In Which I Buy Three Lawn Mowers . . .

. . . and still don’t have a working one.

Some of you may recall my earlier thread _ http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=602992 _

So, I did the research, examined my priorities, and decided on an Neuton 24". Then I looked at my budget and decided on an Epic instead. Then I went to seven different stores and bought the only one I found in stock; the Remington 3-in-1. This had actually been on my list, but had fallen to the bottom simply because none of their specs explained what three things it did. (Side-discharge, rear bagging, or mulching, as it turns out.)

Brought it home, followed directions exactly (rare, but really, this time I did.) which requried a 14 hour first charge regardless of what the little red.green LED is saying, and turned it on. The bettery charge LEDs go Red, Green, Green , Green, and this is on red. I’m thinking that’s odd, but it was made in Asia and there red means good, so maybe. . . and it mowed about three stripes before dying. I was disappointed, but the grass was pretty long, so I plugged it back in and let it sit for two days. Tried again: nothing. The second charge had not taken at all.

By now the front lawn is quite embarassing.

Took it back to Sears and they gave me a second one. This one never even started up. Dead on arrival. *

Got my money back and went on-line for an Epic. Found one, got an amazing deal: 21" deck, dual battery system, 36 volt, optional self-propell mode, the works for only $249. And by finally giving in to the Amazon Prime 30-day trial I got two-day shipping free (wouldabeen $115.00!)

By now it’s three weeks gone and my front lawn is nearly hip-high, except for the top three stripes, which are really just saying “Hey world, she’s a lazy trollop, an’t she?”

Got it home, followed directions this time for a 24-hour charge on the first go. In the mean time the neighbor’s commercial lawn guy felt sorry for me, and offered to cut the front lawn for $40. Thank goodness I gave in.

Finished the charge, assembled the mower, pulled on the bar and hit the start button. Nothing. The battery charge light is on empty.

Now, I ask you. Is this reasonable? Would not any thinking human being begin to believe that there is some simple, easy, goes-without-saying, righty-tighty-lefty-loosey type thing that I’ve never been told about charging a cordless lawn mower? I’ve got a lot of cordless tools, and charge them without any difficulty, but this is frickin’ ridiculous!

What say you, Dopers? Is there some silly thing I don’t know? Is the UIniverse trying to tell me that gas is good? (I really, really hate the idea of a gas mower.)

*See second post for details of electrical problem which may be completely irrelevant.)

  • the electical problem. In case it matters, but I don’t think it does.

About the time I was returning the second mower, one of the circuits in my (rented) house went out. This is a strange and grumpy circuit anyway, as it runs 3/4 of the house. This is the circuit that prevents me from, say, running the dishwasher and blow-drying my hair at the same time. As such I blew it out weekly during my first year here, but after 4 years of practice, I ahdn’t done it in at least five months.

Trouble is, this time the breaker wasn’t flipped. I flipped it back and forth anyway, but no good, it was out. Until I turned the dryer on, at which point everything on that circuit seemed to get about 50% of it’s usual power. The dryer blowed and spun around, but didn’t heat.

Electrician came, explained the whole dryer thing (half the breaker board had power. So 220v service, when running, fed a small amount of ‘recycled’ power to the rest of the board.) And he also said the problem was at the meter box. So I called a) the power company and b) the landlord to come cut down the holly tree which was blocking access to the meter box.

By some miracle - and through the exigency of two 30-foot trenches and a 6x6 foot hole in the back yard - all this was straightened out by Friday night, and so the third new lawm mower got charged on a healthy new circuit before it’s debut. (yes, I tested the circuit by running a space heater.)

Was the mower on the bad circuit? you may have had the wrong voltage before it died and therefore the charger did not provide the correct voltage. AC to DC chargers are basically a step down coil that numerically reduces the voltage in AC and then a bridge circuit converts the AC current to DC. If you started with 80 volts and it stepped down at a 5 to 1 ratio then you would have 15 volt charging instead of 120 volts stepped down to 24 volt charging. Check your voltage with a meter to see where you stand.

