Ethanol in gasoline can cause many serious problems to the small engines used on lawn mowers.
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Before you buy, examine your options and learn how much a new reel, electric, push, self-propelled or riding lawn mower will cost you.
Whether it's sharpening blades or getting a professional tuneup, follow these maintenance tips to help your mower run longer.
Keep your push mower, riding mower, reel mower, weed trimmer or edger maintained and clean with these tips.
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.
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Since it would not start BEFORE you took it in for service, hard to blame them - even if rainfall did get in it, because they would assume when you delivered it that it was in "normal" condition, whjich presumably meant vaent closed. By "vent" on top of the gas tank I am not sure what you mean - a "vent" should not let a lot of water in, but if you mean the filler cap then certainly you would get about as much water depth in the tank as the number of inches of rain you had while it was sitting out.
Another possibility - vent was open during your fall washing down, and wash water got into the tank, which then ended up in the gas can for the winter, then back to the mower in the spring.
Other possibility - your gas can picked up a lot of water over the winter, particuylarly if metal and stored in a location where it could warm up during the day (evaporates gas) then as it cools overnight forms a partial vacuum so it pulls in moist air, which then condenses in the can and settles to the bottom. If using normal pour spout, the first thing out of the can in the spring would be the water (would be first into spout as you pour out), so water from the can might have gone into the mower at first filling.
Another possibility which is amazingly common - little Johnny decides to fuel the mower for you and poured water or bug juice or such in there.
BTW - most fuel stabilizers do NOT trap water - fuel stabilizer put a very thin layear on top of the liquid to retart evaporation, so your gaoline does not turn to diesel or sludge. To trap water and keep it from settling out you need alcohol - like Heet. Also, when draining tank, you should drain the first part into a clear containear (mayonnaise jar or such) then after it has settled a few seconds pour back to the can, leaving the water in the bottom of the jar to be disposed of.
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