I could have named this post several different things like: How to Destroy Your Mower in 5 Minutes, or Roasting Marshmallows Over an Open Mower, or even How To Turn Your Lawn Mower into a Bomb in Three Easy Steps. Fortunately each of those creative titles are inaccurate. The first title is wrong since I think my mower is still usable, that’s good news! The second title wouldn’t work since I didn’t roast marshmallows over my flaming mower, nope that would have been really dumb. The last one might get me in trouble with homeland security so I’ll stay away from that one too. (If you are a member of homeland security welcome to my blog! There’s nothing illegal here, really there isn’t!) The truth of the matter is I did a couple stupid things with my mower that I knew better but just didn’t think about at the time.
It started after I finished mowing our one acre yard with the riding mower. I was getting the push mower out to trim around the house and the garden beds. The mower, which is about 8 years old, (easy to remember since my wife and I will have been married 8 years on Tuesday and we got it when we moved into our first place) got stuck on something. I looked down and saw a piece of nylon twine wrapped around the blade. I thought to myself “safety first” and removed the spark plug. (OK maybe I really didn’t say “safety first” it was probably more like “I really like having my hand.”) Whenever working on a mower you should always remove the spark plug so that the engine doesn’t accidentally start, that would be bad. Then I turned the mower on its side to get the twine out. No problem there, it only took 15-20 seconds to pull it out. “Great,” I thought ” now I can get back to mowing.” I flipped the mower back on its wheels and gave the pull string a tug and then… there was smoke… then fire…
I ran around to get the hose (in retrospect not a great idea since oil and water definitely don’t mix). Wouldn’t you know it the hose had kink in it. I got that one taken care of then another one appeared, then another. I was afraid the flames would reach the fuel tank which was full of some very, very expensive gas (is there any other kind anymore?) and ignite. The ensuing explosion would probably catch the house or cars on fire (maybe not but that’s what was going through head at the time). When I finally got the water to come out the hose the fire had almost died out and there was just a small flicker of a flame. I sprayed it down with my thumb over the end of the hose to direct the water since I didn’t have time to grab a nozzle and sprayed the engine down with the hose. The fire died down and a feeling of relief washed over me.
Wow did I mess up! Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. It caught on fire because of a couple factors. First gasoline came out of the vent hole in the gas cap when I turned it on its side. Then I forgot to put the spark plug back on before I started the engine. The spark plug arced to the mower deck igniting either the gas fumes or the liquid gas still on the mower. Fortunately the engine itself was not on fire, just the top of the mower. I’ll check tomorrow in the daylight for damage to hoses and other parts to make sure I haven’t killed the mower. I should have waited for the gas that escaped the tank to evaporate and put the spark plug back on before I started the mower. I knew all that before but just wasn’t thinking. Also don’t use water to put out an oil based fire, it usually just makes things worse. Use sand or dirt. I even had a pack of topsoil sitting right next to me, I just didn’t think about it. I guess sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!
I had planned a different post for tonight but since this mower incident popped up I thought I would share that story with you instead. Tomorrow I’ll post my Bird Bath Garden Layout and Sunday some pictures of the Bird Bath Garden. Just remember to always check the spark plugs!