I inherited a 27” Snapper Comet riding mower from a neighbor after it's engine blew. Turns out, the owner had failed to change and ensure adequate engine oil, so it seised. I happily accepted the donation, initially attempted to rebuild the Honda engine, but eventually replaced it with a new engine. It ran well for a few years. Here's the story.
A neighbor living a block away was the original owner. He is one of those guys who takes pride in keeping up his home landscape and he kept that grass cut very short, often cutting it twice a week in season. Evidently he decided he wanted a new Snapper, so he sold the old Comet to another neighbor who lives across the street from me. That lasted only a month or less. Evidently the 2nd owner never checked the oil and after several uses the engine blew. He pushed it to the curb in disgust. I though maybe I could help him fix it so I walked over and had a conversation with him. He said “No. Take it!” and so I pushed it across the street to my carport where I started tearing it down over the next weekend.
As I took the engine apart I set the visibly damaged pieces to one side and started purchasing replacements through ebay. Eventually, I discovered this was foolish. After buying $100 in parts (new and used) I finally cleaned off the engine crank case enough to see that the engine block was cracked and, since it was aluminum, essentially irreparable.
After watching a number of “repower Snapper Comet” videos I gathered enough information to feel I could succeed with this so I started searching the web for an affordable replacement engine. I repowered the lawn mower with a 12.5 HP Brigs & Stratton engine I purchased online from Small Engine Warehouse. It was a deal, at just over $420 including the special shaped muffler. Shipping was another $48. The rebuild process was easy, though I spent some time cleaning, repainting, and replacing some worn pieces on the Snapper before installing the new engine. Once complete the mower ran fine and was a workhorse. I enjoyed the “hi-vac” capability which really sucked up clippings, leaves and even sweetgum balls.
I also enjoyed that this riding mower made it possible for me to help out my elderly neighbor (owner #2 above) by keeping his lawn cut. He too was a stickler and wanted those clippings bagged, so I was happy to help. I was in lawncare bliss for two years until that dark day in 2018…
Much to my surprise, the new engine itself failed after two years of use. Yes, I did change the oil. No, it wasn't running low on oil. The reason for engine failure is unknown to me, but I have two aggravating issues:
- I was cleaning and lubing the underside of the mower that afternoon, tipping it up beyond 45 degrees briefly as I lubed the rear drive grease points. I lowered it back down and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before attempting to start and run it.
- The very first time I started the new engine (back in early 2017) I unwittingly ran it briefly without sufficient oil. (Warning: moron alert) It's true. I didn't realize that the engine was shipped nearly dry. In my excitement when I first installed the engine, I started and ran it for only a few moments until it seised. Immediately realizing my mistake, I let it cool, filled it with oil, ran it (yes, it started) for about a half hour, and then changed the oil again.
From that point on the mower ran well for two seasons. Then, after that cleaning and lubing session, I was driving it across the backyard to store it in the shed and it seised up. Darn! Now I'm back considering whether to rebuild or replace the engine. This time there is no visible external damage to the B&S engine, so I'm sure if I replaced enough internal parts - and had the cylinder professionally bored - it would run again. The problem is that the cost of all of that is pretty darn close to a new B&S engine.
At just under 2 years since purchase the engine was still under warranty. So why didn't I get it fixed? I call it the B&S “not-so-warranty” because you must first provide the authorized B&S repair center a $200 deposit. They'll tear down the engine and at their discretion determine whether it is a warranty repair or not. If yes, they'll refund your deposit and repair the engine. If no, they'll apply your depost towards the total repair cost which is likely more than a new engine. Why on earth would they ever rule in favor of a warranty repair? Honesty? Intregity? …please.