Refurbing an R/C mower

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Sidecar Bob
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#31

Post by Sidecar Bob »

Around here the trash pickup can't take old mowers &c so people take them to the landfill (they have a bin for scrap metal) instead of putting them out to the curb but I have the remains of a couple of Briggs engines from old mowers people gave me for parts in my garage attic; I haven't even looked at them in so long I can't remember how complete they are or what sizes
When we lived in the city an electric walk behind mower did all I needed. When we moved out of the city I spent 8 hours over several days cutting the new yard with the electric and needed all of the extension cords we owned to almost reach the far back corner. A few days later I was introduced to using a riding mower at the part time job (I was trying to start my own business but it was the wrong idea at the wrong time & place) and the following weekend we found a 5HP riding mower at a yard sale and stored the electric.
A couple of years later ('97) I took a correspondence course in Small Engine Repair hoping it would help me keep my motorcycles running (I later took a Motorcycle Repair course but I've learned far more on the forums) and at the end of the course they sent me a brand new, perfectly working Tecumseh Legend 3.5 HP engine (it would have made more sense for them to send a box pf parts to build an engine or one that you needed to fix) so I pulled the electric mower out of storage and converted it to gas.
Just after we moved to this house the sheet metal deck of that mower started to show its age so while taking stuff to the landfill I grabbed a cast aluminum deck from an old Lawn Boy to replace it and I'm still using it for the areas the riding mower can't get into. All it has needed in all that time (other than oil changes) was a couple of spark plugs and a new pull start (the Briggs ones don't fit and new ones were cheap on eBay). I'll continue to use it at least until I get used to steering the R/C mower.

Around the time I took the course someone gave me a bigger riding mower that had a couple of small problems and we used that until it broke a ring and scored the cylinder in its Briggs engine too badly to be worth fixing. After we moved here I got to know one of the local mower repair guys and he sold me enough parts from an engine an apprentice had disassembled by mistake (should have just removed it and cleaned it up) and we used that until it threw a rod. With the engine beyond repair (& the ones in the attic too small for a riding mower). I went to another local mower guy to see about an engine and he took it as a trade in on a much newer/better one with a more powerful OHV Briggs engine for less than it would have cost for a half decent used engine (no fixing the old one the rod put a big hole in the side). That one is in the shed; In over a decade it has had oil changes, a couple of plugs, new tires and new blades. And I built a cage for it to keep low hanging branches from removing my head
Mower cage & shed doors July 6 2017.jpg
It is in good enough shape that I figured on selling it once I get the R/C one working but when I parked it after using it a couple of weeks ago it clunked loudly when I shut the engine off and groaned instead of restarting so i guess I'll have to look inside the engine first, a job for next spring.

Anyway
, all that is to say that I'm no stranger to working on mower engines and I do have some parts around but this is my first Honda small engine (I've always wanted a Honda mower but I've never seen a used one for sale) so nothing I have fits.

The local mower place told me they get Honda parts through Lindsay Cycle (where I get parts for my bikes) so I called and Gary (parts guy I have a years long relationship with). It turns out there are actually 3 springs in there (I only saw 2 so I'll need to look for where the 3rd one goes) and they don't have them in stock so he ordered them for me and I can pick them up the next time I'm in Lindsay. And he confirmed that the springs that is missing one end is usually the culprit for hunting/surging.
The total came to $12 and change including tax. Sometimes it is cheaper & easier to get stuff from the Honda dealer than it is to buy online.
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#32

Post by 77Gowing »

Yes, sometimes ya just have to meet their price.
Good for you Bob. I liked your story, you are pretty industrious.
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Sidecar Bob
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#33

Post by Sidecar Bob »

No, what I meant is that if I had bought online it would have cost about as much for just the shipping (in addition to what the parts would cost) as what it is going to cost for the parts at the Honda dealer. Including sales tax.
This sort of thing is why we need to shop at our local bike shops as often as possible so they will be there when we need them.
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#34

Post by Sidecar Bob »

The new springs made a world of difference to the surging so it is running pretty normally now. I'm still not cutting too close to anything because I tend to get mixed up and move the steering when I mean to move the speed & vise versa, than have that moment of panic when it doesn't do what I meant it to and crank the wrong control farther. The more I drive it the less that happens so I know I just need more practice. I'm getting a bit better at steering it now too and the last time I only had to run it about 50% extra to get the spots I missed instead of twice as much like the first time (again, more practice needed).

