Lawnmowers in Trash

Over the years I have seen many discarded lawnmowers sitting in between garbage cans or with “take me” notes for junkers. I am considering taking one just to see if I can fix it up. Seen it in my new neighborhood twice already and haven’t been here a full year, this neighborhood has a lot of snobs and well-to-do families, so I suspect they are just throwing them out for the sake of getting a new one, or for minor issues, like grass in the fuel 'tank or a bad plug.
What are some things that would ‘total’ a lawnmower? Would it just be the motor going bad? What are the common issues with them and how are they remedied? I really want to know because if that’s the case I’ll wheel one home and fix it, not to mention it’s always great to learn new things, I figure if I can fix up some basic car problems, I may have a shot to repair a lawnmower.
If anyone can chime in on this, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

I bought my current mower from a thrift store for under $10. It was missing some parts but the only key one was cheap and easily available at the local equipment store.

Later, a neighbor was throwing out a mower and I scavenged the remaining parts off of it. (This neighbor is in the lawn care business so such junkers appear on the curb from time to time.)

I had known at the time that my old mower was on its last legs so it was interesting that a next door neighbor was throwing out his. I asked what the deal was. He bought it assembled and never checked the oil! Turned out it never had oil so it was busted quite soon. This guy, let me tell you.

So general motor burnout is a problem.

Another common failure is a bent shaft due to hitting a rock or something. That’s not easily or economically fixable.

My mowers basically just fall apart after many, many years. The deck just isn’t solid enough to be safe.

A few years after I bought a snowblower, I went to use it after the first good snowfall and and, nuthin. I couldn’t get it started. After shoveling the first few times, I blindly took apart my first carburetor (in the freezing cold, do you know how tiny those parts are, and how early it gets dark). Didn’t know what I was doing or looking for, but as I was putting things back together, one I just so happened to notice that one of the screws (later learned was a jet) had a tiny hole in it, so I hit it with some PB Blaster or whatever I had laying around. Got it put back together and it started right up. Hasn’t failed me since. I also know to drain the bowl now.

I mentioned that to someone I know that picks up lawnmowers by the curb, fixes them and resells them for dirt cheap. He opened up his wallet and pulled out a small piece of piano wire and said that most of the time that’s all is and he keeps that wire around since he can usually just poke out the carb and get small engines running again pretty quickly that way.

TL;DR A gummed up carb is going to be the reason a lot of small engines that go months without being used don’t start. Learning how to clean a carb will go a long way if you want to pick up lawnmowers and fix them. In fact, it’ll probably be required.

I left a lawnmower on the curb this spring, for someone to take. And happily, someone did!

My friend bought it used from a rental company when they upgraded their equipment, 15+ yrs ago. He and I shared it for several years, till he moved away and it became mine. When I got a new neighbour he and I shared it for several more years without difficulty.

Last summer it had issues starting so we took it to a repair guy and spent over $100, to ‘get it going’, as oppose to, ‘getting it fixed’. It ran badly the rest of the season, and was still sometimes difficult to start.

First use this year, I threatened it with being left on the curb when fetching it from the shed for it’s first use of the season. And remarkably, it started right up, but still didn’t work all that great, requiring a lot of going back over spots, etc.

Next use it just would not start for me or hubby. Off to the curb it went.

It lived a lot of lives and was useful and shared by a lot of people over many years. Plus we’d already sunk cash into keeping it going once. So it just seemed to make sense for us to move on to a new mower.

I like to think whoever took it DID getting it fixed and that it’s still running for someone and serving them well.

Is there a rainbow bridge for small engines?

My place has some very-hard-on-lawnmower mowing areas. I would in fact say they are abusive to mowers. But a mower is still the most efficient tool for keeping my ground clear. So I am now on mower #3 in the last 18 years.

My experience has varied. In case (A) a speed governing flywheel broke off inside the motor case when I hit a rock. Repairable yes, but at the same cost as a new mower. So a total loss even though the mower deck, controls, wheels etc. were still in excellent condition. In case (B) the mounting “system” for the front wheels started failing from bumping into things and general wear-and-tear. I repaired the mounts but not with any OEM parts. I scratch built beefier supports. It was free but labor intensive. Don’t think I would do it again. I’m on case © and once again the wheel mounts are failing.

My advice? Sure, grab mowers unless they look like they have been sitting around for a long time and give 'em a look. Where I live we have a local metal recycling facility that will take these things as long as I take the larger non-metallic components off first. So disposal cost is zero if my freebie is a goner.

I was going to add that you should always look for usable motors. But my reality is that I look for decks and don’t care about motors any longer.

Like most things, it depends. Older LawnBoys have almost a cult following. They do work well when tuned up and will cut even thick wet grass without complaint and mulch better than just about anything. Magnesium deck make them lightweight and easy to maneuver. Usually they need crankshaft seals, maybe a cylinder hone and new rings, reed valves etc, the usual small engine rituals and incantations. Anything from 1950 to 1980 say, if complete is a good candidate.

A few years back I was getting annoyed with the various issues with my mower, sometimes it wasn’t starting, wheels were rattly, choke was sticky so I had to reach down to the engine to engage or disengage it, and a bunch of other relatively minor things.

