawn mower! It is quite possible that unless you have access to low cost replacement parts from a salvage yard and have the free time to do the work, repair may not make sense.
Therefore, don't let this happen to you. Your curbs and rocks don't grow that quickly and do not generally require mowing!
How about a crankshaft friendly blade?It is too bad that most lawn mower blades are made of heavy rigid steel (though I do recall a mower that used a super thick nylon cord - sort of like a weed whacker on steroids). The chance of serious engine damage from curb kissing would be greatly reduced if a blade were used which had less inertia and increased flexibility. Then, no matter how hard you tried to whack something solid, only the blade lock and/or flywheel keys would shear and thus spare the expensive engine parts.
Apparently, some mowers are made with swing tip blades:
(From: Roderick Carmichael ().)
"I use a top notch Supa-Swift with a gravity cast alloy chassis and swing-tip blades (Australian invention, no bent cranks on our mowers mate!)"
Why are these not common in America? Conspiracy to sell replacement parts by the small engine manufacturers? :-). You would have to really work at bashing a curb to bend a crankshaft with such a mower.
Another possible approach - applicable for both new lawn mower designs as well as field upgrades - would be to replace the heavy steel blade with one made of nylon with a molded-in steel edge. An auxiliary flywheel might have to be added (under the deck) to provide the needed inertia (normally supplied by the steel blade) for the engine to start and run properly and to help the mower plow through tall grass. However, since this additional flywheel could never be stopped abruptly due to hitting a rock or curb, its inertia would never contribute to a sideways bending force on the crankshaft. The greatly reduced mass and increased flexibility of a reinforced nylon blade should virtually eliminate the possibility of a bent crankshaft from such unfortunate incidents. See the section: Why you really don't want to attempt to move an immovable object.
(From: Mowerman ().)
I have been reconditioning lawn mowers for many years and find it fascinating what design goes into some of this equipment. Like arrangements to prevent the crankshaft from bending if the blade hits something. Most engines have an aluminum key at the flywheel but this will not stop shaft bending most of the time. Mower manufacturer uses many methods. Lawn boy has a tapered shaft at blade level and so the shaft has no key and the blade slips if hit. Some other mowers had steel washers and fiber washers nearest the blade like a clutch I seen this on some antique mowers. The best idea is disc with small flail blades or short blade with flail at end. Manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia use this method on their domestic mower mostly and it works well. Victa of Australia was one of the first ones around here with this idea. I am sure you have them over there to no doubt. I hope this information will be to some help.
Crankshaft-friendly blade sighted(From: Thomas Prufer ().)
I recently came across a description of a blade assembly similar to the one suggested by you to make bending the crankshaft difficult. This is in the Royal Horticultural Societies' "Encyclopedia of Gardening". In the tools and accessories section, under the "lawn mowers" subsection, a caption says: "Plastic disk. This cheap replacement part cuts the grass by rotating horizontally". The inset shows rotary, cylinder, and "Flymo" mowers. A picture of the part shows a disc almost the diameter of a regular blade, with one blade joined to the circumference by a pin so that centrifugal force keeps it radial. This blade is short and narrow compared to the plastic disc; no telling if it is plastic or metal. There is no further reference to this part in the text. In my translation, it is on page 465.
If only they had included a name or supplier!
Another reason not to mow rocks!(From: Forbes Family ().)
I have recently purchased a new rotary lawn mower and appear to have started wrecking it in the first two weeks of use! Problem is, my property has lawns that run alongside a gravel driveway, and its often very hard to guarantee there are no stones lying in the grass before you start mowing. Not surprisingly I often hit small stones. These usually cause no harm, but today some teenagers were mowing my lawns and hit a real monster that measured approximately three inches by two by one, and weighed more than half a pound! Although the mower seems still to work OK, the impact has created a three inch long tear in the mower's cast aluminum body. Not a nice thing to have happen to a new machine!
Despite the stone's size, I was surprised at the size of the resulting tear in mower's more than 1/4 inch thick aluminum casing. I hadn't imagined a rotary mower blade powered by a 5 HP Briggs and Stratton motor could produce such force!
It would be interesting to hear from others who have survived similar experiences and to get an idea from any budding engineers on whether its perfectly reasonable for a stone this size to do such damage to the body of my mower - or whether it's more likely the body casting had a manufacturing defect that made it split prematurely?
Rod disasters - or why the oil and governor are kind of importantA combination of low oil (well, actually, almost no oil) and probably too high RPMs resulted catastrophic failure of the connecting rod and cap on my garage sale Eager 1 Craftsman mower. I had just completed cleaning the carburetor and was testing it when p-ting!! and it stopped dead - the rod had broken and it was dead-dead. Extremely embarrassing since there was no excuse for such a disaster.
The primary cause was likely a lack of oil - I should have checked it before attempting to run the engine for more than a few seconds. I have no idea whether someone had actually drained the oil for who knows what reason or it was just very low. In addition, I may have accidentally put the governor link back in the wrong hole permitting the engine to run at an abnormally high (and dangerous) speed.
There was no warning. The rod cap just exploded into e pieces (and this was at normal speed) and took a nice chunk out of the interior of the crankcase. Based on a post mortem of the rod, it appears as though one of the cap screws just loosened and backed its way out totally - there was no evidence of thread damage that would be expected if it were ripped out - and fell into the sump. With only one screw holding the rod and cap together, eventual failure was inevitable. Due to the offset design of the cap, this probably worked for a while since most of the force is on the rod.
Discoloration indicated excessive heating but no obvious bearing damage was evident that could be attributed to the lack-of-oil condition. The bearing was not in pristine condition but the type of scoring seemed to be more due to just poor general maintenance - lack of regular oil changes - than to this incident in particular.
Lessons: Check the oil level no matter what if there is any question or you are working on an engine of unknown history. Double check the governor linkages - take notes during disassembly - and be aware of what a normal speed sounds like for your type of engine (2 stroke or 4 stroke). If in doubt, install the link in the hole that would result in lower RPMs - closer to the carburetor. You can always move it later.
I forgot the oil and now it's stuckOK, so you didn't read this document first or just got distracted while changing the oil and you ran the thing with no oil until it came to a screeching halt. Assuming nothing actually broke - it just won't turn at all, there may still be hope without a complete refurb (which in reality probably means a new mower):
(From: David Thomas ().)
The following assumes it is (was) a small push mower with a vertical shaft engine and that you drained the oil the preceding fall.
What little oil that was left in the bushing areas on the crank have burned down to tar. The piston may or may not be seized. Either way you'll need to break the engine down (pulling the flywheel is the hardest thing about it) and clean the tar out.
If this is beyond your abilities, try spraying penetrating oil on the crank around the bushing areas both on top (may still have to remove the flywheel to get to this area) and bottom as well as around the piston as the other gentleman suggested. (If you can't remove the head, pull the spark plug and spray penetrating oil or WD40 inside the chamber using one of those straw things that comes with the can so that you can direct the spray around all the walls of the cylinder, put the plug back in so it doesn't all evaporate and then set the engine so the piston is pointed straight up and let it soak a few hours.)
Last choice is to fill the crankcase with about a pint or two of penetrating oil (and spray inside the combustion chamber as stated above) then slosh it around the engine, turning the engine every which way and upside down, let it soak for a couple of hours repeating the sloshing every so often and changing the position of the engine so that you alternate soaking each bushing area and the bottom of the piston and then try the pull rope again. Be sure to disable the spark 'cause you sure don't want it to start with that light oil in the crankcase.
If it does free up, drain out the light oil and add the normal recommended oil before trying to start it. If it starts (it will smoke like the devil while it burns that light oil), let it run at idle speed until it warms up then shut it down and change the oil. It may still burn oil and smoke since the piston walls are probably scored badly so check the oil every time before starting it even after a short break until you get a feel for how much its going to burn.
(I had one engine that I did this with that used all most as much oil as it did gas. I had to clean the crud out of the spark plug before each mowing.)
(From: Brian Fistler ().)
If it's a Tecumseh engine, throw it away... Even if you get it running, it'll probably throw a rod soon (not like it wouldn't even if you hadn't seized it... :-)
If it's a Briggs, try putting oil in it first, then remove the spark plug and spray a liberal amount of WD 40 in there... You might have to let it set for a day or so, then, LEAVING THE SPARK PLUG OUT try turning the engine using the blade... Once you get it freed up, most likely it's run fine and probably last a few more years...
When I was a kid, my best friend and myself used to "work" on Briggs engines, we'd tear them down, fix broken ones from the junk yard, and most fun of all was "torturing" one... After seizing it up by finding out what would, and would not keep the thing running by spraying it in the carburetor (i.e., using hair spray, WD-40, paint thinner, etc...) We finally found that a certain spray engine degreaser of the era would run the engine, it would not run it for long because it removed the oil from the cylinder walls, and the engine would seize up...
That gave us an excuse to tear the engine down and find out how to get it going again... After the 3rd or 4th time seizing the engine with various products, we just decided to cut a hole in the side of the block and put a piece of Plexiglass there, so we could get easier access...
We ran that poor engine with every possible thing in the crank case, including pure water... (Side note: Water didn't seize the engine, as long as you didn't allow all of it to evaporate)
When the engine would seize up, all we ever had to do was put oil back in the case, spray a little WD-40 in the spark plug, and hit the blade a few times with a hammer to get it starting to turn...
That motor kept us entertained for an entire summer... :-)
So you got oil in the cylinder
"I tilted my Toro to work on it and now can't start it because oil flooded into the cylinder. I already cleaned up the plug. Is there anything I can do to clean out the oil without taking the engine apart?"
Possibly, just letting it sit for awhile (in the normal position!) will allow the oil to drain back into the crankcase sump.
If oil is really trapped between the piston and the head, then you may be able to just tip the lawn mower so that the spark plug hole is down (a buddy may come in handy) and drain the oil out through there.
Alternatively, you should be able to suck most of it out with a kitchen baster and narrow extension tube (make sure it is made of something that won't scratch the interior of the cylinder and the piston) through the spark plug hole.
You don't have to get every last drop. What is left should not prevent you from starting the engine - it will just belch gobs of white/blue smoke for a few seconds after it kicks over as the remaining oil burns off. Keep in mind that squirting a half an ounce or so of engine oil into the cylinder is recommended when winterizing to protect the cylinder from rust so it should not be a problem.
In fact, I would expect that pulling the starter a few times will clear most of it in any case. It is possible that you have other problems - hopefully you didn't turn it over carburetor side down!. (In this case, the air filter may need to be removed and cleaned or replaced.) It may even be that your initial attempts to start it with an oil in the cylinder have resulted in a flooded the engine (excess gas) and waiting will clear that as well.
Some of the following information may be model specific but most applies to any engine that has gotten oil in the cylinder and/or carburetor due to tipping:
(From: J. Matthew Good ().)
First, my guess is that it is a Briggs QUANTUM or SIGNATURE SERIES engine, with the paper air filter. Go buy a new filter, as that one full of oil is shot.
Next, remove the plug and secure the plug wire away from the opening. Crank the engine a few times to clear the liquids out of the cylinder. Reinstall the plug. Now take a 1/2 inch box wrench and loosen (don't remove) the plug/nut on the bottom of the carburetor until gas flows clear through it, and retighten it. This should get the oil out of the carburetor. Now, check the oil.
Since you lost so much into the carb, and air filter, and it only holds 2 and 1/2 cups total you will probably need to add oil. If not, you may have gas in the oil as well. Drain the oil into a pan for recycling by tipping the mower air filter up, and dipstick tube down. Fill with clean SAE 30 HD oil. DO NOT use 5W30, 10W30, 10W40, or any other W oil. Just SAE 30 HD from any discount store will be fine. Do NOT use SAE 30 ND, it does not have the needed detergents.
Now you have the liquid out of the cylinder, the oil out of the carb, the gas out of the oil, the air filter OFF, and you are ready to start the engine. If it has a CHOKE, set it for full choke, if a primer, press it 3 times. Pull the rope until it starts. Let it JUST RUN until the smoke clears, don't mow or anything else until the smoke clears and you reinstall the NEW air filter.
The reason I guessed it was a Quantum is that this is the only engine I know of that automatically puts oil in the air filter if you tip it for sharpening. That's why the first thing I do to any Quantum that comes in for service is remove the air filter and put it in a safe place.
(From: Lloyd E. Sponenburgh ().)
Actually, a judicious tilt away from the carb will coat the underskirts of the cylinder and piston with oil so as to make starting easier. This improves compression. It's an old salesman's trick to show just how easy it is to start the engine.
So you put gasoline in the oil filler holeDon't panic, just get it out of there. Drain the oil/gas mixture completely and refill with the proper new engine oil. If you want to be doubly sure, run the engine for a minute or so to mix any of the remaining contaminated oil with the new oil, then drain and refill again. It really shouldn't have done any damage if you get it out of there reasonably quickly (I don't know what effect gas might have on the oil seals over time though).
Oil starvation from mowing at too steep an angle?4 stroke engines require oil to continuously coat the various moving parts during operation. There are two types of systems used in most small engines: splash lubrication and forced oil lubrication.
- Splash lubrication - there is an 'oil slinger' driven (via a gear) from the crankshaft. It dips into the oil sump and literally slings oil onto (hopefully) the moving parts in such a way that it makes its way down into the critical bearing surfaces.
For the slinger to operate, it must dip into the oil! At too steep an angle, the slinger may be whipping up fumes and no oil!
- Forced lubrication - there is an oil pump (as with an automobile engine) and oil passages drilled through various parts to channel the oil directly to the bearing surfaces. (However, on the typical small lawn mower engine, there is no oil filter and no idiot low oil warning light or automatic shutoff - thus the need for periodic oil changes!)
At too steep an angle, the intake of the oil pump may be exposed sucking fumes instead of oil!
With the oil filled to the correct level (yet another reason to check the oil every time you mow!), the oil starvation angle should be greater than anything you are likely to safely encounter unless you have a very hilly lawn. However, if you do mow steep slopes for more than a few seconds (e.g., to turn around), it would be worth determining if this could be a problem for your engine.
Two stroke engines do not have this problem since the oil is mixed with the gasoline. As long as the fuel feed is working, the engine should be happy and the mower will mow! However, I do not like 2 stroke engines because of their generally higher production of smoke and pollution.
(From: Walt Conner ().)
Oil starvation can happen. If you must mow on a very steep slope, look to see which side the valve cover plate is on. This side of the engine will also have a semi-circular bulge in the crankcase while the opposite side will be pretty well flat. The side with the bulge will have the oil slinger located below the bulge. Keeping this side down slope should keep you in oil anywhere you can stand.
When failure occurs, usually the connecting rod is first to go, sometimes the top main bearing seizes. Either occurrence usually means it's time for a new mower.
For really hilly mowing, you may want to consider a model that uses a 2 stroke engine such as Lawn Boy.
Additional comments on winterizing - draining versus the use of fuel a stabilizerNot everyone agrees with the recommendation to drain the fuel at the end of the season as described in the section: General preventive maintenance.
(From: Dwayne ().)
There is some argument that draining all the fuel from the system is bad, allowing the carb to dry out and the inside of the fuel tank to rust. That was the case on my motorcycle; the guy who had it always drained the fuel for storage and it ruined the tank. I always just add fuel stabilizer to the tank, fill it completely, and run it for a short time and have never had problems.
(From: Matt Howell ().)
Fuel stabilizer's purpose is to prevent souring, and hence, the need to drain the fuel system before storage. In my experience, my equipment starts right up each season with stabilizer in the fuel. I would suggest you clean/rebuild the carburetor. Repair kits are cheap, and easy. Good luck!
I have cleaned and rebuilt too many Tecumseh carburetors (mostly from neglected Craftsman lawn mowers). The cause in most of these was almost certainly gasoline left in the fuel tank between mowing seasons. You might get away with it for a couple of years but eventually the goop will prevail. I would definitely recommend draining the gas with these. The fuel tanks are plastic in any case and there are only a few steel parts in the carburetor and rusting of these is not that likely. A fuel stabilizer may not prevent the buildup of gunk and varnish as a result of the slow but inevitable process of fuel evaporation in the carburetor and replenishment from the fuel tank.