With possible snow in the forecast in the next couple of weeks I probably won't get any more done on it or be able to make a video until spring so I guess that winds it up for now.
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#35

Post by sparkyrasmus »

Yep, we are getting up to six inches of snow today and maybe (I hope not) getting up to 15 this weekend.
So my question - Can you mount a snow blower on that rig. Now that would be awesome!
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Sidecar Bob
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#36

Post by Sidecar Bob »

Lee & I talked about that but it doesn't have enough traction to push something like that.

Besides, we haven't been getting nearly as much snow here the last few years as we did 20 years ago and not nearly as much as you get; Most of the times it snowed last winter I used the scoop (snow float) because there wasn't enough to be worth firing up the blower so I think I only used the blower 5 or 6 times all winter (including once when there wasn't much but I wanted to warm it up to make sure everything was working well and change the oil).
Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#37

Post by Sidecar Bob »

I guess it's about time I updated this. I took the mower out of storage in May and installed the new tank
1 - New tank.JPG

I started cutting the "grass" but after about 20 minutes it suddenly stopped moving and no longer responded to the radio. As I approached it to shut off the motor I saw a cloud of what I took to be smoke coming out from around the box for the electronics so I shut it off and dragged it to the garage.
When I opened the box the inside of it was wet and smelled of chemical and the top of one of the big capacitors on the Sabertooth 2x25 controller had popped (they have grooves in the top designed to split and vent if the electrolyte boils instead of exploding).
I contacted the manufacturer to see if they thought I could replace the caps but they said the board is glued to the heatsink so it would be better if I sent it to them and if it could be fixed there would be no charge.
It took about a week for it to get from here to them in Hudson, Ohio and another week for them to decide more was wrong than the caps and it couldn't be repaired. They offered me a new replacement at half price and shipped it on May 25th.

When USPS tracking showed it "In Transit to Next Facility" on June 2 and Canada Post tracking said "Waiting for item" with no updates for over a month I was starting to think it had been lost. On July 9th USPS tracking (which was supposed to be emailing me updates but didn't) suddenly showed that it had arrived in San Francisco on July 2, sent on to Burnaby BC on the 6th and it finally arrived here on the 12th.
If you were the USPS and a parcel mailed from Ohio to a destination near Toronto, wouldn't you either pass it to Canada Post at Detroit/Windsor or Buffalo/Fort Erie instead of sending it to the west coast?
No wonder postal rates are so high.....

Anyway, while I was waiting I was in contact with Dimension tech support. There are several possible causes for the type of damage my original 2X25 had. One possible cause is a loose power connection caused by stuffing too large a wire into the terminal (Lee had used the wiring from the wheelchair that the motors came from and I used what he did). Their literature says a maximum wire size of AWG #12 and I had some on hand so I changed to that. It can also be result of the unit's regenerative feature trying to deal with power generated by the motors when it can't be sent to the battery (in hindsight, I might have done that damage by dragging the mower 80 feet with the switch turned off). They recommended that I add a diode across the power switch as in the drawing below so that when the switch is off current can't flow from the battery to the unit but can flow from the unit to the battery.
regen_current_sink.png

