Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lawnmower Man

So, in preparation for my birthday party this past weekend I got to have a fun little freak out moment adventure definitely out of my usual comfort zone. Due to various busyness/laziness I had skipped mowing the lawn the weekend before so it was looking rough. One night during the week I decided I best get on it and pulled my old lawnmower out. It was a freebie from an uncle who was upgrading but it runs great and he even gave me a new blade since the one he had on it was pretty worn out. Either way, when I went to start it up the starter cord snapped. All I could think was that I was glad I hadn't waited until the last minute since now I had some time to do something about it.

I headed over to Home Depot and picked up a new starter cord for $4. To be honest I'm still kind of surprised they're so cheap. I had to ask an employee where they were because they were on a back end cap, like two aisles away from the lawnmowers.

I started by unhooking the spark plug and removing this plastic cover from the top. It was attached with two screws.

Once I had the cover off it provided a handy-dandy place to keep all of the bolts and screws.

Then I undid the bolts holding the gas tank in place. Once undone it sort of folded down out of the way. The fuel line had to be detached for it to fold completely over (you can see it just above the guard for the discharge shoot) but once it was on its side none of the gas could spill out.

Once that was off I could remove the bolts holding the starter assembly. Here's what it looks like with it off:

One thing I noticed was that when I pulled this part off it took with it the whole pipe (for lack of the technical term) that holds the oil dipstick. It was basically just seated in there with rubber washers and it just popped right out.

Flip over the starter assembly and it looks like this:

Once I had this piece off I wasn't sure how to actually switch out the cord so I just unscrewed the screw in the middle and pulled it out, which was a terrible idea. I heard a *sproing* and this happened:


It wasn't the end of the world though. I just wound it back into the spring housing and screwed it back in place. I did have to make sure that the little bent end of the spring caught on a little tab when I set it in but either through sheer dumb luck or because it wasn't that hard I got it on the first try.

Now that everything was disconnected I pulled the new cord out. It said to measure how long it needed to be, add 6 inches for knotting and then cut the excess off but it was already the right size so, yay! It came with a new handle but frankly it looked downright uncomfortable next to the one I already had.

New < Old

The old one was harder to attach than the new one but it really wasn't so bad. I just kind of jammed the cord in as far as it would go and then ended up having to get a pair of tweezers to reach into the handle and pull it through. After knotting the cord that part was done.

Now back to figuring out how to get this thing attached. I realized that if I held the rotating piece in the middle in the right place I should be able to run the cord from the outside right straight through to the other side.

On the directions that came with the new pull cord it said something vague like, "Wind in a counter-clockwise motion until tight. Then unwind one turn." Well, I wound and I wound and it never seemed to get tight. It got tight-er, but how was I to know what was tight enough? So I took a guess, ran the cord through and knotted it.

The package suggested using heat to seal the knot. I didn't have a lighter around so I grabbed a pack of matches and tried using those. Fortunately it was breezy and kept blowing out the matches (I'll explain why that was fortunate in a second) so after about eight of them I gave up.

Nothing but the best Brazilian steakhouse matches for my lawnmower!

Even though I had already tried sealing the knot something told me not to bother putting everything back together or bolting anything on too tight so I loosely bolted the assembly back in place and draped the cord into the little pull-starter rest and stood back.

Yeah, that's definitely too much cord. So I took the assembly back off, untied the knot (thank goodness I couldn't seal it with those matches am I right?), wound it about three or four more times (the slack in the line seemed to be equal to about three or four turns) and put the cord back through. Of course, getting it to go back through was about ten times harder than the first time but I finally got it to go through. Once that was done I rechecked the cord length, threaded it through the top "grate thing", and bolted everything back on.

Ta-Da! Good as new and it started right up.

This was definitely one of those projects that intimidated me a little at the get-go but I didn't have the time or the money to take it somewhere and get it fixed and it ended up being easier than I had anticipated by a long shot.

I apologize to anyone who actually knows a thing or two about lawnmower repair for all of the horrible mislabeling of parts I've probably done and for using terms like "grate thing".

So, have you been pushed out of your comfort zone lately? Did it go smoothly or did you come out with a hilarious story you can pass on to all your friends and family for years to come?


  1. I really admire this about you, Joseph. Your willingness to give something a try and learn as you do it. I'm so hesitant to do things I don't already know how to do. But when Mark is in Arkansas and I have to do something like learn how to fix the washer and then I actually DO it -- I tell everyone I know for weeks! And killing that copperhead made for a good story, I gotta say. No comfort zone there!

    1. If I were you, that copperhead story would be my opening small talk: "Nice to meet you. So, this one time I decapitated a copperhead..."

    2. It had been under Joseph's car, so I like to spin it as saving my son-in-law's life!