Advice on old Trimmer reel mower....

okgardennutApril 17, 2009

My 98 year old neighbor had an old reel mower in her garage under a pile of junk, unused for many years. When I asked about it, she gave it to me.

It turned out to be a 20" Trimmer Original with a 3hp B&S engine.

I changed the gas and oil, put in a new plug and air filter, and lubed all the chains. It took forever to get started and running for any length of time.

Now it runs fine and mows beautifully, but will still die about every 5-10 minutes. Sometimes it will re-start immediately, and sometimes be very hard to start again.

Any ideas? Would a carb rebuild and/or new gas tank help matters?

It's also missing the chain guard on the right side. Do they still make replacement parts for these?

Any info or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


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I think you are very fortunate. The Trimmer Original 20" and 25" are the real deal. All chain drive, free wheeling rear wheels, roller drive, and a plate type clutch to the mainshaft.

You don't say which Briggs it has (or age). Assuming date was before mid 1980's it would have breaker point ignition and they were built without chain guards over the reel chain and main chain. CPSC regs required the chain guards and also mandated a different clutch rod (now a lever rather than push rod).

I'd suggest you pull the carb and head and then check valve clearances. Older Briggs will lose intake clearance and make for harder starting. Remove the keepers, buff any carbon off the valves, and grind the end of the stems to get .006 intake and .008 exhaust. Use a new head gasket when you reassemble engine.

Next, if you have older engine with points, you'll probably need to either replace points and condenser, or at least dress the points and reset the point gap to .020. Points are under the flywheel. If your engine has a recoil start (rope pull which retracts automatically), the recoil clutch holds the flywheel and is threaded onto the crankshaft, right-handed. If you have a manual rope start (i.e. piece of rope with knot in one end; you put knot in notch in pulley and wrap rope around) you must remember that nut holding pulley and flywheel is left-hand thread.

It might be easier to convert to electronic ignition by purchasing new coil 398593 at about $35. You simply replace coil and don't need to get behind the flywheel.

If you have a later engine (after 1983 or 1984) you already have electronic, but may still want to look at valve clearances.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 3:22PM
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Thank you for the info.
I wish I could tell you specifics, but the elderly woman doesn't remember how long she has had it.
I was able to get these numbers off of it....

Model# 80202
Type: 0520-01
Code: 750924

It's red and says "Briggs and Stratton, 40cycle, Easy-Spin Starting" on the label.
It has the re-coil pull start, and the solid shaft going to the clutch instead of a lever.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 5:19PM
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I think I got it!
I started to pull the carb when I noticed the screw for the throttle shaft was backed almost all the way out. Very loose. I tightened it up, and now the engine starts on the first pull every time, and keeps running. I left it for a couple of hours and went back outside and it started on the first pull again.
I'm betting that it was sucking in air through the loose screw and bushing on the shaft, causing it to run too lean, and lose vaccum.
We had a storm blow through today, but when it dries out I'm going to see how it starts cold and if it runs through the whole yard-mowing.

I'm including a link to YouTube of the mower running.
ggoyeneche, I do feel fortunate to have found this thing. I looked them up, and I can't believe what they cost today. It works and cuts just great. Much better than my fairly new Murray rotary mower, and my electric rotary.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mower Running

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 8:00PM
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Finally figured out how to post a picture....

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 10:41PM
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According to your engine number, B&S is 1975. Since it runs well, I'd avoid going under flywheel to work on points unless needed, and I'd also delay looking at the valve clearances...if it ain't broke, don't fix it...

This is a somewhat later Trimmer vintage, in that it has the "good" factory height adjuster and the handles with two cross braces. Early Trimmers came without height adjusters, and many dealers fitted aftermarket one. Height was adjusted by loosening bolt, swinging front wheels in or out, and then tightening bolt. First factory height adjusters had a notched rod, rather than the quadrant lever and gardeners despised them. The rod which holds the front wheels also has two or three holes which can then be used to give you a gross height adjustment, and then fine tune using the adjuster.