They said this can also happen if there is a breaker between the battery and it trips so they recommend using a breaker for each motor instead. I had originally bolted a project box over the place where I mounted the receiver but when the plate flexed from hitting low branches the lugs on the lower end broke off so while I was working on it I replaced the box and this time attached it with zip ties. Shown here with one more connection to make before I closed the box (compare to the pics in post #20)
2 - Wiring changes 15 July.jpg
It seemed to work but during testing (fortunately with the mower not running) it suddenly started turning on the spot at high speed. I figured out that I could stop it by steering hard in the opposite direction and was able to shut it off. When the same thing happened I stopped testing until I could consult with Lee. We put the back end on a block so that the wheels were off the ground and tested it that way and eventually figured out that the problem was the receiver not telling the Sabertooth to stop when it lost signal. Lee swapped me a RadioLink setup (a lot less expensive but also a lot less complicated) that is intended for cars & boats (the Spektrum stuff was intended for aircraft) and the problem went away.
https://www.radiolink.com/rc6gs

So I closed it up again and (after a bunch of testing with the mower not running) I cut the grass with it (the first time this year that I didn't need to borrow the neighbour's lawn tractor). While I was working on it I had noticed that the Sabertooth User's Guide says to use spacers when mounting it to plastic because of heat, which got me thinking about how much heat it gives off so while I was using it I felt the plastic plate. It wasn't burn your fingers hot but it was pretty warm so I decided I should add spacers. When I removed the cover to work on adding spacers I noticed that some un-shrunk heat shrink inside the box had shrunk so I started thinking about ventilation.
If I add 1cm spacers under the Sabertooth there will not be enough room inside the original box for it plus the switch, circuit breakers and digital voltmeter, let alone to add in a fan so I started thinking about changing it.

A couple of months ago I was looking for something to add to a Princess Auto order to bring it to the amount for free shipping and a couple of these for $2 each, figuring the boxes would be handy for something one day
https://www.princessauto.com/en/data-bo ... 0008812745

It won't fit on the plastic plate but I was already thinking about ways to stiffen it and I had a couple of 1mm stainless steel plates about the right width.
I cut the plate and started drilling it yesterday (pics later) and if I open up the bigger hole I can mount the Sabertooth directly to the steel plate without spacers and the plate will help dissipate the heat.
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Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#38

Post by Sidecar Bob »

The Data Box came with an 8 way cable splitter mounted inside the cover and a board for connecting ethernet cables (with a female RJ45 on the end) screwed to the base, which I removed and sent to the spare electronic parts dept.
3 - Data box.jpg

The slot (probably for the ethernet cables) was just about where I wanted the motor and battery cables to exit and wide enough to clear suitable grommets but the hole for the splitter wasn't big enough for the Sabertooth so I got to use the Dremel jigsaw on it. Next I figured out how long the stainless needed to be, cut it with an angle grinder and used the disc sander to clean up the cut (I rounded the corners on the sander too)
After that I laid out where I needed to drill holes and got to work. I started with 1/8" holes in the plastic and transferred their locations to the stainless with a centre punch. Then came the hard part: Stainless is tough to drill so I worked my way through the drill index, enlarging the holes a couple of sizes at a time up to about 3/8" and then one size at a time. That worked fine for the small holes for the bolts and the 11/16" holes for the breakers but when I tried opening the holes for the grommets to the needed 1/2" I got to 29/64" and then burned the ends of the larger bits no matter how gently I went (yes, I did use cutting oil). I finished the hole on the right with files but it was a lot of hard work and I really should have quit for the day before I finished (this is the one that looks rough).
In the morning it occurred to me that I had used the milling machine chamfer cutter I bought to use in the drill press for countersinking holes in steel to enlarge a hole 1/4" steel to the cutter's full 17mm so it should be OK for 1mm stainless. I used it to take out a little bit from one side, flipped it over and repeated until the 1/2" bit would pass through - much easier than filing and the result looked much nicer too. (BTW: The grommet covers the rough area so it isn't noticeable)
But then I needed a 22mm hole for the switch. I opened it to 17mm with the cutter, then used a carbide tipped 3/4" drill bit to enlarge that. For the last 3mm I used a step drill with light pressure and lots of cutting oil and it came out really nice.
I also drilled out the holes in the plastic to match.
4 - Panel & box drilled.jpg

