2022 Sad but necessary update
Planned obsolescence is a very real thing, and is a way for corporations to ensure future sales, while claiming to care about sustainability. In 2021, Briggs & Stratton totally phased
out their most popular, most dependable, easiest to maintain engine.
I regularly service mowers with these engines that are well over 20 years old and showing no signs of quitting. Briggs built their reputation around this engine (and engines like it) yet the engine that replaces their best engine ever, now advises the customer to "never change the oil" .
Of course, their promotional information sells this as a benefit "no more annoying service or messy oil changes" How true. Just replace your mower every 3- 4 years, after the engine wears
out, and don't ever deal with maintenance ever again.
What a disgusting message. Shame on you, Briggs & Stratton.
Lawnmower purchasing Guide.
The number one question I get asked is "What brand should I buy?"
I can literally talk about this for hours, so I will answer this in two parts try to keep it short.
1) Honda. With mowers now a lot more affordable than most people think. I have NEVER had a single Honda lawnmower owner tell me they regretted their purchase. NOTE: I would not consider purchasing their HRS 216PKC model. It's not bad, but it's not special, and you can deal hunt and find a better mower.
If for any reason, you don't want to purchase a Honda, read on, but be warned, it gets a little long winded. Also, if you are waiting for me to tell you where to purchase a $200 mower that will
last you 20 years, you're in the wrong place.
2) The fact is that all brands sell some junk these days. LawnBoy, Toro, Craftsman, WeedEater, Snapper, Husqvarna and so on, all make lawnmowers that I wouldn't pay $150.00 for. That being said, all of these brands have some great mowers at really good prices.
How do you make a safe purchase?
A) Start by looking at the engine. Get something with a Kohler or Honda engine. These companies don't make a bad lawnmower engine. Though the classic Briggs & Stratton engine is still my favourite, they are phasing it out. (UPDATE: Phased out as of 2021) The new E, EX and EXi Series engines have a lot of issues in the few short years they have been out. I personally like working on them. They are easy to work on, I like the interesting design, but that is not a selling point for the customer.
UPDATE: Many new Honda engines come with a "Thermowax" automatic choke system. Same great engine, but the choke system has issues on some of these engines that requires repair. Kohler is making a
lesser quality engine that uses a smaller air filter that has had some issues, but they seem to have updated the design again, as of 2019.
If you are making a purchase and have a question about an engine, feel free to send me an email and I will do my best to help you. TheGuysRepair@Gmail.ca
B) Stay away from gimmicks, If you don't need it, don't pay for it. You don't need all wheel drive on a lawnmower, you don't need electric start and you don't need anything that adds extra parts. Purchasing gimmicks WILL end up costing you trouble and money in the future. Example: A regular engine control cable. approximately $20. A dual cable for a automatic door release $65 and twice as likely to fail. A dual cable for all wheel drive $120, more likely to fail and harder to source.
If you follow the above advice you greatly increase your chances of getting a good mower. If you are unsure, and you are ready to make a purchase, feel free to send us an email and we will do our best to help you. You will need to include a link to a website or some way for us to identify what mower you are asking about.
WHAT ABOUT CORDLESS ?!
I have avoided this topic for many years, but I get asked about it on a daily basis, so here we go. Where should I begin.
It seems as though this is the way of the future, and despite it being a bad idea, when you look at the big picture. This idea has gained enough momentum, that it may be unstoppable, even after it becomes clear that it is unsustainable.
I will break this down into 3 parts as to why I believe the battery mower is a bad idea. 1. Power density 2. Durability 3. Planned obsolescence
1. Power Density. A typical gas lawnmower engine has about 6 horsepower. Converted to electricity that is 4474 watts. Watts = volts x amps. At 96 volts, 47 AMPS are required to provide 6 horsepower. For reference, that is about 3 times higher amps than your household outlets.
This is the reason that corded and battery mowers are lethargic, and why they cost so much, and why they offer so little value for the money. A 6 HP electric motor needs to be very
robust, able to handle 50 AMPS. The exact same thing is true about a battery pack that can supply this voltage and current. Your household outlet is capable of outputting 1800 watts maximum.
Equal to 2.4 horsepower. (120V 15AMPS)
The "solution" for an affordable product is to give you less power, less electric motor and less battery. The motors are still overworked, but more importantly, the battery packs are way too small, to help cut cost and reduce weight. This results in a battery that drains quickly and therefore needs to be charged quickly. Both the process of rapid discharge and rapid charging, cause the battery life to be shortened.
Keep in mind that your mower does more than cut grass. It also either baggs it up, or mulches it up. These two processes are often sacrificed trying to ensure there is enough power to actually cut the grass.
