Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sold My Project Lawnmower

I was driving home from the hardware store a couple of weekends ago and saw a lawnmower with a "Free" sign on it in a yard. The mower looked like heck, but it had oil in it and compression so I loaded it in my pickup. It was a fun project to clean it up, paint it and get it running. I learned about Briggs and Stratton Pulsa Prime carburetors. This YouTube video from Mower Medic 1 shows what the carburetor looks like and how to take it apart and fix it. This PDF file is helpful too.

I used Dawn dishwashing soap and then Pinesol to clean out the carb, and the gas tank. Dawn and hot water to clean the foam air cleaner. I blew air on them out of a shop vac and let them sit in the sun to dry. I used a little screwdriver, some W/D 40 and then carb cleaner to clean out the metal fuel reservoir on the top of the gas tank because it had some hard to get to dirt/varnish that was stuck on pretty good. I used a fine piece of wire and then blew through them to make sure the jet and fuel pickup tube were clean. I took the carb off a couple of times and fiddled with it before it ran right.

I disassembled various pieces of the mower so I could wire brush the rust and flaking paint off and get it ready to paint. I let the wheels soak for awhile in hot water and Tide before using a scrub brush to get the gunk off of them. It took me awhile but it was a nice day and I wasn't in any big hurry anyway.

I posted this Craigslist ad on Friday night -


Bolens Lawn Mower 22 in 4 1/2 hp - $40 (North Everett)

Date: 2012-04-13, 7:17PM PDT
Reply to: your anonymous craigslist address will appear here

I've done the following to get this mower running and ready to go cut some grass -

Cleaned air filter, carburetor, gas tank, and spark plug.
Sharpened and balanced blade.
Changed oil.
Removed rust, gunk and flaking paint and applied a couple of fresh coats of Rustoleum paint.

I got this mower for free because it wasn't running and looked pretty rough. It looks pretty good now and runs fine. I think I have about 8 hours into it so I was thinking 5 dollars an hour for my time would be reasonable.


Got my first call in about 1/2 hour from someone who was apparently in a bar or some place with lots of background noise. She was talking to her hub/significant other and apparently some other people on a speaker phone while talking to me. The conversation went something like this -

"Hi This is Jack."
"Hey I'm calling about the lawnmower (sound of yelling, music?, loud thumps, breaking glass in background)"
"Oh good."
"Would you be willing to take less than 40 for it?"
"I don't think so the ad has only been up 1/2 an hour and you're the first person who's called."
"My husband likes to drive we'll come up from Olympia (about 90 miles away) tonight."
"That's a pretty long drive."
"You sure you won't take less than 40?"
"I'm sure."
"I'll talk to my husband."

5 minutes later...

"Hi This is Jack."
"My husband likes to drive."
"That's good."
"Yelling in background could only make out some of the words - if you don't mow that lawn tomorrow it's not going to get mowed...where is your house?"
"I live in North Everett near Providence Hospital."
"Is Everett North of Marysville?"
"No but it's about 90 miles from Olympia so with traffic it's going to take you a couple of hours to get here. It's about 8 pm now. How about if you come on Saturday?"
"My husband works on Saturday."
"We're going to stop at Nordstrom and someplace (unintelligible) on the way to Everett - is that okay?"
"No that's not okay - thanks anyway though." Thinking to myself - It's Friday night I'm not going to hang around (stay awake) waiting for you to finish shopping at Nordies and then haggle over a 40 dollar lawnmower.

5 minutes later...

"Hi this is Jack."
"I saw your ad for the mower. Do you still have it?"
"I live in Seattle and would like to buy it."
"My name is ___ and I can come Saturday."
"Sounds good - my address is _____ ."
"Okay what's a good time - early morning, mid morning, afternoon?"
"How about 9 am?"
"That works for me - do you want me to call before I come?"
"No." (Thinking - you sound sane and there isn't a lot of yelling in the background)

Guy showed up right at 9 am, started up the mower, he gave me two twenties and I helped him load it into his truck. Done deal.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pressure Washer Repair

I have a 2300 psi Craftsman pressure washer powered by a 6 hp Briggs and Stratton vertical crankshaft engine that has worked great for about 10 years. A couple of weeks ago it started to lose pressure while using it so I took the bottom of the pump off and inspected it, cleaned the water screens and changed the pump oil. I didn't totally disassemble the pump - those things have a lot of springs, o'rings, guides and washers inside of them so I did the simple stuff first. If you are going to disassemble the pump you should remove it from the frame and have it on a work bench or else you'll have a lot of little pieces to search for.

To make a long story short the pump disintegrated and then seized up.

The part that failed is called the wobble plate.  Here's an animation of a wobble plate pump. The rotating disk is also called a swashplate. It converts the rotation of the engine into a reciprocating force to drive the pump pistons. This video shows how a wobble plate (swashplate) is made -

I looked at parts to repair the pump and they were pretty expensive. The wobble plate and needle bearings had come apart and pieces were in the pump I wasn't totally sure how long it would last even if I did replace the plate.

I ordered this replacement pump from Amazon -

Briggs and Stratton 207365GS Pump Kit for Pressure Washers

One tip would have made taking off the old pump a lot easier - you may need a bearing/gear puller. Autozone will let you borrow one if you leave a deposit which is refunded when you bring it back.

The new pump slides on the crankshaft once you get it lined up just right. There's a woodruff  key in a keyway on the crankshaft that has to line up with the keyway on the pump. The pump is mounted to the pressure washer frame with 3 bolts.

The time consuming part for me was figuring out how the old pump housing was mounted to the engine. I removed the 3 bolts but it wouldn't budge. I disassembled as much of the pump as possible to try and see how it was attached and finally figured out it was a typical keyway shaft affair. After 10 years or so the crankshaft and pump were pretty well mated together due to corrosion. I tried PB Blaster penetrating oil but I didn't want to hammer on it and damage the engine bearings. Using the bearing/gear puller it took about 5 minutes.

That new pump cost me less than 1/2 the price of a new pressure washer so I'm pretty happy. It has more pressure than the old one ever did.

A few tips for keeping a pressure washer operating - don't let them run without water ever (the pump gets hot fast without water), if you aren't spraying turn it off - they have an unloader valve that should open when it reaches a certain temperature and allow water to flow out of the pump but it's still getting hot and that valve may not work, and use a hose that doesn't leak and has adequate water supply - if you let the pump cavitate (suck air) it will beat itself apart.