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My lawn mower, dead at 10

Started by jsowers, October 17, 2010, 04:10:46 PM

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With apologies to Dennis and his thread about Barbara Billingsley's death, I have something unusual to share that happened to me yesterday afternoon. I was almost finished mowing the yard when I felt something warm at my left foot. I looked down and flames were shooting out from under the hood of my lawn mower! Yipe!

It was a Simplicity and about 10 years old, so it wasn't a huge loss, but the darn thing caught fire right at the road, about five minutes away from finishing mowing the yard. It either had a bad oil leak, which is what I was thinking since I saw a lot of blue smoke off and on when I was mowing the back yard, or maybe some leaves got next to the belts and it started there. The mowing deck was working OK, though, and nothing was slipping. It will always be a mystery, I guess. We had them look at the oil leak when it was in the shop last year and I don't think it ever got fixed. It continued to use a lot of oil, but I never saw blue smoke like that until today.

Anyway, I shut off the mower and ran inside and got my little fire extinguisher. It managed three little spurts of white stuff before it quit and the fire spread rapidly. I couldn't open the hood because the catch for the hood was where the flames were shooting from. So I ran back inside and called 911 from the 554 in the kitchen while watching the mower burn through the window. They arrived in about five minutes, which seemed like an hour to me. But I was taking pictures from the doorstep and it was only five minutes according to the times on the pictures. They managed to put the fire out before it reached the back where the gas tank was. I had filled it up before mowing, so it was maybe 2/3 full. I could envision it exploding and killing a bystander.

I called Mom, who lives two houses up the road, and she called Uncle Max and my brother-in-law who brought his truck and towed it away from the road and into the barn lot. I thought while we were hooking the chain to it that I could just leave it there with a skeleton on it and have a great Halloween decoration! :)

Luckily the mower and some grass were the only things lost. I took the family out to eat barbecued chicken afterwards. Better the chicken and lawn mower got barbecued instead of ME.

Below is the mower after the fire was out. Uncle Max is holding the hood. And a shot from the opposite side to show just how close to the road I was.


...just WOW!  You're lucky you felt something warm by your foot when you did!


Amazing!  Good thing you were observant, it could have ended badly.  Never seen anything like it.

Kenny C

Well you still have the back tires ;)
In memory of
  Marie B.


Ten years is pretty good for a riding mower, but many live longer.  Thank goodness you're okay and nobody else was injured.


Quote from: KeithB on October 17, 2010, 08:22:36 PM
Ten years is pretty good for a riding mower, but many live longer.  Thank goodness you're okay and nobody else was injured.

I agree. I still have all ten toes and I'm lucky I wasn't wearing socks so I could feel the heat through my shoes. We had a 1950s rear engine Simplicity that once belonged to my great aunt and my grandmother bought it from her. That old relic soldiered on until the 1990s with an engine transplant done by my uncle. I think we finally had to junk it when the transmission died and it wouldn't stay in gear. And I've never seen a burned up lawn mower before either. I'm thinking it will be our last Simplicity, though. I haven't been impressed with the service at the dealership.

Anybody need any back tires? Only slightly singed.

Dennis Markham

Glad you dodged the flames on that experience, Jonathan.  That sounds like quite an experience.  I'll bet when you awoke that morning you thought it was going to be just another routine weekend day.

You can always make a lamp out of the tires that remain. :)


So unlike a Simplicity, mine's a 1968.  My dad used to have a Small Engine Shop, and this was like the Simplicity we had prior, which was given back to me years later, then stolen,.  I've had this one I have now since Dad gave it to me when I was 8 years old.  Mine's nowhere near this clean.  Someday......

- Tom


Tom, welcome back! I haven't seen you post anything for a while. Your Simplicity looks a bit like my uncle Max's, which is several years older than ours that burned, which was also a Broadmoor. It's been a while since lawn mowers had hubcaps. We've had three Simplicity mowers and the first one had hubcaps and was from the 50s and was a rear engine model. It first belonged to my great aunt and with an engine transplant, it lasted for about 30 years. It's still my all-time favorite mower because it was fast, light and maneuverable. And it blew the clippings out the left, not the right. Toward the end of its life, I was the only one who could start it.

As sort of a footnote to the disaster, we replaced the Simplicity that burned with a Cub Cadet Z-Force S 48. Homeowner's insurance paid for all of it except the $250 deductible. It's a zero turn with a steering wheel. Mom uses the mower even more than I do, so she liked the steering wheel. It's OK, but with all the trees I have, it still takes a hour to mow the lawn. But it's nice not to do it in flames.


