Lawnmower repairs
Still afloat despite a bit of bovver

see copyright notice. Page created 18-Jun-2022. Use the button groups above to navigate quickly around the site.

[Repaired Flymo DLE-4]

I bought my Flymo™ DLE-4 hover mower in March 1985. It's a basic model, without a grass box, so I usually go round the lawn with a rake after mowing it. Once when I was doing this, a workman up a ladder next door called out, cynically, "it's a lot less bovver with a hover!" (that being an advertising slogan at the time). But in truth I don't mind, in fact it can be quite beneficial to drag a rake over the grass.

The first signs of ageing were cracks in the white plastic coating on the upper handle. Almost certainly the result of storing it in the shed, where that part was in direct sunlight from a west-facing window. There we have another life lesson - never store plastics in sunlight! Luckily I kept the bits that fell off, and in due course bound the entire handle back together with bicycle handlebar tape. Ideally it would have been white to match the lower frame, but my chosen shop only had black...

A more serious problem occurred when the mower was about 25 years old; the foam plastic air intake filter shrank and worked loose, then started to disintegrate (as plastic foam does all too often).

[Substitute air filter]

The original filter was a long strip of foam, formed into a rectangle and held in place (before it shrank) by four corner posts inside the cowling above the motor. After a little thought, I made a replacement by folding over a length of old net curtain material several times, to form a similar strip to the old foam one, and then made a retaining guard from some chicken wire.

Once sandwiched into place by the snap-in motor shroud (not shown) this proved to be a surprisingly good filter! The air flow is as good as new, and yet very little debris gets inside. Best of all, clippings leaves etc brush off much more readily than they did with the old filter. It had been in place for 12 years, albeit cleaned each year during start-of-season maintenance, when I took this photo.

The electrics caused no problems, until May 2022. Then, two-thirds of the way through mowing the lawn, the motor began to falter and lose power; an entertaining display of fireworks could be seen through the top window. I finished cutting the grass with shears [a bit like painting the Forth Bridge - I swear the first-cut grass had grown visibly by the time I reached the end], then dismantled the mower and removed the motor. The latter had a thick layer of carbon deposited around the top bearing, and I guessed I'd need to replace the brushes.

However, after cleaning it up and doing some continuity checks, I found that both brushes were intact and still nearly a centimetre long. One wasn't making contact, and I soon established that its spring was stuck at an angle in the brass holder. Furthermore, the retaining tabs at the end of said holder were missing! Now, I can't believe it left the factory like that, so I can only guess that many years ago I must have tried to open the holder and broken off the tabs. If the purpose was to remove a brush, I'd have been disappointed because there's a dimple punched in the top of the holder to prevent this (a rather mean feature in my opinion - I note that replacement brushes aren't available, just the option of buying a new motor costing nearly as much as a new mower).

To replace the spring retaining tabs, I drilled two 1.5mm holes in the sides of the holder (having first stuffed some kitchen paper in to keep out the swarf). Then carefully bent some thick copper wire into the shape of a figure 8, which could be sprung into the holes and soldered in place and to the brush tag and supply.

[Broken brush holder] [Improvised spring retainer] [Repaired brush holder]

Pictured: (1) the brush holder with broken tabs, after desoldering brush tag and supply; (2) improvised spring retainer; (3) the finished repair. As with the filter repair, the mower is once again running like a good 'un!

Safety note: an RCD (Residual Current Device) should always be fitted in the electrical supply to outdoor appliances such as lawnmowers, and tested regularly. This becomes even more important if, like me, you've made improvised repairs.

top ▲