Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My Electric Start Quit Working ! What's Wrong?

The most common problem with an electric starter that won't work is not an electrical one but is usually a problem with the plastic starter gear on the engine. The starter motor is on the back of the Briggs & Stratton engine near the left side of the lawnmower's bumper. It is slightly larger than a Coke can and the top of it is covered with a cover held on with two small screws. If you are sure you have a good battery and a good electrical connection and you suspect a problem with the starter motor.... take the cover off so you can look at the top of the starter. It has a nylon "barber pole" that the gear runs up and down. When you turn the key it is supposed to fly up the pole and mesh with the gear on your flywheel to spin the engine until it starts. Does your gear still have teeth on it? If not... you need a new gear. They are cheap and there is a right and wrong way to put them one so ask your service center which way is "up". If you install a new one upside down it will break in half. Is the gear just stuck? Clean out the dirt and lubricate it and the pole a little. Is the pole wobbly? Buy a new pole with a new gear in a little kit for about $20.00. None of the above........... take it to a service center and get it tested. A new one is around $110. but nobody wants you to have to buy one unless you really need it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Where Is The Air Filter?

There is an air filter on every engine and it needs cleaning more than once a year. .. sometimes more than twice a year. Its the easiest part of engine up-keep there is ! Look for the filter to be attached to the carburetor. There are usually screw(s) holding the cover on. Newer Briggs engines on riding mowers even have fancy little hinges that flip up to let the filter come out. Walk mower engines usually have a screw.

Take the cover off the filter and get the filter out. This is a good time to clean out the inside of the case. Take care not to knock dirt down into the carburetor. If the filter is made of paper the only cleaning you are able to do is to tap it and knock a little dust out of it. It might not look obviously dirty but if you can't hold it up to sunlight and see light through it ...... it is time for a replacement. They really aren't very expensive. Consider buying two or three when you get one so you'll have a spare for the next time.

Your filter may be a foam block or a foam wrap over a paper cartridge. The foam should be washed in hot, soapy water and dried well. After dry apply a little motor oil to it (clean, fresh oil). Saturate it enough to make your fingers slightly greasy. Then reinstall the cartridge. Make sure you get it back in the channel in the case that is supposed to sit into. Some engines have a method of holding the filter down and in position in addition to the cover scews. Kohler engines may even use a piece of rubber hose pushed down on the threads to hold it in place. NO FILTER MAY BE FLOPPY !!!

If you keep your oil and air filter maintained properly your SNAPPER mower will be with you a very long time. Non-maintenance of these items results in

  • Carburetor Problems
  • Excessive Oil Use
  • Early Deaths of Good Engines

Thursday, June 09, 2005

How Do I Change The Oil?

A little home mantainence goes a long way with your Snapper. Knowing when and how to change the oil and air filter is MANDITORY ! Reading your owners manual should be too but here it is in the blogger nutshell....

If you buy a new mower you should change the oil sooner than normal the first time.... after about 5 hours of use. After that change it when ....

  • It is cloudy or darkened enough that the little hatch marks are not easily seen on the dipstick. This may be sooner than your owner's manual says to do it. If it never gets cloudy or darkened change it when the manual says to anyhow... It is a set amount of hours usually around 20. And if your mower is rarely used... change it at least one time a season. I have to change mine 2 times in a season and most mower owners should.

Use a good quality oil. Your owners manual gets technical with the SE, SC, etc codes on the oil bottles but the rule of thumb in small, air cooled engines like the Snapper riders and walk mowers goes like this........

  • BRIGGS & STRATTON Engines use 30WT oil - 10W-30 is acceptable in cold conditions.
  • KAWASAKI Engines use 30T oil - 10W-30 is aceptable just like it is for Briggs.
  • KOHLER Engines use either 30WT or 10W-30 depending on whether you have a newer style Kohler "Command", "Courage", or "Magnum" engine. Consult your manual.

Be carefull not overfill the engine with oil. If you fill it past the "F" of "FULL" you should drain a little before you start it. An overfilled, "out of level" engine will smoke like a freight train and scare the fire out of you! Riders usually take between one and two quarts of oil while walk mowers hold less than one quart.

Please use a good of quality of oil. Cheap oil isn't so cheap when your engine is worn out!

Changing the oil requires that you remove a drain plug or release a valve so that the old oil can run out.... or you can buy a Briggs & Stratton siphon "pump". They are worth their weight in gold !

Walk mowers have a drain plug under the mowing deck base. It may be square or have a a hex head sank into it. It will be near the center of the engine underneath.

Riding mower engines sometimes have a small square plug near the end of the dipstick housing. Newer models may have a "quick release" valve. It screws into the engine near the bottom of the dipstick. All you must do to operate one of these is to twist it and let the oil run through a tube.

Dispose of the old oil properly, will ya?

Friday, May 27, 2005

How To Put A Belt On A Rear Engine Rider

Don't take the engine off ! You don't have to. These instructions apply to REAR ENGINE RIDERS - single blade, single idler pulley, single belt models. By the way.... they're GREAT !

