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The Giant Cluster That Is Warranty

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on July 20, 2017 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (5)

I encounter more and more shops that are refusing to do warranty work. To be a warranty center, you have to meet each manufacturers requirements, and this can be expensive to due. Many also have education requirements, and then warranty does not pay as well as non-warranty work. Then we come to knowing the rules, and that is today's story:

 

I had a customer that call Cub Cadet (MTD) who referred them to me for a riding owner that would not start. Customer service told the customer that it was still under warranty and that I could take care of it. He brought me the mower, the problem was that the valves had gotten too loose, which raised compression to the point that it would not turn over. So, I adjusted the valves and the problem was solved.

 

But now we get to the warranty part of this story. This mower was two and a half years old and MTD stated that it had a 3 year warranty. Engine warranty is handled separately, in this case it was a Kohler issue, but Kohler only has a two year warranty on the engine, so in the third year engine warranties are covered by MTD. No problem, that just means that I file the warranty with MTD instead of Kohler, except this was a valve adjustment. Kohler will cover valve adjustments as a warranty issue, but MTD will not saying that adjustments are part of maintenance and not warranty. So because the warranty has moved from Kohler to MTD, it is no longer covered.

 

Luckily this was a cheap repair, but I still had to explain this convoluted story of how warranty coverage does not work to the customer. This is also a shinning example why why more and more shops are refusing to to warranty work all together.

Blown Head

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on August 24, 2016 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)





There is a traditional style of blown head gasket where the gasket blows to the outside of the motor, these are the easiest to diagnose as you can usually see evidence of the blow out and it shows up on a leakdown test. But then there are internally blown head gaskets. These are extrememly common on Briggs & Stratton overhead valve engines.

I went to a Briggs update class this last year and we looked at engines that the factory had blown up and we had to tell them what had happened. One engine had been over heated. They had taped up the screen above the flywheel to make it overheat. The problem was that they kept blowing the head gasket before the engine would over heat. So after we were done making fun of them as they demonstated that a leaf on the intake screen is enough to make a Briggs blow a head gasket, they said that they over torqued the head and then got it to over heat. So, while they did not recommend this, I torque those Briggs heads just a little bit more then they call for.

Briggs heads like to blow right where I'm pointing with the screw driver in the picture. When it is blown here the engine will run but usually they will smoke badly under load. This opening changes the crankcase vacuum to crankcase pressure and oil then pumps out the breather up to the air filter or carburetor where it goes back in with the fuel and smokes. The big tell tale sign here is if there is oil in the breather hose at the air filter, there is a good chance of an internally blown head gasket.


Does oil weight really matter?

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 30, 2016 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

For the most part, if you keep oil in a motor and change it on occasion your going to be fine. I'm not a big believer in brands. Synthetic oil in general is better than regular oil, but you need to be careful as advertising laws have changed, many oils that are advertised as synthetic really are not.

But on the topic of oil weight, there is one time that it does make a big difference. The Kohler Command, one of my favorite engines, asks for 10W30 and there are big consequences for using the wrong oil, especially heavier weights. The Kohler Command uses hydraulic lifters, they are the same lifters that are used in a small block Chevy engine, but air cooled engines run a lot hotter that water cooled engines and when people use a straight 30 weight or 10W40 the oil foams up and locks the lifters up solid. Then sometimes the engine just runs poorly but I have seen them bend push rods and break rocker arm studs right out of the top of the head.

So this is the one instance that it is very important. I meet a lot of people that have a lot of opinions on oil. My opinion is simply use one of the recommended weights, change it when your supposed to and your not going to have any lubrication problems.

Kohler Engines

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 26, 2016 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Kohler has had a few different series of engines, they started with the K series, old cast iron blocks, these weighed a ton but ran forever. Later they went to the Magnum engines, which were their last generation of flat head engines. Then they went to the Command engines, which they are still making. These are some of my favorite engines, the are good running and durable. I have one that is almost 20 years old and still runs great.

Not too many years ago Kohler came out with the Courage engines. These were mostly vertical shaft engines that replaced the Command engines on residential riding mowers. This was a bit sad as the Command eninges were great motors, they are still making Command engines but now they only show up on commercial equipment. The Courage was brought in at a lower price point in order to compete with Briggs and the new imported Chinese engines that were showing up.

In the first few years of the Courage there were some problems, the biggest problem was that the sump cover bolts were not torqued properly at the factory. These engines have a kind of upside down design and the sump cover is on the top of the motor right under the flywheel. The under-torqued bolts would back off and be hit by the flywheel which would then crack the block and many times lead to the engine blowing apart in spectacular fashion. The cool thing about Kohler is that they stood behind their engines and the warrantied a lot of them, and they continued to warranty them even after the warranty period had expired. They sent me a new short block for an engine that had this happen three years after the warranty expired. They did not have any obligation to do so, but the stood behind their product and took care of their problems.