The two brace handle is important becuase it allows use of Briggs engines with Pulsa-Jet carbs and tanks (like yours) The single brace (and the roller lever) would interfere with the Pulsa-Jet tank. Was especially a problem with 25" mowers when gardeners wanted to fit 5hp Briggs 130000 engines.

Yours is also late enough to have been fitted with a shield over the reel chain. You can see the witness marks in the picture. Don't know whether the part is still available. Trimmer had to add it to meet CPSC directives, but you're OK without. Since Trimmer has changed hands several times (Trimmer-Fresno, Cal-Trimmer, Eastman) thisngs are in disarray and parts are problematic.

Too bad because it was and is a great mower.

Lastly, you'll notice end of reel is drilled and tapped. That was to screw in bell crank to turn the reel for backlapping after you removed the chains. Apparently crank is NLA but you can probably use bolt and locknut, and then turn with wrench.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 2:38PM
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Thank you for all the informaton! I was really curious about this machine and its vintage. It will be kept in good tune and used regularly. Thanks again. ;)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 3:50PM
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P.S.: I did go ahead and take the carb apart to clean it, and the built-in fuel pump diaphram was disintigrating. Chunks of peeled-off rubber were melting and getting clogged in the tiny fuel passages. It's amazing it was running at all! Cleaned it all out... Now to go to the local mower supply shop to see if I can get a new diaphram and gaskets for it. Hope they still make them!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 9:35PM
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Wow... just stumbled on this at the right time!

I came accross a 20" "Homeowners" model (with belt drive) under similar circumstances. However, mine is apparently in worse shame, having been re-painted by a previous owner to conceal rust :-(

I am trying to get the reel off to get it sharpened, and am uncertain of the procedure... it seems that reel sprocket doesn't simply come off once the little hex screws have been removed. Do I need to use a gear puller or something?

Thanks in advance,

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 3:52PM
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Sprocket is held to reel shaft with two Allen head set screws. Trimmer does not use any type of key. Usually set screws are doubled, meaning first screw is driven down on shaft, and second is threaded on top of first, to keep from loosening. Then you'll need a 3-jaw gear puller to remove sprocket.

Once sprocket is off, remove the screws for the two bearing housings. Pull off the sprocket side bearing housing, and you should be able to drop the other side of reel at an angle, and then pull the reel out through the side plate.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 4:26PM
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Awesome... I suspected a gear puller was needed, but wanted to check before I seriously messed something up...

I'm gonna try backlapping it first to see if I can get it sharpened up. The disassembly process has revealed a lot of rust, and I'm questioning whether this particular unit is worth throwing $125 at for a sharpening.

Thanks for the valuable info.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 5:53PM
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The local mower shop did indeed have the rebuild kit for the carb, so that's done. It starts first or second pull every time and runs strong and smooth in all throttle positions once it's warmed up. It's still a bit cantankerous when cold, dying if you touch the choke or throttle at all. But I'm running some Marvel Mystery Oil through it so maybe that will improve. Heck, it's OLD. Still cuts great, and I'm glad to have it.
CB, good luck with yours! ;)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 12:37PM
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I have one of these trmmers......I am struggling with the cather...The grass falls out the back...the end nearest to the blade with the catcher only being 1/4 full....TO many catcher changes. Also, using the lever on the side to the highest point ...I am still cutting to short...any ideas? THanks

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 7:19AM
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These mowers will always tend to throw to one side or the other, depending upon the direction of the spiral of the blade. My recollection is that Trimmer throws to the left.

You can't prevent it, but you can compensate by stopping momentarily and pushing some of the grass to the right with your hand, and then continuing to mow. Not high tech, but throughout Southern California and thru the South you'll see professional gardeners using Trimmer, Tru-Cuts, Promasters, and McLanes doing the same thing.

As for cutting height, there should be two or three holes in the side frames. Look at the first picture above. He has the front axle bar in the lower hole, which results in a higher cut. I assume your is in the upper hole which will cut lower.

