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Lawn mower repair and maintenance

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  • Lawn mower repair and maintenance

    I may have mentioned elsewhere that I am now working on my two gas-powered push mowers, that have been deteriorating over several years in a rough shed. A few years ago I bought a corded electric B&D mower which I repaired with new belts, and it has worked pretty well within 50-100 feet of the house and electric power. I also have a corded electric string trimmer that I have been using to do most of the front lawn, which has many obstacles that interfere with rotary blade mowers.

    But I also want to clean up some of my small meadow on the hill behind the house, and it has become badly overgrown with multiflora rose, honeysuckle, grape vines, and small trees. I think the last time I mowed it was about 5 years ago, when my Toro "Recycler" Personal Pace gas mower was still running, although it was giving me a lot of trouble where the carburetor would overflow and flood the engine. I also bought a used MTD "Yard Machine" 22" push mower for about $40. I think I used it for one season and then it was hard to start and kept stopping after a few minutes of use. So since my orthopedic surgeries starting in 2013 I gave up on the meadow and used electric tools for the area near the house.

    This video from 6 years ago shows the mowing of the meadow, with the help of my dear departed Muttley:

    And from about 7 years ago:

    Three years ago:


    My MTD "Yard Machine", with Briggs and Stratton engine:

    And my Toro Personal Pace self-propelled "Recycler" mower, with Tecumseh engine:
    Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
    USA Maryland 21030

  • #2
    In that condition, and if you have orthopedic problems, I'd seriously consider getting someone with a small dozer to come on a one off basis, and blade the lot clear, Burn the rubbish pile, then start again.
    'It may not always be the best policy to do what is best technically, but those responsible for policy can never form a right judgement without knowledge of what is right technically' - 'Dutch' Kindelberger


    • #3
      I started on the MTD Yard Machine. I removed the plastic top cover, the recoil rope starter mechanism, air cleaner, and gas tank with carburetor. I cleaned and painted the underside, and sharpened the blade on the grinder, followed by a coat of paint:

      The gas tank was pretty grungy, and the cheap plastic carb had seen better days.

      I bought a complete tank and carb assembly on eBay, and it arrived in just a couple days. It looked really good, but upon closer inspection, the tab stop for the throttle was partially broken. It was packed in a padded envelope, but not really well protected, and it had been jammed in my mailbox:

      I was able to fix it by drilling three small holes and then using steel wire to reinforce it, along with some "crazy glue".

      I had lost one of the small springs and throttle linkage for the carburetor, but I found them in the grass using a retrieval magnet. The link seemed to be bent the wrong way, so I fixed it, and mounted the springs. The small one that connects the vane to a fixed point is very loose, while the other one connects to an adjuster, but it doesn't seem to do very much. Tightening the springs forces the governor vane closer to the fan, which should open the throttle to full speed.

      There are no adjustments on this carburetor; no choke and no throttle control except the metal plate that slightly adjusts spring tension. I put fresh oil in the crankcase, a new oiled sponge air cleaner filter, and some gas that's probably a year old in the tank. I had pulled the plug, cleaned it with a wire brush, and checked for good spark. I pushed the primer bulb a few times and gave a few good tugs, with no attempt to start. Lather, rinse, repeat, and it seemed better. Third time was the charm, and it sputtered, rattled, and finally roared to life. It seemed too fast, and quite noisy, with a lot of vibration. But it ran strong and I was able to mow through some leaves and weeds and grass in the front yard.

      I suppose it's possible that the blade is out of balance, and there are other possibilities. I bought it used as a bottom level rough mower, and it may have been this way at that time, too. I have been used to using the electric trimmer and mower, which run very smooth, and I may just be not used to the gas machine. But it seems rougher than the chainsaw. I'll probably make a short video demonstrating how it is, and I expect the new carb for the Toro in the next couple of days. That was also a used machine, but it was almost new. There must have been an engine fire because the air cleaner cover and bracket was partly melted. I now have a new set, so hopefully it will be a good mower.
      Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
      USA Maryland 21030


      • #4
        I have a piece of undeveloped property that I have to do battle with twice a year to keep mother nature from reclaiming it. Over the growing season the weeds and saplings spring up and really start to reach for the sky. I don’t like having to mow it all the time so I just bushwack it twice a year. Once mid-season and once at the fall.