When I had the plate and the base of the box bolted together and the switch and breakers mounted it occurred to me that the push on terminals I had used to connect the breakers would hit the cover but flag type connectors would work. I didn't have any on hand but we were going to Lindsay the next day to get out 2nd Covid shots so I tried to get some but couldn't. When we got home I decided to convert some regular ones by flattening out the part you normally crimp, cutting off the part that crimps over the insulation and folding the rest into a U shape to lay the wire into. Since they couldn't be crimped I soldered them on and since I didn't have proper insulated covers for them I made my own from heat shrink (sorry, I didn't think of taking a pic until they were finished).
5 - Flag terminals.jpg

Yesterday I finished connecting all the wires. Lee recommended mounting the receiver in a block of foam (note that this one has a wire antenna so it doesn't need to be mounted high up in a separate box) and the foam and the switch fit neatly into the recesses in the Data Box base. With this layout the motor wires can be connected directly to the breakers too.
6 - Closeup new wiring.jpg

The box has posts & holes at the bottom & clips at the top to keep it closed and came with lightweight ties so the cover wouldn't fall when opened but I replaced the ties with (stronger) zip ties and also added a screw on the top so the clips can't let go on bumpy ground.
The voltmeter is a needed so I can stop the mower and check the voltage periodically so I know when to had back for a charge (yes, I know it should be the resting voltage but I'm not going to let it sit for 2 hours in the middle of mowing) and it had to be where I can see it easily so I mounted it in the top of the cover. Its original wires were pretty flimsy (it doesn't draw much current) but I needed longer wires and wanted a connector in case I ever need to remove the cover so I changed to wires that are heavy enough to support the connector and supported them with a wire clip close to the meter.
You can also see the small block of foam I glued to the cover to make sure the receiver stays in its block and the antenna (Lee gave me a piece of plastic tubing to support it).
7 - Wiring changes 28 July.jpg

After that I tested it with the wheels off of the ground (the wheelie bar is handy for lifting it onto the block) and then Lee & I drove it around for a while and we decided it was ready to use. Based on how much charge the battery had when I started cutting and how much gas was left in the tank when I drove it back to the charger it looks like it will just about need a charge for every fill up, which sounds like I got the right size tank ;-)

We still have to add the ignition kill to the R/C part but that can wait a while for me to get a few other jobs done.
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Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
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Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#39

Post by sgwilly »

Bob, I think you got the post-retirement doldrums under control. Tinkerer's never retire. Carry on!
Steve
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Sidecar Bob
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#40

Post by Sidecar Bob »

I'm getting better at driving the R/C mower. It is running well and using it is becoming routine so this is a sort of addendum.

The 12/24V charger I bought last year for the R/C mower has been sitting wherever I could find a place for it until now. This week I put up a little shelf next to the one that hangs on the wall in my parking space for it.
I've been thinking about adding a 2 conductor trailer connector to the wires from the charger with a matching plug on the mower so that I can just plug it in instead of using the big alligator clips and with the charger on the shelf the wires with the clips won't reach the closest place I can park the mower when charging it so today's main job was modifying the charger.
Before
1 - Before.jpg

Inside before mods
2 - Inside.jpg

I added a power switch and replaced the original output wire that's about double the length and has the trailer plug on the end
3 - Modified.jpg

And back together with the matching plug ready to install on the mower the next time it is in the garage. My homemade charger has had the same kind of connector for decades so the piece with clips that plugs into it will also work with this charger when I need clips.
BTW: The new wire is long enough to reach the battery in one of the outfits in my parking space too.
4 - Back together.jpg

I'll probably only need to cut the grass a couple more times this year so I'll make sure I take some video next time.
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Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Sidecar Bob
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Re: Refurbing an R/C mower

#41

Post by Sidecar Bob »

I took the video a month ago so I figured it was about time I edited & uploaded it (watch to the end to see me using it)

Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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