Lawn tractor using oil

gfrazier7May 14, 2007

I have a Husqvarna lawn tractor that has suddenly started using oil about 2 weeks ago. There is not a cloud of smoke coming from the exhaust, just brief wisps of blue tinged smoke from time to time, but it is using about half a quart for each hour of run time. I have kept the oil and filter changed per the owner's manual. It now has about 165 hours and was bought on 3/18/04. The engine is a Briggs & Stratton 21 hp OHV V-twin ELS 656. It has worked great up until now, and is still working great, but I have to keep a close watch on the oil level. Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

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Sounds like a head gasket is on the way out.
Examine your spark plugs and see if one is noticeably darker.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 5:12PM
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Well, you know it has to either be burning it or leaking it.

The burning problem could be a valve in one of the two cylinders is leaking at the valve stem seal. Does the smoke occur more at start up, or when it is under a load? If it is at start up it is the valve stem seal (probably) where as if it is under a load you might need to have the carb(s) cleaned and adjusted.

The other possibility is one of the cylinders has a ring that could be leaking. Again, this will occur at various times, but most likely when it is running and will be a continous cloud of smoke after it has been ran awhile. Eventually it will become bad enough that the plug will foul and will cause it to run rough.

I would recommend you pull the plugs and see if one of them has any oil on it or evidence of oil burning. No matter what, whenever you take it into the shop this will be the side with the problem, but unfortunately most shops will have to pull the heads off of both sides to make sure it isn't happening on both sides. (A good shop will only charge you for the gaskets and time to pull the one that has no signs of problems.)

I hope that I have given you an idea of what it could be doing, and what to be watching for. The only solution will be to have the engine torn down and rebuilt. The down side is the expense of having it done. (The labor is usually more than the parts!) In years past it was cheaper to just keep on adding oil until the problem became so bad the engine had no power or wouldn't start, then just replace the engine. With this being a three year old unit, and the quality of manufacturer that put it out you will want to do something before it gets that bad.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 5:19PM
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tomhoffman(NE Iowa)

My 35 year old Wheel Horse has been burning oil ever since I got it 10 years ago. My repair man tells me that it just needs to be bored our and an over size piston and new rings put in. He tells me not to worry about it. When it gets so bad that I can,t see the grass, then bring it in. Until then I just add some mosquito fogging oil to the oil and fog the yard fer bugs an skeeters as I mow.

Works great. HaHaHaHa.........

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 5:31PM
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That's a very high amount of oil usage. If it were a ring issue the tractor wouldn't have enough compression to start (based on oil usage). To be sure though take it in for a compression test.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 10:14PM
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Like Bill said, sounds like head gasket.

Walt Conner

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 9:31AM
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There have not been many complaints on this engine. Here are some other thoughts.

Is it possible you are over servicing the oil? When checking oil quantity, the dip stick on a Briggs ELS must be fully inserted. Do not simply rest the dip stick on the filler tube. Additionally the tractor must be level when checking the oil.

What type of oil are you using? The manufacturer specifies SAE 30 for summer temperatures unless you are using a synthetic. Check the oil for fuel contamination. Sometimes, the Mikuni fuel pump suffers a diaphram failure and some fuel is drawn into the crankcase through the vacuum line. Check the breather tube to make sure it has not been pinched or blocked. This would increase pressure in the crankcase.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 10:55AM
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Thanks to everyone for your thoughts. I really enjoyed the comment about the Wheel Horse and mosquito fogging oil. In response to the ideas given, it does not smoke more at start-up, but does puff when I engage the blades and sometimes when I reduce throttle and then throttle back up. I took the plugs out and they are both dark and crusted. I replaced them about a month ago. I am careful to insert the dip stick all the way when I check the oil and I always check it before using the mower. I have been using SAE-30 HD oil. There is no sign of fuel contamination in the crankcase. From what you guys have said, it looks like I'm staring down the barrel of a head gasket repair and/or a ring job. Does anyone have an idea of what something like would cost for this engine?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 4:54PM
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The cost would be minimal for either if you do it yourself. I'm guessing less than $75 for the rings or head gasket

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 6:43PM
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Just curious what you came up with on the oil burning? I have a 3 year old Husqvarna with the same engine and at 70 hours developed the same problem. I have kept it serviced per guidlines and took it to the shop the other day. They replaced head gaskets and cleaned the valves...smokes now more than ever! I contacted Briggs and they simply state that an authorized repair shop has to file a warranty dispute, but of course there is no guarantee they will cover the repairs. I contacted the shop and at a bare minimum, I will be out $300 for labor because only parts are covered. The owner of the shop told me he has repaired several of the same engines and he already knows my #1 piston and cylinder are shot. I personally think it is ridiculous that a reputable company like briggs will not step up to the plate and admit there is issue with a batch of engines. They should pay for the entire rebuild and not have the option to turn down a warranty dispute. If you have this same problem, please email me at . I would like to know how many others are out there to see if a group action may be warranted. I called Husqvarna and they state they have no complaints on this engine...please call them...800-279-5775.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 9:03AM
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