Saturday, May 3, 2014

Good things happening....

So this week I've spent about 13 hours involved with four different community events;

Attended an after hours entrepreneur event where after some networking a local winery owner talked about his experiences as a business owner. 

Discussion with a COO of a local non-profit talking about (community) collective impact.

Had a great time working with some great folks doing a fundraiser for Special Olympics.

Went to a community wealth building seminar.

Every one of these brought some really good lessons. The trick is to put yourself into these kind of positions and not just join in the conversation, but to really listen and participate. It is one thing to network at these sort of events, but I can tell you first hand networking just scrapes the surface of the value a person can get with time commitment. I guess a pet peeve is hearing folks talk about spending time networking in various venue's and not getting enough value from it. 

In my experience, participation and really listening is the key. Not in the thinking about what your going to say next mode while waiting for the next pause to speak, but really listening. 

There is amazing talent all around this area. Most of the folks are willing to give freely of their knowledge and experience. With over 150 different non-profits in the area, there is bound to be some kind of effort you could get behind. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to get that manicured lawn look.

Alright, we're going to assume your mower is up and running and now you're looking to have the best looking lawn in the neighborhood.

While getting the right grass in place, keeping the weeds out, fertilizing and water are all important, the last piece is the mower, how it is set up, and how you use it. Mess this up and your yard will always look a little browner than the yard down the street.

Here's the secrets;

  1. This should go without saying, but you need a sharp blade.
  2. The mower needs to be set up so that the front is the lowest point. You only want the blade touching the grass once, if it gradually keeps cutting it shorter as you move across it you'll generate more heat usually burning the cut edge slightly.
  3. The deck needs to be level, many less expensive walk behind mowers can't be truly leveled, if that's your mower, the best you can do is try to level it by taking advantage of whatever height adjustments you have. Sometimes you can set them at different points on the choice of adjustments and get things closer. On riding mowers there should be an adjustment. Lookup your owners manual and the adjustment procedure should be in there. Keep in mind, a bent blade can really foul this adjustment up, the blades have to be true.
  4. A riding lawn tractor style mower will never give you the finish of a Zero turn mower. Every time you run over a blade of grass you do a little damage to it. A zero turn mower not only gets the job done faster but once you get the hang of it, you'll find you aren't spending as much time traveling across the same grass to turn around or get around obstacles. 
  5. Pay attention to how fast you are going. On a real smooth lawn you can go pretty quick, but it you go fast enough that the deck starts bouncing around, it will affect the finished appearance. 
Many of these may be subtle, but added together these tips can change the finished appearance of your lawn pretty dramatically. Know of some tips I missed? Post it in the comments and we can share it with the other readers :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to diagnose small engine problems

If you're a handyman sort and want to do some of your own repairs to equipment I've got some tips I'd like to share from years of work in this field.

First a little background. I recieved my first ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certifications after taking automotive repair courses through Umpqua Community College in 1990. Later I took advanced engine performance and electrical training and then took all of the (then available ASE tests and became Master Certified in 1996. I've also been trained and received Master Certification from Kohler and Briggs & Stratton in the mid 2000's. I spent most of my mechanic years employed by the local school district where I repaired and maintained everything from late model cars and trucks to mowers, floor care equipment, handheld power equipment and a host of miscellaneous stuff. The neat thing about that experience is I always got to see how the repairs worked out. It was kind of a lifetime warranty situation where if I didn't do it well it meant more work for me. Working in retail, you frequently don't get the chance to see the stuff that didn't work, it just doesn't come back.

Here's my take, the K.I.S.S. method if you will;

Pretty much everything is powered either by an electric motor or a gas powered motor.

It powers something that either goes up and down or round and round.

The power is connected between these two by either belts, gears, or hydraulic pumps and motors.

For now lets focus on that pesky gas motor, it seems to cause the most grief.