That Cubby is sure nice! 

My Simplicity had an engine transplant  back in 98, 1981 Briggs and Stratton 8 horse.  I painted it myself and such when I was 8.  The paint is worn, the engine's tired, and I'm hoping to re-do it this spring.
- Tom


Sorry to see your loss.

Our John Deere LT166 mower is now at least 15 years old. About all we ever did to it is change the oil, and battery.

Last year, however, all heck broke loose - it was still on its original blades, and in our first use of the spring, it began throwing its mower belt. So, off it went to John Deere for the first time since we bought it for new blades, a new drive and new mower belt, and a control arm which turns on the mower - it has bent and was allowing the belt to slip off. It was fairly expensive, but it is again like new - this after 15 years of cutting 2 acres..

This was while I was in hospital following a heart attack - Linda was sure if I survived that I would blame her for breaking the mower!

The other gem we had was a mower I bought the year my wife and I were married. It lasted 30 years until my wife finally killed it. Seems to me it only cost us under $100 new. It was a Briggs and Stratton 4 hp engine on it, definitely one of their best!

Of course, in the intervening years, we have gone through a number of other mowers - we'd often have two hand mowers going at a time. That Briggs was one incredible survivor!

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That reminds me of two years ago this month when we were on a reposition cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver. One of the stops was Astoria Oregon where we wandered around town for the day as they have lots of antique and second hand stores there.

Out on the sidewalk in front of one of the second hand stores was a super delux looking mower like the one you posted above Dave. It had all sorts of gadgets and accessories with it as well. The mower with vacuum bagger thing on the back and I think it came with a utility trailer to pull as well. It was used but in very nice condition and the whole thing was only $500. The last thing I need is one of these, I have a 55' x 130' city lot with a bit of grass but it looked like so much fun!

Of course I was travelling by cruise ship so I said I'd just call it my scooter (bad hip or something) and drive it onto the ship! Needless to say it is probably still in Oregon.



Just shows, it pays to look after your equipment, cos small engines need treating like newborn babies, always needing care and attention to prevent bad things happening...  :-\

Not to mention, small engines are easy to strip, clean, replace gaskets and rebuild, just takes a little practice, something the service place obviously didn't have when keeping that now destroyed mower "serviced"... ::)

Hope you're planning to sue them, cos if it had an oil leak they were told to fix, and they didn't fix it, and almost seriously injured you due to their incompetence, you could be in for some nice compensation money, enough to buy a replacement (of another brand, of course)...  ;D


Homeowner's insurance covered it all and I wouldn't think of suing anyone over that because there was no injury to anything except the grass below the mower where it burned. But I would also never buy another mower from them. We replaced it with a Cub Cadet, which is still running fine, but has been in the shop once for a warranty repair.

One thing that changed--we now blow the leaf remnants from the mowing deck with a leaf blower before it's put away after mowing. I'm surprised how many places there are to catch leaves and grass. The new mower has a water connection to wash the deck, but I envision rust forming from that and haven't used it. Also, there's no hose connection near where we keep the mower.

BTW, the fire didn't start in the deck--the flames came from the engine first. I still think it was leaking oil.


Quote from: AE_collector on May 24, 2012, 08:55:29 PM
super delux looking mower like the one you posted above Dave.
You'd love my other tractor, a John Deere 950 - for years we cut the fields with it and a flail mower. But, it was too large, so we finally sold the mower, and kept the tractor, front end loader and snowblower for it. The tractor is driven by a 27 hp 3 cylinder Yanmar diesel.

We are selling it this year despite the fact that I love it and it only has 600 hours on it - I have too much difficulty getting onto it now because of my bad legs and other disabilities. Our next door neighbours are now clearing our snow. So I am fixing up the few things it has wrong with it, replacing the battery, I have changed the oil and filters, and have to splice some broken wires to lights on the fenders and to the canopy.

Photo below, my JD950, the Model 75 loader and snow blower with ROPS and Canopy, all of which are going with the machine.

It is neat how you detach the loader from the machine. You pull two levers, operate the hydraulics, and it kneels down onto a built in stand, and simply lifts itself off the tractor like a "transformer" toy, and then you undo the quick connects on the hydraulic lines, and back the tractor away!

I love that machine, but it is time to let it go. :'(

The Telephone Museum of Prince Edward Island:
Free Admission - Call (902) 651-2762 to arrange a visit!
C*NET 1-651-0001