Remove the nut on one side, pull out the axle rod, and reinsert in the lower hole. This will raise you about an overage of 3/4", You'll then use the ratchet height adjuster to set you final cut.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 4:40PM
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I used a Trimmer 20" from the time I was probably 12 or 13 until I left for college in 1982. I don't remember every having any other mower before that. Ours had a B&S model "6" engine which I rebuilt in 1982 in Auto Shop. The fuel tank was in front of the engine, gravity feeding the bowl. After my father passed away I don't know what became of the mower. The Japanese gardiner that maintained our neighbors house had a larger version. My brother has been clearing out the house now that my mother has passed and says the mower is not present and might be at our uncles. I'd do anything to get it back. Anyone have any other data that might be worth knowing?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 2:36PM
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If the original engine was a B&S Model 6, it was cast iron and from before 1957, when Briggs fully switched over to aluminum blocks. The 6 was used on the 20" from about 1949 to 1957, and the Model N before that. Both were 2" x 2" 6.28 CID displacement rated 1.75 to 2hp.

The 25" mower came with the Model 8, round tank to about 1949, and rectangular tank in front 'til end of production in 1957. 2.25" x 2" 7.95 CID rated 2.5 to 3hp.

Both 20" and 25" went to the 3hp aluminum in 1957. First was the 8BS and then the 80000. At that time, and through the 1970's, the Kohler K91 4hp was a popular upgrade with professional gardeners. As the Kohler became more and more expensive, 25"s were fitted with Briggs 130000 5hp engines or with the Honda G200 flat head, also 5hp.

Sometime in the 1960's, Trimmer came out with the 20" Homeowner to better compete with lower priced McLanes and King-O-Lawns. Originally fitted with Briggs 60000 2hp with suction carb, and belt drive off the engine. Later upgraded to 80000 3hp with pulsa-jet carb at the same time the 20" Original was changed over from float carb to pulsa-jet. See the pictures above.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 3:02PM
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Wow ggoyeneche, you have some tremendous knowledge of these old mowers. Very cool.

I picked this one up over the weekend. Really looking forward to my first cut, now that I have leveled the lawn.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 9:51AM
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While searching Craigslist looking for a deal, I came across a 25 inch trimmer with the basket for $ 20.
I quickly had my friend who lived in the same city about 250 miles from me, rush over and pick it up. On my next trip I will pick up and begin the restoration process. I am currently restoring a 20 inch Pro Master which is a Top quality machine.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 12:29AM
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You got a hell of a deal on the Trimmer 25". Love to see a couple of pictures as purchased, and then after you've gone through it. Like to know the vintage, and which engine has been fitted.

Promaster is also a good machine, but not quite equal to Trimmer (roller drive) or Tru-Cut (wheel drive/differential).

Also, didn't see rager's 25" with the Honda. I'm guessing 1990's vintage, since it has the original reel with the cast iron spiders. I prefer this reel over the later, all stamped reel. Very nice.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:52AM
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Here is a Picture of my $20 find on Craigslist !

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 11:25PM
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I know my comments are to an old Post, but here it is anyway. Trimmer mowers are now made by Eastman Mowers of Maine. I inherited a 20 inch Trimmer mower with 3 hp Briggs engine. This was a 50 year anniversary model (1935-1985). It had been in storage for a few years and shows very little usage. I haven't had time to get it going by it turns free and should only need gas, oil and a carb diaphragm change to get going. It's looks like it was Top of the Line mower, heavy and well built, so I'm looking forward to getting it running. Albeit, where I live now, have no grass at all.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 2:26PM
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Nice looking mower and very clean. Looks like it might be a little later than 1985. You can check the numbers on the engine: should be 80202-XXXXX-XXXXX. Third set of digits (Code) tells you the year manufactured, i.e. 85XXX, 90XXX, etc.

Your machine is the "Homeowner" model, which has belt drive to the jackshaft, rather than all chain drive, and has a few other features downgraded to save money. Was made to better compete with the McLane, which was substantially cheaper.

Still a very competent machine and nothing to be ashamed of. Will give many (twenty or more) years of service if properly maintained. Just not as heavy and as suitable for commercial use as the all chain drive "Original" models.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 10:32PM
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Does anyone have the paint codes for original semi flat trimmer green ?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 5:57PM
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I am seeking the original paint codes for Semi Flat Trimmer Green ?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 5:59PM
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There used to be an outfit that sold Trimmer parts and they sold an aerosol spray paint to match for around $10, but there website is now dead. Don't know if they're out of business or not.


