8 Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Lawn Mower Running

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The only time a carburator needs replacing is if you put some really corrosive cleaner in it that ate through the metal (usually aluminum), or if you have physically broken it.

Otherwise, carbs can be rebuilt - rebuild kits (that contain basically all the non-metallic parts, the primer bulb (usually) and carb gaskets) typically run $10-25. A tuneup (carb rebuild and new spark plug) with parts typically runs about $60-80 ($100-150 for rider mowers), although a lot of repair shops have $45-60 spring specials. Probably needs a sharpening too - another $10-15 or so when done as part of a tune-up.

By hiring someone to do it, I presume you mean taking it to a small engine repair shop with a good word of mouth reputation, and being sure to get a dropoff receipt and estimate in writing that you carry away with you.

If it runs at all, or ran last fall, this is probably all you need.

Compare this to the cost of a new mower - for a rider mower, no comparison of course - go with the carb cleaning and rebuild. However, for a standard 20-22 inch push power mower, replacement cost is about $140-250, depending on whether you go with a Walmart special or brand name, additional $100 or so if self-propelled or bagging type.

For a 10 year old push type power mower, if it sits outside all winter or is pretty rusty, since you are not mechanically inclined I would recommend getting a new mower - something like a Sears or Murray Ohio (at Target, WalMart, etc) plain-jane mower for about $150-180 unless you have steep hills or medical issues, then get the self-propelled model. A 20 inch or even 18 inch will do fine for a small lawn; if you have several lawns or a pretty big lawn area (over say 2500 SF) then you probably want a 22 inch - the extra path width makes quite a difference in how long it takes to mow.

If it sleeps in a shed or garage and is not rusting out, I would recommend a new one if the plain jane will do it for you, otherwise if the replacement one that you would buy is over about $250 I would go with the carb overhaul and tuneup.

I would STRONGLY recommend you get a 4 cycle engine - I swear by Briggs and Stratton rather than Tecumseh or other brands. 4 cycles start much easier and are less sensitive to fuel/air mix issues, and the plugs stay clean a lot longer. 2 cycles are lighter for the same horsepower which is why you see them a lot in outboard motors that are less than about 50-80 HP and in small generators and motorcycles, but they are a lot more tempermental about starting, especially in cold weather or after a long storage.

If you pay attention to proper winter storage procedure, rebuilding the carb on the old one should last you another 5+ years. I have a Murray Ohio with 4 cycle Briggs and Stratton engine that is 33 years old, lives in an unheated shed in a northern state, and has had nothing more than annual blade sharpening, oil change every few years, and one carb overhaul and plug cleaning (and ZERO new spark plugs) in its life, and starts by second pull every spring. The key is if you store it inside in a garage to run it dry each fall (so you do not have gas in the garage, for safety reasons in case it leaks out); if you leave it outside I fill the tank to the top so moisture cannot acccumulate from moist air "breathing" in and out of the tank due to temperature changes. I do this with mower, chain saw, leaf blower, weed wacker - all start on first or second pull in the spring (and throughout the summer). If you live in an area with a lot of moisture in the winter air (ours is very dry) you might have to add Heet or Sta-Bil to the fuel can (per instructions) before topping off tank.

You will find other people who say you HAVE to run it dry each season. Their theory is that if there is no gas in it then there is no gas to collect moisture or to evaporate and turn to varnish over the winter (though that generally takes a few years of sitting to happen). My theory is if it is filled with fuel it cannot dry out and leave varnish residue to block the fuel tube screen and fuel jets, plus it does not rust metal fuel tanks by being empty. To each their own procedure.


No personal experience on rider mowers but some with small rider tractors, but since you have gotten no response in 5 days, here is my 2 cents worth:


1) read the Consumer Reports and JD Powers reviews on rider mowers


2) from what neighbors have told me, TroyBilt are maintenance problem and not built very rugged, Sears tend to have transmission/drive train problems, those with John Deere say they were unhappy with the price but they run well and don't have extreme maintenance costs - so sounds to me like JD is best brand out there right now.


3) A recommendation also from personal small engine experience and neighbors - stay with Briggs and Stratton 4 cycle engines if possible, and stay away from 2 cycle engines - they are lighter and cheaper, but have a LOT more starting problems and tend to not last as long.

With you not saying what this is on - could be portable device or very small rider mower - check oill level - some fancier ones on air compressors and pressure washers and rider mowers have oil monitor that shuts it off if oil pressure does not build up. Failed governor spring (rare - would be one of my last guesses) can do this, but when I had it happen the engine ran up to speed and died in only a second or two - not 8 seconds. Governor linkage usually an external metal rod with springs connecting to the carb - try watching it during the 8 seconds to see if it is yanking the throttle/choke setting back causing it to shut down. Also check to be sure not blocked by twig or leaves or such. I would check the plug after it dies - if wet then you are pretty sure you are getting fuel, if dry then maybe it is only getting fuel from manual priming or automatic choke, but then the choke is cutting out and starving the engine for fuel. IF your model has accessible automatic choke linkage (or if choke plate is accessible if you remove air cleaner), try using a long tool (not fingers, in case of backfire through carb) to adjust choke angle to see if that will make it keep running - if you can see it after taking off air cleaner, it should be staying full on for probably 20-40 seconds before it opens up wide open if temperature contr4olled type, but the engine-speed type open up as soon as engine comes up to speed. Another possibility - check air cleaner to be sure not plugged with dirt - wash (and with many models oil) per owners manual instructions. Another common problem - starts on priming or choke, but when on regular fuel flow leans out and dies due to air leak in fuel line letting air in with fuel, or dirty screen in tank not letting enough fuel in to keep it running. Also, crudded up holes in the tank cap can cause vapor lock by not letting air in to tank to replace fuel consumed - remove and take out inner liner and check holes in liner and metal cap are open so you can see daylight through them. Another possibility - look for debris, etc keeping throttle from opening up - could be idle screw jiggled loose and is set too low. Try screwing it in a half turn or so to see if keeps running - because might be starting on choke but then when choke starts opening up the idle setting is too low so throttle is not open enough to keep it running. If consistently runs 8 seconds and dies, try turning the main needle valve 1/4 turn one way, then if tht does not work back the 1/4 turn plus 1/4 turn the other way (keep track of turns so you know where initial setting is) - if one or other makes better than adjust in that range for smooth running and no flooding or leaning out when you open throttle up.
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