While I don't like the Courage near as much as the Command, they have seen to have worked out their major problems and I don't have many issues with them. If I compare the single cylinder Kohler Courage to the single cylinder Briggs Intek, I fix a lot more Intek motors than I do Courage motors. So five years ago I did not recommend them but today I am a lot happier with them and believe that they are probably one of the better of the cheaper motors.

Who made who?

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 25, 2016 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

A little while ago a guy brought me a Murray leaf blower, I looked at it and said “That looks like a Weedeater”. I flipped it over. Found the manufacturer sticker and said “Yep, made by Weedeater. The customer looked very unhappy and said that the last blower that he brought me was a Weedeater and I told him that it was cheap and wasn't worth fixing, so he went and bought a “different” brand, which was the exact same blower with different stickers.

There is lots of rebranding in this industry and I'll try to cover the biggest chunk of it. The two biggest manufacturers of lawn and garden product is MTD(Modern Tool & Die) and AYP (American Yard Products). MTD owns Troybilt, Yard Man, Yard Machines, Bolens, Cub Cadet to name a few. AYP owns Husqvarna, Poulan, and Weed Eater.

Now I said that MTD owns Troybilt but they only own the rights to tillers, mowers, and log splitters. Briggs and Stratton owns the Troybilt name for generators, chippers, and pressure washers. Briggs also owns Murray, but as I mentioned earlier Murray leaf blowers are made by AYP, and I just heard that Murray trimmers, which I have not seen yet, are being made by MTD.

Toro stopped making non-zero turn riding mowers a number of years back, and now all non-zero turn Toro mowers are just relabeled MTD mowers.

Ryobi is a confusing brand, they used to be MTD, but for the last number of years Ryobi's are made by Homelite.

McCulloch is a brand that got bounced around a lot, MTD had some part of them for a while and for the last number of year Husqvarna/AYP owned the rights to the name in Eurorean countries, but now owns the rights to them everywhere.

Craftsman has never made any equipment. If you look for the model number the first three numbers is a code for which manufacturer made it. MTD and AYP make the majority of Craftsman products.

This was a quick abbreviated version of what has gone on with branding. The real answer if you want to know who made something is to look for the manufacturer sticker, this will tell you who really made the machine

No more oil changes

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 23, 2016 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

A little while ago I went to a Briggs update class and they talked about their new “just check and add” engine. Now you never have to change your oil again. Before I get to what I think about this, I'll go over why they are doing it. Marketing did some surveys and the number three issue that the people they surveyed brought up was a concern when figuring out what king of mower to buy was whether or not they had to change oil. Corded electric mowers have been around for a long time and now battery powered mowers are starting to be more common, so there are options that do not require oil. So in the end marketing told engineering to make an engine that did not require oil changes.

 

Briggs has done a few things that make this possible, first they have changed their boring process. The normal “break in” oil change is just getting rid of any materials that the manufacturer has left behind in the manufacturing process, so now they have a cleaner boring method. They are also using a better oil filter to help keep more impurities out. So they have done a few thing but the real issue is that they still only warranty the engine for two years.

 

Any mower engine, under normal use is going to last for two year without changing the oil. In today's society this is going to be just fine, most people only expect 2 to 3 years out of a machine any more and rather than fix any problems they just throw it away and buy a new one anyways, so for most people this is going to be fine.

 

Now if you are the kind of person that takes care of your equipment and wants it to last then I would recommend changing the oil. Impurities and grit are always going to build up and if you don't want to wear the engine out prematurely then the oil needs to be changed.

 

So really this just seems like Briggs is just saying that people don't expect things to last so it really doesn't matter anyways, and remember they are still only warrantying it for 2 years. It's too bad, there are many Briggs engines from the 70's 80's and 90's that are still running but 20 years from now I don't know that you'll be able to make the same statement about so many 20 year old engines still being around and still running.

Troybilt part 2

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 3, 2016 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (1)

Yesterday I talked about Troybilt and how I didn't recommend their mowers or trimmers, but I didn't cover their tillers which they are known for the best.

 

Troybilt, while they now have cheaper models are still the best tillers for the money. The Horse model still uses the same basic design that it did 30 years ago and it is a very good machine. The only problem that I see with them is that people buy them as they have a big job and want to bust up a lot of sod, but after this is done then a smaller more manageable tiller would do better for them in the future. For these people renting a big tiller for the first time, then buying a smaller model is not a bad option. Rear tine tillers are much easier to work on then front tine tillers. Most of the cheaper front tine models are so time consuming to work on that if there is any problem with the gear case they are not worth fixing, but Troybilt's rear tine designs are not bad to work on, and can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

 

The biggest thing to watch for on a Troybilt tiller is the engine. MTD has been using a lot of Chinese import engines, and while I'll go over these in another post I don't recommend them. Make sure there is a brand of engine listed. Look for Honda, Briggs & Stratton, or Kohler, and avoid the imported motors.