Also, close but not perfect is Krylon "Satin Italian Olive" #53522 in 12oz spray cans. $4.00 to $5.00, but you may have to go to larger paint store for this color.

This post was edited by ggoyeneche on Thu, Aug 1, 13 at 14:28

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 2:15PM
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after some research (but apparently not quite enough), i bought an older 25" trimmer, (one piece handle, and t-handled pushrod for clutch engagement), i believe it is a late's '50's vintage. i also picked up a new 5hp briggs which i thought would fit. ( i realized the honda would require modifications) with the briggs i figured that i would just add an extension to the drive roller frame so the chain would clear the tank. but it looks like the toggle lever on the frame fouls the tank as well.

is there a better choice of new engine for a late '50's trimmer? or do i just need to find a welder to relocate the toggle a little higher on the handle?

thanks in advance for any help.

This post was edited by tshimko on Sun, Aug 25, 13 at 20:01

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:59PM
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I don't think there is a new engine currently manufactured which will work with the older Trimmer, due to interference issues with the roller pickup mechanism.

There is a simple fix, which used to be common: Rotate the lift lever 180 degrees so it projects to the rear. You will also need to add additional lift chain. This works, but not as well as original. First you have less mechanical advantage lifting the roller, and second, total roller lift is less, which may result in some operational problems.

While a new engine won't work, you could consider some legacy engines: The Kohler K91 was a very popular upgrade by professional gardeners. Excellent engine. The original Briggs 80300 with Flo-Jet carburetor and tank in front was also competent. Although only 3hp, this was sufficient for a reel mower. Lastly, the flat head Honda G200 was also a good engine, and also popular with professionals.

If neither of these options suit you, your next step is to add another cross brace higher on the handles to support pivot arm. You can re-use the original cross brace. The older 25" posted by Randymass appears to have the cross brace relocated higher.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 9:54AM
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Hi Guys,

I just stumbled across this forum post because I am looking to purchase a 26" chain that goes from the motor to the clutch on a 20" CalTrimmer Reel Mower. It is the kind that does NOT have the third wheel in the back that drops down, this only has two rear wheels. I don't know where to buy a replacement chain. The mower, however old it is has a newer electronic ignition motor that runs great, its just that the chain was allowed to rust, by the previous owner, and it broke upon using it. I appreciate your help, and from what I have seen so far, this is a great forum. Thanks Guys, Brian

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:53PM
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Read your post and not sure what you have. All Trimmers (both 20" & 25") since day one (1935) have been roller drive. Did someone remove the roller? Or is your machine a mis-identified Tru-Cut or King O'Lawn?

Assuming it's a Trimmer, and is chain from engine to jackshaft, it would be an Original (Commercial) model. The chain is ANSI#40. The lighter Home model (which is belt from engine to mainshaft uses ANSI#41. Both are 1/2" pitch chains, #40 being heavier and stronger.

I buy my chain from Roller Chain-4-Less because they cover everything and are very competitive ($10 for 10ft #41 to $14 for 10ft #40). I use a lot of #50 on Lockes, which runs about $20 for 10ft. However they are mail order, so you need to know exactly what you want.

For walk in purposes outfits like Kaman Bearing or Bearings & Drives might be better since you can bring your broken chain to the counter and match things up.

If your old chain is 26", that means you'll need 52 pitches. Suggest you also get a couple of master or connecting links, and a couple of 'half' or offset links. Lastly, a 'chain breaker' would be a good tool to have. They are usually about $25 to $30.

Here is a link that might be useful: Roller Chains-4-Less

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:56PM
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Can anyone tell me how to find the year of my Cal Trimmer. 80202 0606-01 73061303

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:34PM
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The engine was built by Briggs in June of 1973.

73061303 = 73 (1973), 06 (June)

The engine is 3hp aluminum with pulsa-jet carburetor.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Wow, 41 years old. Pretty cool. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 10:30PM
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