Riding Mower Repair Uncovers Miniature Culprit

Most people would be pretty upset it the lawn mower they spent $4,000 USD on had a major failure within the first year of owning it. But for [xxbiohazrdxx], it was an excuse to take a peek under the hood and figure out what brought down this state-of-the-art piece of landscaping gear.

It should be said that, at least technically, the Husqvarna TS 348XD in question was still working. It’s just that [xxbiohazrdxx] noticed the locking differential, which is key to maintaining traction on hilly terrain, didn’t seem to be doing anything when the switch was pressed. Since manually moving the engagement lever on the transmission locked up the differential as expected, the culprit was likely in the electronics.

Testing the dead actuator.

As [xxbiohazrdxx] explains, the switch on the dash is connected to a linear actuator that moves the lever on the transmission. The wiring and switch tested fine with a multimeter, but when the actuator was hooked up to a bench power supply, it didn’t move. Even more telling, it wasn’t drawing any power. Definitely not a good sign. Installing a new actuator would have solved the problem, but it was an expensive part that would take time to arrive.

Repairing the dead actuator seemed worth a shot at least, so [xxbiohazrdxx] cracked it open. The PCB looked good, and there were no obviously toasted components. But when one of the internal microswitches used to limit the travel of the actuator was found to be jammed in, everything started to make sense. With the switch locked in the closed position, the actuator believed it was already fully extended and wouldn’t move. After opening the switch itself and bending the contacts back into their appropriate position, everything worked as expected.

A tiny piece of bent metal kept this $4,000 machine from operating correctly.

As interesting as this step-by-step repair process was, what struck us the most is [xxbiohazrdxx]’s determination to fix rather than replace. At several points it would have been much easier to just swap out a broken part for a new one, but instead, the suspect part was carefully examined and coaxed back to life with the tools and materials on-hand.

While there’s plenty of folks who wouldn’t mind taking a few days off from lawn work while they wait for their replacement parts to arrive, not everyone can afford the luxury. Expedient repairs are critical when your livelihood depends on your equipment, which is why manufacturers making it harder and more expensive for farmers to fix their tractors has become such a major issue in right to repair battles all over the globe.

A Wood Gas Powered Lawn Mower

When mowing the lawn, you generally have a choice of pushing power, electric or gasoline. Thanks to the nutty inventor [Colin Furze], you can now add wood gas to the list, as long as you don’t mind some inconvenience. He built a wood gas generator on top of a formerly gasoline powered lawn mower, so he can now run his lawn mower on wood chips.

Wood gas generators have been used with internal combustion engines for a very long time, reaching their peak in the later parts of WW2 when fuel shortages plagued Europe. When wood is burned at high temperature but with limited oxygen, it produces a combustible gas mix that can be fed into an internal combustion engine. [Colin]’s generator went through a number of iterations, and the problem-solving that goes into a project like this is always interesting to watch. We would not recommend running tests like these indoors, but we suppose no [Colin Furze] video would be complete without a bit of danger.

On his first version he had an extraction fan that was too close to the outlet of the burn chamber, so it melted very quickly. The combustion temperature was also not high enough, which required some changes to the chamber geometry. The main problem that plagued the project was filtering out the moisture and tar. [Colin] did eventually get the lawn mower to run on wood gas, but tar was still getting into the engine, which prevented it from starting the second time. The filtering system will need some refinement, which [Colin] will address in his next video, which he also hints will involve some sort of diabolical swing set. Continue reading “A Wood Gas Powered Lawn Mower”

RC Car Becomes Useful Little Mower

When we think of lawn mowers, our first thought is of heavy, rusty old machines that take the best part of an afternoon to get started. Of course, there’s always another way, as [Mark] ably demonstrates with his own build. 

Beginning from an unconventional starting point, [Mark] chose a remote control car, of the type that can flip and drive in both orientations. Having lost the controller, he started by ripping out the original electronics. In its place, an ESP32 receives signals from a FlySky RC receiver, and runs the drive motors with a Sparkfun Monster Motor Shield. Another channel on the receiver is hooked up directly to a drone speed controller driving a brushless motor, outfitted with a sawblade to cut the grass.

It’s a small platform, and one that ordinarily you might doubt could do the job. However, for [Mark]’s purposes, the rig works just fine, and has been doing good work for the last two years! We’ve seen mowers hacked before too, like this autonomous rig out in the wild. Video after break.

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RC Lawn Mower Keeps The Grass Greener On Your Side Of The Fence

For some people, mowing the lawn is a dreaded chore that leads to thoughts of pouring a concrete slab over the yard and painting it green. Others see it as the perfect occasion to spend a sunny afternoon outside. And then there are those without the luxury of having a preference on the subject in the first place. [elliotmade] for example has a friend who’s sitting in a wheelchair, and would normally have to rely on others to maintain his lawn and form an opinion on the enjoyability of the task. So to retain his friend’s independence, he decided to build him a remote-controlled lawn mower.