For other types, I would still recommend draining the fuel tank and running the engine until the carburetor is dry. I believe that this will result in the best long term reliability in most cases. Now, if you live in a swamp and mow the seaweed.... :-)
Testing a used lawn mower before you buyA used mower at a bargain price may not turn out to be such a bargain if you have to do extensive repairs. There are two types: the living and the dead.
If the owner claims the mower will start and is prepared to demonstrate, this is usually a good sign! However, first, take a moment to check the following:
(Disconnect the spark plug wire, and tie it safely away from the spark plug terminal to prevent accidental starting if you are doing anything more than looking.)
- Check for significant oil leaks particularly around the main bearing at the blade/PTO end. This could indicate a defective oil seal or extremely worn main bearing.
- Check the oil both for level and condition. If the oil level is low and/or really black and icky, the owner probably did not follow the recommendations in this document! The oil should also not smell of gasoline.
CAUTION: the oil will be hot if you check it after the engine has been running for more than a couple of minutes.
If there is gasoline in the fuel tank and it will start without undo effort, then there is an excellent chance that the engine is in good condition.
- How much effort does it take to start? If 10 pulls on the starter cord are needed, this probably means that some maintenance, at the very least, will be required.
- Check for unusual vibration and noise which could indicate an unbalanced, bent, or broken part. The blade of a rotary mower can be replaced easily and inexpensively if it is bent but any internal problems will be costly or time consuming to remedy.
- Check for any unusual unevenness, surging, or sputtering. If there is more than one speed, see how smoothly the engine switches between speeds. Put it under load if possible (offer to mow some foot tall weeds) to see how well the engine deals with actual conditions that will be encountered during normal use. Problems here usually indicate at most that the engine needs some long overdue maintenance but it might help your bargaining position.
In most cases, if the engine starts reasonably easily, there will be no really serious problems. The ignition system may require a tune-up or the carburetor may need cleaning and/or adjustment. Even a hard-to-start mower may very likely restored to tip-top shape with this type of intermediate level maintenance. Of course, the blade may have to be sharpened or replaced.
If the engine doesn't work - no gas in the fuel tank and no handy gas can is usually a tip off of this - how can you be fairly sure that there are no major mechanical problems? Note that the objective here is not to identify the problem but to have a good idea of whether repairs will be really expensive or difficult. Thus, we won't even bother checking the carburetor or spark as problems in these areas are minor compared to those caused by internal mechanical damage. Here are some simple tests you can do without tools and without overly upsetting the people running the sale or junk yard:
WARNING: disconnect the spark plug wire and tie it safely away from the spark plug terminal if you will be doing anything under the deck. Yes, I know, there is nothing in the fuel tank but it doesn't hurt to be safe. Use a rag or proper work gloves if you attempt to rotate the blade directly.
- The single most important test is to determine if the pull starter will rotate the engine without binding or unusual noises. If it doesn't turn at all or with great difficulty - and there isn't a clump of grass stuck between the blade and housing, there may be severe internal damage including broken parts or seized bearings. However, make sure that the blade brake is disengaging before walking away - it could be that simple (you did remember to grab the dead-man bar or set the throttle control to RUN, right?). There is also a very slight possibility that the starter itself is simply tangled or rusted and that the engine itself is fine. In this case, you should be able to rotate the blade and it should rotate the crankshaft.
- For a 4 stroke engine, you should feel the resistance of compression once every two rotations of the crankshaft (blade). If there is a tough spot every rotation, the valves are not working probably due to broken teeth on the crankshaft gear or camgear. (For a two stroke engine, there should be compression on every rotation.)
- If it turns too easily with minimal resistance (and the blade is actually rotating, not just the starter) - you should have an idea of the effects of proper compression on a typical mower - then there may be stuck valves, worn piston rings, or other internal mechanical damage.
- If possible, perform this simple compression test: Spin the crankshaft is the opposite direction from normal. A sharp rebound on the compression stroke indicates decent and probably acceptable compression. Little or no rebound means that the compression is probably low. (This is actually the only compression test Briggs & Stratton recommends.)
- If the cord pulls out with no resistance and doesn't rotate the blade, the starting clutch may just be broken - a very minor repair. Then, you will have to check for binding by rotating the blade itself (carefully).
- If you found the starter cord broken, this could be minor and simply due to wear or forgetting to engage the safety bar once too often - or major resulting from attempting to start a broken and seized mower.
I picked a mower off the curb once where the cord was broken due to guess what - a clump of grass stuck between the blade and deck. Apparently, the cord was quite worn and the mower stalled on the clump of grass. The next yank likely resulted in a stream of 4 letter expletives and the mower was put out in the trash. Extracting the grass clump and replacing the cord yielded a rear bagger in perfect operating condition.
Another mower found in the trash was not as fortunate requiring the replacement of the gear on the crankshaft and the camshaft/camgear assembly due to broken gear teeth ( - it was a learning experience), carburetor overhaul, and a tune-up.
Assuming the engine doesn't flunk any of these tests, then you may end up with a functioning mower with relatively little additional cost and effort.
Discussion of 2 stroke engine rebuilding
"I am in the process of refurbishing an old Eska 7.5 H.P. outboard boat motor. The engine (a 2-stroke Tecumseh) runs fine when under load at full throttle.
I can only get the engine to idle at a high RPM. If I lower the idle speed, the engine will eventually die.
Once the engine is started and idling, any attempt to put it into gear will cause the engine to die. Sometimes it will stay running and I can get the throttle revved up at which point the motor will push the boat and run just fine. When I lower the engine speed (approaching the dock) the motor will eventually die.
I am totally stumped. I've completely rebuilt the carburetor (new seals, etc.), replaced the condenser, points, and spark plug. I've set all adjustments to factory specs yet it still won't idle or go into gear."
(From: Al Savage ().)
Although I haven't worked in the field in 15 years, two stroke theory doesn't change much .
Is your high idle (out of gear, unloaded) smooth? It shouldn't be. Two strokes without electronic mixture controls are almost always calibrated to be slightly rich when unloaded, as the nature of all three induction systems (piston port, reed, rotary valve) is such that adding a load leans the effective mixture. Something to do with flow dynamics, I didn't need to know, as I don't design them.
You've covered the common problem area -- ignition. I suspect you have an air leak somewhere. Upper or lower crankshaft seal, reed plate gasket, intake gasket, and upper housing gasket are common areas, in that order.
Mind, this is generic two cycle troubleshooting advice; I don't pretend to know the model you're working with.
To track these things down in the shop, we'd build custom block off plates and pressurize the crankcase to a few inches, then watch the gauge to see the leakage rate. Not terribly practical unless you're rebuilding, but you sometimes found porous castings and cracks that way.
When I'm feeling adventurous I'd spray starting fluid (with a tube nozzle attached) around all the seams with the engine running to see if the run behavior changed. Not recommended; too dangerous.
Does your 2 stroke engine use reed valves?Since a bad reed valve can be the cause of a variety of problems, knowing if you even have these can be useful - not all 2 stroke engines use reed valves.
(From: John Barry ().)
One easy way to tell is to note where port is behind carburetor. If it just "dumps" into crankcase, like diametrically opposite cylinder, most likely it's got a reed-valve. If the passage from the carb connects to the cylinder at a point closer to the crank center-line than the exhaust port, perpendicular to cylinder axis and perpendicular to crank, it's mostlikely piston-ported. If the carb passage is parallel to the crank eventually (starts out perpendicular on Rotax engines), most likely you have a rotary-valve engine; this is usually the case for serious specific-output.
Some problems with Briggs and Stratton engines(From: Mike Brandt ().)
A quite common problem with these engines is the gasket between the carburetor and engine. It is usually a thick fiber gasket and sometimes gets blown out if engine ever backfires. This is more common with age, as the nuts holding carb on do sometime get loosened. Also gum buildup can and does clog the main and low-speed jets at times which means removing carburetor. Cleaning out with a good carburetor cleaner then blowing out all passages. This happens quite often here where they add 10% alcohol to gasoline. Gas goes bad a lot quicker than without alcohol!
Comments on Briggs and Stratton repairThe following was in response to a posting on alt.home.repair about a 12 year old lawn mower. Of course, if properly maintained, such an engine may still have quite a bit of life left in it :-).
(From: foxeye ().)
The best method is if you do not have a flywheel puller is take it to the nearest Briggs dealer and have them remove it. Since you do have a puller, just put some tension on the flywheel with the puller you already have, and then hit the top of the puller (the threaded shaft that centers on the crankshaft end) with a heavy hammer (16 to 24 oz.) should do it. Sometimes all it takes is a sharp blow with tension exerted on the flywheel to break it free. One or 2 raps should be enough. If it fails at that, there are still other ways to remove it.
Some have points and condenser some do not. There is a points/condenser replacement kit that makes it solid state available for less than .00 called Atomic Ignition. Also rust on the magnet of the flywheel and the ignition coil laminated portion can also cause it to have no spark. The measurement is critical for the ignition coil to flywheel space (called air gap) for proper ignition as well. Unless very badly corroded and worn, the points can usually be cleaned up and readjusted. Its not uncommon for the little fiber plunger that operates the points on some models to get stuck.
You should pick up a manual, for proper dimensions, and bolt torque. Even though it may list special tools for some repairs, there is usually a work-around in most cases. I would not really spend to much money on this motor, as the age is against it, but a new one from a source like Northern Hydraulics can be had for to maybe 125.00. I picked up a 5hp highwheel lawn mower with a Briggs I/C motor at the end of last summer at a local builders supply and garden center for 0.00 new in the box.
Experience with Briggs & Stratton carburetor(From: Dan Hicks ().)
Last Monday, while I was mowing the lawn, our 21-year-old Snapper mower quit on me. I could start it up but it would run for a few seconds and then quit again. After futzing with it in the yard for several minutes I took it back to the garage, and, after several more attempts at getting it going, I decided it was likely getting too much gas.
I disassembled the carb and cleaned it good. It's a "PulsaJet" model with the carb mounted on the gas tank. The diaphragm looked good -- no visible holes.
I reassembled things and the thing started and ran well enough to finish mowing, but it didn't have much "oomph".
During the week I got a new diaphragm, and I got around to installing it today. What a difference!! It used to take several tries to start the mower, now it starts on one pull. And it has more power than it's had in years.
Hard to say what may have been wrong with the diaphragm, but likely it had some microscopic holes in it.
McCulloch chain saw hard to start
"This weekend I picked up a 14" McCulloch chain saw and have had a hell of a time getting it started. I am no novice at this as I already have a gas trimmer and blower. I am sure my fuel mixture is right and have done just about everything else by the book. In how many pulls do I consistently start a cold McCulloch chain saw. I should mention that I HAVE started it but can't believe it should be this hard."
I had the same problem with mine!
If yours is like mine , it has a throttle latch knob to use during starting. Mine never worked. After pulling myself silly trying to start it, I just decided to hold the throttle trigger open manually and it starts every time very easily.
You may want to give it a try if you haven't tried it already.
Riding mower stops periodically(From: Mike Odryna ().)
You might want to check the oil level. Some of the Briggs & Stratton engines have a low oil pressure cut off. Some of these cutoffs are very sensitive. They will stop the engine when it's less than a cup low on oil. As far as I know, you can't adjust it either.
How do you get the blade off a tractor mower?(From: Lloyd E. Sponenburgh ().)
Typically, you remove the entire mowing deck, then manipulate the deck, rather than the whole mower.
Alternatively, shops often LIFT the whole tractor, and work from underneath. I built a beam-supported block and tackle affair in my barn to do just that... it's lots faster than taking the deck off a stupid Murray. Those pieces of trash require that you remove about a dozen fittings and nuts to get a deck off.
Now, my Wheel Horse, on the other hand, requires only ONE hand-released fastener, and off-she-comes!
About Wico magnetosThese are separate units (not part of the flywheel assembly) and may be found on larger (usually horizontal crank) engines.
(From: Al Savage ().).
The design is such that it uses an impulse spring to fire at low speed (less than 10 rpm, yes 10). It does a complex wind spring/release spring action until the engine fires. Other than the straightforward "replace the points/condenser" maintenance, I don't think I ever had to have the mechanical section apart, they're that reliable. I do think I had to clean up a couple of them, and relube them though.
If you rotate the engine by hand (careful!) you should hear the impulse spring release, with a very audible bang. With the high tension lead hooked to your spare-plug-on-the-head, you should be able to have at least 3/8" spark; less is probably not enough.
If you don't hear that loud bang from the mag, while very slowly cranking the engine by hand (two turns per bang on that impulse unit), you probably have a mechanical problem. If you hear the bang, but can't get the mag to fire repeatably, I'd refurb the points and condenser. It's a bit tricky, and I haven't even seen one in 15 years, much less worked on one in twenty, but there are many still in service and parts should be readily available.
Oh, yes. I worked most of my teen years in small engine repair. So I do know whereof I speak. On that vintage equipment, anyway.
What is inside a small engine electronic ignition module?The advantage of these systems is that there is no maintenance as there are no points to wear out or gum up. Timing is fixed by the relationship of the flywheel magnet and sensor. There are also no adjustments except to set the magneto coil pole piece to flywheel air gap.
Replacement modules are available for many small engines to take the place of their original point type ignition system. These can be designed in several different ways but all must emulate the behavior of the point type ignition replacing just the magneto coil/pole piece assembly and without requiring alterations to the flywheel.
- One design uses the flywheel magnet passing the coil pole pieces to induce a moderate voltage - a few hundred volts - and store this in a capacitor. A sensor coil then triggers a solid state switch which dumps the charge in this capacitor into a high voltage transformer (ignition coil) to produce the spark.
- Another possible approach is to provide a coil in which current builds up until the moment when the points would have opened and a transistor switch to interrupt the current flow at that instant. So, perhaps something like a switchmode power supply or TV horizontal output transistor with a current coil like the ordinary magneto coil and a network to control base drive to the transistor so it turns on and off at the proper times. Some designs may use a separate sense coil to control this more precisely.
If you are really curious, check out U.S. Patent #4163437: Transistor ignition circuit. There are diagrams of several possible variations on the basic circuit. (The US Patent & Trademark Office currently has a search facility with free access to complete text and graphics.)
Not that any of this profound knowledge does you any good for repair as these things are usually quite well potted and impregnable.
Capacitor discharge ignitions systems(From: Matthias Meerwein ().)
I once fixed a CDI unit for a 3-cylinder Evinrude 2-stroke outboard motor. The storage capacitor (1 uF, 400VDC) had a short. Quite simple to replace, but digging the PCB out of the silicone RTV sealing compound inside the ignition box was a real pain! But considering that Evinrude charges real big bucks (about 800 DM = 500$) for the ignition box, it was worth the effort. Another possible cause of failure of the CDI are the SCRs. Also, check the charging and trigger windings as well as the cables and connections.
Which manufacturer makes what brand names?The following could be retitled: Sales people don't have a clue of what they are talking about most of the time or make something up to please the customer (and pad their commissions). I'm not sure how much of the following can be trusted though in all fairness, it may be that manufacturers switch around like musical chairs. :)
(From: Tom Bellucco ().)
I recently moved into a new house with a very large lawn and went shopping for a riding mower / lawn tractor. This is what I was told by various people, both in and out of mower sales:
- Toro makes Toro and Lawn Boy.
- MTD makes all of the store brands (i.e., a mower that might have the Home Depot name on it), along with MTD, Dynamark, YardPro, Weed Eater, Noma, and Sears Craftsman.
- Murray makes MTD.
- MTD makes the low end (non-commercial) John Deere tractors.
- John Deere makes all John Deere.
- MTD makes White.
- White makes White.
- American Yard Products makes MTD, Noma, Dynamark, YardPro, Weed Eater, Sears Craftsman, and all store brands.
Now THAT'S confusion! I'd like to hear what anyone out there knows or has been told. It ought to be interesting to hear what other stores are telling people.
Note: The guy that told me that MTD makes John Deere sells Toro and Ariens. He has publicly stated that he HATES John Deere (I won't post his exact words). I never realized how defensive a guy gets about his tractor -- you should have seen the reaction I got when I told a guy his John Deere was made by MTD! I probably got a worse reaction than if I said something bad about his wife!!!! Anyway, he got right on the horn to his John Deere dealer and was promptly told that John Deere makes all John Deere products.
(From: Duane ().)
Hmph... That is confusing. Just make sure that sucker says Briggs & Stratton on the blower cover!
(From: John P. Curcio ().)
