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Brought Back 2 Mowers From The Dead

6 years ago
last modified: 6 years ago

The first one is a Homelite-Jacobsen 20" bagger with 3.5HP B&S and aluminum deck. Just a wonderful little mower I bought in 1989 when I had a town house with small yard. After 1994 when I had a larger yard I loaned it to my SIL and her husband who just about ruined it. That was the first 'resurrection'. I then loaned it to my oldest brother for a few years, picking it up once a year and going over it. I just picked it up from him for the last time the other day as he is not going to do yard work anymore - pushing 83 and lives with his son who hires a yard man.

So I fixed it up again - oil change, new wheels, new blade (had to customize one since the originals haven't been available for years) and once again it looks great and still seems to run as good as ever. This time I'm lending it to that same SIL again (her husband passed years ago and she has now bought a house) but this time she and her two girls will get a lecture on how to use and care for a mower. One thing that always happens is when I get one back, its set as low as it will go and the blade is so used up it usually has split on both ends. Why do people set them to eat dirt? It destroys what little grass you have and makes mowing a terrible chore with all that dust. Not to mention what it does to the mower.

Strangely, while I was picking that one up at my brother's house, I got a call that my stepson wanted me to look at his mower. Another long story, but he's rebuilding after a divorce and just closed on a house but didn't have a mower. He had given it to a friend about 10 years ago when he got a hand-me-down Honda mower from the home of his wife's Granny who had passed. Turns out his friend didn't use the mower but just kept it for him and had just dropped it off. This is a 2004 Murray 22" with B&S Quantum. I wasn't too sure I could bring this one back but damn if I didn't. I worked on it all day and its working pretty well right now. I still have to replace the starter cord and I ordered a discharge chute for it but basically there is no engine problem, the deck is sound and I replaced the wheels with the pretty good ones that came off the Homelite this time. The center is a little worn but they're the right size and a lot tighter than the worn-out originals.

Oil: I have used everything in my time, mostly SAE30HD on the flatheads and 10W-30 on the OHV/OHCs, including regular oil, syn blend and full synthetic, but since I started using Castrol Edge 10W-30 full synthetic in my Honda-engine and Tecumseh-engine mowers, I now use it on all. In fact, they even have a 'high-mileage' version of the Edge synthetic that I am putting in the really old ones and it has been great in everything without exception.

Anyway, I have been working on those two old mowers for four days now and am pretty much done. I wouldn't have done it except the folks need help, and to tell the truth I kind of get a kick out of bringing them back. But in both cases, I'm thinking its the last go-round for both of them. Definitely the Murray is not worth spending another dime on and the Homelite, while interesting and cute, is no longer a practical mower. It also had an 'event' while I was testing it after all the work. I had cut several rows in my front yard with it and was having a good time, when suddenly a terrific squeal came from it and the engine was pulled down in RPM. I cut it off, thinking that was it, but the engine wasn't seized. I eventually figured out that the problem was in the engine brake but I haven't taken the shroud off to see what happened. I mean, it figures something had to go after nearly 30 years. I don't care if the brake is worn out but if its going to do that again I'll have to fix it. I ran it for 20 minutes after that and it was fine. If I let off the control bail slowly until the ignition cuts the engine off and let it stop, there's no noise. If just drop the bail which activates the brake, there is a slight whine as it stops - you actually would not notice it if you weren't listening to it. I guess something came off the brake band and got stuck at the magneto, dropping off when the engine stopped.

Has anybody else ever had a mower long enough to wear out the engine brake? :)

I forgot to mention, do you believe that neither mower has any oil at all around the crankshaft? The Homelite seal is original, and that seems almost impossible - but its true.

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