        I bought an old 1974 Gravely C-4 bushog mower for this purpose. I took it all apart and rebuilt/refurbished it. It's been working well for what I use it for. Although it is a manually operated machine and can be a bit tank-like to maneuver and deal with. Not sure it would work for you if you have mobility issues. Mine is also manual start, which again requires a decent level of bending over and "hability" to get it started. They do have electric start versions though.

        I used to have a Jari sickle bar mower. This worked ok for a brief period of time. But the flimsy stamped sheet metal wheels fell apart pretty quickly. It couldn’t stand up to the abuse that was involved in traversing all the rugged areas on my property. Right now I'm looking for a sickle bar mower attachment for my Gravely, which is definitely a much tougher unit than the light grade Jari mower was.

        But really, from what I can see in the current pic you show, what you have there looks pretty easily maintained. I assume you do not want to clear the trees in the backdrop? Just keep the area with the branches laying on the ground clear? With the stacked wood as the boundary between maintained and wild?

        If so, I would just gradually clear out all the branches on the ground (or pay someone to do that part if you're unable) and throw them in the woods. Then, if you have a running mower, either push mower or riding mower, make sure it runs perfectly, sharpen the blade(s) and then set the deck at its highest setting. Go through the brush as slowly as you need to at first. Then rake the clippings away into the woods and hit it again except with the deck a little lower and so on. If it's just that relatively small area shown, you'll have it under control rather quickly. After that, it's just a matter of keeping it mowed periodically as with any lawn.

        If you don’t want to have to mow it all the time, then look into getting a brush mower. There are several types commonly available on craigslist. The DR brush mower seems common and are often electric start. Don’t know if they're any good. I also see Troybuilt sicklebar mowers, which might work good for what you have there.

        I go to local farm auctions every year and you'll see old walk behind brush mowers of all variety for sale at good prices there. They usually require some kind of fix-em-up to work though. If you need something turn-key, probably best to buy something that is known to be running and in good shape.


        • #5


          • #6


            • #7
              I have a 1966 gravely set up the same way as the one in Machine's picture. It is a beast, and designed for what you need to do. I was clearing and hit a piece of 1/2" steel water pipe that had been driven vertically into the ground. Sliced it off and kept right on going.


              • #8
                I have a Troy Built sickle bar mower.
                It's the worst mower I have ever owned.
                The engine has always run well. I wish it would quit so I cold get rid of the damn thing.
                The handle bars are too low so you must bend over to run the machine. That hurts my back after a while. I am only 5' 10".
                The machine shakes like crazy and is very fatiguing. You can see it in that video.
                Troy Built no longer supports the machine with spare parts.
                If you hit a rock or log with the end of the sickle bar it breaks.
                I bought up a supply from a dealer who had dropped the line but am now on my last good bar.
                You MUST oil the bar every 5 minutes or so or it jams.
                If you see one of these for sale don't buy it.
                Last edited by Seastar; 04-17-2018, 09:56 AM.
                I cut it off twice and it's still too short!


                • #9
                  One of B&Ss crowning engineering feats, THE PLASTIC CARBURETOR, Bet that engineers Dad was proud.
                  "Let me recommend the best medicine in the
                  world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant
                  country, in easy stages."
                  ~ James Madison


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by flylo View Post
                    One of B&Ss crowning engineering feats, THE PLASTIC CARBURETOR, Bet that engineers Dad was proud.
                    They also make engines featuring full feedback EFI systems.
                    When you are trying to fulfill a market segment that expects a brand new gas powered mower for less than 120 bucks don't blame the manufacturer for meeting that price point expectation.
                    It's only what the customer wants, point the finger at the buyer instead. If you bought one and bitch about it look in the mirror first.
                    Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
                    Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​


                    • #11
                      I have a Agria two wheel sickle bar mower that is unstopable! It has a 5hp B&S motor that won't die. This mower would chop through what you have there without even blinking. It will cut whatever will fit in the teeth.

