Saturday, April 26, 2014

I fought the lawn and the lawn won.

Over the winter when the green stuff is dead and the weather keeps me indoors, I've got a whole lot of time to be online.  Not when it's spring, though. It's a jungle out there.  The new straws that I put in the mason bee condo now have residents (well, about half of them do) and the malingerers have hatched, and I need to replace those old straws.

I'm just glad that kudzu doesn't grow around here.


Since posting the above, I went waltzing with Mathilda (what I call the mower) and hit a dust mound, sending clouds of dust all over god's li'l green half-acre.  This means that the intake air filter is clogged as all get-out, too, and I'll have to clean it again.

I've already prepped Mathilda with the usual oil change, spark plug maintenance and cleaning of air filter, but the plethora of burrowing animals 'round these parts means a plethora of dirt mounds, too, and there ya have it, friends & neighbors: a lot of air cleaner maintenance.  I think I'll take my camera with me and post a mower maintenance mini-tutorial for everybody else who's cussin' and fussin' with it right about this time of year.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'm gonna post about me getting lucky tonight...

Yup, friends & neighbors, that's a regulation 4-leaf clover.
 Hey, I'm already lucky, having found a guy who'll put up with me for more than 5 minutes.  This clover isn't the first one I found this month, either...

The one I found today placed next to the one I found a few days ago, pressed.  Today's clover is going to get the same treatment.

Hey ladies, I picked up a good one on Facebook today. Enjoy--

Sunday UPDATE:

Oil is typically SAE 30 detergent (avoid non-detergent) and doesn't have to be Briggs & Stratton brand oil, either. But if you insist on that route, look for 4-cycle oil and avoid 2-cycle oil. 2-cycle oil is for gas-powered weed eaters, trimmers, and hedge clippers. A minor small-engine tutorial is required to explain what the difference is beyond the fact that 2-cycle oil is added to gasoline because the engine lacks a crankcase...and 4-cycle oil is added directly to the crankcase.
Consult your manual for the proper spark plug for your engine. Briggs & Stratton isn't the only small engine manufacturer out there. Tecumseh is another large U.S. manufacturer and there's an assortment of Asian and other non-domestic engines out there.
Don't even effin' think about it.

You could use a specialized spark plug wrench if you have one handy.  I have a couple of 'em but they're always further away from being handy than this adjustable Crescent (tm) wrench. Sure, go ahead and use a box wrench or an open-end wrench if they're handier. Desperate? Use your deep-well sockets. There's usually a regulation spark plug wrench included in most of those socket sets, though.
Dirt in the cylinder will sandpaper gouges into the cylinder walls and will jam in the piston rings; sandy dirt is particularly problematic in windy Oklahoma.
A plug tip clogged with oily residue hasn't been firing properly (not hot enough) and sometimes just cleaning the plug, burnishing the electrodes and then setting a proper spark gap will fix that.  A spark plug can be re-used many times with this simple proper maintenance. You'll want to replace the plug only if the electrodes show pitting and/or spiking, or if the top electrode looks like small bites have been taken out of it (not sparking straight). I clean my plugs with an old tooth brush, a flat toothpick to get between the center ceramic cone and the outer walls, and WD-40.  It's important that the ceramic doesn't short out to the outer wall, and with fouled plugs, it's often the case that it is partially shorting out. Amateur radio hobbyists won't throw out any old spark plug because they make great homebrew lightning protectors for the ole antenna farm.
Yeah, a backwards wrench position is doable in low-torque cases like this, but it's a bad habit to get into and it'll cut the life of your wrench if you persist.  Get into good habits whether you need 'em or not.  But not so fast with the wrench.  To install the spark plug, use your fingers first.  Hand-tighten to just snug, and use the wrench ONLY to tighten an additional quarter turn.  Any more than that and you could damage the plug permanently.  There's a spring washer near the tip that takes up slack generated by the inevitable heat expansion/contraction.

Impressed yet, guys?  How 'bout that--a woman small-engines mechanic. I've rebuilt bigger engines, though, fellas, and I can handle rebuilding carburetors.  I also know guys who have no idea what a venturi is (without teh Google, that is), and it's not a model of automobile.  I can deal with pneumatic (old fashioned vacuum advance, for instance) and hydraulics (auto brake and steering systems, for instance). Scale that up a few storeys of power plant machinery and you get valve position controls (pneumatic) and turbine controls (hydraulic)--so THERE.

Necessary step if you're planning to use a sink in the house to wash it in.  Where ever you wash it, wash it with warm water and mild dish soap and keep squeezing it repeatedly until no suds come out when you squeeze it. Squeeze it well to get all the water out, and don't put it back in wet.  To speed things up, you can spray it with WD-40 and continue to squeeze, but in a paper towel. The stuff coming out will have a milky quality to it, and that's also stuff you don't want to put into your machine when you put stuff back together.

The gasket area of the intake is carefully cleaned of crud while the paper plug is still in the throat, taking care that no crud gets on that paper, to sneak in when the paper's removed.  Crud is then removed from the filter housing, top and bottom, and thoroughly.  And then re-assembly takes place--

Errrrrmmm...........lemme rephrase that......

Now for the fun part--the oil change.

There's something about Mathilda that you need to know first.  Bigger, pricier lawn mowers will have a tap on the underside of the crank case, plugged with a screw that has a head which accommodates a quad wrench (hex wrench = Allen wrench = 6 sided, so do the math and figure out what a quad wrench looks like).  But bigger mowers--not even the bigger mulching mowers--will do what this li'l beauty does, and that's keeping the undercarriage relatively clean of clipping residue. It doesn't take much scraping to clean 'er up, and you need to do that to avoid rusting out the undercarriage quickly.

It also happens to be the case that Mathilda doesn't come with a crankcase oil drain tap either. You have to up-end the thing and drain the spent oil out of the spout you add oil in.  With a brick for a prop and with the handle neatly folded, that's not as big a problem as it sounds, and let me tell you from experience--unless you have an impact quad wrench, you ain't getting that quad plug loose out of the crank case for love or money.  It's a bitch and a half.  So, all in all, Mathilda is a piece o cake, maintenance-wise.   And I'm never interested in a mower that isn't a mulching mower, because my mower doubles as a bush-hogger.  I expect that its mulcher capability is what keeps the undercarriage pretty clean, too.

Mathilda's underside. No crankcase tap screw either.

The oil change takes place right here, believe it or don't.  But since I already did the oil change, I don't have pics of that to share.  The spent oil gets packed off to a recycling center, and it's done every year.
Now for a bit of old-school bushhogging...

The guy who sold me that tool told me that it was a man tool.  Well, if that thing ever had any balls, it certainly doesn't have any now.

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