Aussie Lawn Mowers for Beginners

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About Me
 
Hi, my name is Greg and welcome to my lawn mower information page. I'm an experienced small engine techo with more than 20 years experience.
I enjoy saving and restoring older engines including older lawn mowers. I like to focus on the older Victa models particularly from the 1960s to the 1980s.
I think this was the  'Golden Age' of the Victa mower in Australia.
In my collecting travels I come across good recent model lawn mowers that deserve to be saved and reused rather than just thrown away! After a full inspection and refurbishment these
mowers will cut your lawn just as effectively, and with a lot more character than any new wiz bang mower. And lets face it, most of the newer mowers use the same engines and designs
that have been around for many years, just dressed up in a new and modern looking plastic package for a lot more dollars!
 
The summary below is my take on 2-stroke and 4-stroke mowers, the pros, the cons and the classics versus the more modern types. Yes it's just my personal opinion but I hope this will help you
identify what you need for your lawn this season and help you keep your mower running sweetly when your neighbour's fails to start or keeps conking out every week!
So now please continue and discover something new about your next lawn mower.....
 
 
Lawn Mowers - A General Introduction


The modern small engine driven rotary lawn mower was derived from the earlier rotating drum lawn mowers that were used prior to the 1950s.

While invented independently by several inventors it is generally acknowledged that Mervyn Victor Richardson developed the first commercially successful 'portable' rotary type lawn mower in
Concord (a suburb of Sydney), Australia in 1952.

Richardson's original Victa models were based on a Villiers 2-stroke engine but he later worked with his engineers to develop and patent a Victa 2-stroke engine specifically for his line of lawn mowers.
Victa also developed a unique governed carburettor for their 2-stroke mowers in the 1970s and constantly updated their engine and cowling designs to produce many basic and advanced models.

From 1952 to the early 2000s the Victa company sold more than 8 million lawn mowers to more than 30 countries world wide. Recently the Victa company was sold to the American based Briggs & Stratton
company and most Victa mowers are now made with the B&S 4-stroke engine as the primary design. Sadly, the glory days of the rugged and powerful Aussie made Victa 2-stroke are now drawing to a close.

Today there are many manufacturers of lawn mowers, the majority now importing smaller 4-stroke models for basic backyard use. Larger professional models and ride-on mowers are still available
but these are now more targetted to the larger land holder or professional landscaper. In normal back yard use the lawn mower is unfortunately one of the most abused and misunderstood pieces of equipment.
Usually used infrequently, poorly maintained and/or left out in the weather, the back yard lawn mower is still expected to start, run and prepare the back yard lawn with little issue.
I hope the information below will help you to identify the type of mower you need, the pros and cons of each design, and what basic steps can be taken to ensure easy starting and good lawn preparation when required.

The 2-stroke mower

The 2-stroke design has proven to be a simple, strong and powerful design for the lawn mower. The additional power supplied in a small and light package suits the engine to the back yard lawn mower
and some of its larger equivalents.

The 2-stroke engine packs more power per volume and will tackle all sorts of grass and terrain in normal usage. The simplicity of the design makes maintenance simple and with normal use some models can
 last more than 30 years! Indeed, many of the original Victa designs from the 1950s are still going today! Today, the modern Victa 160cc engine produces a heap of cutting power for its size and weight in a very
small package.

The major gripe I hear about the 2-stroke is the 'hassle' of mixing the fuel and oil prior to refilling. I find that most people use the wrong oil or the wrong ratios and end up with poor performance or even end
up killing their 2-stroke mower in the process. By using the modern synthetic 2-stroke oil available today it is now possible to get excellent performance with reduced emissions and all with easy preparation.

After years of experimenting with various oil/fuel combinations my personal recommendation is to use the synthetic Penrite Hi-Per 2-stroke oil in 2-stroke lawn mowers. This is a higher specification
synthetic oil and is better and slightly more expensive than the standard greenkeepers oil. In my opinion the extra few dollars spent is worth every penny (and I have no affiliation with Penrite). The synthetic
2-stroke oil is far and away superior to the older standard mineral based oils in that it produces a cleaner spark plug burn leading to no spark plug fouling, very little emissions, reliable starting and re-starting,
good long term fuel mixing and stability and excellent power output.

Using the available modern synthetic 2-stroke oil combined with the correct spark plug and a clean and correctly calibrated carburettor, a good running 2-stroke lawn mower will power through most landscaping
jobs easily and quickly and produce a good looking lawn.

The 4-stroke mower

The 4-stroke design is slightly more complex for a small engine relying on a valve head design and usually being slightly heavier for its size. The power output is less per cc so most 4-strokes need to be of
decent capacity to match the power output of a 2-stroke of similar size. Usually the 140-160cc 4-stroke engine is adequate for basic back yard use but it may struggle with more demanding grass or heavier going.
The Briggs 4-stroke engine has a long history as the primary small engine for use in garden equipment. Reliability is usually good with the engine being used in most Rover, Masport and now most recent Victa models.