All gas motors have had the same basic technology since its inception. Four Strokes motors have the following cycle. Intake > Compression > Power > Exhaust .... then repeat....frequently.

For a motor to run there needs to be just 3 things basically. Fuel, Spark, and compression (or a mechanically sound motor). If these 3 are present the motor will run, perhaps poorly or for a short amount of time, but it should run.

Fuel and spark are the quickest easiest to verify so I start there (once I have verified there is correct oil and that the motor in fact doesn't run). I like to start with spark. I'll remove the spark plug and hook the plug wire back up, firmly ground the threaded part of the plug and turn the motor over. If I have spark I'll move on to fuel, if not I'll try the same test with a known good spark plug. If I still have no spark I now know I need to diagnose the ignition system. Most small engines have a magneto style ignition and you can remove the ground wire and retest. If you have spark now, it means you need to diagnose what safety switch or other point is grounding out that wire. If you still don't have spark chances are good the ignition coil/module is bad. The important points to remember are firmly grounding the plug, turning the motor over quickly enough, and KNOWING you have a good spark plug.

Fuel is easy, but somewhat dangerous. I like to add fuel either by dumping it into the spark plug hole before I put it back in, or after it is reassembled, dump about 1 1/2 tablespoons right into the carburetor (have to remove the air filter for this), quickly put things back together and try to start it. If the machine start and then dies, you know it is a fuel problem. Usually this is a plugged main jet. Some quick research on the web should get you the info you need to clean the jet on your particualr model of engine. If you don't know what a main jet is, you may want to take it to a shop for this repair. 

PLEASE use safe practices and common sense if attempting any of this. If you get hurt doing it,you're going to spend a lot more money on medical bills than it would have cost to just take it into a repair shop. 

If you liked this article please consider sharing it. Have some other challenges you'd like to get help on? Drop us a line and well write something up on it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Riding lawn mower repair

Well I warned you it was coming!

If you've been mowing more than an acre for many years, you probably remember the "yard tractor", and certainly by today's standards it really was. Beefy frames, bigger tires, strong thick deck metal, maybe provisions for hydraulic attachments. Back in the day if you bought a Cub Cadet you were probably going to pass it on to the next property owner or one of your kids when you down sized. Alas, progress....

Cub Cadet, Yard Machine, TroyBilt are all now owned and manufactured by MTD. Husqvarna, Ariens, AYP, all owned by Electrolux. A couple of years ago we were sent to Lowes to repair some John Deere mowers. Seemed odd until we found out they were actually manufactured by Murray who is now owned by Briggs & Stratton. Confused yet?

More than ever a knowledgeable sales person is worth getting to know. After reading the above, do you really think a few hours on the internet is going to be enough to make a good decision on a mower purchase? Is the salesperson at the box store going to know the inner workings of the mower or just the highlights they're taught? Remember the plastic transmission I mentioned earlier? It is in the box store version of the same model mower we sell with a metal transmission. Our mechanic even pointed out that technically we could install the good transmission in the box store machine if a customer wanted to pay the price. 

Like the walk behind mowers, you can either do the maintenance over time or plan on some large repair bills to bring several deferred maintenance problems back up to par. Aside from the same issues noted in the previous blog, the riding mower will have a battery, starting system, safety switches, blade engagement mechanisms, a charging system, fuel pump, and lights, all needing attention. Leveling the deck and keeping good blades sharp make for a nice cut and you'd be surprised how much more fuel dull blades take, they also put a great deal more wear and tear on the deck belts. At $4.50+/gallon (you're buying non-ethanol unleaded right?) you can pay for new blades or blade sharpening pretty quick. I probably don't need to mention the cost (and stress) savings associated with better belt life

Change your oil at least once every 100 hours, keep your air filter clean or replaced, use only known clean containers for fuel, keep a trickle charger on the battery when the mower will be sitting for more than a few weeks, don't mow over rough surfaces too quickly, keep tire pressure correct (makes a big difference on how level the mower cuts), and grease the grease zerks regularly. Completely remove debris from under and on top of the deck at least a couple of times a year (Fall season so it doesn't sit there all Winter) and you'd likely not need our services, if you bought a good mower.