                      One good feature is the adjustable handle bars. You can offset them either side and raise and lower them. I can take the sickle bar off and mount other implements. I have a snow plow for it that works ok but not the best on snow but what it excels at is pulling the sand in from the outer edges of the riding arenas. Just set it at a slant and walk around the arena one time and all the sand that is pushed to the outside is pulled in and leveled.
                      Last edited by Black Forest; 04-17-2018, 01:19 PM.
                      How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by flylo View Post
                        One of B&Ss crowning engineering feats, THE PLASTIC CARBURETOR, Bet that engineers Dad was proud.
                        Oddly, they are not too bad... I had the same opinion as you at first.

                        Got a free mower from a friend of my wife's, did not run. Figured it was the carb. Naturally it was plastic.

                        I took it off, and found that it was really easy to disassemble, it snapped apart and I was able to clean ALL the gunk out of it rather easily. No Welch plugs to replace, everything was accessible, and all the jets got cleaned.

                        Started right up when reassembled. A metal carb would have taken a fair amount more time to clean, and I would have had to replace Welch plugs, etc.

                        Downsides and upsides to everything.

                        Keep eye on ball.
                        Hashim Khan


                        • #13
                          Thanks for the suggestions and product reviews. The main problem I have is getting a mower up the steep hill to the meadow. You can get an idea of how high and steep the property is from this shot taken about 2/3 the way to the top where the meadow and fenced area is:

                          There is also a rough dirt driveway that at one time provided access from the lower area and the road to the meadow. The following is taken from near the bottom, and is about a 20% slope:

                          Facing down toward the road, from about 3/4 to the top. The upper portion of the driveway is reasonably clear, but the bottom 1/4 or so is very steep (about 30%) and deeply rutted. The shortcut to the top involves negotiating a pathway around and through the downed cherry trees (recently somewhat cleared), about 200 feet with about 60 feet elevation. From the house to the base of the driveway is about 300 feet with an elevation loss of about 20 feet, and then about 300 feet up the driveway with elevation gain of about 80 feet.

                          I do have an old (1965?) Simplicity Broadmoor mower that I plan to convert to battery electric, and I was able to drive it up the driveway not long after I got it around 2004. I have removed the old engine. But I don't think a belly mower is practical for my needs. I now have sufficient mobility to use a push mower to do the meadow, especially if there were a better way to haul it up the slope.

                          When I lived in the Koinonia Community 1971-1973, I used their Gravely mower on the property. I also helped rebuild the engine. They also had a Ford 8N or 9N tractor with a flail mower.
                          Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                          USA Maryland 21030


                          • #14
                            My best lawn mower, never need to buy fuel, no pulling on the string, no noise for the neighbours to bitch about..

                            I bought another of these last week and it was in very sorry cosmetic state having sat in a yard for several years, it also came with another the same for 'spares'.

                            When I got them home I put a battery in it and it ran OK so I tried the battery in the 'spares' machine which also ran so I cut the lawn with it.

                            So now I have a choice of three of these battery mowers to trim the lawns, plus one more for 'spares' and another electric motor.

                            These mowers were last made in the 1960's so I thought it worth restoring one, just because.
                            Last edited by The Artful Bodger; 04-17-2018, 05:48 PM.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Artful Bodger View Post
                              So now I have a choice of three of these battery mowers to trim the lawns, plus one more for 'spares' and another electric motor.
                              Neat! Have you ever used one as a tool post grinder?