After putting together an initial proof of concept that’s been successfully in use for a few years now, [elliotmade] saw some room for improvement and thought it was time for an upgrade. Liberating the drive section of an electric wheelchair, he welded a frame around it to house the battery and the mower itself, and added an alternator to charge the battery directly from the mower’s engine. An RC receiver that connects to the motor driver is controlled by an Arduino, as well as a pair of relays to switch both the ignition and an electric starter that eliminates the need for cord pulling. Topping it off with a camera, the garden chores are now comfortably tackled from a distance, without any issues of depth perception.

Remote-controlling a sharp-bladed machine most certainly requires a few additional safety considerations, and it seems that [elliotmade] thought this out pretty well, so failure on any of the involved parts won’t have fatal consequences. However, judging from the demo video embedded after break, the garden in question might not be the best environment to turn this into a GPS-assisted, autonomous mower in the future. But then again, RC vehicles are fun as they are, regardless of their shape or size.

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Lawn Dog Faithfully Cuts The Grass

As a kid, [Josh] always dreamed of building robots to do his boring, dangerous chores like mowing and weed-eating the lawn. Now that he’s built Lawn Dog, an all-terrain robotic lawn mower, he can kick back and mentally high-five his younger self.

Lawn Dog is the result of hitching the business end of a Jazzy electric mobility chair to a Ryobi lawn mower with a custom flexible bracket, and then tweaking it to handle the worst that [Josh]’s lawn has to offer. It’s powered by two 24 V lawn and garden batteries and driven with a Sabertooth 2X12 motor controller. After a slippery maiden voyage, Lawn Dog now masters rough and green with aplomb thanks to doubled-up omniwheels on the Ryobi and very special tires on the Jazzy.

[Josh] wants nothing to do with weed-eating and mowing the ditch, so it’s important that the Lawn Dog is up to the job. He put some solid rubber tires on the Jazzy and then drove 50 screws into each one to add serious traction. Prime the carburetor and pull that cord there to see Lawn Dog’s mowing and ditch handling skills.

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Dalek-Berry-Pi Mower

There’s something about lawn mowers and hackers. A desire to make them into smart, independent robots. Probably in preparation for the day when Skynet becomes self-aware or the Borg collective comes along to assimilate them into the hive. [Ostafichuk] wanted his to be ready when that happens, so he’s building a Raspberry-Pi powered, Dalek costumed Lawn Mower that is still a work in progress since starting on it in 2014. According to him,  “commercial robot lawn mowers are too expensive and not nearly terrifying enough to be any fun, so I guess I will just have to build something myself…”

His first report describes the basic skeletal structure he built using scrap pieces of wood. Two large lawn tractor wheels and a third pivot wheel help with locomotion. The two large wheels are driven by geared motors originally meant for car seat height adjustments. A deep cycle 12V battery, and solar panels for charging would take care of power. A raspberry-pi provides the brain power for the Dalek-Mower and L298N based drivers help drive the motors. The body was built from some more planks of scrap wood that he had lying around. While waiting around for several parts to arrive – ultrasonic sensors, accelerometer, 5V power supply modules – he started to paint and decorate the wood work. Generous amounts of water repellent paint and duct tape were used to make it weather proof. His initial plan was to use python for the code, but he later switched to programming in c along with wiringPi library. Code for the project is available from his bitbucket git repository. Load testing revealed that the L298N drivers were not suitable for the high current drawn by the motors, so he changed over to relays to drive them.

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RC Lawn Mower

Electric Lawn Mower Converted To RC Control

Not too many people like pushing a lawn mower around the yard, but unfortunately, it is a necessary chore. Anti-push-mower advocate [imadethis2014] decided to (as his moniker suggests) make a solution to his pushing-problem. He was a fan of radio controlled devices so it made sense to convert his mower to RC!

The mower itself is powered by an off the shelf battery and has a 21-inch deck. The stock wheels and handle were removed and replaced with a new extruded aluminum frame. Out back are a pair of used electric wheelchair motors sourced from eBay. These drive motors are mounted to the new frame via a pair of aluminum brackets that [imadethis2014] designed and cut out on his Shakepoko CNC machine. Since both rear drive wheels work independent of each other, a pair of swiveling casters up front allow the mower to turn.

A large car-sized battery box houses the two smaller wheel chair batteries as well as the motor control and RC electronics. Check out the video after the break, the mower seems to do fairly well. [imadethis2014] admits he needs some new wheels as the current ones don’t get a lot of traction on the grass. He’s also thinking of adding GPS for automated mowing but isn’t quite there yet.

Continue reading “Electric Lawn Mower Converted To RC Control”