According to my Cub Cadet dealer (from whom I purchased my snow blower), Cub Cadet, White, and MTD all come from the same factory. The only differences are color and features. They are located somewhere in Ohio, near Cleveland, if I recall correctly.
(From: Carol ().)
I live just up the road from the MTD plant - never saw a John Deere. I don't think they do that one.
(From: Peter Szymonik ().)
John Deere makes all of their riding mowers. The walk-behinds are assembled by a "third party", and many Deere dealers don't carry the walk behinds for that reason, and because the walk behinds had electrical problems.
(From: BELJAN E ().)
HUH??? That doesn't sound right at all. MTD makes that, MTD, Ariens, White, Cub Cadet, Yard Man, and Lawn Chief. Murray, another famous store brand makes some of them. Dynamark was and probably still is its own.
John Deer is John Deer.
(From: DeWayne McKay ().)
You have several people misled on who makes what lawn equipment. I've been in the repair business for about 12 years now. Murry is made by Murry. John Deere is made by John Deere. There are several hundred names that can be found on the side of an MTD product, but MTD does not make any AYP, Noma, Dynamark, or Sears product. Sears in the late 80's was made by AYP and Murry depending on model. Now they are only made by AYP. The new line called Scotts is partially made by AYP. And, as for John Deere: The cheaper smaller tractors are AYP and the bigger tractors are made by John Deere. Huskvarna mowers are also made by AYP except a few high-end commercial models. Also the bottom-end or should I say cheap trimmers and chain saws from Huskvarna are made by Poulan. Have you ever heard of Gilson? They built a lot of the Sears products in the 70's and 80's and also built Lawnboy's tractor line and some of the Ford line in the late 80's.
(From: Ernest Fields ().)
- The following products are manufactured by Beaird Poulan-Weedeater of Shreveport, LA:
- Sears Craftsman chain saws and weedwackers.
- Some of the Husquavarna products, as Poulan was porchased by Husquavarna of Sweden and probably some of the other brands such as Jonserds and a line of yard tractors and lawn mowers.
- Lawn Boy was built by a division of Outboard Marine before they went bankrupt, it may have been sold.
- The Green Machine purchased the remains of McCulloch when Black and Decker sold them under bankruptcy proceeding.
- Skill Chainsaw was sold to Pioneer Chainsaw of Canada.
I work for Sears selling lawn and garden equipment and I've had conversations with the factory reps. MTD makes Craftsman lawn, yard, and garden tractors as well as our "professional" walk behind mowers. Husqvarna makes the Craftsman rotary mowers and Husqy is owned by Electrolux and as far as I know, Husky mowers come out of a Husky factory.
The Complete Lawn Mower, Riding Mower, Lawn Tractor, Garden Tractor, Zero Turn Name Brands List | Who Makes What, Who Are The Major Mower Manufactures has lists of who makes what as late as 2012.
(From: Everett Solomon.)
I've sold craftsman riding mowers for 30 years. Today we have our lower priced mowers made by MTD. Yes, so whoever said MTD doesn't make Sears is dead wrong. Everything at Sears has a source ID - part of the model number. If 247, it's MTD. If 917 it's Husqvarna. The man who said all Pro series are MTD is dead wrong. Only the "Zero Turn" are MTD. The "Turn Tight" riding mowers are Husqvarna. I run into people everyday that just know what they are saying is gospel and they have no clue.
(From: Brian Whitlow.)
You state that MTD builds the low-end John Deere lawn tractors. That is completely wrong. John Deere builds all of their lawn tractors. The "D" series tractors are built in Greenville, TN at a John Deere Factory. The "X" Series tractors, which are dealer exclusive, are built in Wisconsin. The difference is that John Deere is building lawn tractors to compete at the under ,500 price tag. It stands to reason that these machines cannot be built for that price and perform the same job as a lawn tractor 2x as much money. The D series and the X series are both built by John Deere, but you get what you pay for. When you want to cut 10 acres of grass and pull stumps, don't buy a ,500 machine.
(From: George Earls.)
I work for MTD Products and have been with them for 24 years. We have in the past, and currently make some Craftsman products. We are not affiliated with Murray.
Comment on modern manual mowers(From: Peter Szymonik ().)
Sears still sells push mowers, I bought one this summer and use it for the trim areas, works great. The only downside is that you have to go to a professional mower shop to get the blades sharpened correctly.
Comments on electric mowers(From: Leslie Gerstenfeld ().)
I bought a Ryobi Mulchinator in '94 (cordless electric). I found it cheapest at Home Depot, I think it was about 5. I really like it.
- Cordless, no gas, no oil, no tune-ups, no starter cords. It starts literally with the touch of a button.
- Comes only as a "mulching" mower, so there is no bagging, and the mulching action really works - it shreds the grass into 1/2 inch pieces that you don't see on the lawn. I had previously purchased a Black and Decker corded mower (which I think is also available as cordless), MM450 I think, and it had a mulching "conversion" kit that blocked the bag chute, but just caught lots of grass and didn't really mulch.
- Ryobi says it will cut 1/2 acre on a charge, which I find a bit of a stretch, but it does cut my 1/4 acre of grass (on 1/2 acre lot) without any problems.
- It has a 'Remaining Charge' gauge that works pretty well, though its not very progressive, it kind of jumps in 1/4 'tank' increments.
- Designed to be stored either upright (normal orientation), or upended - the handle folds down over the main deck and you can tip it on end; it takes up very little space this way.
- Cutting height is easily adjusted with one lever located by one of the rear wheels.
- Recharges in 11 hours. The instructions say to always leave it plugged in, even through the winter.
- Fairly heavy as mowers go since it has on-board batteries, but I don't have any problems using it.
As for the big issue - how does it cut. Well, it cuts pretty well, but it certainly can't take down anything like a gas mower can. As the grass gets higher, it starts to leave a bit along one edge of the cutting strip slightly higher.
If you are the type who knocks a foot off your grass every few weeks, this isn't the right mower. But if you mow regularly, it works pretty well.
(From: Carol J J ().)
I have used Black and Decker electric mowers for over 20 years. I Love them. We have a small property and a 100 foot extension cord is all we need. Since my husband is disabled, my young sons and I have done all the mowing for years. There are no worries about pouring or storing gasoline, no pulling like crazy to get it started. The blade is easy to replace. The grass bag is awkward but okay. My latest is a mulcher. It switches between regular and mulching easily. The mulch works well, not as good as a Snapper, but we're not paying Snapper prices either.
(From: Nann Blaine Hilyard ().)
I bought a Black & Decker cordless electric mower for 0 at Menard's last year. It is lightweight and very easy to use. I have not calculated the energy cost (we keep it quietly charging between mowings, though we unplug it in the winter) versus a gas mower, but I don't have the strength to pull the cord for a gas mower so the extra electricity doesn't bother me.
(From: Geoffrey G. Shepherd ().)
When my old Craftsman gas mower gave up this summer (gas leak) (what, you didn't read this FAQ?? :-) --- sam), I decided it was time to replace it with a new electric mower (my brother-in-law has the old mower now and is working on it for his own use). I ended up purchasing a Black & Decker CMM-1000 5 HP Cordless Mulching Mower from the local home improvement warehouse for just over 0.
So far, I'm quite happy with it. It mulches better than the Craftsman did, and rear-bags when I want to add to the compost pile. It mows my entire city lot on a charge (in fact, the built-in meter still reads full charge when I'm done - admittedly, my house takes up a large portion of the lot). I also like how it adjusts height with one clever lever. It's fairly quiet, and my clothes don't smell like gasoline when I'm done. Call B&D at 1-800-762-6672 and they can send you literature and a free video on the CMM-1000.
My only complaint with it is the weight. It seems to weigh about the same as the gas mower it replaced - it might even be few pounds heavier. But that's OK - I can use the exercise.
(From: Steve Hill ().)
I spent 3 years with a push reel mower. If the blades where sharp and the grass short then it was fine. If the blades where dull or out of adjustment or if the length of the grass to be cut at all long, it would leave the lawn a mess. I'd have to make 2 or 3 passes to get decent results. Also some types of weeds with resiliant stems where very difficult to cut.
Finally, last year I bought a Black and Decker cordless electric. It was magnificent. It was a mulching mower so my raking days where over and it gave much better results. Also, it was very quiet and was always ready to go in an instant. All of my neighbors with gas mowers were very jealous.
(From: William Lee ().)
I have had a Ryobi for 4 years and found it to be adequate for our small lawns. It takes me about 20-30 min.to do everything. In my opinion, it does not cut as well as a "good" gas powered mover that has a sharp blade. The batteries do degrade over time, although I'm am still working on the originals. It had an charger problem the first year, but that was fixed without charge. The blades are non-standard and I have an extra so that I can have a resharpened blade ready to go.I do enjoy not having to "listen" to the noise of a gas engine! Good luck!
(From: Andy Dennie ().)
As a former reel mower user and a current cordless electric mulching mower user, I can comment on both of these items.
I used a reel mower for about a year and a half. I found that it worked well if I cut the grass pretty short, but when I did that I got more weeds. I tried raising the blade height, but then it didn't cut as well.
This year I got a Ryobi Mulchinator cordless electric mower. So far I have been pretty happy with it. The charge is good for about 1-1.5 hours, supposedly, but it only takes me about 45 minutes, so I don't know what its limit is really. It's louder than the reel mower, but quieter than a gas mower. While charging it can stand on its nose and the handle can be folded up so that it takes very little floor space in my garage (this was important for me). One minor inconvenience is that you have to leave it plugged it all the time (at least that's what they recommend), so it is helpful if you have a plug near the place where you will store it (you don't want to be tripping across a long cord all the time). This didn't turn out to be a problem for me. Another thing is that you're not supposed to store it in very cold weather (bad for the battery I guess), so I had to move it inside recently for the winter.
(From: Jim ().)
The only problem we've had with our plastic-decked B&D is that it tends to collect grass when it's wet, and clogs frequently. We've chunked a few rocks with it, but with no damage.
We haven't actually tried to cut rocks with it, and my experience is that a rock will penetrate the deck of any mower if it hits right. You should pick up the rocks before you mow, not try to hide from the shrapnel.
In general, electric mowers are best suited for smaller lawns with less vigorous growth and without extensive landscaping to tangle the cord. A frequently sharpened blade makes a tremendous difference on electric mowers.
(From: Robert Smits ().)
I've had experience with both electric mowers and gas mowers. I live in an area where the grass can grow quite quickly and thickly, and the B&D electric one just doesn't have the oomph to cut long, thick grass. (Even when you make sure you're using as short a heavy duty cord as is practical - to avoid voltage drop in the cord). My 5HP gas model just whizzes through the same stuff, and not having to hassle with the cord is really an advantage - my lot size is just under an acre.
The battery operated electrics may run out of steam quite soon if you have a larger lot, and count on replacing the battery pack every few years.
(From: Roger Fillingim ().)
I've had two electric mowers, both cordless - a Ryobi and a Black & Decker. The B&D was rated as a 5 HP engine, although I have no way of knowing whether it delivered the same power as a 5 HP gas mower. I used my electric mowers on a small lawn. I would agree that the electrics don't do as well on a overgrown lawn, but other than that my electric, especially the B&D, were great. I still have the B&D, but I'm in an apartment right now so I don't have much use for it. But, when our new house is completed, I plan to use it again.
While charge time and power are potential downsides of electric, not having to change the oil, fill up with gas, pull a starter cord, etc... are substantial benefits in my opinion. Also, electric lawn mowers are much quieter and more environmentally friendly. If your yard is not too large and you mow fairly regularly, electrics are an option to consider.
(From: Pat Kiewicz ().)
I hung up my reel mower for my Black & Decker rechargeable electric, for the very same reason. My mower also can bag grass for those occasions when due to circumstances beyond my control I must cut grass that is too tall or too damp or when I want grass clips for mulch or composting.
It runs on a lead-acid battery (same technology as your car battery) and can survive the winter in an unheated garage. I have to go rechargeable if I want to go electric as my lot stretches back 200 feet or more from the nearest plug. The battery should last a good, long time if not abused. (How often do you have to replace your car battery?)
I believe the most recent issue of National Gardening Magazine has an article on electric mowers, with comparison between the features of different brands and models.
(From: (C. Ligh).)
I bought the Toro 24V rechargeable 9 based on the free video tape Toro provided describing all its features and options. The problem with the rechargeable is run time.
I have a 10,000+ sq feet lawn and after about 35 minutes mowing the battery level lights went out. The owner's manual states: one should stop and recharge after the lights are out or the batteries' life will be shortened. Anyway there was still power left and I finished the lawn in about 65 minutes. With the prospect of replacing the batteries every year and run time shortened after every use, I returned the mower.
Toro does offer a 30 day return. You might want to give it a try when you have grass. Get the corded model if you don't have too many trees and save a 0.
When ever my 13 years old Honda dies, I'll probably get a corded electric mower. But I do miss the quietness of a electric and absence of exhaust fume.
P.S. There is a 36V rechargeable, but it's a 0+ more. So, will replacing the two batteries = 0?
(From: Michael Lamb ().)
I own an electric mower now. It's a beefed-up Sunbeam. I found it on the side of the road and did a bit of 'customizing' to it. I like it MUCH better than the gas thing I had for years. The cord is a bit of a bother but when I think that I'm polluting far less and it uses far less power (costs about 25 cents less energy to cut the yard compared to the old gas one) AND it doesn't stink and be a pain to start and a health hazard and is quieter too. I might get a new cordless eventually but the 5 price tag is a bit much. I tried one out and think they are pretty nice, far lighter than a gas mower. Besides the one I have does very well for now. A friend of mine bought a B&D cordless, she likes it and has no problem doing her yard and her neighbors too! (she likes cutting grass)
Have really enjoyed the convenience of a cordless mower. Bought it in 1992 and went to replace the battery. It is a model 3300m and got the shock off my life when the first place I tried quoted me a price of approx 6 cdn. I got in touch with B&D and they directed me to another dealer where I got it for . However, this dealer told me that the new price list does indeed show 6 cdn for new stock. Goodbye B&D the next time the battery needs replacing. I can buy a complete gas or ac unit for the amount of money.
The problem you state does not exist for only B&D lawn mowers, but any rechargeable product. Batteries do not last forever, and typically account for more than 50% of the cost in any tool. Often times the batteries are a standard size and you can get relatively inexpensive replacements at electronic stores. As an example, most cordless drills use sub 'C' cells which run about .75 a piece from Tanner Electronics in Dallas, Tx. For comparison, B&D wants for their replacement (four batteries).
At the risk of sounding like a zealot...the people that think they are "saving the environment" with their electric lawn mowers are fooling themselves. In the first place, all you've done is moved the pollution from your backyard to somebody elses, and soon we're going to extend this fallacy to cars (oh, joy...smog in the country). In the second place, the process used to produce Cadmium plating is so toxic that even the US military is phasing out its use, while most foreign (non-US) governments outlaw its production entirely. "Green factor" wise, we're all probably just as well off with oil burning tub-thumpers.
I predict in the not so distant future (10-20 years) we'll see the end of NiCad powered appliances either because governments ban them, tax the daylights out of them, or nobody will be dumb enough to build the batteries anymore. At the very least, expect to see mandatory recycling programs for all types of batteries (not just lead-acid). Regardless, prices will sky rocket.
Ok, soap box mode off :).
(From: J. Matthew Good ())
First, battery powered lawn mowers use Lead - Sulfuric acid batteries, just like in your gas powered car, only smaller. Second, these batteries are one hundred percent recyclable. Yes, that is 100%.
To the original poster: The only problem with battery mowers is that you must follow the directions about over- charging. Also, they are sealed, as most of them are installed laying on their sides, so ordinary replacement batteries would leak.
Ryobi has replaced the pair of batteries in their machine with a single 24V unit which lists for about US, PLUS FREIGHT. From what I've seen, they are lasting anywhere from 2 to 3 years for most users. To make it last longer, charge only until the indicator says it is fully charged, then unplug it. On a Ryobi, the light turns from red to green to indicate full charge, and supposedly goes into float charge. Don't take a chance, when it turns green, or whatever Black and Decker's equivalent is, Pull the Plug.
(From: Ronald Kramer ().)
