Today was the first time I've mowed the lawn in well over a month, due to the fact that until last week, it hadn't rained here since the middle of July. I did manage to water the lawn once, the day before the town declared a total ban on watering, but with the exception of a few very hardy weeds, nothing in my front or side yards has needed cutting since July. The back is a little better, because it gets some shade during the day, and the leach field is out there.
Anyway, the mower started right up, and I cut the front yard with no problems, because there was really nothing to cut, even though I had dropped the blade down an inch. Side yard was no problem either, except near the very back, where the grass was shaded, and pretty thick. The machine struggled with this, and the engine was knocking, which I don't recall ever hearing it do before. Just as I finished the side, and began to work on the back yard, the pinging got worse, so I started taking thinner passes, trying to ease the strain. Still got some pinging, but it seemed to be cutting okay. Suddenly, the engine back-fired then quit, and I couldn't restart it.
After several tries, I got out the tools, and pulled the spark plug out. I had only installed this plug in April, so it should still be good. It looked okay, but I sanded the contacts anyway, reinstalled it, and tried again. No joy. Took a ride to Wal-Mart, and got a new plug, some starter fluid, and some gas conditioner. My logic was that a new plug couldn't hurt, spraying starter fluid into the cylinder always got the old Toro working, and if there was water in the tank due to the long layoff, the conditioner would help.
So I took out the old plug, squirted some ether into the spark plug hole, and installed the new plug. Yanked on the rope, and the engine wheezed like an eighty year old asthmatic. Checked the air filter, which I'd also replaced last April, and it was full of grass and dirt. Blew all that out, and even tried starting the engine without the filter. Again, nothing. Reinstalled the filter. Went on-line and looked at a small engine trouble-shooting site. They said check the fuel, so I did. There was plenty of gas in the tank, and when you take out the spark plug right after trying to start the engine, you can smell gas on the plug, so the fuel system seems okay. Next they said check the air, but I had already cleaned the filter, and it didn't start without the filter, so that's okay. Most of the rest of the stuff they said to check involves taking the engine apart, so that's when I gave up. I'll try and snag the mower from work tomorrow to finish the job.
Was up in Somerville on Saturday, helping some of the other Buffistas help Emily move to her new apartment. The new digs are nice, and so was the company, so it was fun.