2. Durability. I work on gas mowers for a living, and see the abuse that they go through. I can tell you first hand, that most people will destroy an electric mower in just a few years. For most people, a gas mower is just barely durable enough, and only lasts because they get it serviced, as this is an established necessity.
If you want a real life example of what is expected of your gas mower, compared to a electric mower, have a look at any gas mower blade, and then look at any electric mower blade. Pay attention
to the size, thickness and design. Your gas mower blade will be larger, thicker and have much more design as it is expected to not only cut the grass, but also either mulch it up or cause enough
air flow to bag it.
Lawnmowers see very little love, get a heck a lot of abuse, have been refined over the past several decades. Looking at any electric mower, it is obvious they have taken many steps in the opposite direction, when it comes to durability. Your gas lawnmower will let you know when it's overdue for service, often by running rough or not starting at all. Your electric mower will just die. A decent 6 hp gas mower will last for 20-30+ years, with a little TLC. Where will your battery mower be in 10 years?
3. Planned obsolescence. This problem is NOT exclusive to battery mowers, it is ripping through our society like a wildfire, but it is especially prevalent in electric mowers when compared to gas mowers.
Now that we have lithium batteries and brushless motors, "updating" or "upgrading" a cordless mower is nonsense. They "update" their products so that 1. You can't get service parts,
batteries or chargers, and 2. So that when you come back in 2-3 years, you're probably not going to purchase the same machine that you had last time. There are very few manufacturers of
electric mowers, but they offer then with many different names, different colors and different gimmicks to make it look like you have lots of choice.
There are a few manufacturers who offer parts and service for their battery mowers. You will be able to recognize these manufacturers by the cost of their products. STIHL, Milwaukee and a few others sell battery mowers for $1300.00 and up. This is what should be expected if you want a electric mower that is intended to last. There is a LOT of cost involved in stocking parts, having service data and training staff.
Despite being able to get service parts and information, you will still have the issue of being underpowered, low battery life, battery deterioration and greatly reduced durability to even a
modestly priced gas mower.
Most companies make their money by selling you the least product possible, ensuring that you are back every few years to purchase another one.
Lawn Tractor Purchasing Guide.
The most common question I get about purchasing a new tractor is “What brand should I buy”
Sorry to say there’s no easy answer. There are many good brands, for both large yards and acreages, but you can NOT make a purchase based on brand alone. I will answer this in two parts and keep it as short as I can.
1) For most people there are plenty of good options from Chraftsman, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna, John Deere and Toro. The problem is that all of these brands are now selling some horrible products.
A) If you are going to purchase any tractor, these days, make sure that it has a Hydrostatic transmission. There are many manufacturers selling “Automatic Transmission” that are VERY prone to failure. Do not purchase any lawn tractor unless you are sure it has a Hydraulic “Hydrostatic” transmission.
B) These companies are all cheeping out with engines on their lower end models. You are safe with Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, Honda and Kawasaki. If it’s any other brand you are taking a big risk. Note: A few of these companies label engines as their own, so you may have to do some research to know what it really is. John Deer used to use a lot of Kawasaki and now use mostly Briggs, but they are usually labeled as “John Deere”.
2) Buy a bigger tractor than you need. You can cut an acre with a 19 ph tractor with a 38” cut, but it will take you a long time, put a lot of hours on your tractor and over work the tractor. In the end, this will lead to a lot shorter service intervals, costing you money, and mean you will have to replace your tractor or do major repairs every few years. Cut the same area with a 25hp 54” cut and you will be done quicker, have to service it less and, if you keep up on your services, it will last you 15-20 years.
A) A single cylinder 19 hp is alright for a half acre yard that is well maintained, but even with a 42” deck, a 19 hp engine is working hard. You’re going to need to cut frequently and keep those blades plenty sharp. For an acre or more, you really need a V Twin engine with 20 or more horse power.
B) If you are on a well groomed lot, you may get away with a small tractor with small wheels, but as soon as you get a few bumps, gopher holes or rough ground in general, you’re going to need something better. Big wheels and a cast iron front axel are a must. Large wheels also go a long way to making the ride smoother. This isn’t just pleasant for the user, but it’s much easier on the tractor and will ultimately lead to a longer life and a better quality cut.
A few extra considerations.
Zero turn tractors are becoming quite popular and there are several good ones out there. if you purchase a zero turn tractor, keep in mind that those small front wheels are vulnerable to holes and ruts. If you have rough property, you may want to stay clear of anything with small front casters.
There are also some higher end, more pricy options from companies like Ariens, Kubota and Gravely. From what I have seen, these tractors don't cheap out on
transmissions and engines, but I'm guessing it's just a matter of time. These brands can be harder to get parts and service for. This means that you usually pay a premium for any service work.
When you factor this into the over all cost of the unit, it sometimes makes more sense to purchase an other brand.