Resurrect, or start over? Honda HRM215 (old) or new 21" push?

girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)April 18, 2013

Through thick and thin, my old HRM215-DN Harmony 215 (MZBB-6102559) has lasted at least two decades. The mower was purchased by my (late) ex-hubby, I acquired it after the divorce, and have used it every season to mow my small suburban yard since 2001. It's been an amazing, reliable mower, faithful to start come springtime, running solid with minimal maintenance. Despite the self-propel going out, I just pushed it around - good exercise - and made do. Alas, finally last season (2012) it seemed to be on last legs. It had run well up to the time I let a local service shop replace the pull cord (which finally broke in 2011), and when the mower came back, it leaked oil like crazy (something not connected right?). I just kept filling it up, didn't have confidence in the shop that repaired it, to have them touch it again. At the end of last summer, it started to die on me while mowing (not sure of issue, maybe the spark plug). Just would not stay running.

I haven't tried to start it yet this season, as everyone's urging me to just pull the trigger and buy a new mower, given the HRM215's age.

So what's the best thing to do?

I've looked at a Troybilt TB130 push mower at a local big box store, featuring the Honda GCV160 OHC, and also considered an online Husqvarna 7021P with same. Both are priced where I could feel alright taking the plunge, and I slightly favor the 7021P, but.... will they last more than a few years?

I feel disloyal walking away from my ancient Honda, but given its probable age, I don't know -
a.) if it's nearing full-scale detonation of parts, or
b.) if the cost to fix it up, even if I found a reliable local repair place, would be prohibitive.

Reviews suggest that newer mowers simply don't have the same quality as models of 20+ years ago did, but surely there are some in the mid-range that can be trusted? I'm on a lean budget but willing to pay a little more to get a decent machine. I don't need or want self-propel, but *do* need mulching+bagging options. If I found someone local and trustworthy who knew how to work on vintage Hondas, I'd ask their assistance, but haven't found that person yet. I'm willing to do some maintenance myself, but lack of tools, time and know-how limit what I could do toward a full re-build. I would definitely keep it until it completely gave up the ghost IF I knew how to do more of my own "fixing".

Thoughts or advice on what to be aware of?
Anyone with personal experience with the TB130 or 7021P? Alternative mowers to consider?

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So the old mower has the following problems:
1. self propelled system does not work
2. engine leaks oil
3. engine quits - will not continue running

this mower has a better quality engine than the new mower that you are looking at. My opinion is to figure out what is causing the problems. (1) If the transmission for the drive is broken, get the new mower. If a cable is broken, this is worth fixing. (2) Use some engine cleaner to clean around the oil leak - find out where it is coming from. A drain plug seal or gasket is probably worth fixing. A crankshaft seal will take more time to repair and probably is not worth repairing. (3) the stalling could be fuel related (carburetor cleaning) or ignition (coil or sparkplug) related. This is probably worth repairing.

If all three problems are minor, you will probable be looking at 50% of the cost of the new mower.

The mowers you mentioned are basic mowers designed for homeowners. The models with fewer cables and gagets will last longer. The self propelled models are light duty. Chokes on the troybilt and husqvarna work different than your current mower and you may need to learn the best starting technique.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 12:45PM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

@ bluemower - Thanks very much for reply!

Absolutely would be easier to decide on this, if I had better knowledge of the old mower's "ailments" :).

The challenge is finding a person/shop local to me who knows Hondas and is willing to honestly assess the condition of my mower for the problems you listed above.

Some big shops in my area don't have the best reputation with customers. They tend to push sales of the equipment they carry, rather than stand behind decent repair service.

Contacted a few smaller places I found via Internet searches today, which say they can service any mower make/model. I'm asking directly whether they can repair/rebuild older Hondas.

Hope #1 is for the HRM215 to be repaired at affordable cost - and before the front yard becomes a meadow. :-)

I do agree with what you said, that the old mower is several notches in quality above most of the basic push mowers available. Decision-making is tough since I really want to avoid being "penny-wise and pound-foolish" and end up with a new mower which turns out to be a throw-away in a few years' time. However, we've only had two mowers since 1987 (a Craftsman and then the Honda), so I don't have any experience on how quality's changed among the different brands. Labor outsourcing, materials used, all those things have been impacted while the companies chase profit margins...

If a new TB130 or 7021P would run me $250-$300 before tax, what's the prudent "break point" on repair costs for the Honda to where you'd say, go buy a newer mower?
If the repair expense tipped the decision, what push mower would you steer me toward?

Is there a middle price range that significantly pops up the quality, or is there a lot of hype in the mix?

I know residential-grade mowers lack the sturdiness of their commercial "big brothers", but perhaps there's a brand or two which has more consistency throughout its product lines?

I'd be grateful hearing whether there are particular features that you'd swear by paying more $$ for, which help performance or life-span of the equipment, vs. optional stuff that creates more maintenance hassles than it's worth.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 8:09PM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Sorry if prior reply was too wordy (tldnr) to get replies.

I'm trying to get an appointment for week of May 6th for a mobile mower-repair company to check the HRM215 mower. Above the cost of a tune-up/blade sharpening, how much $$ is too much to sink into this mower for repairs on a.) the oil leak and b.) the hard-to-start issue, if either requires additional work?

(Not needing the self-propel fixed at this time.)

I'll need to know ahead of time if the quote to fix is higher than what's sensible, given the age of the mower.

Thanks for any guidelines on repair cost limit to watch for.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:52AM
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rosemallow(z7 Md)

The grass is growing. In your case just buy a new mower.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 3:01AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Rosemallow -

Thanks for the recommend. I was blessed that my neighbor mowed the lawn for me last weekend with his rider (my son and I shoveled their driveway after his back surgery, kindness begets kindness!), so there's still some leeway until the decision's made. And I can probably borrow my brother's walk-behind if necessary.

My budget dictates trying to fix the old mower before shelling out $300 for a new one if at all possible.

Morning of May 8th the mobile mower repair company is scheduled to come check out the Honda. I did get the HRM215 started the other evening (with only a few pulls) but when it ran ragged and sputtered out, I resolved to work on cleaning the fuel system this weekend as best as I can. I found a post by saxman on using additives, so will buy some and see how it goes.

If anyone wants to advise any maintenance tips for de-varnishing the carburetor, in order from easiest to more complex, please toss in! I'm going to get fresh gas and visit the nearby auto parts store in an hour or so. Might pick up a new spark plug while I'm at it, and hopefully be able to borrow a plug wrench. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 10:54AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Sorry for HTML typo - that should be:

"I found a post by saxman on
using additives, so will buy some and see how it goes."

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 10:57AM
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