Why don’t you just buy a real lawn mower with a gasoline engine on it?

I’ve seen various people over the years buy electric lawn mowers and within a few weeks, it’s out on the curb for garbage collection. I’ve never known anyone to use one on a regular basis. Of course, where I live, most people have a lot of lawn, and maybe it’s just not practical.

The new lawn mower was never plugged into a bad circuit. It’s possible that the first two were. But everything else was running well on that circuit before it went down, and it was only down for the 2-3 days that the third one was in the mail.

The 5-1 step-down does make sense though. If the circuit was always a little bit low, then that would have prevented the first two from charging in a reasonable time.

But here’s the kicker - all three lawn mowers have two charge indicators. The first is on the charger itself, and in all three cases that one had gone from red to green long before I took the batteries off the circuits. (because the directions call for 14-24 hours on the first charge.)

All three also have a charge indicator on the lawn mower, and all three registered at the lowest possible charge on the lawn mower.

So why would the charger register it as fully charged if it wasn’t? My guess is that it measures how much is coming back. So a battery that’s not taking any charge at all, would always register as full on the charger, but empty on the lawn mower.

I think I’ll take these two batteries down to Pep Boys and ask them to test 'em.

If they’re Lithium Ion batteries they can get a memory that tells the charger it’s full when it’s not. I’ve got a camera battery that I hardly ever used and it completely discharged and is now in battery heaven.

I still use Ni-Cads in my power tools because they don’t require as much attention even though i’d rather have the power of the Li-on batteries.

Three different mowers, three failures. Have you tried a different outlet?
I realize you had the circuit in question repaired but I’d try another outlet just for grins.

Are you sure you have the “key” in the mower? Many electric mowers have a safety feature wherein you must insert the included plastic key in order for the mower to start at all.

Well, I have a lawn tractor and a cordless electric mulcher. When I lived in a house with a tiny yard, the electric was my primary mower. It’s going on 13 years old, and needs its third set of batteries. Versus all of my gasoline powered tools, the electric requires absolutely no maintenance except batteries every six years or so.

Although it doesn’t get the same amount of use as it used to, it’s still critical for getting into all of the tight spots that the tractor can’t get into.

Yes on trying different outlets/circuits. Didn’t help

Yes on having the key in, and the right combination of things held down before/while pushing the start button.

All the batteries are Lead/Acid.

The latest set are at Pep Boys now being tested. I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read and help me think this through. It’s just too weird!

Update.

We have established that the batteries are fine, dissected the electrical connections and tried re-routing around the control switches. Nothing.

So today they are shipping me a new motor assembly to switch that out.

I would balk and demand that they send me a new mower, but I’ve given up on the idea that any mower I buy will actually work. And really, 6 1/2 minutes of free time per week is too much for anybody - best I find a constructive use for it, right? :smack:

Heh. I have three lawnmowers. First one (nearly new) came with the house. Found a stump, bent the crankshaft. I bought a new one from Sears. Found a different stump, bent the crankshaft. Bought another Craftsman. Found yet another stump (how can I miss them sometimes, and then find them later?), didn’t bend the crankshaft. Still runs. Or ‘ran when stored’. Last time I tried to use it it didn’t start. Needs to go in for a tune-up. Reel mower won’t cut the grass if it gets too high; it just bends it over. The lawn guy and his crew are coming over Monday morning. They haven’t found a stump yet; or if they did, their equipment is more robust.

You may wonder why I didn’t get the first – or the second – mower fixed. It’s because replacing the crankshaft costs as much as, or more than, buying a new mower.

Your house only has 2 circuits. It’s hard to figure out which outlet is on which circuit but the important thing to do is ensure the voltage is correct. Buy a $4 volt meter from Harbor Freight and eliminate all question before moving on. It’s too much of a coincidence that you’ve had so much trouble.