This is my third year with a so-called 5HP Black and Decker battery electric. I think they are crap! I couldn't mow the lawn due to rain this weekend once again so the grass got to be twice the cutting height. This requires that I cut without the bag which causes the grass to clump. I then have to go over the area again with the bag. For my 12500 sq. ft. yard takes 4 days because I have only 50 min of charge. So when I finish I have a yard of grass at different heights and it is time to start mowing again.
(From: Jeff Canavan ().)
I recently had the decision to make regarding a new lawn mower. I went with all electric stuff for the yard; corded combo weedwacker/edger, 16" chainsaw and Black and Decker CMM1000 rechargeable lawn mower. Searching through prior usenet posts with Dejanews.com, I found mostly good comments about the lawn mower and thought I'd give it a try. It comes with a 30 day money-back offer, so if I really hated it, I could return it to get a corded one or a fume belching fossil fueled model. After plugging it in overnight, I mowed the grass for the first time last Sunday, (it hadn't been mowed for 7+ weeks) After mulching the 1/2 acre of shin- to knee-high grass and weeds, the charge indicator was still in the green zone halfway between the Fullest and the yellow. The box states 1/2 acre range, including driveway, walkways, and house. It must be conservative or I got a really great set of batteries.
Discounting all ecological debates regarding macro pollution issues;
- No gas or combustion fumes to take away the fresh cut grass smell (Do ANY gas mowers have catalytic converters?).
- No starting hassles.
- No gasoline to store, spill, or deal with.
- No oil to change, ever.
- Quieter than gas mowers.
- A real metal cutting blade, (some corded model have nylon cords).
- Better cutting power than most corded models, (5hp).
- No power cord to trip on or wrap around trees (I have many).
- Mulches or bags mulch, (I tried it with leaves, it worked well).
- One lever to control cutting height for all wheels
Pluses, neutrals, or minuses, (depending on your view of yardwork):
- Won't cut wet grass well, (i.e., wait for a nice evening)
- Limited run time, (If it won't cut all your grass at once, I'd consider something that would, unless you don't mind waiting for a recharge).
- Expensive, I paid 9 at Home Depot.
- Only a 19" cut, smaller than most gas mowers, corded ones are equal or greater.
- As heavy as gas mowers, corded models are lighter.
- Require a dedicated outlet to store and charge.
- Long term battery life (?) & Battery replacement costs ($?).
- Push mower, not self propelled.
(From: Frank Wilder ().)
We have an 18" rechargeable Black & Decker electric and we really like it. We bought a refurbished unit at a Black & Decker outlet.
- Can use during Ozone Action Days
- Easy to start -- just engage the switch. (It's always entertaining to watching the neighbors with the gas mowers try to get them started).
- Quiet -- you can cut your grass early in the morning or late in the day and not bother anyone. I also use my walkman while cutting and I don't have to have the volume all the way up.
- It cuts my yard (1/3 acre) with plenty of charge left over. Every so often I run the batteries all the way down before recharging. It runs for another 45 to 60 minutes after I am done, but this is with the mower sitting on the driveway (no load on the cutting blade).
- Very little maintenance.
- Mine only cuts an 18" track, but some may cut wider.
- Mine only cuts a small yards (< 1/2 acre)...but each mower is different.
- What do you do when the batteries ware out? and how long will that be?
- Mine doesn't allow you to raise the deck as high as I would like to.
I am happy with the one I have but I can't wait to upgrade to a bigger one. The newer B&D lawn mowers look really great.
(From: Dave Clark ().)
Country Home Products, the people who make the DR Field and brush mower offer a cordless lawn mower that has a removable battery. The battery has a built in handle and lifts out of the mower housing for easy replacement and charging. If it is half the quality of the DR Brush mower it is a great mower, and a great company to do business with. They are located in Vermont, and you can get their number from 800 information (1-800-555-1212).
I don't own the mower (yet) but am considering it for my mothers house. I do own the DR and I love it. I have no interest in this company - but I am a very satisfied customer.
(From: Topher Eliot ().)
I'm happy with my Sears electric. I discovered on trick for dealing with the cord: use a heavy duty, long cord (100', 12-gauge in my case) with a short light cord at the end (20' 16 gauge). This allows moving back and forth a moderate amount without having to move that heavy cord.
BTW, I don't think I really needed that 12-gauge; in retrospect a 14-gauge would have been better.
Comments on mulching mowers(From: Jeff ().)Kahlua53
Mulching mowers are nice, you don't have to bag any of the grass that you cut. Mulchers do need a bigger engine, that's why if they are used to mulch make sure it is at least a 5 hp 21" or less ( 6hp for a bigger cut). Mulching adds moisture and acts as fertilizer for the lawn. The bad thing is that you need to cut the lawn every four to five days. If the grass gets too long the mower can't cut the grass as well as it should (also it's not good for the grass if you cut off more than a inch at a time that is when the mower is set at 3 inches). So for that reason it would not look that good if it was to rain a lot and you could not cut the grass. As for me I have both types that works out very well.
Comments on inexpensive lawn mowersTrue or false?:
"Throw away mowers will always cost you more in the long run. Murrays and MTDs are bargain basement mowers, and you most definitely get what you pay for."
"The problem with Murrays and MTDs is that they use the cheapest engines and components available. If you manage to get the engine to last, the rest of the mower will fall apart around it. Remember, the reason K-Mart, Lechmere, Caldor, and other mass merchandisers sell these machines, is because they want you to come back every 2-3 years to buy a new mower from them."
"Murray is a bargain basement brand sold by mass merchandisers who want you to come back for a new mower every 2-3 years, and Tecumseh engines at about the same. :-( If you manage to get the engine to last, the deck will fall apart around it. On the bright side, at least they are cheap."
(From: Jan Hickman ().)
Yea!! My bargain basement (cost under 0 when new) Murray is over 10 years old and I'm cutting .4 acres with it. You can bet when it wears out (if it ever does) I'm gonna buy some mega bucks mower!! But if you do take that bet, let me in on the other side of the action. Keep the blade sharp, the air filter clean, topped up on oil and they will run for a looooong time.
(From: Don Sterner ().)
Well, my Murray has a quality Briggs & Stratton engine which is still running fine. My problem is that the deck has rusted and is now a shell of its former self. There is barely enough metal left to hold the blade shafts in place. The mower is only 2 1/2 years old, but we do live on salt water (next to it, really). All of our property is well above the water line - the mower has never been wet with salt water. I've made it a practice to always hose the mower down after use and I keep it under cover when not in use. The only replacement decks I can locate cost nearly as much as a new mower.
Our previous mower (a Craftsman) was returned to Sears within 6 months after it had lost much of its paint and was covered with rust.
(From: BELJAN E ().)
My MTD mower holds up fine, and I have the killer lawn. It burns out virtually every lawn mower's engine, whether it is Briggs or Tecumseh. I bought my MTD and it is a self propelled with 3.75 hp Briggs & Stratton Sprint engine. I would buy the same mower again, the problem is I probably wouldn't need to! The mower is so durable, it is unbelievable (I should note it is last years front cog drive which now is 4 hp quattro, and it is still sold with the 3.75 HP engine as Lawn Chief.) It survived a year and still doesn't burn oil! That is a major accomplishment. The only trick is to put Marvel Mystery Oil into the gas and oil. I also have a 16 year old Snapper and it still goes. Regardless, MTD is well worth it. You get a cheap mower that in my estimate unless you abuse it will last 5 years or more with good maintenance. 0 or so for 5 years of use (and it isn't hard to maintain them) is an excellent deal. A 0 mower could last less than that.
(From: Floyd Reed ().)
If you take care of amy mower, you can expect a reasonable amount of service out of it, usually comparable to the price. True, Murray mowers are cheaply built, but they build an awful lot of mowers... with different name brands. Most still carry a substantial warranty. As for Tecumseh engines, years ago they were the more expensive engine, placed on the more expensive machines. They were the only engine of this type and size to incorporate an actual oil pump. I never did care much for them as they liked to burn exhaust valves and blow head gaskets. The carburetors left a little to be desired also. They were good for my small engine repair business. I am out of the business now and have not taken one apart for a long time and do not know how they are being made today, but I'll bet if you take care of them and change the oil regularly as well as keep the air cleaner clean, you will receive respectable service out of it.
(From: Jan Hickman ().)
My Murray with a 3.5 HP Tecumseh engine is over 10 years old. The only parts replaced have been the wheels, the spark plug once and the blade a couple of times. The lawn area I cut is approximately 1/3 acre. Will I ever buy a 0 quality lawn mower? Not as long as I can get one to last like this. And by the way - it's not luck, it taking care of them. I know several people whose bargain basement brands last several years and they all have one thing in common. They take care of them."
(From: Patrick J. McQuiggan ().)
I've had a Murray since 1990. No problems whatsoever. Also 1/3 acre. Use it regularly. Follow maintenance advice. Engine is Briggs & Stratton 5 hp and it is self propelled. A bargain.
(From: Bijan Mobasseri ().)
I am amused with the high power recommendations here: Honda, Toro, Snapper, Lawnboy, some costing 0. In 1989 I bought a walk-behind Murray for . This morning, as in all Saturdays, I pulled it out of the shed, gave it ONE pull and as always it started. It is still running on the original plug (Tecumseh engine) and the only thing I have replaced is one wheel.
Comment on high wheeler and wish list(From: Edward Rice ().)
I've got a non-propelled high-wheel, it's okay. Nothing very exciting. My lawn is hilly but not bumpy, and I had gotten the high-wheeler to assist in shifting over edging and over flag walkways, and it's okay for that - but not so great that I'd bother with a high-wheel design in the future.
What I would love to get in the future, and maybe that 'weed whacker on steroids' is what I really need, is something that would let me go casually over edging, so the blade is cutting grass on one side and safely not cutting 1 to 2" river stones on the other side. This is made worse because the left-hand wheels on the stone (typically, with a right-throw mower) jiggle up and down enough that the occasional stone does get whupped.
I'd also be interested, if anybody makes one, in an offset mower, in which the left-hand wheels were not to the left of the mower housing. By increasing the wheelbase and putting one fore and one aft, I would love for the left side of the mower to be cantilevered out with nothing under it but the blade, to let me get really close for edging. I don't want a specialized edger - I want a mower that can do the job through the simple expedient of getting the left-side wheels out of the way!
Comments on plastic decks(From: Joe Kowalski ().)
I bought a new Honda with a plastic deck. I like it. The plastic is not like regular plastic; in fact, it has proven bulletproof. It is very lightweight. I mowed many rocks, keys, etc. with no problem. It was a concern of mine when I bought the unit (0), but the salesman convinced me that it was 'put through hell' to prove its vitality.
Comments on Briggs & Stratton versus Tecumseh enginesThese two manufacturers produce the vast majority of small engines used in low to medium priced yard equipment.
I have always preferred Tecumseh engines over Briggs & Stratton though perhaps this is more of a touchy-feely thing than representing any really fundamental difference between the two. The float carburetors (e.g., Craftsman) do tend to gum up if the gas is not drained at the end of the season but they are easy to clean and rebuild. (Also, I have picked up several mowers dirt cheap at garage sales where the only problem was a gummed up carburetor - 15 minutes work to remedy.) Change the oil regularly and Tecumseh engines will keep going for a long time.
(From: BELJAN E ().)
What a JOKE!!! Try rebuilding a '72 carb sometimes, the floats are terrible, I finally slapped a '91 4 HP carb on the 4 HP '72 and it works now!!!! Some newer ones can be saved, but 10 years of sitting with leaded gas, that spells the end.
Hehehe... A guy just sent me a couple of carbs that were probably closer to '72 than '91. A new needle, seat, and hinge pin (in one case) was all that was needed (beyond the gallon of carburetor cleaner!). :-)
(From: BELJAN E ().)
It depends on how the gas was in, if you drain the float, you should be able to get it clean. Another trick is to put Marvel Mystery Oil in the float assembly and let it sit there a week, in 99% of cases, that will get it running. On the '72 carb, The gas formed crystals around all of the parts, I put all sorts of carb cleaners in, and I replaced the rubber seal, float, needle, and all replaceable parts, it didn't work. I pulled the carb off (this happens to be a '72 Tecumseh off a Sears engine. My guess is that is was overhauled so I got it starting on one pull with starting fluid). I took a '91 Sears (Tecumseh) carb off and bolted it onto the engine, since this is a power reel mower, the engine isn't easily replaced, the new carb is from a primer type non-choke engine, so I made a rubber plug in the hose to the air filter assembly to spray starting fluid into the carb to start it. Now it works fine. It looks strange but runs great!
(From: Thomas N. Harding ( ).)
I would like to add that Tecumseh engines are easy to rebuild. Most folks would be surprised how few parts are in them.
(From: Steve Ordinetz ().)
Several years ago I worked with a guy who rebuilt small engines as a sideline, and he was partial to Briggs & Stratton because parts tended to be pretty standard from year to year, while Tecumseh were less interchangeable between similar engines of different vintage.
(From: Terry Highley ().)
I agree 100%!!!
(From: BELJAN E ().)
Ha! I have had no trouble forcing Tecumseh engine parts to fit on same horsepower engines, and they all worked fine, I had spent over 30 minutes starting one with stale gas once though!
(From: jakdedert ().)
IME, Briggs motors are much more 'finicky' for starting and maintenance, but they last longer and use much less gas and oil.
The Tecumseh's (I have two of those, and one Briggs & Stratton) start much easier, although that's probably due to the priming bulb which my Briggs does not have. They start using oil right out of the box, however. I have to check and add oil on almost every use. My Eager1 uses almost twice as much fuel to mow the same yard as my older Briggs of the same horsepower and cut width. I almost never have to add oil to the Briggs in an entire season.
Given the greater oil and gas consumption, I assume that the Tecumseh's are emitting considerably more pollutants per hour of use. The consumables only add a negligible amount to my lawn-care costs every year; but multiplied by (however many millions) of them out there.....
(From: James Sweet ().)
Well it's hard to say these days, back when I was tinkering with this stuff a lot I was dealing with engines made mostly in the 1970's and the Briggs motors were very noticeably better made and easier to work on. The Tecumsehs' were nothing but a pain in the ass, carb problems, ignition problems, a few common models would regularly throw rods. It was no shock since they were always about 40% cheaper than a comparable B&S. Now days I don't really know, the Tecumseh engines seem to have improved somewhat, while the Briggs engines have gotten very noticeably poorer. Somebody said they're now made in Asia so perhaps that's when the quality took a dive. BTW the new ones do have a primer bulb, haven't tried starting one though. My mom has an old mower with a Tecumseh and it does actually start quite easily though I have to take apart the carb and clean out the banjo bolt on the float bowl every year, never had to do that with an old Briggs. Unfortunately I never compared fuel consumption but I don't recall oil usage problems on either.
Yes, there was a time when Briggs were better engines. Not so anymore. B&S has gotten into the parts game. They make nearly as much profit on parts and service as they do in the initial sale. Tecumseh had to rethink their whole market strategy in the late 70's and refocused on building better quality engines that were certainly more standardized. On virtually every Tecumseh vertical shaft engine the carbs and coils are interchangeable, unlike Briggs where every engine requires a particular model coil or carburetor-setup.
Odd that your Eager-1 (Sears) mower uses so much oil. I'd say it might be just the particular engine as virtually none of the ones I've used or serviced ever developed this problem during their useful life.(Cast iron sleeves and 2 oil rings unlike the single ring in Briggs and the cheap alloys used in both the sleeve and ring.) The poorer, cheap design in the Briggs carbs make for a much worse problem in regards to pollution as they tend to run rich with just a little age.(I've seen some come into my shop that are running so rich that they actually wash the cylinder. This results in excessive wear on the sleeve and rings, allowing bypass into the crankcase. Once the oil is broken down by the gas it'll bypass the rings and the result is a smoking engine.(great if you want to fog your yard as you cut it.) Tecumseh carbs are actually easy to operate and care for once you learn some basics.
They're float style carbs and as such you can't just run 'em and forget 'em. leaving gas in the carb and tank off season is the worst thing you can do. (Most people don't realize that gasoline actually goes bad with time and actually expect a mower that's sat unused for six months to just crank up on the first pull.) Run the tank dry at the last cutting of the season then loosen the Bowl nut and drain the gas out of the float bowl.(It's easy, all it takes is a 1/2 inch socket to loosen it.) Then leave it dry for the winter, DON'T put any type of winterizer in it. Worst stuff in the world. Just ensures you'll be taking it in for a carb job as the stuff just turns to jelly and will make a real mess of your carb and tank. There's just no way to "preserve" gas, use it or lose it.
