“Jim, we got a heartbeat!” – Leonard McCoy

The roto-tiller is fixed.  Finally.  I woke up yesterday morning at 6 am and just couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to stay up.  After going downstairs, puttering a little bit, fed the cat and finished a blog entry, I checked the weather for Thursday and noted that it was fairly chilly outside for a mid-June morning.  Something sort of called me out to the garage, so I went out there and stared at a few things before my eyes fell on the half-fixed roto-tiller.  I decided then and there that it was going to get finished.  It was only a fuel line connection to the gas tank (and a fuel filter installation) away from being done.

The gas tank was still off, so I had to finish putting on one of the small covers that prevents dirt from getting into the starter cord holder.  The nut only barely went on the bolt so I was forced to do a little finagling with a wrench and my drill/driver, but I finally got it back on.  Screwed in the self-tapping screw at the top and I was ready to go on to the gas tank.  Which turned out to be fairly easy, since the rust patterns on the various pieces reminded me of where they went.  Put the bolts in the respective holes, lined up the rust patterns and in this case used my impact driver to drive them in securely.

I had purchased a new spark plug, so I put that in after checking to be sure the gap was correct.  At that point I ran into a little snag with the fuel line, but a bit of measuring along with a couple of mishaps, and I was glad I had purchased the longer length of hose, as I ended up needing almost all of it to get it all connected, since I measured wrong the first time.  But after getting it all figured out, clamped up, I kneeled back and gave myself a little greasy pat on the back.  Checked my work to be sure I didn’t have any parts left over (didn’t!) and then went to get the gas can.  I filled the gas tank a little, checked to be sure there wasn’t a leak anywhere (yay, no!) and then filled the tank about halfway.

Moment of truth.  I checked the choke on the carb, and pulled the starter cord.  Nothing.  Looked up at the controls and realized the lever was still set at ‘STOP’.  Duh!  I pushed the lever forward to ‘START’ and then pulled the starter cord again.  Still nothing.  On the third pull, I was rewarded with a chug and the engine caught.  Apparently the complete lack of fuel in the system caused it to need a bit more in the carb to get things going.  But once the engine caught it continued to run, but it was running a little roughly.  I switched up the lever a bit more and it started to run a bit more smoothly.  But the governor was still surging a little, so I tweaked the carb until it evened out.  Once that was done, I revved the engine a little bit to find where the various speeds needed to be.  After doing that, I wound it down a bit, and then pulled the lever all the way back to stop.  Contrary to what it had been doing, where in order to stop I needed to pull the connector off the spark plug, this time the engine wound down on its own and stopped finally.

At this point I decided to take it outside the garage and give it a little test under load, where pre-repair it was having the most trouble.  Bringing it out beside the garage, I drove it into a patch of ground that had been tilled about a two weeks ago, when I was in the middle of trying to repair the old carb and had it all together and trying to see what it would do.  This time when I put it into gear, the engine didn’t die down or ‘hunt’ when the tines bit into the earth, it stayed high in the RPMs and cut through the ground like it was nothing.  Even moving into a patch that hadn’t been tilled before caused the same result, it worked just like there was nothing amiss.  Success!  Not wanting to wake the entire neighborhood (the engine on the tiller is a little loud, I’ve taken to wearing hearing protection while running it) I brought it back into the garage and shut it down.

This project has taken me I think the better part of a month to complete, but it hasn’t been without merit.  I think I’m perfectly capable of effecting successful repairs on it should the need arise, given my experience and that should save me money in the long run.  If nothing else I have considerable documentation, pictures and having documented my efforts here and elsewhere (I kept notes) it should keep me from having to find someone else to do the work for me.  Certainly I can change the oil myself now, and that’s a big thing when it comes to swapping out equipment for the changing seasons.  And I can take the knowledge of this and apply it to my snowblower, since the engines are nearly identical.  So bonus for that too.

It runs!  It’s fixed!  Now I have to move on to the desktop computer.  Go me!

Early Riser

It’s just before 8 am on my day off and I’ve already been up for about 90 minutes. I went to bed last night around midnight, intending to sleep about 8 hours if I could, as I have things to be doing today. A chiropractic appointment in another town, and since it’s going to be a nice day outside, probably a lunch out on the way home, then some work either in the backyard, in the gardens, or finishing work on the roto-tiller if I can manage to procure a suitable fuel line.