Put the belt on the engine end first. Start by:

  1. Shutting off the air vent in the gas cap.
  2. Make sure the mower is in park and then get a helper to help you lift the front end until you can sit the mower up on it's rear end. Dust will probably fly.
  3. The belt goes around the big silver platter that attaches to the engine and runs out to the mowing deck. The problem is to get it around the platter without removing the engine. Put one side of the belt behind the platter into the pulley groove behind it.
  4. Notice that there is a hole in the center of the silver platter. This hole is what seperates forward from reverse in your drive. If the disc is one one side of the hole your mower goes forward, the other, reverse. That hole is just big enough to stuff that other belt strand into, sort of behind the rubber clutch wheel that runs against the silver platter. Stuff it in there good. Now get your fingers out of the way and get a helper to push in the clutch and shift the mower to 5th gear. The clutch is gonna move and carry the belt with it across the disc to the other side and off the edge. Eureka! You are halfway through.
  5. Get the helper to help you set the mower back on the ground and go ahead and open the gas vent now, before you forget about it. Lower the deck to the lowest position and take the bolts out of the plastic spindle cover. Your cover might be metal if your mower is extremely old. If it is plastic you can just pick up on it and twist it to the side. You don't even have to take it off.
  6. Find the belt coming from the rear end and make sure it is still in the pulley groove above the silver platter.
  7. Loosen the nut and bolt that hold the small idler pulley enough so that the pulley is wobbly. You don't have to take it off. This will let you get the belt strand between the small idler pulley and the L-shaped belt guard while you get it around the big spindle pulley. Make sure you position the L-shaped guard the right way. It has a little "nib" on it to make it lock into place on the ider arm below it. Hold the guard while you tighten the nut to keep it in the right place.
  8. Check the adjustment of the belt WITHOUT THE ENGINE RUNNING. With the mower in the #5 cutting height position.... measure the distance between the strands of the belt right behind the idler pulley (with the belt engaged). This will be on the "rear end" side of the pulley of course. There should be 1" between the strands. If the strands touch - the belt is too loose. If it is too loose the mower won't cut well and it might not even pull good anymore. (A loose clutch cable is unavoidable if the belt is loose. Loose clutch cables cause clutch and pulling problems) To tighten the belt you lengthen the mower. The place you do it is under the seat where the "front end" meets the "rear end". Older models have a clamp around the round tube. Newer ones had a bolt or a pin and hairpin with spacers. Some spacers are metal washers, some are black plastic things about the size of a doorknob hanger. Do whatever you have to do to achieve the right adjustment. Everything will work better and your lawn will look better.
  9. Put it all back together! See, its not so hard ! Don't forget to check that gas cap vent.

Stop Pushing Your Self Propelled Snapper !!!!!

If you have trouble with the pulling system on a Snapper self propelled mower it is probably an easy fix for most shade tree mechanics. Set the mower where you can see the system good. Then look for these things.......

  • There are three springs involved with a self propelled Snapper. One lays down on the deck near the silver platter that the rubber tire runs on. It hooks on one end of the idler arm that the platter is mounted above. The other end hooks through the hole in the red handle bracket on the right side. There's a little access hole where you can reach with your needle nose pliers to hook it up. This one causes the lower belt (the one that goes around the pulley under the silver platter) to have constant tension. The next spring holds the rubber wheel down to the deck. This is the one most people loose and don't realize it. Sometimes the mower will still pull... on flat ground only when this one is gone. The last spring is the one that is at the bottom of the rod that moves when you hold the self propell handle down. It is partially covered by a vinyl cover to keep the weather off it a little. This spring is really "two springs in one". It has a smaller spring screwed up into the bottom of the upper larger spring. This provides you some adjustment to keep the belt tight when you hold the handle down. To adjust it... unhook the rod from it and twist it to the right. It should get shorter. The proper adjustment is when it is "a little" hard to hook the rod back by hand. You shouldn't be stretching the spring.
  • The rubber wheel must not be worn out. Don't let it get to the "metal on metal" state. It will beat up your silver platter. A scarred up one of those eats the little replacable rubber tires up at twice the normal rate. If yours is beat up already there is a "fix" for the damage it inflicts on the silver platter. You can either buy a new platter, called the drive disc, or a cover for it to give you a smooth surface again.
  • The rubber wheel's center bearing must not be worn out. This is probably the most common problem. If yours has a "snap ring" and some little screws at the bearing you will be able to replace the bearing. Older mowers had a non-replacable bearing and there are no snap rings or screws. When that one wears out you must buy the whole driven disc assembly. If your center bearing wears out you sometime have troubles with that hex shaft that runs through the center of it. It is supposed to be hexed all the way to the end where it is threaded.
  • The bearing at the right handle must be tight. This one wears out about half as often as the rubber wheel's center bearing. The end of the hex shaft mentioned above sticks through this bearing and a nut goes on the end of it. It also has a little cover with a rubber o-ring to cushion the bearing. To replace this one you only need to take the nut off the end of the hex shaft and then remove the two screws that hold on the cover.
  • The silver platter must not wobble. If it does the bearing is probably worn out. They are hard to replace unless you have "air drive" tools. Hard, but not impossible. Heres how to do it. The problem is that it tries to turn while you try to unscrew the nut. Well, if you will scrape away a little debris from the stem you will see a screwdriver slot cut in the end of the stem. You can put one there and hold the disc "still" so you can unscrew the nut. Its hard to hold so you might want a helper or a pipe wrench to hold the screwdriver, etc. Once you get it off look at the idler arm under it too. If the hole is egg shaped it would be a good time to replace it too.
  • The belts must be intact. Notice I said intact. If everything else is "right" your mower will pull fine with even a worn, stretched out belt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Top 10 Reasons A Rear Engine Rider Won't Pull