Got some other tips to share? We'd love to hear them as well as share them with our readers!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mowers, mowers, mowers oh my!

Last post I talked abut the number one problem we see with mowers in the Spring. From there it all gets a little more complicated.

Lets start with walk behind mowers. You bought it new, it worked great for a season (unless you hit something in the yard you shouldn't have, we'll get back to that). At the end of the year you cleaned it up, and parked it, maybe even added some fuel stabilizer to it. IF it started you may be good to go for another season (you did check the oil level right?).

This year the pull cord snaps, blade is pretty dull and the air filter gets plugged. If you serviced or had the mower serviced everything but the pull cord should be good for the year. Many of you will even get past year two on our cord if you don't have a larger yard where your stopping to pick up debris and have to frequently restart the beast. At the end of the season it wasn't cleaned as well and a neighbor borrowed it for a bit.

Year 3. Deck is starting to flex, bag had a small opening you don't remember, blade is toast, fuel was stale so you took it in to get that cleaned out (and restart your lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty). Really the best thing to do here is just have a thoughrough service done. New blade, fuel filter (if applicable), air filter, oil change, spark plug, and just a good set of trained eye's on it. Maybe get that cord replaced while its there so it doesn't fail mid season? 

Year 4 on. Just have the darn thing serviced annually shortly before Spring. During the season if you see problems, have them addressed. Most of the time when we see mowers to far gone to justify repair it is because there is a substantial amount of deferred maintenance on top of a breakdown. 

If your in the market for a new lawn mower, please visit our website and click on the products page. From there you'll see some selections. Why buy from us? We're actually interested in seeing you get and keep your grass under control, not just sell you a mower. Our mowers ARE different. Don't think so? Just stick your head under the back axle of a box store mower. Unless your looking at thier "top of the line" (our basic) you're going to see a plastic transmission housing (which is filled with plastic gears by the way), then look under ours... Its still metal.  

Next time, riding lawn mowers!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ethanol fuel and outdoor power equipment.

Fuel issue's are the number one problem we see coming into our shop. When ethanol fuel was first introduced into our market I was concerned, but felt some confidence in the message we were getting from the engine manufacturer's. Every single engine manufacturer we work with stated their engines were E10 ethanol safe.

It didn't take long for us to suspect there may be some problems (wanna' save yourself some reading, watch the video we just posted here).

The first issue we had was with a generator repair. Gasoline powered generators have always had fuel issue's. They typically sit for far longer periods than most power equipment. This one came to us with a fouled fuel system. We did our typical fuel system cleaning and repair, tested the machine, then the owner took it home. 

About 90 days later he tried to use it. It ran but poorly. Irritated he brought it back to us and we assured him we'd rectify any fuel related issue's no charge. 

We found that the fuel in the tank had gone bad already! We cleaned it all out again, and sent it out once again. And then the next one came back.... and the next. At this point we're taking a lot of heat and really not enjoying it. 

Time for further investigation. We contacted a fuel treatment supplier and asked what their experience was. They stated their product would double the shelf life of fuel, which was enough to satisfy most fuel requirements. This was when fuel would last 6 month's to a year. Now the shelf life was as short as 30 days, so doubling it may give you 60.

Addidtionally parts were failing. Fuel filters would melt, the fuel shut off needle in the carburetor would get sticky and stick shut, fule lines and primmer bulbs were failing. 

We ran two tests at our facility. One was to simply pour some fuel into a clean while 5 gallon bucket and let it sit. Within one week the ethanol started seperating from the fuel and settling in the bottom of the container. This means if your law mower didn't get shaken well enough before you tried to start it, it was getting pure ethanol instead of mixed. If it ran at all it would run very poorly. The second test was to put a short piece of new fule line into a beacker filled with ethanol fuel. By the end of just day one there was visible expansion indicating the ethanol was attacking the rubber.

