Honda Harmony 215 - engine speed issue after repairs

girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)July 7, 2013

Well, after having the old HR215 in the repair shop for seven and a half weeks, I got it back last weekend. Rain kept me from using it this week, but I hauled it out today, hoping for great things. They'd needed to grind off and replace the blade holder, which was part of my delay, and then had problems (per the owner) with the governor not wanting to hold a correct speed. After putting the mower together following its gasket replacement, the mechanic had to take it all apart again to adjust the governor because it kept "going too fast".

Okay - so I found that it doesn't leak oil anymore, mulches wonderfully as always, and the self-propel feature was fixed by simply putting on a missing spring (all good news), but the bad news is - the mower now has only ONE speed: slow.

As in, achingly slow.

There doesn't seem to be any response when I play with the throttle toggle lever, no high speed (Rabbit) whatsoever. The low (Turtle) speed is almost low enough to have it stall out. It mows if I push it, at what sounds like a slow idle, but if I engage the self-propel, that's enough of a drag on the engine to make it sound like it'll conk out.
There is no extra power like I was used to having. The low-speed rpms are slower than it was originally.
It's like having a mower on Xanax.

My first thought is to call the shop back Monday and have them fix it right away, but thought I'd ask - does this sound like a throttle issue, or the governor, since they delayed getting it back to me over whatever problems they had with it, looking for a middle spot to set it. Was the two-speed throttle overlooked, and they tried to set the mower speed as if it had only one? Are Honda governors apt to get messed up once you've torn down the mower to do gasket replacements? He did clean out the carb for me, said it was slightly gummed up but was fine otherwise.

I want to be polite, but after two months without my mower, I DO want it running the way it was originally set up to be when it was sold new. Would it be reasonable to ask them to check with a local Honda mower dealership on how best to get the proper engine speed settings?

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From your description it sounds to me like this particular mower has an innovative and complex engine speed control system. I think it needs to be looked at by a Honda dealership that sells and repairs outdoor power equipment. It should not take seven weeks to get a lawnmower repaired.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 9:39AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Re: the wait - yes, it seemed too long, although the shop owner was always genuinely apologetic each time I called to check on progress (they had picked it up on 5/08, didn't get to actually working on it until Memorial Day weekend, which was a lot longer than originally expected). And I can understand waiting for a part to come in, but the biggest concern was whether the technician was familiar enough with older Honda equipment to know how to adjust for optimal performance. To his credit, he was confident the mower had good life left in it and was certain he could fix the oil leak with a gasket replacement. After the short mowing session yesterday (running at idle), I saw no trace of leaks.

I don't actually know how complex the older Harmony mowers speed controls were. Push forward on throttle lever, more rpms, pull back, less rpms - am assuming that the throttle cable controls the amount of fuel/air going to carb, and that the lack of higher revs might mean the governor was set too low?

I will probably call a Honda dealership today to get their input. Just am reluctant to spend more somewhere else, when the original repair shop guarantees their work. If they can't adjust it correctly, would it be out of line to request that they have a Honda dealer set it to original specs, but at their cost?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:08AM
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You paid for a repair. I'd take it back and suggest THEY call Honda if needed.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:24AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Bill - in principle, I fully agree.
Yet I did want to have some knowledge (above what little I do know) about the mower in order to make my request to the original shop. They are a mobile operation, well-rated locally, but likely swamped with more work than they can process through timely in the spring rush. Not sure if I can just "drop" my mower at their place of business unless I know someone would be there. Normally they come to the customer's house with their equipment and a trailer to use if necessary to take the mower back to their shop (for what can't be done on-site).

I've spoken with one dealer near my house, and they'd be glad to help if needed. Hard to know whether it's a throttle cable adjustment or the governor setting. Left a message with the mower shop's voicemail, hope they call back quickly!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:38PM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Update on this issue - and it's still an issue :( -

I had the original shop take it back and tweak it. They returned it in just a few days, and at first when it came off their trailer (I started it up right there and then), there was some improvement as to having a high and low speed. Not seemingly as fast rpms as before, but at least it sounded better.

Mowed the yard once with it, but could tell it lacked its original top end when pushed into Fast position.

No activity with it over the next few weeks, grass not growing much, so no need to mow. Took it out again (just 2nd time since mower came back from being "fixed"), and - SAME problem. Nothing but the idle/slow speed. I was totally bummed.

Contacted both the original mower shop and the local Honda dealer nearest me - the owner of the original shop understood that I wanted a Honda mechanic to figure it out and emailed that they would reimburse me for the repair. However the Honda dealer is saying that it'll be $200 just to open it up and if it is the internal governor, the service desk guy said they didn't know if they could get the parts, that it was probably just "old" and I should buy a new mower. Well, yeah, they're a dealership and their job is to sell new equipment. But what I want is my original mower to not run slow, since everything else on it is fine.