During my work career, I’ve primarily worked third shift. Going in to work at anywhere between 10 pm and perhaps 2-3 am when I was working in the store bakery. When you work a late shift, you tend to want to sleep during the day, and you don’t always get the right amount of it, due to the interruption of circadian rhythms and the fact the human body wasn’t really designed for third shift work. Go back a hundred years, (or more) and people weren’t working three shifts normally. It was only after fluorescent lights were invented and used in factories that the third shift was given its time. Now, companies that want super-productivity schedule people to work in the middle of the night when there’s little foot traffic to get things accomplished (like stocking shelves) and ready for business come the morning.

It’s only in the last ten years that I’ve been working first shift. Starting in the early morning anywhere from 6:30 to 8, with the occasional 5 am when it comes to a day where there’s department inventory. I’ve dabbled with the idea of going to another store to become a department manager again, recently there were openings nearby for a night crew manager, or what’s called a ‘scan coordinator’, basically someone that’s in charge of keeping all the prices in that particular store in order, hanging and creating sales tags and so on. But what’s mostly stopped me is the fact it’s no more money than I’m making now, and I’d have to drive 40-50 more miles per day. So I’d end up losing money for the ‘privilege’ of being a manager. Honestly, no thanks. Plus there’s little room for advancement. So I’ll stay where I am.

Circling back to the topic at hand, I woke up this morning early and figured I’d get my bathroom routine out-of-the-way right off, so that my wife, who tends not to be a morning person, could take her time getting herself ready for our sojourn out. Even she admits when she was employed as a social worker, she had a difficult time getting to the office in a timely fashion. If I get my stuff done, the primary bathroom is free (there are 2 in the house, but one is far more cramped than the other) for her to use at her leisure and I can get other things done before we head out.

Too, it fits into my usual morning routine when I’m working.  I get up, get my bearings and head to the bathroom for evacuation and dawdling on my Samsung tablet, checking news, baseball scores (have to see if the Red Sox either won or lost) and whatever else might be happening on social media or elsewhere.  Since I installed signal repeaters in good places in the house, there’s a strong WiFi connection just about everywhere both upstairs and down, so I don’t have to be concerned with signal drop like I used to.   I don’t really like typing on the tablet, I tend to prefer the feel of a keyboard when I’m typing.  I’m a bit old-school in that respect.  Unlike the kids I see at work who type away at 200 wpm with their thumbs, I’m more of the touch-typist, like when I practically taught myself on late nights sitting on the couch at our old house on the lake.  IRC was a great teacher when it came to learning typing.  Take that, typing class at RCS!  Ahem.

It’s now almost 9 and about ready to get going with getting the trash and recycling out to the curb.  Don’t have to fight for bathroom time and hopefully things will go smoothly from here on out.  The wife has come downstairs, we’ve chatted about what else we’re going to be doing post-appointment (she wants to shop for more plants, I need to see if that fuel line is available and there’s lunch to consider) and she’s headed for her (working) computer in the addition.


More Small Engine Angst

The carburetor arrived yesterday.  A couple of days early.  I actually used that as a good omen, though I honestly should have known better.  After taking my wife to her eye dr appointment (all’s well, it was just a 6 month checkup on her cataract surgeries) I got out of my work clothes, into my more comfortable home working clothes and got to work taking off the old carb and bolting on the new.

If I can take anything from the trials and tribulations of this experience with the engine, I feel that my learning curve has greatly increased when it comes to the ins and outs of small engines.  I certainly have a greater respect for them, they’re not really just means to an end anymore, they seem to have little lives of their own and really do need TLC from time to time, in order to work the way they’re supposed to.  Change the oil, check all the lines and so on, otherwise you’re going to be in dutch, and not in a good way!

This time, instead of removing the muffler and the air filter, and trying to wrest just the carburetor from the engine, I took a page from my experience and removed the two screws from the valve that led from the carb to the engine block and removed the entire assembly.  That worked much better, and I could get to the bolts much easier with a wrench.  If only I knew about that trick the first time!  Would have saved me a good 10 minutes of angst in getting the darn thing off.  Still, I forgot to dump the excess gas from the bowl of the carb using the little exit port and got gas all over my fingers when it went from level to cockeyed.  At least this time I had a rag to clean it up with.  I went ahead and cracked a window in the garage as I could already smell the gas and knew it wasn’t going to get much better if I kept spilling it.