Today things are better. They are using products other than buytl in rubber which has alleviated many of the part failures. It still goes bad faster, and still attacks the fuel lines in a lot of equipment out there. 

Do yourself a favor, buy the non-ethanol fuel from a locally owned fuel station (most nationally owned stations don't have non-ethanol available). Buy only as much fuel as you estimate you'll use in a month, add a good fuel stabilzer to it. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Felony Flats?

It is an interesting thing nicknames. I remember the cruelty of many of them while in school growing up. I guess being so far removed from those days I hadn't really paid much attention, but then recently I saw an article in The News Review (our local news paper) about how bad things were in the Pine/Mill/SE Stephens neighborhood. Its true, the area is called Felony Flats by a fair amount of folks in this community.

We put it to a test last night. Not intentionally, but a test none the less. An employee forgot to close one of the garage doors to the facility. So it sat in plain view of anyone walking or driving by on Highway 99 through town.

The call came in from the alarm company about 3:30 am, motion sensors activated in several bays. I gave them my vehicle description to share with the police and headed toward the shop.

Here's the deal, I show up, recognize that there has been no damage to the door which is odd because we normally lock them from both the inside and the out. Without a key, you're going to have to damage something to get the door open.

The Roseburg City Police had been dispatched after receiving a call from a concerned citizen who noticed the door open when they drove by. They performed a really thorough inspection on the facilities, and in the process of entering the building tripped a motion sensor, thus the alarm.

So I wonder, how many people walked by but stayed honest. The video cameras tell the rest. All evening long, even into the early morning, folks stop, look and move on. So Felony flats? I say no way. This neighborhood like any other has its share of lawbreakers, but I would say if anything we're better than average on our good guy percentage.

Thank-you to all in the neighborhood for keeping it honest, and calling it in when we're dumb. It helps keep us in business, and we love being able to offer a needed service.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rent...?

I was reading a flier for an event recently when I was reminded of this concept. The tie in was obvious to me, but I wrote the person in charge for the event to get their take on it.

Turns out he saw it the same way. I have long felt driven to help where I could in helping resources go farther. 

For instance, I hate seeing walk behind lawn mowers go to the dump when simply cleaning a plugged main jet in the carburetor could have it up and running again. I can almost guarantee this has happened more times than we care to count right here in the Roseburg landfill.

So I wrote an article about it, complete with picture's, you can find it in a previous blog post. 

Getting it running again keeps it out of the landfill, saves the owner money they would have spent on a new mower, reduces all the energy spent creating and shipping the new mower. That's how I see it anyway. We sell mowers, so this statement isn't in our favor.

The mowers we do sell last, they are better for the environment than cheap box store throw aways.

So back to renting, and the environment.

A.) You're sharing that resource with your neighbors, they are renting it too this reduces the amount of equipment manufactured. 

B.) Most equipment requires service (at least an oil change) twice a year to maintain the warranty. Unless it is used frequently, the time expires before the hours used trigger a service requirement. This means lots of wasted resources compared to equipment that is serviced for hourly use reasons.

C.) Most rental stores are pretty good about recycling. At Roseburg Rental, all waste oil is repurposed as fuel oil and used to heat various businesses around town. Equipment to be disposed of is disassembled as necessary and recycled (it how they fund the Christmas party!). Carboard, paper, bottles and more are all recycled whenever possible.

What this all means is that renting is good for the environment and;

You don't have to store it

You don't have to maintain it.

You don't have the to drop a bunch of dough to purchase it (good for your cashflow).

You get to use commercial grade equipment that usually mean a better finished product, done faster, and was easier to use.

For a great place to rent in Roseburg or central Douglas County for that matter, check out; Roseburg Rental