  1. The Clutch Disc Needs Adjusting Or Replacing. This is the rubber coated wheel in the center near the ground when you look at the mower with it standing on its end. It runs at a 90 degree angle to a big silver platter that is attached to the engine crankshaft. That's what makes a Snapper mower have motion. If the rubber wheel doesn't make good contact with the silver platter the pulling ceases. If the rubber is torn off or missing ... Well, you know it needs replacing. You should also try to figure out what tore off the rubber. Is it smoothly worn? That's a sign of a natural death... Is it gouged out with hunks of rubber missing? That's a sign of a loose clutch cable adjustment. A"floppy" clutch pedal will confirm this problem and it is the most common problem. If the clutch is "pushed in " and the cable is loose it will not pivot the yoke enough to allow travel of the clutch across the parking brake rod (part of the yoke) and rubber can be torn away. There are two kinds of clutches available. Newer style clutches called "smooth start" have been used since about 1983 and they have a spring adjustment that allows you to make the tension greater on the clutch wheel. This would be done by stretching the spring out longer and hooking it in another hole. If you run a newer styled clutch that is slipping until the inner lining is glazed and shiny though you might as well replace it. It'll never pull right again until you do. Make sure you buy the right one. The difference is the lining on the inside. Older ones that were not "smooth start" didn't have it and those mowers could jerk a knot in your neck and climb a tree. Buy a new little cardboard ring thing too. It'll buy you some time on replacing the center hub.
  2. The Center Hub Of The Clutch Wheel May Need To Be Replaced if the "keyway" is broken out or if the outer flange ring wears off.
  3. The Yoke Could Be Worn Out causing there to not be enough tension on the clutch to cause good motion in the gears that are most frequently used. The yoke is the red bracket underneath the rear axle near the ground. It pivots when you push in the clutch and the "tail -fin" of the rubber clutch wheel's center gearbox runs through a channel cut into it.
  4. The Yoke Spring Broke. This is the spring that you can hook into different holes to achieve tighter yoke tension on the clutch. It causes the clutch to be tight against the silver platter.
  5. The Axle Bolt Broke. This is what holds the wheel hub to the axle. There's one on each back wheel and you can't see it them without removing the wheel. You can however cut a hole in your hubcap and get someone to look and see if your axle turns inside the wheel hub when you put it in first gear or... You can take your wheel off and look. Warning... wheel hub "lug" bolts tend to loosen up by themselves after being removed once... use some locktite or paint on the threads when you put them back in. They'll stay put!
  6. Something Is Really Wrong Inside The Transmission. This is usually preceded by a grinding noise or poping sound and isn't the end of the world in a Snapper. Most can be repaired and really done right for around $150 - $200. in parts. It isn't too hard for an amateur to do either. A FREE guide of how to rebuild one is available at the Snapper web site which is www.snapper.com It is under "publications". Feel free to post questions about this and I will try to answer them. I will make a future posting on how to rebuild a rider transmission.

UH-Oh. I only thought of six reasons. Well, maybe I'll think of more later...........

My Rider Runs A Few Minutes And Quits

Things That Make Riders Run A Few Minutes And Quit

  1. The Gas Cap Vent Is Closed
  2. The Fuel Filter Is Partially Obstructed
  3. The Fuel Pump On The Engine Is Not Working Properly
  4. The Ignition Module Inside The Engine Is Not Operating Properly

Notice most of these things concern the fuel system. Don't go yanking the coil off first thing. Look for the easy stuff first.

The Need To Grease A Rear Engine Rider

The answer to this one is..... don't do it too much and don't use the wrong kind of grease. Here's the rule. Check the grease level first. Close the gas cap vent and stand the rider on it's rear end. Pull the lower black plastic plug out of the gear box (on the left as you are looking at it now) and make sure the grease is to the level of this hole. If it isn't..... pull the top plug and fill it with Snapper grease from the top hole until the level reaches the bottom hole. Leave the center case alone. Use Snapper grease, not an imposter or "gear lube". Snapper grease is 140 weight which is thick. If "90 weight" gear lube is used it will run out of the transmission cases and cause the clutch to slip. Overfilling with grease, even the right kind will also cause the clutch to slip. Don't forget to open your gas cap vent.