If you want proof as to Tecumseh's quality over Briggs just look at how Briggs has copied Tecumseh design. Tecumseh has the best design in a starter recoil mechanism hands down, Briggs finally gave up using their ball bearing starter clutch mechanism on all their 5 hp or larger engines and copied the Tecumseh design out right. (But it's still not as good.) They went to a float style carb but picked what is in my opinion one of the worst makes, Walbro. I tell all my customers if they insist on a Briggs, just get one of the Sprints, either a 3.5 or 4 hp model, and don't expect much more than 2 years of use out of it. I have some customers still using the same Craftsmans mower with a Tecumseh engine for 10 years or longer. I gave my in-laws one of my personal Craftsmans that I purchased back in 1982 and it's still going strong, with NO major engine work at all.
My garage sale Craftsman mower with the basic 3.5 hp Tecumseh engine is still going strong after 24+ years. The ignition module went bad a couple years ago (replaced from junk parts I had), and the carb needed cleaning once. I do usually try to remember to drain the carb after the mowing season but it doesn't always happen. :) Aside from those problems, it still usually starts on 1 pull.
Comments on trimmers(From: Alan Dale ().)
I have used several Ryobi 15" grass trimmers over the years and I've learned a few things in the process. Every now and then, they just simply will not crank. A good spark plug cleaning will remedy that.
Also, apparently their 31 cc engine is not big enough, or other aspects of the machines are not heavy duty enugh to handle those 3 metal bladed cutters some places offer as "after market" wonders. I have used two of them over the years and both times it was disastrous to the trimmers.
The heavier 0.105" 4 sided red cutting line does a great job on these trimmers. It cuts much better than the 0.080" round line and lasts much much longer. You have to open up the holes in the cutter head to make the bigger line fit but that is no problem. Unless, of course you decide to go back to the smaller line later.
Comments on Honda overhaul(From: Israel Kantorowicz ().)
I recently damaged the engine on my Honda mower, so here is my experience (Seattle area):
The engine is well built and fairly easy to work on. Their manual specifies a bunch of special tools, but I was able to take the engine apart and put it back together with just "ordinary" small engine tools. The only problem I had was with the flywheel. It has no threaded holes, and needs to be held around the periphery with something like a belt-wrench while torquing the center bolt. For the same reason, a large gear-puller is required to remove the flywheel from the crankshaft. I did not attempt anything ambitious like replacing valve seats, though. All threads on this engine are metric, of course.
The manual (available from dealers) is very clear and well illustrated. Carb rebuilding is not covered, however. Part numbers are listed in a special "parts manual", not in the regular one.
Note that Honda appears to have a policy of not letting anybody but their dealers get in touch with their central tech support. They don't publish their phone number, and there is no email address either. I could not find the timing mark on the crank, and the dealer could not or would not help, so guessing was the only option left... I don't know if other small engine makers are any better in this respect, but I am used to customer support meaning something entirely different in my line of work.
No trouble getting parts, but they all had to be "special ordered" from out of state, taking about a week to arrive. They seem very expensive to me. A rod was +, a set of piston rings, valve springs, or head gasket + each, and the crank (which I luckily ended up not needing) was supposed to set me back about 5. My relatively minor repair ended up being about 5 in parts (taxes, oil, and band-aid for bruised knuckles not included).
The mower has served me well, and the only problem other than caused by my own fault was premature wear of the blade clutch lining. The plastic deck seems to take rock hits much better than an aluminum deck that I owned some time ago, and there is no paint to peel of from it.
Walk behind versus riding mower or tractor(From: Stephen M. Henning ().)
The forward speed is about the same for a walk behind and a rider, about 3 mph. The main variable is the width of the mower. Let's say we have a 42" mower. If the overlap is 4", then we have 38" cut.
Then the time to do one acre with a 42" mower is:
220 ft. x 220 ft. / ( 3.17 ft x 4.4 ft/sec x 60 sec/min) = 58 minutes.
- 24" mower is 110 minutes per acre
- 36" mower is 69 minutes per acre
- 48" mower is 50 minutes per acre
You can go faster with a rider, but the quality of cut degrades. The walker gets slower for a large lawn since one gets tired and takes more breaks and tends to slow down on the turns.
I would recommend only a tractor that had a cast iron engine and a rear discharge mower. I had a tractor with an engine with aluminum heads. The first engine failed and I replaced it and the second failed. They both warped and eventually failed. I got a tractor with a cast iron engine and it never quit. Eventually it got so old that when the fuel pump failed, it could not be replaced. Now I am using a WheelHorse/Toro with a 17 HP Kohler 2-cylinder cast iron engine. It is a great machine and has worked flawlessly over 12 seasons. The 17 HP is excessive for mowing or pushing snow, but the 2-cylinder engine is great. I can mow for 5 hours and not get the least bit fatigued. However, with 1-cylinder engines the vibration was so great that my toes and fingers would become numb in less than an hour. I had to take a break every hour to recover.
For the mower, get a steel rear discharge mower. The first mower I got was a cast aluminum mower. Every rock the mower picked up knocked a chunk out of the housing until there was nothing left. Then I got a steel mower, but the aluminum engine gave out and it was not prudent to get a third engine for the steel mower. I did get a tractor with a cast iron engine that could use the steel mower and this combination lasted 20 years.
Now on the WheelHorse/Toro I got a rear discharge mower because it does not throw objects like the side discharge machines. Also, when the grass clippings are too heavy to leave on the ground, I can collect them with a simple sweeper and not need a motorized collection system. Also, it doesn't throw clippings on the flower beds and walks or make passing motorists think they are going to be attacked. It is also easy to mow next to shrubs and trees on either side of the tractor. You don't have to always mow with the discharge to the mowed or unmowed side, depending upon what you are trying to accomplish.
A lawn mower for the security mindedSmarter (and lower maintenance) than the average cow...
"This is a lawn mower that is solar powered and stays within a buried wire boundary. It also 'learns' the layout of your yard and will even put itself away at night. Does anyone have one of these devices? It sounds great, but at ,500, I would like some real world product feedback."
I don't have one, but apparently the CIA has two. They use them in a courtyard that is completely surrounded by one of their buildings. The robo-mowers were seen as a better solution than having to have a security officer escort some person in/out and watch them mow.
The miracles of JB WeldOK, I have no idea of whether the following repair will actually hold up but I supposed there is nothing to lose by trying:
(From: Andrew Bowers ().)
I just did something cool!
My friend Dan gave me a 3.5 HP Briggs & Stratton horizontal shaft engine, which burned oil like crazy. I took it completely apart, (Dan had started to, but he hadn't taken the actual block apart, he had just taken the carburetor, muffler, and flywheel cover off) and found a _deep_ gouge in the cylinder wall. The rings were fine, except there was a chunk missing from the oil ring. Here comes the "miracle" part. Most people would have just chucked the engine, or kept it around for parts. I grabbed my thing of JB Weld ("the world's finest cold weld"), mixed some up, and filled in the gouge. The next day, I sanded the patch smooth, and put the engine back together. Started on the first try. Still burns oil (due to the missing segment on the oil ring; the auto parts store I went to didn't have piston rings, can you believe that?), but runs pretty good. (Well, the injectors in the carburetor keep getting clogged, and it won't start, so we're going to get a new, plastic gas tank).
Interesting lawn mower repairs(From: Sean Smith ().)
When I was 17 and still living at home, mowing the lawn was part of my chores. Well, I didn't have a running lawn mower and my Mom insisted that I mow the lawn. She pretty much stated that she didn't care how I did it, as long as it got done.
So, I figured that I needed to get one of them running, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the exact problem was but I wasn't getting spark, so I figured that it had to be the magneto. Well, I didn't have the resources to get a new one, so I did the next best thing, I rewired it!
Mom comes out to find me mowing the lawn with a car battery and a coil strapped to the thing. Ran a line from the condenser to a spare coil I had for my VW Bug and strapped an AC/Delco to the thing and away I went. It was a bit heavy but it was better than nothing. I still wish I took pictures of it.
(From: Charles Gilley ().)
My coolest repair was rebuilding my B&S after letting the oil run out. After I put it back together and with great anticipation, I began to pull and pull and pull.... I was impressed. It was silky smooth, but the darn thing would not start. I sat down to rest, glanced at the bench... to see the valve lifters still sitting there.
(From: Ren Tescher.)
This past summer I over torqued a head bolt on a 5 HP B&S engine (horizontal shaft) on my John Deere 522 snow blower. It snapped off. Even though I was careful(?) in drilling/extracting the broken stub, I went off- center and drilled out enough of the threads in the block to render the threads useless.
I didn't find a Heli-Coil type of thread replacement economically feasible, so I found a nut that fit the replacement bolt, ground it a bit thinner and ground one of the faces of the nut to allow it to fit (wedged) under the bottom cooling fin. With a needle nose pliers to hold the nut in place, I (properly) step-torqued the replacement bolt with all the head bolts in place.
Importance of having the correct valve clearanceSince would be hard to have valve-clearances of all engines here, look in the owner's manual. Many manufacturers have them on-line. See the section: Links to engine and equipment manufacturers. A search engine (no pun...) will also find these quickly. (From: Derrick Setchell ().)
My father-in-law owned a Flymo with a 3.5 HP Briggs & Stratton. He'd had it for nearly twenty years, but never used it much because it was "hard to start", especially when hot. He has other mowers and neither of us had found time to investigate it. Why he didn't return it for warranty investigation at the start is lost in the mists of time.
This year, he felt it was taking up space in his barn and was going to throw it away, so it was rescued by yours truly. I thought the motor might be a useful standby in case the even older Aspera (European Tecumseh) on my own rotary packed up. That's been a fine engine, by the way. The B&S was in a pretty good state considering, but sure enough took up to fifteen pulls to start when cold and would not re-start at all if fully warmed up. It did look like it'd been HOT, with the usual blockage of ventilation spaces by clippings, but otherwise well preserved.
I gave it a complete carb and magneto overhaul which improved cold starting somewhat, but not the hot. I also felt it was a bit "gutless", so then investigated the combustion chamber and valves. This poor machine had virtually NO valve clearance when cold, on either lifter. The valves were still in pretty good order, so my assumption is that it was shipped that way from the factory. Once it got hot, the compression must have been zero, though it didn't obviously seem to be.
A thorough clean, careful adjustment of the valve stems with a diamond hone (out of the engine !! ) to provide the upper limit of the specified cold clearances and back together it went. What a contrast ! It now starts first pull, hot or cold, and runs like it should have done when it left the factory. My guess is the magneto and carb were fine all along in this lightly-used engine. Next time I'm going to look at those valve clearances earlier in the sequence, even if the engine isn't old....
Valve adjustment for OHV engines(From: Mike's Small Engine ().)
You don't adjust OHV engines at TDC. You must bypass the compression release by turning passed TDC and letting the piston drop 1/4". Using a plastic ball point pen as a tool in your spark plug hole you can let the piston push the ball point pen out of the spark plug hole till it starts returning inside the cylinder. Make a mark on the pen so you can see the 1/4" drop of the pen. Then set your valves at 0.004 clearance for both IN/EX. Note: This is a general valve clearance specification that covers most engines today. Check your maintenance book or ask your local dealer for the info on the valve clearance for your specific engine.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
Internal Combustion Engines
Small engine technologyIf you have some idea of how your automobile engine operates - or a Model T Ford for that matter - then you know the basic operating principles of your small engine as well. In fact, your Craftsman Eager 1 has a lot more in common with a Model T than a Honda Accord. However, strip off, the electronics, pollution control devices, and engine powered accessories, and the basic mechanical construction is very similar, though the lawn mower engine is not manufactured to quite the same tolerances and with the same quality materials as an automobile engine.
Nearly all small engines up to 20 HP or so are single cylinder affairs - one piston, one spark plug, no distributor, forced air cooled - about as simple and straightforward as it gets.
If you have never been under the hood of your automobile, then the description in the following sections may be of some help.
The next chapter: "Engine Diagrams" provides an explanation of each of the 4 strokes of a 4 stroke engine. However, if you cannot get the hang of my fabulous ASCII graphics, check out the following site:
The How Stuff Works Web site has some really nice introductory material (with graphics) on a variety of topics relating to technology in the modern world. Of relevance to this document is an article on "How Car Engines Work" which is really mostly about the basic principles but WITH some real animated graphics!
Types of enginesUnless otherwise noted, most of the descriptions and procedures in this document apply to both 4 stroke and 2 stroke engines. However, there are fundamental differences in the proper fuel and oil that is used with each type.
The small 4 stroke engine has a separate oil sump just like the engine in an automobile. Therefore, gasoline and oil are separate. Oil changes are also required.
WARNING: a new lawn mower or other piece of yard equipment will very likely be shipped without oil or just a minimal oil fill. Check it first and add oil if necessary. Running an engine without oil for a few minutes can cause serious - or terminal - damage. Even if your mower was assembled by the store where you bought it, don't assume they filled it with oil and tried it out!
The 2 stroke engine requires that the gas and special oil be mixed prior to use in specific proportions. Leave out the oil - or get your gas cans mixed up - and you will quickly ruin a 2 stroke engine due to lack of lubrication if plain gas is used by mistake. Clearly label the gas cans for each type and instruct anyone using them in the proper fueling technique.
Portable tools like chain saws, weed whackers, and backpack type leaf blowers use 2 stroke engines as these need to operate in a variety of positions.
Stationary or wheel-about equipment including most lawn mowers, rototillers, shredders, backup electric generators, and large blower/vacs, use 4 stroke engines.
Another distinction is that engines smaller than about 2 horsepower are generally 2 stroke while those larger than 2 horsepower are generally 4 stroke but there are exceptions. Lawnboy lawn mowers tend to have 2 stroke engines and there are some types of equipment with very small 4 stroke engines. Of course, if your engine has a cap marked 'oil' then it is a 4 stroke.
Larger pieces of yard equipment like riding mowers and lawn tractors use 4 stroke engines that are really very similar in most respects to their smaller cousins - much more so than to the engine in your automobile, for example. Similar servicing procedures apply. In fact, if you read the respective chapters in any of the engine repair books for engines (listed in the section: References) under 5 horsepower and those between 5 and about 20 horsepower, the only significant differences will be in the size of the various engine parts!
Parts of a 4 stroke engineYou may be surprised at the large number of individual parts which comprise the engine even on a 0 mower. The following description is for a typical single cylinder 4 stroke engine as would be found on most rotary mowers, rototillers, shredders, backup electric generators, larger snow throwers and leaf blowers, and even modest size riding mowers and lawn tractors:
- Fuel tank and fuel line. This may be on the side, above, or below the engine intake. A fuel pump may be present - either as part of the carburetor or a separate unit if it is not gravity fed. There may be a fuel cutoff valve and fuel filter and/or filter screen) as well.
- Shroud or blower housing. Since these engines are all forced air cooled, (no radiator, water jacket, or thermostat) the proper air flow is extremely important as air is much less efficient than water at removing the substantial heat energy generated by a running engine. This piece of sheet metal precisely guides the airflow. The engine should not be run for any length of time with the shroud or blower housing removed.
- Oil filler pipe. On many engines, this is just a hole near the base fitted with a screw-in plug. On fancier models, there is an actual extension tube with a dipstick usually fitting into that hole in the base and sealed with an O-ring.
- Starter. Like an automobile engine, some means must be provided to supply an initial rotation.
- Pull or recoil starter. This is by far the most common on small pieces of yard equipment. A self retracting cord wrapped around a one-way clutch acts on the crankshaft directly. Less common variations include wind-up starters and a simple rope wrapped around a drum.
- Electric starter. A small motor - usually powered from a wall socket - drives the edge of the flywheel via a self releasing gear. On larger equipment, as in an automobile, an on-board battery provides the electricity. The battery is recharged by an alternator while the engine is running.
- Air filter. The air used by the engine should be free of dust and larger particles. Most yard equipment will include one of several kinds of air filters - paper, foam, or oil bath. However, engines used exclusively in equipment used in low dust environments like snow throwers and outboards may lack an air filter. Types of air filters include:
- Paper air filter. This is similar to the filter in a vacuum cleaner. The pleated paper element must be replaced when clogged.