Do internal governors "wear out"? Can someone here who's actually torn apart an old Honda Harmony 215 describe to me what the first shop's mechanic might have done to the internal governor, if after he'd replaced the gasket and cleaned the carb, fully reassembled the mower, found that it was "running too fast" (runaway rpms) and took it apart again to slow it down?

Another thread on a different forum suggested that a fuel restriction (carb issue) could produce the "too fast" problem, but at this point, I would just like to understand how an internal governor works, and if it can be fixed by someone who knows what they're doing. I'm not comfortable with the vagueness from the dealer (they haven't let me speak with their mechanic directly to ask him anything).

My idea: let the original shop tear it back down (their cost) and bring the mower to the dealer, in order to verify if it's an internal governor problem. But am starting to get worried about the dealership not having a lot of interest in actually fixing it. :( I mean, I understand that they're not highly motivated to keep old equipment running compared to the profit margin of getting new products into consumer's hands.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 4:21PM
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The internal parts of a mechanical governor are pretty simple, but the operation is a bit hard to discribe (see link). Basically it consists of a gear and a shaft extending from the center of the gear. The gear is turned by the engine's crankshaft, so the faster the engine speed, the faster the gear turns. Sitting over the shaft and on top of the gear are the weights. Imagine them being "L" shaped with the bottom arm of the "L" sitting on, and in contact with the gear so that they spin with the gear. The upright arm of the "L" toward the outside of the gear and where the two arms of the "L" meet, being the pivot point. Sitting over the shaft and on top of the lower arm of the "L" (but inside of the upper arm) is the governor cup--imagine a "thimble." As the gear and weights spin, it reaches a high enough speed that centrifical force causes the top arm of the "L" to tip outward, pivoting where the arms of the "L" meet, causing the lower arm of the "L" to raise. The lower arm then lifts the governor cup (thimble) up, which in turn, presses against a lever attached to the governor shaft (which protrudes out of the engine and is attached to the external governor arm) which causes the governor shaft to turn and move the governor arm.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 9:07PM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

@grass1950 - that was helpful to read through and look at! Although I'm trying to confirm whether - in taking the mower's engine apart to replace the gasket where the oil was leaking - the mower shop tech had to unhook the internal governor from the external governor, and by doing so, possibly altered the internal governor in some way.

This seems a simple question. But the shops don't want to reply on it. ???

The second service shop (authorized Honda dealer) that I'm talking to now, also tried to suggest that the internal governor parts might not be available. When I go to this Texas parts supplier's site to find the parts for an HRM215K1SDA, I see what appears to be the internal governor gear assembly for less than $15 about mid-way down the parts list, and the individual parts for the external governor under the Control Assembly link (under their exploded view pages above the parts list).

So this "parts probably can't be obtained" remark seemed disingenuous by the dealer service assistant. Can another person here confirm that these are the right parts?
Is there a known backlog from Honda on parts for their old equipment?

Back to the primary question:
Can anyone venture whether the first mechanic could have changed something internally to where it's no longer able to be brought up to high revs by adjusting the external governor?

The dealer won't answer that when I ask specifically, and I'm not sure why.

If the first shop's owner said his mechanic had to "take it all apart again" when the mower had runaway rpms right after being re-assembled the first time, to me this suggests that, yes, the internal governor gear assembly was a suspect for the problem. And that probably when he took it apart, he attempted to change the governor to try to keep the engine speed down.

I'm just bewildered by what feels like stonewalling when trying to get answers and a repair!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 10:55PM
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I've personally not had a Honda governor failure- not to say that it couldn't happen. I have had issues with your style throttle control that made the throttle/ governor action seem sluggish. A knowledgeable tech can tell if your loss of power is governor related or otherwise. If the throttle can be manually opened and the engine still seems anemic- there is another issue than the governor. IE a shearing flywheel key, a dented valve cover, a carb issue. If indications are governor related -and the control, linkage throttle shaft is free and correct, static governor adjustment has been made- then it would sound to me if he had split the engine to repair your leak- that it wasn't assembled as it should have been.
Your situation reminds me of a service manager training I went to years ago. When asked what a SM's primary job was- responses came from all around the room: Great CSI, profitability, customer this that and the other thing. The instructors response was- "no, it is to fix cars!" Sometimes we all need to be reminded what is expected of us, and that you won't always " make time" doing it. That is how we learn.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 1:21AM
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I think that you are encountering "stonewalling" because the cost of diagnoses and repair is greater than the value of your mower. Similar used mowers are selling for $150 to $200 these days. I don't know what the mechanic did or didn't do, and why you are unable to open the throttle while mowing. For what it's worth, our mower is a Yardman, not self propelled, and it has only one speed. There is a primer button, and it always starts on the first pull. The only maintenance it has had is adding oil, and remove/sharpen/install the blade. This mower is pretty loud, and I wear a pair of earphone type noise protection while mowing. I suppose that I look like a dork, but I am actually not a dork.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 11:56AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

I sent your description to the original shop's owner to let his tech review what you'd suggested. It makes sense to eliminate the cause(s) of problems starting with simplest up to most complex. I'm not sure how much time's been applied to winnowing out the non-culprits.

