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Rescuing An Almost Dead Lawnmower May 3, 2022

Posted by mwidlake in off-topic, Private Life.
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3 comments

As I slowly slip into something like proper retirement I thought I’d do some more blogs on “retired” topics. And as I know some of my Twitter followers have shown a strange fascination with my lawnmower and wheelbarrow “collection”, I thought I’d show you how I saved my old Honda Izy lawnmower from it’s imminent demise.

I’d had my old Honda Izy since 2007 and, though it had served me well, I had not been as good at cleaning if after use as I should. And it was often used on rough ground or ground with lots of stones on it, so the inside of the deck (the grey body that the engine, wheels, and other parts are mounted on) had got a lot of abuse and rusted badly. Grass mulch is quite corrosive. Looking on the net the rusting of the deck is a common problem with the Honda Izy. If I’d taken more care of it I am sure the Izy would have lasted many years longer. Anyway, the deck was splitting all the way around the engine mount and the engine & cutting blades were wobbling, causing the blades to catch the inside of the deck whenever it got jolted. In time the whole engine/blade unit was going to come away, probably when at full spin. That could be nasty! As you can see, I had used duct tape to keep the mower going until I got it fixed or replaced it, but this was my third or so duct tape repair and the whole machine just felt dangerous.

I did enquire about getting a new deck for the mower but the person who maintains if for me, a garden machinery mechanic, refused to do it. “The deck is not cheap, well over £100, I have to take the whole lawnmower apart which can be a right swine, re-build it on the new deck and then sort out all the little issues found doing it. It would take me a whole day or more. I’d charge you almost as much as a new mower costs”. So, as you can see from the above, I did buy a new Honda Izy. I have to say, the engine is a little quieter and smoother on the new one.

I looked at a couple of videos online about replacing the deck myself, but it did look very fiddly and that is with all the tools you need. However, I resented throwing away a perfectly good lawnmower and cracking little engine just because the deck was knackered. How about a car body repair kit? Hmmmm. I’d used one 32 years ago on my Mark 1 Golf, I could do this…

To prepare the lawnmower I emptied the oil (it needed replacing anyway), removed the blades, took off the petrol tank & fuel filter and gave them a thorough washing. There was a fair bit of sediment in the tank and fuel filter so it was good get rid of that, it had been causing some running issues. I then scraped away most of the caked on dirt, grass, rust, washed away most of the remainder and rubbed it down with wire wool. I did try a wire brush but that was pretty ineffective, wire wool was much better. Finally, I gave it a rub over with some rough glass paper, a final wash, and I left it 24 hours to dry out. This was last summer, it was about 30C during the day so it dried quickly. It might not look that clean in the pictures but that’s due to the remaining specs of paint and pits with a little rust in. I could see the metal was scoured and ready to be a good surface to bond to.

If you have never used fibreglass body repair kits before, it is very simple. You have a sheet or two of glass fibre (the white stuff) that folds out like fabric, a pot of resin, and a little packet of hardener. And a pretty useless pot and stirring stick, plus a crap brush. I’d advise getting another pot (a yoghurt pot will do at a pinch), a second little brush, and some spare sticks. My brother keeps lolly sticks (like you get with a Magnum ice-cream) for such purposes, I use literally a little stick off the ground!

WEAR GLOVES! The fibres of glass can get into your skin and irritate like crazy and if you get the resin on your skin it is not coming off until the skin does. Most kits come with a crap pair of thin plastic gloves but you can buy a pack of 100 disposable gloves for a few quid and you will need more than one pair probably. Put on the gloves and then cut the fibre glass sheet up into patches that will cover the area you want to repair. Normal scissors will be fine for this. 32 years ago I tried to cut just one piece to fit the whole repair, it was not ideal. And in this case I am fitting the sheet to a curved, circular surface. I cut several smaller pieces, about 5, and put them in place to make sure all looked OK. Now remove the fibreglass pieces.

Still with the gloves on, put some of the resin in the pot, I used about a third of the tin. Add the hardener as described. Actually, don’t, I made that mistake. Add about half the hardener as described, especially if it is warm like it was this day, and mix quickly and thoroughly with the stick, do this in 30 seconds if you can. Generously paint the edges of the area you are fixing with a little of the mixture, covering all the area the fibreglass is going on, and then put the fibreglass patches over it. The mixture should make them stick in place. Now put the rest of the mixture over the fibreglass and work it in with the brush. If the fibreglass patches shift or you ruck it or in any other way make the fibreglass patches do something you don’t want, fix it ASAP. This stuff goes tacky and then gloopy very quickly, which is why I say only put half the hardener in. The aim is to soak all the fibreglass with the resin and get it worked into the fabric before it turns to treacle. If you have time, scrape any residue out the pot with the stick and either try and get it on the repair or use some scrap of waste fabric, piece of card or whatever to get the gloop off. This way you might be able to use the pot and stick again. The brush is probably history.

I left the first layer for about 4 hours, then I cut a second set of smaller pieces to cover the weakest areas (where, basically, there was no metal anymore), mixed up some more resin and (less) hardener and used it to apply this second layer.

I left it to cure overnight, then gave the repair a sand with glass paper and washed it down. I then painted the repair with a tough paint designed to go on rusty metal (“Hammerite” in my case) and once it was dry, a second layer over the whole area. Be generous, it fills little pits and missed bits in fibreglass that somehow did not get enough resin in it.

I should mention I took care not to get any resin or paint on the nuts holding the engine onto the deck, just in case I ever want to remove the engine.

I now had a workable repair and it looked OK from the inside. If I did it again I would uses less hardener from the start and take a little more care over applying the fibreglass.

I turned the mower right way up and I could see the fibreglass through the holes in the metal. I used wire wool to prepare the surfaces arounds the holes, pushed any proud metal firmly down onto the fibreglass repair, mixed up the last of my resin/hardener mix and used the scraps of fibreglass matt I still had to patch the top and smothered the repair and surrounding metal in resin.

Once it was dry it was Hammer(ite) time again and I painted the repairs and some other areas of scratched paintwork and mild rust.

The engine now felt rock solid and the deck was not flexing at all. I counted this as Job Done.

I gave the blade a damn good clean and sharpen (though it could have done with grinding back another 5mm to be fair), put that back on, put the cleaned fuel tank and engine cover back on, replaced the air filter & spark plug and put in the oil (standard servicing kit) and then finally a bit of fuel. Only a bit in case I needed to empty it again…

I set the choke, pulled the starter cord, and the engine fired straight up in a couple of pulls. I did a couple of swipes along the rough grass near the castle mound and it cut beautifully. The engine was a lot smoother now too, due to the clean fuel system and new air filter. I now filled the fuel tank.

I’m the first to admit it is not the cleanest, most professional looking repair in the world, but it has proven to be effective. I did this repair last year and I’ve used the repaired machine many times since.

I use the old Honda Izy on rough terrain and anywhere I think there may be stones or similar that might damage the new Izy. And I am cleaning off the new lawnmower more conscientiously as, though I now know I can patch a knackered mower deck, it took me a few days and I’d rather not have to do it again through sheer laziness.

The old lady is now a useful member of my lawnmowing family again…

(BTW the below is not the full set, there is the petrol strimmer. And the hover mower. And the hand-held trimmer for small areas around plants…)