- Foam air filter. This uses a piece of foam rubber lightly coated with engine oil and can be washed in detergent or soap and water when dirty and recoated though replacement will be required if it is badly deteriorated.
- Oil bath filter. This contains an oil reservoir and filter element. These can be drained and cleaned. Refill to the 'full' mark with the same type of oil as used in the engine crankcase. The oil bath air filter is much less common than the paper or foam type.
- Carburetor. The function of the carburetor is to provide a precise air-fuel mixture to the engine under a variety of operating conditions including:
- Starting. A higher ratio of fuel to air is needed when starting and/or the engine is cold.
- Idle. Just enough flow is maintained to keep the engine from stalling.
- High. Full flow is provided with engine speed limited by feedback from the governor.
- Load pickup/acceleration. The proper air-fuel ratio and amount of fuel must be maintained when the equipment is placed under load or encounters an increased load and when switching from IDLE to HIGH, for example.
Several functions are incorporated in a carburetor:
- Fuel control - float, diaphragm, suction. A variety of means are provided to maintain a nearly constant supply of fuel despite varying levels of gas in the fuel tank.
Craftsman and Lawnboy carburetors use a float similar to the system used in automobile engine carburetors (when they still used this technology). A hollow float maintains a constant level of fuel in a reservoir called a float bowl by acting against an inlet needle valve. The fuel tank will usually be above the level of a float carburetor though a fuel pump could also be used. See the section: Basic operation of a float type carburetor for a more detailed description and diagram.
Where equipment may be operated in any position, a diaphragm carburetor is used. A flexible disk (diaphragm) with atmospheric pressure on one side and intake pressure on the other is used to maintain the proper air-fuel ratio (this is a gross simplification!).
Briggs & Stratton engines usually have a suction lift carburetor with a built-in fuel pump. Some simple ones don't even have a fuel pump but depend on suction alone to pull gas from the tank. In both cases, the fuel tank is usually below the carburetor. If there is no fuel pump, the fuel tank should generally not be less than 1/3 full for proper operation.
- Venturi. If you look into the air intake of a carburetor, you will see a narrowing of the passageway. This is called a venturi and results in higher velocity air flow and lower pressure at the center of the narrow section. Just as when you blow across a soda straw submerged in a liquid, or use a bug or lawn sprayer, this lower pressure will suck up the liquid and inject it into the moving air stream. In the care of gasoline, evaporation is almost immediate.
- Throttle. A plate that can rotate to close or open the outlet from the carburetor to the engine intake pipe controls the flow of the air-fuel mixture to the engine. When fully closed, the engine will stop. When slightly open, the engine will idle. When fully open, maximum power is developed. To limit rotation speed with little or no load and to maintain proper speed under load, a governor acts on the throttle plate to keep it at the proper setting under all normal operating conditions.
- Choke. A plate that can rotate to partially close off the air supply is placed in the air intake side of the carburetor. This is usually set manually when starting, particularly in cold weather, to make the mixture richer - more fuel with respect to air - as needed. The carburetors most newer equipment have automatic chokes or other methods of accomplishing the same objective.
- Flywheel. The flywheel in a small engine serves several functions:
- Provides some or all of the inertia so the engine can coast through the 3 non-power strokes of the full cycle (4 stroke). However, with rotary mowers in particular, the blade provides some of the inertia due to the use of a lower mass (lighter, so this is not all bad!) flywheel.
- Provides the electrical energy for the most common magneto based ignition system. A powerful magnet mounted on the edge of the flywheel passes by a coil (and possibly other stuff) once per rotation. This is part of the ignition system and either provides the high voltage for the spark directly or charges a capacitor which is then discharged (by a solid state switch triggered by the flywheel magnet rotating past a sensor) into an ignition coil at the proper time to generate the spark.
- Includes the fan blades which provide most of the essential cooling airflow.
- Links to the starting mechanism. For recoil or other manual starters, the starting device attaches to the center of the flywheel. For electric start, the flywheel will have a large gear along the outside that is engaged by the starter motor gear (with an overrunning clutch).
- Engine/blade brake. Releasing the dead-man bar engages a brake pad that is usually applied to the outside of the flywheel.
A soft metal key locks the flywheel to the crankshaft. This is designed to shear (break) to protect expensive engine parts should the engine stop abruptly (due to blade of a rotary mower striking an obstruction, for example). In this case, the flywheel inertia will attempt to keep it moving and it is better to shear the key than to fracture the flywheel or crankshaft.
- Blade adapter. This fastens the two ended cutting blade to the crankshaft. A key part (no pun intended, well almost) is the locking key. This may be a half circle (called a Woodruff key), rectangle, or part of the blade mount bracket itself. Its purpose, like the flywheel key, is to break cleanly should the blade strike an obstruction thus protecting - hopefully - the expensive engine parts from damage. However, see the section: Why you really don't want to attempt to move an immovable object for the reasons this isn't always successful and using your mower to trim rocks and curbs really should be avoided. Therefore, it is essential that the key be made of the proper material - a soft metal. Never replace a broken key with one made of steel 'because it is stronger'.
For other types of equipment, various adapters are used to couple the driven device to the engine crankshaft. These may include gear reducers or multispeed transmissions, belt or chain drives, or a direct connection to a blower, vacuum, or pump impeller, or electric generator or alternator. As with the blade adapter, a soft metal key or shear pin will likely be used for protection.
- Spark Plug. The ignition source for all small gasoline engines is a high voltage spark. There is nothing magical about a spark plug - it is just an insulated electrode with a specific size gap poking into the combustion chamber. However, damage or fouling (gumming up with carbon or other combustion residue) is one of the most common causes of a hard or impossible to start engine. Not all spark plugs are created equal despite their simple function so the recommended replacement type should always be used. In addition, most automotive spark plugs have a longer reach - more threads - and will likely bash the piston at TDC.
- Magneto ignition. These used to use mechanical contact points - controlled by a cam on the crankshaft to determine the timing. Nowadays, most are fully electronic and require no maintenance.
- Point type. The magnet mounted on the flywheel induces a current in a coil with pole pieces mounted in close proximity to the flywheel. When this current is near its peak, a set of contacts operated by a cam on the crankshaft - the breaker points - open interrupting the current and diverting it to a condenser (capacitor). The current drops abruptly and induces a high voltage in another coil wound on the same core. This coil is connected to the spark plug terminal. It will be 10 kilovolts or more to jump the spark plug gap even under the more difficult conditions during maximum compression. The exact time - angle of the crankshaft - at which the points open is the critical setting. This is usually adjusted by moving the piston to a specific dimension below Top Dead Center (TDC) or aligning timing marks on the flywheel and crankcase and setting the points to just open at this location.
- Electronic type. These can be designed in several different ways but all must emulate the behavior of the point type ignition replacing just the magneto coil/pole piece assembly and without requiring alterations to the flywheel. See the section: What is inside a small engine electronic ignition module?.
- Engine block. The casting which includes the cylinder, crankcase, intake and exhaust ports and valve guides and seats. The other major part of the engine structure is the crankcase cover/oil sump.
- Cylinder. This is the, well, cylindrical component in which the piston moves. Most small engines are made of either aluminum (most common these days) or cast iron. In most cases, the aluminum type will have a cast iron liner for long life where the piston actually slides. With regular oil changes, there will be virtually no wear.
- Cylinder head (or just head). The cap which encloses one end of the cylinder. On most small engines, the only component mounted in the head is the spark plug which screws into a threaded hole. However, on the most modern (and expensive) small engines (as well as all automobile engines), the valves will also be mounted above the piston in the cylinder head. Fins on the head increase its surface area - absolutely necessary for these air cooled engines to keep their cool
- Crankcase. This encloses the lower working parts of the engine and also contains the oil supply. The flywheel/magneto end main bearing is mounted in one end of the crankcase. The crankcase cover/oil sump seals the crankcase and also includes the PTO/blade end main bearing. Also see the section: Bearings and bushings.
- Valves. These look like metal mushrooms and seat against metal rings mounted in the engine block casting. They are spring loaded in the closed position, slide in valve guides (bored holes), and operated by valve lifters from cams on the camshaft.
- Intake valve. This valve is opened only during the intake stroke. It is subjected to less stress than the exhaust valve as it is cooled by the fresh air-fuel mixture. The intake valve may be stamped with an I.
- Exhaust valve. This valve is opened only during the exhaust stroke. It is subjected to more stress than the intake valve since the hot exhaust gases pass out through its opening. The exhaust valve may be marked with an E.
Note that in most small engines, the valves are not mounted above the cylinder (in the head) as they are in automobile engines. Rather, they are mounted on the side of the cylinder in the engine block. This is done for reasons of cost requiring fewer parts and simpler construction. The cylinder head is then just a casting with cooling fins and a threaded hole for the spark plug. The disadvantage of the side valve engine is lower efficiency and higher pollution. The newest (and currently most expensive) lawn mowers and other yard equipment are incorporating the better overhead valve technology. Eventually, environmental protection laws may force this on all small engine operated devices. However, both types can apparently be made to meet the emissions standards mandated for all new mowers sold after September 1996.
- Valve lifters (tappets). These also look like metal mushrooms with the wide part riding on the cams of the camshaft. Their ends press on the ends of the valve stems to open them during the appropriate part of the cycle.
- Compression release. This mechanism reduces the compression somewhat at low rpms (to make starting easier) by opening the exhaust valve slightly early. A weight disengages the compression release once the engine starts.
- Piston. The piston is a cylindrical close ended plug that slides in the cylinder and is acted upon by the hot gases during combustion. In small engines, it is usually made from an aluminum alloy. Power is obtained by the piston driving the off center crank pin journal on the crankshaft via the connecting rod.
- Piston rings. Springy split rings of cast iron (usually) which fit in grooves or slots around the piston. When the piston with rings is installed in the cylinder, the rings expand and tightly contact the cylinder wall forming a remarkably good seal.
- Piston pin (or wrist pin). The piston is attached to the connecting rod via a polished steel pin (actually a tube) which fits closely in a bearing in the connecting rod.
- Connecting rod (or just rod). A rod with bearings at both ends. Small 4 stroke engine rods are usually made of an aluminum alloy and have no special bearing inserts at either end. 2 stroke rods will have needle bearings due to the type of lubrication available.
- Crankshaft. The main rotating part of the engine. See the diagram in the section: Crankshaft anatomy.
- Main bearings. The crankshaft is supported at each end by the main bearings. Most inexpensive 4 stroke engines use plain bearings without inserts - just the finely polished steel crankshaft surface rotating in equally finely finished surfaces of the engine block casting. 2 stroke engines may use needle bearings in these positions. Some engines use ball bearings.
- Crank pin journal. The offset surface where the connecting rod bearing rotates. The is the bearing with the most stress as the full force of each power stroke is applied here. It is the location where damage will likely show up first due to contaminated oil or lack of oil.
- Counterbalance weights. These two massive weights are part of the crankshaft casting opposite the crank pin journal. They help to reduce the vibration of the engine by partially counteracting the forces of the piston and connecting rod as they move back and forth. Larger engines may have additional rotating balancer shafts which can be designed to do a better job of minimizing vibration than just the counterbalance weights on the crankshaft.
- Crank gear or timing gear. A small gear mounted on the crankshaft which rotate the camshaft at half the crankshaft speed to control valve timing. The crank gear has half as many teeth as the camgear.
- A precision taper is located at the magneto/flywheel end for mounting the flywheel and starter components.
- A cam (possibly removable) may be present under the flywheel location for operating the breaker points on a point type ignition system.
- An auxiliary PTO gear may be present. This is a worm gear or other mechanism for providing a secondary, usually lower speed, higher torque, power output. A typical speed reduction ratio is 8:1. This may be used to power a front wheel drive sprocket, for example.
- Camshaft. This includes the two cams which operate the valves and runs at 1/2 the speed of the crankshaft. In addition, it may have a compression release mechanism to reduce starting effort and in the case of many Tecumseh vertical crankshaft engines, is part of the oil pump as well.
- Oil/lubrication device. Several types of mechanisms are used to distribute engine oil to all the critical parts in a small engine:
- The piston rings (oil ring mainly) scrape oil off of the cylinder walls which passes through holes in the oil ring grooves of the piston to lubricate the piston pin at the top of connecting rod.
All other important parts are lubricated typically by one of the following devices:
- Oil dipper. An extension to the connecting rod dips into the oil sump on each rotation of the crankshaft and provides lubrication by literally just splashing oil onto where it is needed. (Horizontal crankshaft engines only.)
- Oil slinger. A pinwheel like affair rotated off of the crankshaft or camshaft flings oil onto where it is needed. (Horizontal or vertical crankshaft engines.)
- Oil pump. A camshaft driven pump distributes oil to the important parts via various passages in the camshaft, engine block, and possibly the crankshaft and connecting rod as well. (Horizontal or vertical crankshaft engines.)
- Governor. This provides the feedback to the carburetor throttle plate to regulate the engine speed (usually for anything but idle speed). Thus, the speed is maintained relatively constant despite changes in load and a engine temperature. Idle speed is usually maintained simply based on fuel flow through the idle needle valve or a fixed orifice.
- Air vane governor. The air flow provided by the flywheel/blower passes by a plate which is coupled to the carburetor throttle plate acting against a spring force.
- Flyweight governor. A spinning gear assembly with a pair of weights is driven by the camshaft. As the centrifugal force of the weights increases, they move a sleeve which presses against a lever whose shaft passes through the crankcase. This lever then operates the carburetor throttle plate against a spring force.
With both types, increasing the spring force will increase the engine speed.
- Breather. Since the crankcase is otherwise sealed with the piston moving up and down or in and out, some means is required to maintain a negative pressure or else oil might be forced out various places like the bearings an oil seals. The breather is a leaky one way valve which easily passes air out but is mostly blocked in the other direction.
- Muffler. The muffler mounts on the exhaust port and serves two important functions:
- Noise reduction. As its name implies, the muffler muffles or reduces the loud noise resulting from the explosions of the air-fuel mixture.
- Spark/flame arresting. The internal baffles of the muffler prevent most sparks or flame from existing the engine even if it backfires.
- Oil seals. These are spring loaded rubber rings which prevent the escape of oil through the main bearings to the outside.
Engine operating principlesThese are internal combustion engines which means that the burning of the fuel-air mixture itself powers the engine. External combustion engines use the heat from combustion to expand or boil a working fluid as in a steam engine. Other examples of internal combustion engines are the rotary Wankel engine and gas turbines (jet engines).
The type of engine in your lawn mower or automobile operates on what is called the 'Otto' cycle (if you care). A complete 'cycle' is needed to supply one power impulse to the output shaft. All engines must provide the following regardless of whether they are 2 stroke or 4 stroke, rotary, or turbines (though turbines or jet engines operate in a continuous rather than pulsed manner):
For the following, refer to the section: The four strokes of a four stroke engine in living ASCII art.
- Intake stroke. Air is mixed with fuel (gasoline for piston engines) and drawn into the combustion engine.
4 stroke: The air-fuel mixture is sucked into the cylinder through the open intake valve as the piston moves downward on the intake stroke.
- Compression stroke. The air-fuel mixture is squeezed into a smaller space. This heats it to some extent and prepares it to be burnt. (Note: in a diesel engine, this heating alone causes the mixture to ignite and there is no spark needed). Compression ratios for small engines are typically low compared to automobile engines.
4 stroke: Both valves are closed. The piston moves upwards thus reducing the space above it and compressing the air-fuel mixture.
- Power stroke. The compressed air-fuel mixture is ignited at a precise time by the ignition system (spark).
4 stroke: Both valves are closed. The heat produced by the rapidly burning gases to expand and drive the piston downward and because it is connected to the crankshaft, drives the load as well.
- Exhaust exhaust. The burnt combustion products are driven out of the cylinder. These consist of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapor, oxides of nitrogen, some unburnt hydrocarbons, and numerous other mostly harmful compounds.
4 stroke: The exhaust valve is open. The piston moves upward and pushes the exhaust gasses out through the muffler.
A relatively massive flywheel attached to the crankshaft provides the inertia to allow the engine to coast through the non-power strokes (1-3). However, this is not always enough by itself - the blade on a rotary lawn mower is often required as well and a rotary mower may not start easily if at all without the blade in place and tightened securely.
