Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slippery Slope

Today I went for a walk in the rain. Not because I wanted to walk in the rain but because as I went for a walk it started to rain. It's fascinating how arranging the word order in a sentence can also arrange the thought order.

I planned to stop at the landlords on my walk to look at his lawn mower. It wasn't running properly and spring was fast approaching. My landlord lives on the property but on the other side of the creek. It's a good five minute walk door to door if you hurry, but I wasn't in a hurry.

The lawn mower is in the barn and it's along the way so I stopped there first. The mower, a 18 HP ride on style, wouldn't start, in fact it barely turned over. I connected the battery charger to it. I checked all the obvious things like gas, oil and nothing broken. I walked over to the landlords to let him know I was out there and had a chat for a while. Figuring enough time had passed I said so long and headed out to the barn again. By now the battery was back to fully charged and I tried again to start it. Still barely turned over. OK I thought, I learned small engine repair from my dad nearly forty years ago. I figured the first thing to look at was timing. I pulled the spark plug out and it looked fine. I tried cranking the engine over and to my surprised it cranked at the normal, for a plug out, speed. This is good. I was on the right path. But was it ignition or valve. My experience with small Briggs lead me to believe it might be a small drift key on the crank shaft to flywheel. These often use to shear and cause the ignition timing to go out. I pulled off the top cover and attempted to turn the crank bolt. This bolt is large so I calculated it at 100 ft lbs. But the question was, is it right handed or left? Crank shaft bolts are often threaded the opposite from normal so they don't loosen and come off during operation. About this time my landlord arrived to hang out and help if needed. He's eighty-one but still spry enough to help if we had any lifting to do. I grabbed my cell phone and started a search to find information on the bolt. Well to my surprise, or not, the greatest number of hits on google was regarding hard starting. Looking over a few sites I found they consistently referenced valve timing not ignition. Time to switch gears I told the landlord. The valve cover is easy to access and I has it off in less than a minute. The rocker arms were definitely looser than .006" they should be. You check valve clearance using a tool known as feeler gauges. They are a set of thin metal strips each a differing thickness with the size etched on them. The only set we had went as small as .008" but not smaller. It did go as high as .026 so I was able to measure the clearance and found it was about .014". Not tight enough for the valves to bump and lower compression when starting. I tightened them to a tight .008" figuring it was a place to begin. I put the valve cover on and cranked it over. It backfired then ran like a champ. Since the valve cover is right up front I put everything back together. In the next couple weeks the rain will stop, the sun will dry the grass, and I will find a better set of feeler gauges. For today I had a walk to finish. Once again I said goodbye to the landlord who thanked me for solving his problem and i headed off.

As I started my trek back to the house. I chose the back route. This way goes down to the creek and across a small clearing. The side of the creek I was on is steep and the rain made the path slick. I started to slide. Instead of instinctively standing up and grabbing for a branch of a tree or shrub I crouched forward leaning down the hill with my hands out for balance. The slide was exhilarating and I made it safely to the bottom where I gave a good leap and jumped over the creek itself landing upright on the sand bank on the other side. It was sprinkling lightly as I started up the hill towards home. The rest of my walk was peaceful as I enjoyed the joys of my accomplishments.

Slippery_Slope.jpg by Anson © 2012

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