By Joe Rector

I like mowing the yard. Sitting on a riding lawnmower or pushing a mower or trimming with a weed eater is when I do some of my best thinking. I’ve solved some of my own problems and come up with answers to world dilemmas while cutting blades of grass. The only hold up for me is that my luck with small engine equipment is nil. Most of the time, at least one of my machines is idle due to some malfunction.

As most folks now know, I am void of any knowledge of engines. On some occasions, I’ve tinkered with that little screw adjustment on the carburetor. Most often, my attempts to play Mr. Fix It end in the engine not running at all. Any sputtering that might have occurred is replaced with silence; the darn thing won’t start.

I own two mowers. The first is a twenty-year-old John Deere riding mower. For years it cut my mother’s grass, as well as mine. That equated to about two and one-half acres. Now the mower is used only at my house, but since I bought a piece of land that my mother had sold neighbors years ago, I still mow a bit more than two acres. This old mower is used to cut grass and weeds in wooded areas on either side of my house. In the fall, I grind up piles of leaves from the small forest. It’s dusty work, so frequent oil changes and air filter replacements are needed. Those simple things I can perform.

This summer, the belt tension rod broke. Actually, the thing wore away from constant rubbing on other metal and from years of vibrations that come with driving over root-filled, uneven ground. I purchased a new rod assembly which consisted of a metal rod and spring; the cost was $95 plus tax. Sticker shock hit, but to fix the mower, the part was necessary. After getting the thing on the mowing deck, I couldn’t put the belt back on. I even printed out a diagram of how it should go on, but only when my good friend Joe Dooley came by did I see how the thing weaved itself around the pulleys.

I reattached the deck to the mower and put the drive belt back in place. It seemed too loose, so I called Bill Pate to ask if some adjustment should be made. He stopped by on his way home from the doctor, took one look, and informed me that the clutch was shot. Another trip to the parts store ended with pouring out another $200+. Of course, I was at the mercy of Bill to come by and remove the old one and install the new one.

My other mower is a zero-turn John Deere. I use it on the yard around my house. Sometimes I am forced to use it on the rest of the yard when the old mower is broken. Right after the warranty expired, the mowing deck cracked. I was informed that the cause was my washing it off while it was hot. HUH? I’m not handy, but neither am I an idiot. However, the store from which I bought the machine would not stand behind the thing. (No, I won’t buy anything else from that dealer located on my side of town.)

Lately, the engine has been burning oil. I have to add the stuff every time I mow. This mower has approximately 275 hours of use on it, and it has been serviced as recommended. New mowers cost about $4000, so my only recourse is to run the one I have until it blows up. Then a new engine can be put on the thing…by someone else to whom I will pay a labor bill.

Blowers, weed eaters, pressure washers, and hedge trimmers all sit on shelves until I can afford to have them repaired. My inability to fix those machines is costing me a small fortune. This is another instance where I only wish I’d have taken a small engine class years ago; if only I knew then what I know now. As it is, my equipment sits idle and my yard looks awful until spare cash is found.