Note that the terms '2 cycle' or '4 cycle' are often used incorrectly when what is meant is 2 stroke or 4 stroke. The cycle is the entire sequence of events including intake, compression, power, and exhaust. The complete cycle for a 4 stroke engine is two complete revolutions of the crankshaft. The complete cycle for a 2 stroke engine is one rotation of the crankshaft. This means that a 2 stroke engine produces a power stroke on every rotation of the crankshaft while a 4 stroke engine does this only on every other one. Thus, a 2 stroke engine will be more powerful than a similar size 4 stroke engine. However, on the down side, 2 stroke engines tend to be less efficient in fuel utilization and pollute much more than 4 stroke engines.
Bearings and bushingsThe shafts of rotating parts normally are mounted in such a way that friction is minimized - to the extent needed for the application. A bearing is any such joint with more specific terms used to describe the typical types found in lawn mowers - or small motors, automobile engines, or 100 MW turbines.
The bearings to be concerned with in a lawn mower or small engine are:
- Main bearings - supports the crankshaft at the blade/PTO end and at the magneto/flywheel end.
- Crank pin journal - links the bottom of the connecting rod to the rotating crankshaft. This single location is most critical as it is subject to the largest forces from the piston.
- Piston pin journal - links the piston to the connecting rod and is subject to the full pounding of the piston but only rotates back and forth through a small angle.
- Gear reduction - additional bearings may be used inside a gearbox. For example, a snow thrower or rototiller require lower speed high torque outputs to drive the auger and tines respectively.
- Auxiliary power takeoff - a lower speed output for front wheel drive or other secondary purpose.
- Wheels - although this is a must less critical application, higher quality bearings will make for easier and smoother operation and longer life.
A variety of bearing types are available. For most inexpensive rotary lawn mowers, plain bearings are most popular due to their simplicity and low cost.
- Plain bearings consist of an outer sleeve called a bushing in which a polished shaft rotates. The bushing may be made of a metal like brass or bronze or a plastic material like teflon. In the case of many small engines, the aluminum alloy casting of the crankcase and cover are simply then bored and reamed to a fine finish to accept the ground and polished shaft. There is no actual bushing. However, if these bearings ever need repair, the hole(s) in the casting would need to be enlarged and a bushing would then be pressed into place and finish reamed.
The shaft of a small engine is made of steel though other materials may be found depending on the particular needs. Where a metal bushing is used, there must be a means provided for lubrication. In a small engine, this is provided by the engine oil via a variety of means. For example, a typical Tecumseh lawn mower engine lubricates the blade end/PTO main bearing by direct immersion in the oil sump, the magneto/flywheel main bearing via machined passage fed from the camgear driven oil pump, and the crank pin journal by oil sprayed or dripped from above.
Under normal conditions, a plain bearing wears only during start and stop cycles. While the shaft is rotating at any reasonable speed, there is absolutely no metal to metal contact and thus no wear. With a properly designed and maintained bearing of this type, a very thin oil film entirely supports the shaft - thus the importance of regular oil changes to assure clean oil with effective lubricating properties.
To put this into perspective, the clearance between the connecting rod and crank pin journal of a typical small engine crank pin journal may be 0.0005 inches or less - one half of one thousandth of an inch. This is roughly 1/10th the thickness of a sheet of computer paper! The same engine may be considered worn to its limit when this clearance increases to .0015 inches. Your automobile engine's crankshaft is entirely supported by these types of bearings as well - and the tolerances are even finer.
If oil is lost even for a short time, serious metal-to-metal sliding contact results in significant wear and possible destruction of one or both bearing surfaces. Particles in dirty oil can get trapped and embedded, usually in the softer outer bushing resulting in scoring and additional wear. It is your responsibility to assure that your engine oil is maintained at the proper level and changed regularly. Any warranty is not likely to cover failure due to negligence.
- Frictionless bearings are usually of the ball, roller, or needle variety. An inner ring called a race rotates supported by a series of balls, rollers, or elongated rollers called needles inside an outer race. An optional 'cage' positions the rotating objects uniformly around the periphery. There is virtually no friction even at stand-still with these bearings. However, rolling metal to metal contact is maintained at all speeds so they are not quite as wear free as a properly maintained and constantly rotating plain bearing. Loss of lubrication, while not as immediately destructive as with a plain bearing, will still result in accelerated wear and premature failure.
- Ball bearings may be found in the main bearings of yard equipment where significant sideways loads are encountered. Lubrication is provided by engine oil, gear oil in a separate gearbox, or by being packed with grease either as a maintenance item or for the life of the bearing at the factory.
- Roller bearings may be used on larger engines where significant loads of all types are encountered. Since the contact between rollers is a line rather than a point as it is with balls, they can support much greater loads. Lubrication needs are similar to those of ball bearings.
- Needle bearings are found in 2 stroke engines and may be used for the main bearings as well as the crank pin journal. The 'needles' are really just long rollers - a ratio of 5:1 to 10:1 is typical of length to width - and there is no cage to position the needles, they are packed in around the shaft as many as will fit. Due to the type of lubrication - oil mixed with the gasoline - plain bearings are generally not suitable for this application.
Crankshaft anatomyThe diagram below shows the major parts of the crankshaft:
- Main bearings support both ends and whatever is driven by the engine.
- The crank pin journal is the surface upon which the piston's connecting rod bearing acts to rotate the crankshaft.
- The crank gear drives the camgear/camshaft assembly which operates the valve lifters/valves and possibly the oil pump as well.
- The flywheel is actually mounted on a machined taper (not shown) held on by a large nut. The starter engages a clutch mechanism which may also be mounted with the flywheel. For point-type ignition systems, a cam to operate the contact points is usually located on the crankshaft under the flywheel.
- The blade or other driven equipment is mounted on the other end with an adapter (not shown) held on by another large nut.
- Auxiliary equipment like front wheel drive may be powered from a worm gear which is part of the PTO end of the crankshaft (not shown).
- The counterbalance weights help to smooth the operation of the engine.
Basic operation of a float type carburetorThe diagram below shows a schematic of a typical float type carburetor with the engine running at high speed. The choke plate is fully open and the throttle plate is opened the proper amount be feedback from the governor to maintain the speed set by the user throttle control.
- Air is sucked through the venturi by the intact stroke of the piston. The lower pressure created by the faster moving air draws gasoline up through the main nozzle and into the air stream. This aerosol of gasoline vaporized almost instantly.
- The air bleed allows the pressure inside the float chamber to equalize as fuel it drawn off
- The float maintains a more or less constant level of liquid gasoline in the float chamber by opening the inlet needle valve when the level drops. The fuel supply is either above the level of the carburetor or there is a separate fuel pump (usually operated by crankcase pressure pulsations or a direct mechanical linkage).
- The main nozzle either has precisely machined orifices to set the ratio of air to gasoline in the mixture or has an adjustable needle valve for this purpose (not shown).
- Closing the choke forces more gasoline into the mixture and makes it richer.
- The throttle plate is used to vary the amount of the air-fuel mixture to the engine but maintains nearly the same ratio of air to fuel over a wide range of engine speeds.
- The user throttle (speed) control adjusts the spring force against which the governor must act to close the throttle plate. Increasing the spring force increases the engine speed.
- Operation at idle speed depends on a separate system of an idle nozzle and idle speed adjustment (not shown) and does not depend on governor feedback to control the throttle - which is kept open just a small amount.
The four strokes of a four stroke engine in living ASCII artYou will just love the most excellent, accurate, and to-scale (:-).)ASCII renditions below but at least it will display on any computer using a fixed width font and not require half your disk space allocation for storage!
Note that the valves, normal operated by a camshaft driven off of a small gear on the crankshaft, are not drawn in their usual position for a common small (side valve) engine to improve the superb clarity of these drawings.
Intake stroke (1)Air-fuel mixture is sucked into the cylinder by the by piston moving down driven by inertia of flywheel (and blade).
- Intake valve: open.
- Exhaust valve: closed.
- Piston: moving down sucking in fresh air-fuel mixture from carburetor.
Compression stroke (2)Air-fuel mixture is compressed as piston rises in sealed volume of combustion chamber driven by inertia of flywheel (and blade).
- Intake valve: closed.
- Exhaust valve: closed.
- Piston: moving up compressing air-fuel mixture.
IgnitionCompressed air-fuel mixture is ignited just before piston passes Top Dead Center (TDC) and starts down again.
- Intake valve: closed.
- Exhaust valve: closed.
- Piston: just short of Top Dead Center moving up.
Power stroke (3)Heated expanding gases drive piston downward and apply power impulse to crankshaft via connecting rod (clockwise rotation).
- Intake valve: closed.
- Exhaust valve: closed.
- Piston: moving down driven by combustion of air-fuel mixture.
Exhaust stroke (4)Exhaust gasses pushed out of cylinder by rising piston driven by inertia of flywheel (and blade).
- Intake valve: closed.
- Exhaust valve: open.
- Piston: moving up pushing out exhaust gasses to muffler.
- Back to Small Engine Repair FAQ Table of Contents.
ReferencesThe best reference is the manual that likely came with your engine. This will have the specific information needed to service it as well as the recommended preventive maintenance tips. Many engine manufacturers now have the user and service manuals for specific engine/equipment models on-line as well as extensive general maintenance and troubleshooting information, and parts identification and ordering.
- Briggs & Stratton
- Sears has many of its mower diagrams and other information on-line. For servicing of Sears/Craftsman equipment, this may be more then adequate. You may need the complete model number to access them. Here is a road map to get through the Sears Web site (at least as it configured now, Summer 2001, provided by: Frank Clason ().)
- Start at Sears Home Page (same link as above).
- Search for "Parts and Accesories". (There used to be a direct link but it seems to have disappeared. --- Sam.)
- Go down to item #2 and input the model number - make sure it is complete.
- Click on GO and then on CONTINUE.
- Go down to the diagram that says "OR select the area...".
- Click on the item under the column that says VIEW DIAGRAM for your area of interest.
- Click on CONTINUE.
This should bring up the schematic (diagram) of interest. I was really surprised to find the diagrams - they appear to be quite useful and could come in real handy in the future.
- LAWN-MOWER-SHOP.COM has a variety of information on basic maintenance and troubleshooting including: Tune-up procedure and checklist, starter repair, a troubleshooting guide, links, carburetor diagrams, and more.
They have a great deal of useful information including diagrams of popular carburetors, rope starter repair, and links to small engine manufacturers. There is even a "slide-show" illustrating complete disassembly of a typical small engine. This may be all you need for many popular engines.
- Outdoor Power Equipment is a parts supplier but they also have useful DIY information including links to manuals, length and width specs for V-belts, torque specs for many popular engine models, and more.
The following are good for general information but may not have the specific information for your equipment. However, the combination of the original user or service manual and a small engine repair book is probably all you need.
- Small Engine Repair, 2-12 HP
Richard J, Rivele, Ed.
Chilten Book Company, 1993
Radnor, PA 19089
(There are also several other versions of this book covering small engines up to 20 HP. For the most part they are very similar with some additional information provided where appropriate for each size range.)
- Chilton's Repair and Tune-up Guide for Small Engines, 1-1/2 to 20 HP
Chilten Book Company, 1979
Radnor, PA 19089
ISBN 0-8019-6810-0 (Paperback: ISBN 0-8019-6811-9)
- The Complete Handbook of Lawn Mower Repair
Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
- Small Gas Engines: How to Repair and Maintain Them
Sterling Publishing Company
Two Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
- Simple Gasoline Engine Repair
Ross R. Olney,
Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1972
Garden City, NY
- Walk-Behind Lawn Mower Service Manual - Third Edition
Intertec Publishing Corporation
P.O. Box 12901, Overland Park, Kansas 66212
- You Fix It: Lawn Mowers
Carmine C. Castellani & Clifford P.Seitz
ARCO Publishing, Inc., 1975, 1976
219 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10003
- My Lawn Mower Hates Me - An Original Manual for Hand and Power Mowers
Tom Cuthbertson and Rich Morrall
10 Speed Press
Box 4310, Berkeley, CA 94704
- Handbook of Lawn Mower Repair
Emerson Books, Inc., 1978
Buchanan, NY 10511
- Repairing and Maintaining Yard Equipment and Power Tools
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994
605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158-0012
ISBN 0-471-53500-1 (cloth:acid-free paper), ISBN 0-471-53501-X (paper)
- The Repair & Maintenance of Small Gasoline Engines
George R. Drake
Reston Publishing Company, A Prenice-Hall Company, 1976
Reston, VA 22090
- Small Gasoline Engines: How to repair and maintain them
A Popular Science Book
Times Mirror Magazines, Inc., Book Division, 1975
- Fix It Yourself - Power Tools and Equipment
Time-Life Books, Inc., 1989
ISBN 0-8094-6268-0, ISBN 0-8094-6269-9 (lib. bdg.)
- Small Engines - Mowers, Tillers, Chain Saws
The Editors of Time-Life Books
Time-Life Books, Inc., 1982
ISBN 0-8094-3910-1 (retail ed.), ISBN 0-8094-3911-X (lib. bdg.),
ISBN 0-8094-3912-8 (lib. bdg.)
- Small Gas Engines and Power Transmission Systems,
A Repair and Maintenance Manual
Walter E. Billiet
Perntice-Hall, Inc., 1982
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
ISBN 0-13-814327-7 (hardback), ISBN 0-13-814319-6 (pbk.)
- Garden and Yard Power Tools - Selection, Maintenance, and Repair
Rodale Press, 1983
ISBN 0-87857-446-8 (hardcover), ISBN 0-87857-447-6 (paperback)
- How to Repair Briggs and Stratton Engines, 3rd edition
Tab/McGraw Hill, 1994, .95
(From: Jim Nelson ().)
This is an excellent book about B&S engines.
I don't know any old galoots who can teach me this stuff, so I always end up at the bookstore. This book I had to buy to identify the missing controls on a B&S driving a mortar mixer I bought cheap.
On-line small engine discussion groupThis is a free (well sort of, it is advertising supported which presumably means you probably have to tolerate banners and such but hopefully no SPAM).
From the charter:
"Small Engines is an open forum intended as a resource for individuals studying small engines, business owners, home owners or anyone for that matter. The basic purpose of the list is to serve as a forum for discussions and distribution of information. Subscribers are encouraged to post questions, comments, or announcements of interest to the list about small engines and which pertain to work or theory or ideas about the current development or past of small engines. Discussions include: electrical systems on equipment, what works and how to do things, the effects of small engines on the environment and a lot more."
Check out: Yahoo Groups: Small Engines Discussion Group.
Mower and engine parts sourcesMost of the common maintenance and repair parts that are likely to be needed are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Your place of purchase may be most convenient but not necessarily the cheapest.
Many engine parts are fairly specialized and non-interchangeable unless the replacement part really is identical. However, even different model engines may use the same parts. For example, the identical connecting rod, piston, piston pin, camgear/camshaft and oil pump, valves, valve lifters, ignition components, and flywheels are used in several different 3-5 HP Tecumseh engines. Even the same crankshaft may be used in multiple models but slight variations like whether there is an auxiliary power take-off or not can complicate matters.
Carburetors, magnetos and other ignition components from similar sized engines from the same manufacturer may be substituted in many cases. I have even heard of people adapting a larger carburetor to a small engine (with varying levels of success).
Here are some of the alternatives for obtaining replacement parts:
New parts and supplies - walk-in
- Home centers: 2 stroke and 4 stroke engine oil, spark plugs, mower blades, wheels, some front wheel drive components. They also have tune-up kits as well as other service parts like air filters, mufflers, and flywheel keys. These seem to be mostly for Briggs & Stratton engines but I did find some Tecumseh parts at a Builder's Square. Home centers are also a good source for name-brand tools. Stay away from the bargain tools as their quality is often mediocre.
- Auto supply stores: engine oil, carburetor cleaner, anti-seize, sealer, hardware, some tools.
- Sears retail stores: 2 stroke and 4 stroke engine oil, spark plugs, mower blades, wheels, front wheel drive components, air filters, mufflers, and blade adapters for Craftsman equipment. However, all the general items like oil and spark plugs can be used on most other engines and the repair parts will be compatible with much other equipment powered by Tecumseh engines.
Sears is, of course, where you get Craftsman tools which in the past have been of very high quality. All hand tools also come with an unconditional lifetime warranty.