Then I realized I had bought it fifteen years earlier. It had cost possibly $300 at the time, so my total cost of ownership had been $20 per summer. I hate tinkering with old dirty rusty equipment, so it was an easy choice: Pay another $300 and put the annoying machine at the curb. I am happy with that decision.

Over the years I have disposed of many items in need of TLC by placing them at the curb–we are on a relatively busy street so they never are there long. If someone is interested in investing a weekend in fixing something up, they can have some pretty nice stuff.

With lawnmowers if it’s not plain wore out or beat to hell, the trouble is usually or often caused by bad fuel. Easy fix. Many a car has been purchased for next to nothing when the fix was something like crossed plug wires mimicing a more serious fault. Much hilarity ensues.

Cordless mowers are often thrown away when their batteries go bad and will no longer hold a charge. Replacing the batteries often make them good as new, but figure on at least $80 for the batteries. You also want to make sure that you get the charger as well, since each mower will have it’s own specialized charger.

Some people discard their mowers because they have hired someone else to do it for them. So the mower could have worked fine–except after several years of just sitting unused there are now problems after the gas evaporated, rust, rubber deteriorated…

We have a “city wide cleanup” once a year where you can set out all manner of stuff to be hauled away. I picked up a push mower a few years ago that ran OK, but did not cut grass. Turned out, the blade had been put on upside down.

Thanks Joey_P

Will definitely learn how to do that, thats a basic “car” repair i haven’t done since I only have had more modern ones without, it’ll be a great skill to learn, will likely be useful some day, probably soon.

dougrb Did the new owner/fixer come back to tell you? That’s the kind of thing I am suspecting, It has to be the case for something minor with the amount of these things I seen thrown away.

I definitely will keep an eye for older and good conditioned mowers. If the motor isn’t shot, I’ll definitely give it a try. A hobby and learning experience, but I’m not going to turn into Fred Sanford with it, just would be nice to fix up something and make it usable, I love doing that!

Any more ideas?


My dad always had 3 mowers, based on the NY Yankee player development system: One on the way up, one playing, one on the way out.

I’m not sure how useful rebuilding carbs is at this point. Granted, it’s good to know, required really, if you’re going to be fixing up old lawn mowers, and it’ll bring you right up to speed if you want to do snowblowers or motorcycles. But I’m not sure how far it’ll get you with cars and no post 95 cars even have them.

However, if a lawnmower won’t start, there’s a handful of easy things to check (is there gas?, is the gas getting to the carb? is there spark? is the fuel getting to the cylinder? etc), but many people are going to pull the cord until their shoulder hurts and decide that it’s just easier, faster and cheaper to run to Home Depot and drop $150-$200 on a brand new one than to put any money into a 15 year old mower.

I just put new wheels on mine and even though still runs perfectly, I had a hard time justifying putting $50 worth of wheels on a mower that’s 12 years old.
Just remember, damn near everything is on youtube (or regular forums). If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can probably fix a gummed up carb.

I used to be the same way. I had four mowers, and I tried to keep at least two of them running at all times. Meanwhile, the Geeklings (my sons) kept trying to ruin them as quickly as possible. It was a constant battle.

Had that problem when us kids were growing up. Dad was a little miffed. So he borrowed an old manual push type reel mower from the 1930s or 1940s from a good friend. “Here ya go kids”. Put an end to that shit.

When I bought my house back in 1991, my father picked up a broken lawnmower from someone’s curb, spent $25 fixing it up and gave it to me. I left it when I moved out 11 years later, still running.

When you ran it did it made the grass longer? :confused:

If one isn’t so mechanically inclined, that means getting it into the back of the car; without getting grass stains all over the interior, & without turning it sideways so the gas leaks onto the seats/carpeting. Easy if you have a pickup, not so much with a sedan. By the time one adds in pickup/delivery to the local small engine repair place, yeah, it is easier (& possibly cheaper) to go buy a new one.

My first thought was that moving it wasn’t part of the OP’s question, but then I realized you meant as part of paying to get your own not working mower fixed.
In that case, I have a thought. If you take the handle off, and have someone to help you, I’d bet that most lawnmowers would fit in a trunk. In fact, most (many) handles fold in half and flip down.
But, of course, I’ve never really given that any thought and I don’t think someone that’s not mechanically inclined as you pointed out, would think of that. How many people do you see driving down the road with their trunk bouncing off the lawnmower handle.
Protip: strap the trunk lid down so it doesn’t bounce up and down and scratch whatever is in there and/or the car paint.
Protip2:When looking for a place to attach a bungee cord to on the trunk lid, you can snap it right into the latch, works like a charm.
But still, I checked online, I really like my mower, I don’t remember how much it was 12 years ago, but I can go to Home Depot right now and pick up a new comparable one for less than $200. I would never be able to bring myself to pay to get it fixed. Like I said earlier, I felt like I was spending too much replacing the wheels. I’ve spent the last 3 summers wondering if something would break so I’d have a reason to get a new one because the wobbling wheels have been bugging me. But the stupid thing just won’t miss a beat. I think once it took like 2 pulls to start it, but I had just had shoulder surgery and was trying to start it left handed, so it was probably on me.