The Sorrows and Further Sorrows of Small Engine Repair

So, I have this relatively new lawn tractor that I drove over a big damn rock and knocked off half of the blade.  Since it was vibrating awfully, I sent it to the professionals to fix and they said they’d be keeping it for the better part of the month.  So, I figured I’d fall back on Plan B, my old 20” Murray push mower.

I used it for about a half hour and it sounded like it was running out of gas so I headed back to the shed for more gas.  But when I looked in the tank there was still plenty of gas.  So, I topped it off and pulled the cord.  Nothing.

So, I’m stumped.  This was the first use of the year and I’m trying to guess if maybe the gas had some water in it.  But I’m thinking, “It ran for a half hour.”

But a simple mind likes a simple story so I go twenty minutes each way to the gas station and buy some dry gas.  I put it in the tank and try to start it.  Nothing.

Okay, not the gas.  But maybe the old gas over the winter has clogged the carburetor.  So, I started taking it apart and then I realize I don’t know what I’m doing.  Plus, maybe it’s better to just buy a replacement.  So, I do what any red-blooded American man would do.  I check for a YouTube video on my carburetor.  And what do you know there are several.  So, I watch them and become an expert.  I take the thing apart and clean out the jet and disassemble the hinge on the float and clean the plug.  I reassemble the carburetor and reattach the fuel line and the linkage and close it up and it actually coughed into life and then stalled out again.  But it wouldn’t start after that.

So, I took off the top and checked the action on the rotor.  It moved smoothly.  Next on the agenda was the spark plug.  But I didn’t have a spark plug wrench so I headed to friendly neighborhood hardware store and an hour later I was pulling the plug and sure enough it was covered with carbon and corroded.  So off to AutoZone and an hour later I have a new plug and install it.  Nothing.

Now I’m starting to get annoyed.  This has been a very aggravating process for which I have made exactly zero progress.  Plan C buy a new push mower.  But I notice that these formerly cheap machines now go for two hundred and fifty bucks and that seems ridiculous since I have one in front of me.  Plan D is buying a reel mower and remove the yearly ritual of winterizing the mower and worrying about the vicissitudes of small engine repair.  But overnight I decide that maybe I didn’t do everything I could have done with the carburetor.

So, the next day I take the stupid thing apart again and clean it till it looks brand new.  And then after I reassembled, I tried it again.  Nothing.

So I did a little experiment.  I checked to see if the spark plug was wet with gas after trying to start.  It was dry.  Now I was stumped.  With the carburetor clean it should at least get gasoline to the spark plug.  Now I was sure I must have put the carburetor together wrong.  I was ready to give up.  Plan D sounded about right.  A hundred bucks would get me a reel mower that would last for twenty years and give some exercise too.  But just for luck I decided to try starting it one more time.

So, I primed it three times, put my hand on the stop bar and pulled the cord.  Nothing.

But then by accident I looked down the stop cable and notice that the cable looked screwy.  It had a couple of strands of the cable sticking out and the plastic cable cover was bent at the linkage at a funny angle.  So, I played with the bar and realized that plastic cover was cracked and caught against the frame and the wire strands were also interfering with the mechanism.

I fiddled with it to free the cover from the end connection and bent the loose wires out of the way.  Then I primed the gas, held down the bar and pulled the starter cord.  And it started up with a roar.  I got my wire cutters and cut those strands away and got my black electrical tape and made a temporary repair to the cable cover and started it up a half dozen times and the repair held and worked.

There was great joy among the peasants and a holiday was declared.  Meanwhile I ordered the cable from my local dealer and it should arrive in about a week and a half.

Now you may be asking what the moral of this story is.  Well, the only one I can think of is that if you really need something fixed stick to a professional mechanic.  But I will say that when I finally did get the damned thing fixed, I felt like Wiley Coyote, Super Genius.  And I’m already thinking about what my next project should be.  I’ve put in an order with ACME and between giant magnets, rockets, giant magnifying glasses and roller skates I think I’ll be able to achieve cold fusion by the Fourth of July.  Hail the conquering hero.