A hearty "yes and amen!" to the point about focusing on fixing things. There was a comment in another online thread about how some feel that dealerships back away from servicing older high-quality mowers despite their reliability and long-lived function. If the mower's known to stay trustworthy, and a few part replacements keep it running merrily along, then it has to be an "anti-customer/pro-profit-margin" attitude which will blow up on the dealers in the long run.Seems foolish to alienate the folks you sought to attract with your product line by claiming it was better than the competitor's, but when time proves the claim was true, slamming a door shut!

I know it's true shops don't want to burn up their tech's hours on a mower with that many years on it. But when someone assumes responsibility for fixing one thing, and inadvertently messes up another in the process, does the customer need to eat that mistake? I don't think so. The original shop has shown quite a bit of graciousness so far, and as long as they do that, I respect them for honoring the customer and having integrity. The dealer has been more dodgey in the situation than I was led to believe they'd be from speaking with them a month ago. Not a good way to persuade toward a possible future sale.

Okay, why do I hang on to the HRM215? Because it's been proven as a quality machine, it's been for the most part extremely reliable, and mulched like a dream. As a middle age, single-again mom with three young adults at home (two in college) and not much income, I absolutely have to find ways to minimize chaos in my life. There's not enough energy to go around the day as it is! Buying or sticking with solidly-made house and yard goods is essential. I don't have the luxury of spare time/cash to keep replacing cheaper items every few years.

But of course the days are fading where manufacturers vied with each other to have the best product and a good reputation, versus a flood of trashy throw-aways out on the market. Where the few companies DO continue to make something of value, that's where I'll end up putting my hard-earned dollars!

I did take your good point about used mowers, though, and that's still an acceptable option. So thanks for mentioning it. And I'm glad your Yardman has stood you in good stead so far (fyi - I wear earplugs when I mow, so nothing dorky whatsoever about saving one's hearing).

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 3:43PM
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You are patient.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:39PM
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I saw this kind of late in the game. But please keep us posted. As others have eluded to, economically the repair shop handing you $$ back is a known thing for them. Tearing it down if need be and chasing this down is the unknown. But then again, life isn't always full of easy answers.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 1:43AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

@ tomplum -

You asked last August to keep everyone posted. Well, here's the latest and not-so-greatest, after *a full year* on this issue:

They kept the mower all fall/winter to try to rebuild it. I was given a loaner for last fall's final cuttings, but to say this was exasperating is the mildest of terms!

We had to go out in person to the owner's house in late winter when no replies to phone calls or emails made me anxious about what was going on. He assured us it'd be back before the grass started growing. The mechanic had parts back-ordered or broke a piece while fixing/had to replace (no specifics given), causing delays.

This past weekend the owner brought the mower to me, and I started it while he stood by, to evaluate it. At the first pull, something was "clattering" inside. I know what that engine should sound like when it runs well, and this noise was NOT good. Valves, perhaps? New cylinder not seated right? And after a few tweaks on the two-speed throttle, it was obvious the low (Rabbit) end speed wouldn't keep it running under a load (idle set too low).

I'd say the tech's efforts at rebuilding it and fixing the governor were very mediocre. Owner is a nice person, and I've appreciated that he's wanted to make things right, but he's not familiar with what the mower should "sound" like when it's running at factory settings. My gut feeling is that this HRM215's engine lies on death's door based on their repairs (*wails, gnashes teeth in despair*).

Owner and I agreed we need a third party to check it (I'll need that to plead my case to get my repair money back at the very least). Another shop that knows Honda engines is willing to trouble-shoot the issues for a $39 fee.

So, should I ask for anything above what I paid last year to have them essentially "kill" the Honda's engine (wincing as I write this), in order to have something toward a replacement mower? Being without the mower since spring 2013 and the angst/inconvenience suffered seems like it should have a bit of value assessed (unsure).
Or is that rubbing salt into the mower shop's aggravation of putting man-hours into a poor result? I actually have no idea of how much effort was involved... the evidence doesn't exactly speak toward yeoman's service.

My guess is the tech did not consult with a Honda shop on what was wrong, and just "winged it" on his own to put the mower back together.

I'd like to be fair about it. What would you all say or do, if this had been your experience? (Apart from wanting to smash head against wall repeatedly, for letting the shop hang on to the mower that long!)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:47PM
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I'm thinking you still would like the mower fixed. Whether it is to the more knowledgeable on Honda shop or a Honda dealer that has been around at least since this mower was built. Once it is done and lawn tested, approach the owner of the other shop. Provide them copies of what had been done so far and have the new shop write a detailed repair order and ask their opinion on what caused the problem. Now when you approach the previous shop owner, he will have valuable information and should be glad that it is finally done and out of their hair. Appealing to the best in him and working out the appropriate refund and life goes on. Should it fail, there's always Judge Wapner....

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:48PM
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