Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TIGHTWAD TUESDAY - Better than cheap lawnmower

Here on dave's farm, a lawnmower is not an absolute necessity, since I can simply cut the tall grass for the goats.  However, there are plenty of snakes, ticks and rodents that are much more likely to come close to the house if the grass is tall, making a lawnmower nice to have.  Every garden center and farm store in the known universe sells a variety of mowers at what is considered a reasonable price, so this should be no problem.  But it is a problem!!  The problems are very simple, the first being what is considered a reasonable price and the second being that I am such a tightwad.  But there is a solution, and remember, cheap is good, free is better.

The solution here is obviously a cheap lawnmower, or better yet, a free one.  It just so happened that I noticed last summer that there was a decent looking mower setting in the shop where I help out at times.  It was in the corner, behind a couple of old engine blocks and was completely covered in dust, yes, it looked like it had been there for awhile.  I asked if it would run and if it might be for sale.  Turns out that a customer had left it to be worked on almost two years earlier, but the price of the carburetor that was needed for it to run right was about $50 plus labor.  The customer had not confirmed the work but had not picked up the mower either.

Though the sign above the shop door leaves no doubt that anything left over 60 days becomes property of the shop, the owner said he would call the customer to see if he would sell it.  Calls were made but not answered over the next month or two, and the calls were not returned.  After a couple of months, the shop owner got frustrated and told me if I wanted to try and get it running, I could have it, but I had to work on it somewhere else as he was tired of thinking about it.

Within minutes, the mower was in the back of my old Chevy and on its way to a new home.  Later that evening, it fired up, though it did not run well and no gas seemed to get through the carburetor.  Next day, with the help of some carburetor cleaner, a can of gas treatment and a bit of work, it was running well enough to mow the lawn, or at least the part that was short enough to mow at that time.  It still didn't run right but I hadn't dropped a couple of hundred dollars either.  I used it for the rest of the summer, and parked it for the winter.

This spring, it fired up and ran well enough to mow once again, though still not good.  Halfway through the first mowing, it died.  No gas was getting to the engine.  Off came the carburetor and once in pieces on the tailgate of the truck, it was obvious that there was a problem with a small rubber piece inside (needle valve seat, to give it a name).  Not something I generally have laying around, but it did not take me long to break out the trusty exacto knife and make one from part of an old tire.  In a very short time, it was running quite well, not like new but close.

Don't get me wrong, it is not a new mower and not maintenance free (as evidenced by the fact that the starter rope broke later when I tried to start it again).  When you consider that a comparable mower sells new for just over $200, that even with the rope I only have about $10 in this one which will do the job, and that I am just too tight to turn loose of the new price for something that is nice to have but not necessary, it is a pretty good deal.

It is also worthy of note that with the price of used mowers in this area running in the $75 and under range and the price of parts and labor for even minor problems being pretty high, it could be worth checking the local shops from time to time.  If you have a little knowledge of small engine repair and a few tools, the repairs might not be so bad.  And you too could have a "cheap or better" lawnmower.


  1. Well, Dave I am impressed! Recycling is just a word to lots of people, they put their bottles and cans in the recycle bin and set it out for the garbage man once a week. Real recycling starts when you rethink how you can make something last. My Grandparents were masters of recycling, and they didn't even know the word then! Daddy was like you, he could fashion a part out of something else and make a mower last forever! Great post...

  2. Among the MANY things I love about you, I just love the way you are so thrifty and handy!

  3. Thanks Joy,glad you liked the post. My Grandfather was an absolute wonder at turning discarded items into something useful, and I learned a lot from him. Throughout my childhood, I also watched my Dad keep the farm equipment going by making hard to get parts from junk, such as shims and bushings from beer cans, etc. There is quite a bit of what folks call junk here on my place, but to me, it is only really junk when it can't be turned into something else useful. Recycling and re-purposing are so much a part of life that I wouldn't know how to function any other way.

    And, thank you Anna for loving me for who I am. Can't imagine myself any other way.


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