Despite the reduced power, the 4-stroke mower will also require monitoring of the oil level at each use (this is critical and is the primary cause of dead 4-stroke mowers). The oil level should be maintained at the
correct level (not over full) using a good 30 weight (30W) small engine oil. Some designs may run low on oil if mowing on steep slopes or angles so care should be exercised in these situations. Periodic oil
changes will help to extend the life of the 4-stroke but in normal use most mowers seem to survive OK on regular oil top ups only. The 4-stroke carburettor seems subject to blockage if left unused for a
period so it is always good practice to give it a good clean out each season.

The modern 4-stroke will run a bit quieter due to the lower power output so this may be a plus in inner city locations or where pets and animals may be particularly sensitive to the engine noise.


Mower Maintenance

By far the two biggest killers of the lawn mower are abuse and neglect. Using your mower to chop out tree stumps, chop through roots or mowing rocks is a sure way to destroy the mower
and also put your safety at risk!

Given that the lawn mower was designed for cutting grass, it is no surprise that it may struggle with anything tougher than your average lawn. The larger professional mowers and ride-ons are the preferred
way to go if you need to do some serious mowing over large areas. But for normal backyard duties the regular lawn mower will cope well if rocks and debris are removed before mowing. A line trimmer or
similar should be used around trees, tree roots and rocks to avoid damaging your mower.

A clean and dry lawn mower with the correct oil and fuel will usually start easily even if stored for some time. It is important to remove grass and leaf debris from above and below the mower after mowing
(and after the engine has cooled down!). Always turn off the fuel at the end of mowing (where a fuel tap is present) and make sure that the throttle is moved to the run position before storage
(this ensures that the ignition cut out circuit does not wear out or get jammed if the throttle is left in the stop position). Keep the mower under cover and away from moisture. Rusty components and
moisture in the ignition circuit are primary causes of failing to start or poor sparking/running.

Fresh is best in terms of fuel and oil for your mower but where there is only a break of a weekend or two (or three) between runs then there should not be any issues. For long term storage it is best to
drain the fuel and use fresh fuel at the next start up in several months time. 2-stroke mixes with synthetic oils should last several months but make sure to shake the mix well before use. All yard type
rotary mowers will function fine on modern unleaded fuel rated at 91 RON.

Blades should be sharpened at the start of each season and checked before each run for damage or looseness. Damaged, badly bent or cracked blades should always be replaced immediately. New
blades should always be replaced in pairs to ensure correct cutting disc balance.

Recycling Lawn Mowers - A Better Alternative?

I find that many mowers are consigned to the shed, the curbside or even the local tip due to poor maintenance, incorrect repairs or outright neglect. In most cases with some minor repair and adjustment
these mowers can be recycled and used for many years to come if used correctly and periodically maintained. I am constantly amazed at the number of good near new mowers that are thrown away due to
the use of the wrong oil/fuel or the wrong part!

Personally, I think a good old Aussie made Victa 2-stroke (from the classic era of Victa production from the 1960s to the early 2000s) will last any basic back yard duty for as many years as its owner will
maintain it. In a nutshell, these are bloody awesome little mowers!

With the use of modern synthetic oil and unleaded fuel the emissions and energy used has to be less than disposing of a complete lawn mower only to go and buy another new mower at many times the cost.
And the cost of the mid-range and deluxe models these days is extraordinary! The cheaper basic range of lawn mowers being dumped on the Aussie market are OK for basic use but the quality of some is
marginal at best (throttle cable breakage seems to be a constant issue on these). In terms of recycling lawn mowers, I would think that the energy used in producing the steel and plastic for the new mowers
(usually in other countries) has to consume far more energy (and generate far more emissions) than the existing models already available. While I'm usually a lot more practical than I am green, I would think
that recycling such a fundamental back yard tool should at least partly contribute to the reduce, reuse and recycle initiative. And there is also the added fun of having a beaut little Aussie icon to pull out each
weekend and start up for that flagging Aussie tradition of mowing that piece of Aussie lawn!

Now What?

So there you have it. This is my personal take on lawn mowers and some basic information to get you in the picture. If you must buy a new lawn mower then be sure to pay a little more to get something
decent that will last you at least 5-10 years. The mid-range mowers are to my mind still very expensive for what they are but they will do the job and last as long as you maintain them. But, if you need a
cheaper alternative to mow that simple lawn or to mow your rental or holiday property then a refurbished older mower could be the best way to go in terms of total investment and ongoing use for the next
few years. There seem to knowledgeable and reliable ebay sellers doing up mowers in most major cities so check out what they have, review their selling history and grab a true bargain (I think) especially
before all the classic Victas become part of our disappearing Aussie heritage!




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