Adventures in Small Engine Repair (Part 1)

Suffice it to say, this isn’t going to be one of those ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair” sort of posts.  But it is about the trials and tribulations of my attempt to save money (?) by repairing my (inherited) Troy-Bilt™ roto-tiller.  Proceed at your own risk 😉

When I was growing up in eastern/rural New York, I lived on a plot of land that my parents had purchased in 1964.  At that time it was a little over 2 acres, and a lot of it was wooded.  It was in a completely new development, subdivided out of an old farm owned by a family named Kerr.  Hence the road that worked its way into the development was called ‘Kerr Road’.  One of the interior streets that worked its way into the development was named after the contractor that had purchased the old farm and built the majority of the houses in the cul-de-sac.  All of this has nothing to do with the rest of the post.  Just giving you some background.

Seeing as we had a good amount of property, my father, who grew up on a farm in Ulster County during the 1930s and 40s, knew his way around small engines to a certain degree.  Over the years, he attempted to impart his knowledge to my brother and I, so as not to have to utilize small engine repair places too much.  Some of it rubbed off on me, some of it didn’t.  In the ensuing 30 or so years since moving away from where I grew up, I’ve done some repairs on my own, but for the most part I’ve left the heavy lifting to a smattering of local gearheads that have done work on my snowblower, roto-tiller, chainsaw (ok, that was a clusterf*ck) and string trimmer.

About 20 years ago we were having problems with the roto-tiller and had some local guys at a seasonal repair shop take a look at it.  They came with a trailer, hauled it away and a few days later pronounced they had fixed it.  Of course, that came with a caveat.  While they had given it what they called a ‘tune-up’ (changed the oil, looked over the engine) they were unable to get the wheels unstuck from the axle.  When the tiller was new, it had a system whereby you could move the unit by switching out cotter pins in the axle and moving the wheels to another hole further out so that the tiller could be moved without running the engine.  Over the years the wheels had become either rusted or frozen on the axle so this was impossible.  And what the guy told me, either he was going to have to take it to someplace where they could use a blowtorch to heat up the axle, and then a ‘wheel-puller’ to get the wheel off.  Or, they could take the medieval approach, cut the axle and using a hammer pound the axle through the shaft, and put a whole new axle and wheels on the tiller.  Which of course would cost more than the value of the machine as it was now.  His recommendation was just to move it when the engine ran.

Which is fine, when the engine runs.  But if the engine stalls when you’re on the other side of your property, and you can’t get it going again, with the wheels frozen, one has to ‘walk’ the machine on stuck wheels, back and forth repeatedly to get it back to the garage.  Which for a machine that weighs a good 80 lbs, is no simple feat.  It would be much better if the damn thing rolled like it was supposed to. Continue reading “Adventures in Small Engine Repair (Part 1)”