Having the whole thing together, I slowly separated the valve from the old carburetor and set it aside.  Getting my tools together, I bolted the new carburetor on and reassembled the whole thing, ready to put it on the engine block.  Looking at the carb, I noticed what might already be a problem.  Ok, two problems.  First one; the choke lever is longer on this carburetor than the old one, so its going to be knocking against the protector arm that lies just beyond the cover of the air filter.  I bent the choke lever a little, making certain that it wasn’t bent too much (or worse yet, snap it off!) so it would clear.  I thought that was acceptable (turns out later it wasn’t).  The second issue was with the way the gas line would need to go into the carb.  On the old one, there’s a metal thingy on an angle that takes a straight line from the gas tank and bends it towards the carb.  On the new one, there’s no thingy, just an extension that the gas line slides onto, which is going to be a problem since my gas line isn’t all that long.  And it’s 40+ years old which means it’s probably pretty brittle.  I’d been concerned about clamping it with vise grips for fear I’d break it, so I’ve been very careful with it up to now.  In all good conscience I should replace that as well, but it threads past the engine block on an odd angle and to replace it requires removing another part of the machine that I really don’t want to get into, if I don’t have to (the recoil starter, if you really wish to know).

At this point though, I removed the metal angle from the gas line, pulled on it a little to get a bit more slack and slid it onto the extension of the carb.  Using a clamp that was already on the line, I went ahead and bolted the air cleaner onto the other end of the carb.  Sure enough, the choke lever was being interfered with by the size of the air cleaner cover, as well as being restricted in its movement by the guard as I feared.  Fiddling around with it, I thought that I had it nicked, so I went ahead and filled the block with 10W-30 oil, making sure that I didn’t overfill the block.  I didn’t want to be burning oil if I could help it.  I added gas to the tank, even though there was gas in the tank already and set up the tiller to start.

Yanked on the starter cord a few times after pushing the choke over to start.  Nothing.  Yanked a few more times.  Still nothing.  It finally occurred to me that the throttle was still on stop and that was probably a big reason I wasn’t getting any action.  Changed that and gave it another two pulls.  Ah!  It coughed.  That suggested I might have flooded it initially.  Another couple of pulls and it fired!  But immediately it was running rough, so I grabbed a screwdriver and adjusted the idle screw.  That helped a bit.  It started to run more smoothly, and it didn’t sound completely rough.  However, when I went to shut it off, I ran into the same problem as with the other carb.  Pulling the throttle all the way back caused the engine to chug, but it wasn’t stopping, so it was still getting too much gas to keep it running.  Not having a completely good idea how to rectify that, I resorted to the trick I figured out the first time this happened.  I pulled the connector off the spark plug.  The engine died.

About that time, I smelled the distinct odor of fresh gas.  Looking down, I saw a puddle forming under the tiller and looked closer.  What I had feared occurring had happened.  I ripped a hole in the ancient fuel line and it was bleeding the gas tank onto the floor of the garage.  Oy.  Grabbing a nearby can I shoved it underneath and allowed it to pool there instead.  I tried shutting off the flow by using the vise grips, but the gas just shifted from bleeding at one point to flowing down the handle of the grips into the can.  After watching that for a moment or two pondering the options, I finally gave up and ripped the gas line in half and drained the gas tank completely.  I’m going to have to get a new gas line and either re-thread it behind the recoil cable assembly like it is now, or get a longer line and wind it underneath the tiller dangling under the machine completely. I’ve seen a YouTube video of someone else’s tiller of the same model where they did that, but I’m not certain that’s the best option.  When its exposed like that, if it happened to get hung up on some protrusion while tilling, it could easily rip the line and then I’d have gas in whatever bed I was working on.  That would most definitely be not good.

So that’s where I’m at now.  One step forward and still a few steps to go.   I can probably get a fuel line locally.  I won’t have to order it online.  That should save some time…I hope.  Stay tuned!