A few years ago I came home from high school to a new project. A riding mower that was from a few doors down that had been marked as free. It was in rough condition and was covered with dirt and spider webs and had rats nests in it. I took on the project and immediately learned that it wouldn’t start and set about cleaning it first.

Next came trying to start it. Engines need air, fuel, compression and spark in order to work. The engine had compression. I bought and installed a new air filter, spark plug, battery and added fuel. It still refused to start.

I did my research and realized it was probably a problem with the carburetor or the fuel system because I ran a test and did have spark. I installed new fuel lines and bought a carburetor rebuild kit and cleaned and rebuilt the carb. It had a lot of varnish in the carb and the gaskets in it were shot. This was also my first experience with a carb and I was learning a lot.


After rebuilding it with knowledge I learned from the internet I installed the newly rebuilt carb and it still refused to start. I then started learning about carb tuning. I got it to start and got it tuned as well as I could but it would die out after a few minutes. Then if you waited a few minutes it would run for another few minutes. This really puzzled me because it was getting fuel from the line. In my mind there was no reason for the mower to stop running. Then one day my buddy Dan suggested that there could be something in the bottom of the tank, I had cleaned it out before but thought it was probably a good idea. So I removed the tank and the line and shoved a paperclip into the fuel tank nipple and something shot out of it. Something had been partially clogging it. So I reinstalled everything and it ran great and would keep running. The fuel line wasn’t replacing the fuel as fast as it had been burning. It had been running on what was in the carb and then stopping after all of the fuel in the carb burned up.

So now I had a running and driving mower but the blades weren’t working. After looking into them I realized the belt was broken for the mower deck and purchased a replacement and installed it and I had running blades and it would cut ok. Next I learned how to sharpen the blades and then sharpened the ones on the mower. Now it worked great. I had done it, I had taken a lawn mower from non running scrap condition to a functioning lawn mower. I felt very proud of myself to breathing life into a machine and it was a great confidence boost for me.


We than ran it for a full season of lawn mowing. It was great and got the job done. I got through part of the next season with only a new fuel line but then we moved and it started having problems again. It hadn’t been touched throughout the entire winter early spring of 2016 and wasn’t starting. So I started by working on the carburetor and got it to run but it wasn’t running as well so I took the carb apart and cleaned it and went to run it again and after getting it started it was idling rough and surging in the higher rpms. I found a broken governor linkage spring and ordered it to solve the surging problem. While waiting for the spring to show up I was trying to tune the carb on the low end and the teeth of the starter ground off.

This turned out to be the final straw. I had been instructed to get rid of the mower as my family purchased a brand new one and I had been looking to sell it for a hopefully $300. Now it wasn’t running great and needed a new starter and hopefully I could get it to run well again. The starter ended up costing $100 and the mower is 29 years old so I decided to pull the plug. I would try to sell it as it to a local mower repair shop but struck out there as well. No one was interested in purchasing it. So the scrap yard would be it’s final resting place.

Since it was going to the scrapyard anyway I wanted a prize, specifically the piston. So I disassembled the mower and engine to get to it. This meant removing the deck, hood, pulleys and engine.

After a lot of work I had my prize.

I’m disappointed that I had to get rid of it because I had formed an attachment to the old mower but didn’t have a choice in the matter. I live with my Dad and his fiancé right now while commuting to school and they said it had to go. I can’t afford to move out and even if I could I can’t bring a mower to an apartment. It was a fantastic learning experience though. There is something special and wonderful about taking a dead machine and bringing it back to life. The sense of pride and accomplishment is something I don’t feel often but did get to experience with this mower. It was my first flathead engine and my first experience with a carburetor. I learned about engine tuning, carburetors, troubleshooting and a lot about tractors and am glad for it. It was my first big project and I think it’s a fantastic way to start because it’s simple enough to not be overwhelming but also big and complex enough to really learn a lot on. Much more manageable than a car restoration. I’ll miss it but will use the skills I learned for the rest of my life.

For this story and others like it you can check out my blog Momentumkr.blogspot.com. Thanks for Reading!