 

While Troybilt has cheapened up most things (see last blog post) the tillers still hold up and are machines that should hold up over time.

Troybilt: The downfall of a good brand

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 2, 2016 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (2)

Troybilt was originally made by a company called Gardenway, the made tillers and after they acquired WW Grinder, they made chipper shredders. They built some very nice machines and their name became known. Years later MTD bought most of Troybilt, they did not buy the chipper shredder division as there were still pending lawsuits due to safety issues. Briggs & Stratton ending up with the chipper shredder portion of the company. Currently the Troybilt name shows up on a number of different products, Troybilt pressure washers and generators are made by Briggs & Stratton and everything else is made by MTD.

 

It is the MTD products that I am writing about. There is a full line of tillers, but there are also riding mowers, walk behind mowers, and trimmers. While some companies improve their products over the year MTD Troybilt has gotten cheaper and worse year after year. The Troybilt riding mower are cheaply built and flimsy, I've had lots of drive and belt problems with them. The walk behind mowers are a new modular design that I have had nothing but problems with, and worst of all is the trimmers.

 

Originally Troybilt trimmers used a newer version of the IDC Ryobi design and they were not the best machines, but they were not the worst either. Then came the 4 cycle motors on trimmers, again they were not great, but they were passable. It is hard to describe just how cheap the current models are. If you read the starting instructions on the air filter cover there is a 28 step process to start them. Good machines want to run, these you have to force to run and if you get 50 hours out of one your doing extremely well. I've seen tons that have less than 10 hours of run time and have serious problems, and they are just not worth fixing. I hate fixing them for people because I know that they will not last. The best that I can do is to put a machine back to how it was new, but I cannot fix bad engineering. These are built for price only. They have seen just how cheap that they can make something and still have it run. Twenty years ago I would have recommended Troybilt but now they are competing with Homelite to see how can built the worst cheapest machine. Troybilt is now a brand that I recommended that you stay away from.

I'm full time now

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on January 1, 2016 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (3)

Back in August I gave 6 months notice at my job. I've been wanting to make the leap to working for myself for a long time. I have tried to do it part time but could never take care of people like I needed to, or do enough in the time that I had. It never seems like your ready to make that jump so I set a 6 month deadline to force myself.

 

Currently I am still working for someone else two days a week. Luckily, I have that option, it is letting me ease out on my own a little slower. This lets me be open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. It also gives me more freedom over my schedule. My son is 16 years old and I feel like I have missed too much time with him, but now work won't interfere when there is a chance to do something with him, I can just close and go. Yes, there are limitations to how much I can do that but it should be easier then ever.

 

So this is the year that I am really pursuing my dream of working from home, and working for myself. I've made the leap so now I'll I have to do is make it work.

To skip or not to skip? That is the question.

Posted by mattsequipmentrepair@gmail.com on December 13, 2015 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Skip tooth chain seems to be a very misunderstood thing. When I worked at a saw shop that had a large professional customer base I was told to always hand over a skip tooth chain if that was an option, and that is what almost everyone demanded. Currently my number one selling chain is a 20” skip tooth chain, but I have to say that I really don't recommend it.

 

So first let's go over why skip tooth was made. After the second cutter goes though the wood a chip is made, that chip is pushed by the raker until it reaches the end of the bar. The problem is with larger bars over 30”, on these bars there is not enough space and that space becomes jammed and the cutters can no longer do their job effectively. So, according to Stihl, this is the reason that they started making skip tooth chains, it alleviated this problem on larger bars making the space between cutter and raker larger.

 

The common misconception is that skip tooth chains cut faster, they do not, they cut slower. The formula is chain speed x number of teeth equals cutting speed. Skip tooth throws bigger chips so sometimes it looks like it cuts faster. In competitions where they have V8 and Harley powered saws they add extra teeth to make it cut faster. If you are using a bar that is too big for your saw then a skip tooth does reduce drag, allow you to keep chain speed up, and cut faster, but if you have a bar that is appropriate to your saw then it decreases efficiency.

 

Skip chain is available in 3/8 but not 3/8 low profile. In .325 Stihl discontinued skip. Oregon has discontinued it in .325 .063 gauge but still make it in .050 gauge. Carlton is the only brand that I am aware of the currently makes .325 .063 in skip but you don't see .325 chain used on bars bigger than 20” so there really isn't a good reason to have it.

 

I'm sure that I'll continue to sell smaller skip tooth chains as that is what most people ask for, but I thought that I would clarify what it is really made for.


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