You might not have heard the old saying, “It might be time to save the oil and change the car,” but it might have been appropriate yesterday. It’s supposed to mean that whatever you are working on has about reached the end of it’s useful life. That is about the case for my small push mower that I use to cut the grass for our cottage at Fairport Harbor. I got it used about ten years ago from my buddy Lou who got it in a trade deal. It didn’t run and he said that if I could get it running I could have it for $20. I needed a mower so I told him I would try to fix it. I figured it was a gummed up carb and I took it apart and cleaned it up. Sure enough I got it to start without too much trouble. When I took a test mow though, it cut grass very poorly. I turned the mower over (after pulling the spark plug lead off – Safety First!) and sure enough they had put the blade on upside down! I remounted it correctly and then the mower cut great. I paid Lou his 20 bucks and took it up to the cottage and I have been using it ever since.
Unfortunately the tool shed where its kept is very damp. Every time I take it out to mow, it’s rustier and rustier. Last year the deck got a big crack in it where the rust had eaten it thin. I patched it with a steel plate and some screws, and used it the rest of the season. This year when I got it out it had two big rust holes in the front of the deck. I could have patched those too, but I know a loosing battle when I see one. The problem was, this mower has run better than any other one that I have had. There had to be a way to save it.
I came up with the idea of transferring the motor over to another deck. Being a good pack rat I have several old non-running mowers in the shed that have better decks on them. Most of these mowers have Briggs & Stratton engines on them and therefore it should be an easy (!) swap. First I had to get the good motor off the old mower. It should have been easy (everything SHOULD be!). First I had to take the blade off. Unfortunately the bolt holding the blade on was stuck fast. I tried penetrating oil and heat and all I managed to do was round off the head of the bolt. I tried pliers and a pipe wrench, but no dice, it was stuck good. I finally got the idea of using my angle grinder to grind the head down into one enormous flat that I could get a good grip on with a Crescent wrench. It worked pretty well and with a decent grip (and possibly the heat and vibration from the grinding) I got it loose.
All the motors were mounted with three bolts to the deck. These were tough to get out too. They were steel bolts going into an aluminum engine block. The dissimilar metals cause corrosion that locks them together pretty tight. Of the six I had to take out (three on the donor motor too) four came out OK, one got the grinder treatment and one broke off. Luckily the one that broke was in the engine that was no good anyway. After I had them all out I test fit the motor to the new deck and it looked good. I ran a tap through the tapped holes in the motor to clean out the threaded holes and ran to the hardware for some new high grade bolts.
I bolted everything up and then realized that something was horribly wrong. The motor mounting holes were asymmetrical, meaning that the motor would only go on one way. Unfortunately, the two mowers had been designed for the motors to face different ways. This meant that while the motor fit fine on the deck, the throttle and pull start cord were pointing to the front of the mower instead of back at the push handle where they needed to be. I was pretty disgusted. I should have checked that before I mounted everything up. I could just re-drill the deck in a different pattern to make it all right, but I was out of time for the day, so you’ll just have to wait for part two next week, here at the Old Hardware Store…