- Sears parts centers: these are separate from the retail stores and generally serve an entire region. They will have all engine parts for Craftsman and other Sears equipment down to the last nut are available but you will have to have the complete equipment model number (134.XXXXXX) for non-engine related parts and/or the complete engine model number (143.XXXXXX) for engine parts so they can look up the part numbers. Having samples of the parts you need is a good idea as well.
Sears now has a Web site: Sears PartsDirect which allows direct ordering of over 4 million parts (so they claim) based on the parts list (which they provide on-line) for each product model number.
Parts availability is guaranteed for something like 15 years for most Sears brand equipment. Since the Tecumseh engine design has really not changed substantially for a lot longer than this, parts will likely be available even for an old mower. However, the person at the parts counter may look at you as if you are from Mars if you are interested in some of the very low level engine replacement parts like circlips or rod bolts. It would appear that not many people do this sort of stuff anymore.
- Yard equipment dealers and service shops: most parts for brands of equipment they sell and repair. Complete equipment model and engine identification information and samples of the parts you need will prove essential.
For Sears/Craftsman products in particular, the first 3 digits of the Sears part number identify the actual manufacturer of the equipment. With these in-hand, you may be able to bypass Sears entirely and buy parts directly
New parts and supplies - mail order/WebMany small engine manufacturers are providing on-line sales of repair manuals, general maintenance items, and "how to" books and videos. One example is Briggs and Stratton. However, they may not have more specialized items like head gaskets and connecting rods.
There are a large number of parts supply companies. Only a few are listed below. (I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the following companies. Some of the descriptions are from the company's site or what they emailed me. Listed in alphabetical order, more-or-less.)
- Battery and Electric Co. (BECO) has a secure online catalog featuring some of the most popular lawn mower and small engine parts, and we do offer consumers a form to request information on any parts not found online, including hard-to-find McCulloch parts. BECO is a distributor of all major OPE parts lines, and also offers a lower cost alternative in quality aftermarket Prime Line parts. We also offer new engines by Briggs and Stratton and Tecumseh in our online catalog. Online orders are by credit card (Visa, Mastercard and Discover). BECO has been in business since 1920 offering quality parts and service to the Carolinas, and we have now been on the Web for about a year.
- Phone: 1-864-242-6480
- Fax: 1-864-235-6465
- Web: http://www.becoparts.com/
- Payment terms: Visa, Mastercard, and Discover
- Phone: 1-864-242-6480
- Manufacturer's Supply lists all kinds of parts and accessories including those for small engines, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, logging/chainsaws, ATVs, and other engine powered equipment.
- Phone: 1-800-826-8563
- Fax: 1-800-294-4144
- Web: http://www.mfgsupply.com/
The site has an on-line catalog (under construction) and search capability. A free 200 page print catalog may be requested as well. (I have been informed that they are currently out of these (May '97) but you will be put on their mailing list for a summer release.) They also have a 600+ page catalog (major portions of which will be put on their web site in the near future) with all sorts of fabulous replacement parts, tools, and other maintenance items - for the princely sum of .
- Phone: 1-800-826-8563
- M & D Mower Repair. Product lines include those from Briggs & Stratton, Tecumseh, MTD, and others. Their web site provides access to the following:
- Safety information.
- Monthly tips, FAQ-like help, and an 'ask the mechanic' service.
- Original engine service manuals and special tools.
- Equipment and engine parts including complete engines and shortblocks.
- After-market replacement parts for most popular brands of engines and outdoor power equipment.
- Web: M & D Mower Repair: http://www.M-and-D.com/
Orders are accepted via secure email, Fax or snail mail. Payment may be made using MasterCard, Visa, or Discover. The minimum S&H fee is around .
- Safety information.
- Oscar Wilson Engines & Parts, Inc. has a web site which indicates that they are distributors for a large number of companies including Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki, Kohler, McCulloch, MTD, Tecumseh, and others. There is no on-line catalog. I do not know if they will help with parts identification or whether you really need to have an exact part number to order.
- Phone: 1-800-873-6721
- Fax: 1-800-873-6720
- Web: http://www.oscar-wilson.com/
- Payment terms: cash, check, Mastercard, Visa, Discover, open account.
- Phone: 1-800-873-6721
- Partsangel.com Dealer for Partsmart, Briggs and Stratton, AYP, Sears/Craftsman, and others. and they also include free access to on-line illustrated parts lists from Briggs and Stratton, Murray, Poulan, Snapper, and other manufacturers linked to their shopping cart. They have a Secure Shopping Cart System that allows you to ship to your P.O. Box or can drop ship to a friend/family member etc.
- Web: http://www.partsangel.com/
- Accepts all major credit cards, debit cards, checks, and money orders. Will also trade chickens, pigs, and tomatoes for parts! :) Valid in Arkansas only. :) :)
- PowerLine Equipment in Rockford, Illinois is a dealer of Briggs and Stratton, Poulan, Murray, Weed Eater, Oregon Chain, Champion Spark Plugs, Gates, Zama Replacment Carbs, Tillotson, Opti, Walbro and Riverside Pumps. Replacment Parts, Consumer Reviews, Briggs and Stratton Company NewsTech support by email, Assistance with hard to find parts. Most brands serviced.
- Phone: 1-815-708-0422
- Web: www.power2go2.com/
- Payment terms: Cash, check, money order, Paypal, and invoice (with approved credit)
- Phone: 1-815-708-0422
- Replacement Commercial Parts Warehouse. They carry several lines of replacement, aftermarket, and lawn mower parts for most small engine and mower manufacturers. Their website has:
- Parts lookup with diagrams/information on replacement parts for your equipment.
- Replacement parts for most manufacturers including Ariens, AYP, Briggs & Stratton, Encore, Honda, Kawasaki, Kohler, Lawn Boy, MTD, Murray, Red Hawk, Scag, Snapper, Tecumseh, Toro, and more.
- Aftermarket parts for most popular manufacturers of outdoor power equipment and small engines.
- Excellent customer service and a very knowledgeable staff.
- PDF manuals and original engine service manuals.
- Web: Replacement Commercial Parts Warehouse: http://www.rcpw.com/
Orders are accepted online, via email, phone, mail, or fax. Payment can be made using Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express and they get your order out very quickly.
- Parts lookup with diagrams/information on replacement parts for your equipment.
Used partsIt doesn't make a lot of sense to search the countryside for a clogged air filter or slightly worn engine oil :-) but it may be possible to save a substantial amount of money if you can locate a previously owned replacement for that bent crankshaft!
- Salvage yards: these are probably the most reasonable priced sources for major engine components if you can locate a compatible model and are willing to do the necessary leg work. Since only a hand full of really different engines are used on the majority of rotary mowers, this may not be that hard. Of course, the condition of such parts can be quite variable. And, it will likely be your entire responsibility to locate exactly what you need! Buying a complete engine by the pound to obtain a rod or piston may end up being cheaper than buying just a new part and just about as good in many cases. For internal parts, take along a copy of the Chilten or other engine repair book which lists engine cross references so that you will be able to determine if a part will be compatible without stripping the engine! (Of course, if the previous owner neglected the routine maintenance, the engine had a long hard life, or oversize repair parts were installed, you may be out of luck anyhow.)
Yard equipment dealers may take old (non-working) mowers as trade-ins and be happy to sell or give away the remains for parts. Of course, if all you need is a bolt, you will have to dispose of the rest of the carcass!
- Garage or yard sales: if you are in no hurry and enjoy this weekend pastime, mowers in various stages of decay and disrepair are often available. I have paid to for non-functional mowers requiring relatively little in the way of repair - usually this is carburetor cleaning or perhaps a tuneup. The beginning and end of the mowing season are probably the best times for this search. At the beginning of the season, people discover that their mowers won't start, shove them in a corner, and go out and spend big $$$ for a brand new mower that will be in the same sorry state in a couple of years. (They, of course, have not read this document.)
(From: BELJAN E ().)
"About 10 minutes, replace the points, spark plug and a spritz of starting fluid and 90% are fine after that!"
At the end of the season they say "never again" and move to an apartment or hire a landscaper.
I paid for a Sears Craftsman mower in perfect condition (I guess grass mowing was not something the seller enjoyed) about 17 years ago and it is still going strong with only minimal maintenance.
Comments on buying used mowersCaution: Mowers older than about 20 years or so will not have the safety features of modern ones (dead-man bar for engine kill and/or blade-brake clutch). Therefore, it may make sense to avoid really old mowers without these safety features even if they are in perfect condition.
Garage and yard sales, tag sales, flea markets, and auctions, are also excellent sources for tools. Very high quality tools often show up at reasonable prices but there is a lot of junk out there so know what you want and how to distinguish an easily salvageable tool from one that is a pile of congealed rust.
(From: Mark Manville ().)
What I did when we bought our first house was to just go around to garage sales and look for an inexpensive used mower. I figured I would need to cut the lawn for a while before I was really sure of what I needed anyway. Besides, after the down payment, closing costs, and other expenses, there was not much free cash to speak of. Such a mower could perhaps take you through the first year or so, until you have more experience, time, and cash. You may even get lucky like I think we did and get one that you can stick with for a while. We got a 22" Sears self propelled that works pretty well - it's old, but at I count it as a bargain, even if breaks down after one year."
(From: Erik Beljan ().)
I would like to comment on buying used lawn mowers. Do not trust what you are buying. You never know what the quality of the engine is and there is no way to guarantee it. I found a Roper Rally 22 inch lawn mower last fall, and had an interesting ordeal which shows what you might be getting. I took it home only to find the engine was seized (found by attempting to pull the starter cord). I took the sparkplug out and put a mixture of Duralube All Purpose Spray, Marvel Mystery Oil, and Liquid Wrench into the cylinder. I put the spark plug in and let it sit a few minutes. I took the plug out and yanked the blade from the underneath. It snapped free. I then cranked it about 10 times, to clear the cylinder (if fouled the old plug that was in the mower) I cleaned the plug off with some carb and choke cleaner, sprayed some into the cylinder and carb. I proceeded to start it again. It kicked to life with a huge cloud of smoke. It blew smoke everywhere for about 5 minutes. I shut it off and parked it under a tree overnight so I could take a closer look the next day.
The next day I took a better look at it only to find that the top of the flywheel was full of poplar tree cotton, which I removed. I looked at the oil which was a dark thick black color. I poured a large dose of Marvel Mystery Oil into the oil and started the mower. I ran it for a few minutes (it burned considerable oil), shut it off and changed the oil. I dumped the old oil out and filled it with a 50 50 blend of SAE 30 oil and Nu Lube oil stabilizer (a thickish oil treatment like STP thins out more though). I filled the gas tank and put about 4 oz of Marvel Mystery Oil in the gas. I started it and ran it for 10 minutes. No smoke, sounds like new. I am using it now this spring with the only modification of a new spark plug and air filter. The thing runs fine, but it is likely that the engine is in terrible shape internally (I am not bothering to take it apart, but can it can be seen by the excessive oil burning if I don't put some Nu Lube in the oil).
If I sold it to you today without telling you what I did to it, you would never know, there are no outward signs of what it was like. The Nu Lube seals the clearances nicely, stops the oil from burning, keeps the spark plug from oil fouling, keeps the oil looking clean and quiets the engine quite a bit. If I were the purchasing party I would not want to receive this engine if I would have known its condition. This story goes to show that for minimal work you can make an engine run in so it seems to be in decent shape, even though it might not be.
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Small Engine Specifications
Typical mechanical specificationsThe following are some of the key dimensions and other specifications for several common Tecumseh engines. Where two numbers are listed, they are the upper and lower service (wear) limits as appropriate. One of these will be close to the expected dimension on a new engine; the other represents the point at which you are supposed to replace the part due to wear. All values are in inches unless otherwise noted. Specification LAV/H30 LAV/H40 LAV/H50 V/H70 VM/HM100 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Horsepower: 3 4 5 7 10 Displacement (cubic inches): 7.75 10.5 11.5 15.0 20.2 Bore: 2.3125 2.625 2.75 2.75 3.187 Stroke: 1-27/32 1-15/16 1-15/16 2-17/32 2-17/32 Timing Dimension: .060 .035 .035 .050 .070 (before TDC) Point setting: .020 .020 .020 .020 .020 Spark plug gap: .030 .030 .030 .030 .030 Valve Clearance: .010 .010 .010 .010 .010 Valve seat angle (degrees): 46 46 46 46 46 Valve spring free length: 1.135 1.135 1.135 1.462 1.462 Valve seat width: .035 .035 .035 .042 .042 .045 .045 .045 .052 .052 Crankshaft end play: .005 .005 .005 .005 .005 .027 .027 .027 .027 .027 Crank pin journal diameter: .8610 .9995 .9995 1.1865 1.1865 .8615 1.0000 1.0000 1.1870 1.1870 Connecting rod bearing diam: .8620 1.0005 1.0005 1.1880 1.1880 (crank pin journal end) .8625 1.0010 1.0010 1.1885 1.1885 Crankshaft diameter: .8735 .9985 .9985 .9985 1.1870 (cover/blade/PTO) .8740 .9990 .9990 .9990 1.1875 Main bearing diameter: .8755 1.0005 1.0005 1.0005 1.1890 (cover/blade/PTO) .8760 1.0010 1.0010 1.0010 1.1895 Crankshaft Diameter: .8735 .9985 .9990 .9985 .9985 (flywheel/magneto) .8740 .9990 .9995 .9990 .9990 Main bearing diameter: .8755 1.0005 1.0005 1.0005 1.0005 (flywheel/magneto) .8760 1.0010 1.0010 1.0010 1.0010 Camshaft bearing diameter: .4975 .4975 .4975 .6230 .6230 .4980 .4980 .4980 .6235 .6235 Piston diameter: 2.3090 2.6260 2.7450 2.7450 3.1817 2.3095 2.6265 2.7455 2.7455 3.1842 Piston pin diameter: .5629 .5629 .5629 .6248 .6248 .5631 .5631 .5631 .6250 .6250 Width of comp. ring grooves: .0955 .0925 .0795 .0795 .0955 .0977 .0935 .0815 .0805 .0975 Width of oil ring grooves: .125 .156 .1565 .188 .188 .127 .158 .1585 .190 .190 Ring end gap: .007 .007 .007 .007 .007 .020 .020 .020 .020 .020 Top piston land clearance: .0105 .0165 .024 .023 .029 .0145 .0215 .027 .028 .034 Piston skirt clearance: .0025 .0045 .0045 .0045 .028 .0040 .0060 .0060 .0060 .053
Typical torque specificationsFor proper operation and long life, you cannot just tighten critical nuts and bolts by feel. You really don't want the connecting rod cap to come loose while the engine is running! A Web site that has torque specifications for many popular engine models as well as other useful information is Outdoor Power Equipment.
The following are just samples - check your engine manual for exact values!!! The most critical are the connecting rod bolts or nuts and the cylinder head bolts.Location Torque ---> Inch-pounds Foot pounds ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Cylinder head bolts: 160 - 200 13 - 16 Connecting rod bolts (Durlock rod bolts): 2.5 - 4 HP small frame: 96 - 110 7.9 - 9.1 5 - 6 HP medium frame: 130 - 150 10.8 - 12.5 7 - 10 HP medium frame: 150 - 170 12.5 - 14.1 Cylinder cover or flange to cylinder: 65 - 110 5.5 - 9.0 Flywheel nut: 360 - 396 30 - 33 Spark plug: 180 - 360 15 - 30 Magneto stator to cylinder: 40 - 90 3.3 - 7.5 Starter to blower housing or cylinder: 40 - 60 3.3 - 5.0 Housing baffle to cylinder: 48 - 72 4 - 6 Breather cover to cylinder: 20 - 26 1.7 - 2.1 Intake pipe to cylinder: 72 - 96 6 - 8 Carburetor to intake pipe: 48 - 72 4 - 6 Air cleaner to carburetor (plastic): 8 - 12 1 Tank plate to bracket (plastic): 100 - 144 9 - 12 Tank to housing: 45 - 65 3.7 - 5 Muffler bolts to cylinder: 1 - 5 HP small frame: 30 - 45 2.5 - 3.5 4 - 5 HP medium frame: 90 - 150 8 - 12 Electric starter to cylinder: 50 - 60 4 - 5
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