Friday, October 24, 2008


Just a quick Gravely update tonight. Last weekend I got the leafing rig together and used it for the first time this season -- both days, actually. I assembled the box, got everything into place and tooled around the yard picking up leaves.

Things started out OK, but I discovered that the armature pin on the fuel pump is loose enough to work its way out in no time at all, and it's been leaking oil again. After a couple of attempts to fix it in place, I ended up smooshing a piece of lead into the nooks and crannies of the casting's outer shape to act as a physical barrier to sliding out, and that appears to have done the trick for now. At some point I'll do something more permanent, but as you'll read, there's more than one permanent fix needed.

Second, a simple thing: The starter solenoid is sticking. I was able to find it (it's on the inside of a frame rail, down by the operator's shins), and whacking on the frame rail with a hammer seems to have unstuck it for now. But that's going to need to be replaced at some point. These things just use old GM-spec solenoids, readily and cheaply available at a NAPA or CAP store.

The truly bad news is that the engine has a rod knock. It also seems to be leaking some oil around the crankshaft on the flywheel side. Doesn't seem to be burning too much oil, at least. In any case, it would seem the engine will either need to be rebuilt or replaced.

I can find out easily enough how much an Onan NB-MS rebuild will cost, but I don't expect to hear good news, there, unless I did it myself. It's got to take a bunch of hours to do a rebuild. We'll see how it goes. It's a stout engine, and I'd rather not have to replace it, but we'll see what the options are.

Actually, though, I have seen some interesting repowers of Gravely equipment on the Web. Replacing the big, shaky single-cylinder Onan with a v-twin from Kohler, Honda or Briggs & Stratton might be fun. More power is available, should I want it, and I'm sure they'd produce much less noise and vibration than I'm getting now, and a modern engine would be a lot cleaner and greener too. Or I could repower my walk-behind and move its engine over to the rider, since I don't use the rider nearly as much, and the benefits of a new motor would be experienced to a far lesser extent. Again -- we'll see. I don't really have time for any of the above, honestly.

In the mean time, I'm going to keep the engine speeds slow and steady -- no more than half throttle on the tractor. And I'm going to keep it throttled back on the vacuum as well -- no need to overstress either engine, and since I got all the sticks up a few weeks ago and am keeping ahead of the leaves, part throttle seems perfectly fine.

Speaking of which, the leafer engine is performing pretty well. It got into a wierd non-running state last weekend that I eventually solved, but I'm not really sure how. Maybe by tightening up the three fuel pump bolts on it, or scouring the magnet on the flywheel with steel wool -- not sure what did the trick. In the process of trying to solve it, though, I discovered that one of the head studs is broken off and as a result, the head can't be removed. Which isn't a big deal since it was an essentially free engine. But rebuilding that one isn't really an option, it seems, should the need ever arise. I also had to run a tap down through another of the head stud holes, so at some point in it's life, the engine's clearly been messed with by someone who'd no business messing with it. But again, it was free and it's running fine again -- for now. If it gets me through a season or two, that's all I can really ask.

I also set the rig up with the new hose. I could probably have done with a 7 foot length rather than an 8, but that's OK. The new hose is nice because it doesn't sag like the old one did, and it stays up and out of the way of the muffler. I'd planned to experiment with supports for it, but it seems all I need to do with it is lash it to the trailer tongue with a tie-down strap, and all is well.

So far (mostly), so good. But the tractor is going to need some love. I should add, though, that as frustrating as it is to not be able to rely on the equipment like I can my car (a 2006 Mazda3 that's been pretty much flawless in that regard), I did know what I was getting into with this stuff. And the truth is there's a part of me that thrives on tinkering and cobbling together contraptions and coming up with solutions. It's a part of me that requires constant feeding, and sharing that is really what this blog is all about. So I'll raise my coffee cup, here, to old machines needing some love.

All for now,


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