18 April 2013

[liff] Small Victories At Home Base Involving The Duo of Briggs and Stratton

2924.Mundane life gives us its bounty of treasure and travail.

Now, typically, our style of landscaping and yard work is what I and The Wife™ tend to call "casual" and what our neighbors call "don't look, dear God, don't look!".

I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But one thing we do do is mow the lawn. It's the dark side of the American dream; sure, you get to own your house and punch as many holes in the walls as you want to, but when you need the landlord, hey, fellah, you're it, and I've never been very nice to my landlord. But that's another story, one which shall never be told, not if I have anything to do with it.

Anyway. The Lawn. It's lawn mowing season as anyone with a lawn will well be aware. In Oregon, that portends travail; you tend to get it done between rainshowers. Lawns are mowed in an almost lyrical staccato throughout Way Out East Portland, but they get done, except when they don't. Which was the state around our house for a couple extra weeks. Because carburetor.

Our lawn mower, a 4.5 hp hulking beastie, lives in a state of benign neglect. We've had it for over a decade and only recently have I added any motor oil to it. And we use gasoline from last season until it's gone; I have recently found that gasoline is perishable (still burns and does the 'splodey thing, which seems unfair somehow, like a mail-order product that the part that counts breaks on the third use but the rest of it stays around for years), mostly by putting that gas into the tank and trying to get started … and about three seconds after, it dies.

Now, the lawn mower engine is a startlingly simple thing, you learn when start actually studying one. One cylinder. Two strokes. One absurdly simple carburetor. On ours, it's on the left hand side of the engine (as you face front), underneath that little rubber nipple you used to stimulate prime the carburetor (dammit, but sex sells). There's a little thing that looks like a tiny reserve tank that hangs down from there. And there, as it turns out, was where our problem was.

There is a little nut (not one of our cats) which is at the bottom of this little tank-thingy, and it's creatively crafted so it has venturi jets all built in. Things can get clogged there and that's one thing that can bollix it up; old gas is another. When we were diagnosing the thing, we found this video on the Internettubes, that shows that a complete overhaul of this sort of carburetor is something that just about anyone can do, even if your most proficient technical skill is writing your own name down. Check this out (It's about 14 minutes, an education in itself):

The most complicated thing is replacing the gaskets, I swear.

Now, my The Wife™ has surprised me in many ways over the years. She's always been more adept at mechanical stuff than I have; she can fix the car, where as I can fix it – for good. And in High School, she said, she had taken a small engines repair class where, apparently, she'd gotten more than one engine running. But still, we faced a task ahead of us as we fact-found and info-gathered; we found that a full tune-up at a nearby mower shop was going to be over $100, because they're not going to do just the one thing; ethical, but expensive. We considered buying the parts to do our own overhaul: my spouse was certainly not intimidated by this prospect. In the meantime we set to finding possibilities for the loan of someone else's mower, a research that was met with no clear success.

Last night, in a burst of 'let's get on with it already'-ness, The Wife™, who was on something of a tear that day, took the mower out to perform an experiment; remove the nozzle bolt, clean it out (a bit of wire was all that was needed), reinstall and see if that would do the trick. I was there for moral support (not technical support, as was mentioned before). She sat there for about a half-hour or so while rain threatened and gasoline dribbled out the now-open hole in the bottom of the carburetor.

Re-install the nozzle. Give it a try? Sure, why not. Crank the engine, it starts …

… and it keeps going. It's about 8:00 PM on a night where sprinkles are now happening, but don't worry about the rain. I was, after all, born in Oregon. What you hear about us Oregonians is true in the 'little bit of rain' regard.

With The Wife™ dancing about, proud of her OGness when it comes to small-engine repair, which is absolutest truth. I couldn't have got this done.

And so it was, on a damp night in April, 2013, that my spouse did the smart bit, and I did the brawny-guy bit, and the front lawn is finally mowed.

Dang, but that grass was high, so.

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