NotTaR of small Gasoline Engines and Rotary Lawn Mowers : Comments on buying used mowers          
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Comments on buying used mowers

Caution: Mowers older than about 20 years or so will not have the safety features of modern ones (dead-man bar for engine kill and/or blade-brake clutch). Therefore, it may make sense to avoid really old mowers without these safety features even if they are in perfect condition.

Garage and yard sales, tag sales, flea markets, and auctions, are also excellent sources for tools. Very high quality tools often show up at reasonable prices but there is a lot of junk out there so know what you want and how to distinguish an easily salvageable tool from one that is a pile of congealed rust.

(From: Mark Manville (manville@vega15.cs.wisc.edu).)

What I did when we bought our first house was to just go around to garage sales and look for an inexpensive used mower. I figured I would need to cut the lawn for a while before I was really sure of what I needed anyway. Besides, after the down payment, closing costs, and other expenses, there was not much free cash to speak of. Such a mower could perhaps take you through the first year or so, until you have more experience, time, and cash. You may even get lucky like I think we did and get one that you can stick with for a while. We got a 22" Sears self propelled that works pretty well - it's old, but at $30 I count it as a bargain, even if breaks down after one year."

(From: Erik Beljan (lvpy67c@ix.netcom.com).)

I would like to comment on buying used lawn mowers. Do not trust what you are buying. You never know what the quality of the engine is and there is no way to guarantee it. I found a Roper Rally 22 inch lawn mower last fall, and had an interesting ordeal which shows what you might be getting. I took it home only to find the engine was seized (found by attempting to pull the starter cord). I took the sparkplug out and put a mixture of Duralube All Purpose Spray, Marvel Mystery Oil and Liquid Wrench into the cylinder. I put the spark plug in and let it sit a few minutes. I took the plug out and yanked the blade from the underneath. It snapped free. I then cranked it about 10 times, to clear the cylinder (if fouled the old plug that was in the mower) I cleaned the plug off with some carb and choke cleaner, sprayed some into the cylinder and carb. I proceeded to start it again. It kicked to life with a huge cloud of smoke. It blew smoke everywhere for about 5 minutes. I shut it off and parked it under a tree overnight so I could take a closer look the next day.

The next day I took a better look at it only to find that the top of the flywheel was full of poplar tree cotton, which I removed. I looked at the oil which was a dark thick black color. I poured a large dose of Marvel Mystery Oil into the oil and started the mower. I ran it for a few minutes (it burned considerable oil), shut it off and changed the oil. I dumped the old oil out and filled it with a 50 50 blend of SAE 30 oil and Nu Lube oil stabilizer (a thickish oil treatment like STP thins out more though). I filled the gas tank and put about 4 oz of Marvel Mystery Oil in the gas. I started it and ran it for 10 minutes. No smoke, sounds like new. I am using it now this spring with the only modification of a new spark plug and air filter. The thing runs fine, but it is likely that the engine is in terrible shape internally (I am not bothering to take it apart, but can it can be seen by the excessive oil burning if I don't put some Nu Lube in the oil).

If I sold it to you today without telling you what I did to it, you would never know, there are no outward signs of what it was like. The Nu Lube seals the clearances nicely, stops the oil from burning, keeps the spark plug from oil fouling, keeps the oil looking clean and quiets the engine quite a bit. If I were the purchasing party I would not want to receive this engine if I would have known its condition. This story goes to show that for minimal work you can make an engine run in so it seems to be in decent shape, even though it might not be.

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