Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fix what's Broken Instead of Going Broke

I'm the long term happy owner of a Husquavarna riding mower with a Briggs and Stratton V-Tec Twin 24 HP motor.  It's a great lawn tractor about one step up from a 48" rider with a 54" 3 blade deck.  At an initial cost of $2300 and several acres of grass to mow, this mower has paid for itself over the last 6 years.

Last year, the frame cracked in two identical places on the left and right side at a weak spot in the stamped frame.  It looks sort of suspiciously like planned obsolescence, but my neighbor can weld, so we're good to go there.  Replacing the frame, aside from the time and expense to tear down the whole machine, would have been cost prohibitive.  Thankfully I had access to someone with a MIG welder, though a stick welder may have gotten the job done.  At present, I'm happy to not need to incur that cost.

Unfortunately, that's not the only problem I have encountered.  With about 280 hours on the engine, the heads suffered some temperature related failure last year where by the brass valve guides slid out of place while the engine was over temp (no temperature gauge is available on this model but I might try to install one), and seized up in the incorrect position while cold causing mechanical failure of the push rods in one cylinder on the next startup.

Bent Rods - Despite what the TV tells you, there is no pill for this.

Brass and Aluminium have different deformation temperatures

This happened on the number 2 cylinder last year in the spring.  After ordering a replacement head assembly and push rods and installing, it ran great until my neighbor tried putting the wrong fuel in it when he borrowed it.  It was an honest fatigue based mistake, but it resulted in an identical failure to manifest itself in cylinder 1.

Through some misfortune, I did not order the push rods with the No. 1 replacement head this year.  I thought the parts were included with the assembly but last time the issue was diagnosed by a technician so perhaps he added the parts to my order for me.  As it stands at present, the new head is installed with new gaskets all around and as soon as the new rods arrive, I'll be able to install and adjust them.

The new head with push rods and shipping comes out to about $100.  A new engine runs about $900.  Repairing rather than replacing in this case is definitely keeping me from breaking the bank, and learning to do this repair didn't take too long reviewing some online videos of similar repairs being conducted.

In a way, perhaps the way it's supposed to be, a tiny bit of adversity has provided the opportunity for me to increase my skills and confidence repairing what is broken.  I'm encouraged to look more carefully in the future at broken gear before deciding to replace it with a new item.