Monday, 22 December 2014

It's elite so it must be good! A new lawnmower.

So, my mower died. Big deal. It's been dying for a while, and has been crap ever since I bought it. Unlike the earlier two stroke Victa, the new four stroke Victa never ran at the correct rpm, and kept missing and cutting out. I took it to the shop, and it worked well for a mow or two, then it was back to its old tricks. Yeah, it was a cheaper model, but I expected much better.

I ended up jamming the throttle open a little which meant that I could mow the lawn, but it was never happy. My bodge kept falling out, the paint all flaked off, the handles kept getting loose, and the clouds of thick smoke that spewed forth when it eventually started almost had the firies around... My lawn doesn't do much in winter, so it rarely gets used until summer. This summer, it was even harder to start, smoked like a chimney and ran like a dog. Until it didn't.

And that was that. It stopped, and wouldn't start again, no matter how much I swore at it. Back to the Pit it went, to sit in shame. I was fed up and considering my options:
  • A trip to the clocktower, fully armed? Nah, we don't have any clocktowers nearby, and the only arms I possess dangle off my shoulders and keep my hands in place.
  • Replace it with a new petrol mower? There are some cheapies around at the moment, different brands to the dud, but I've just been burnt by a cheap petrol mower - do I want another?
  • Replace the lawn completely? The kids are gone, do we need any lawn at all? Not really, but a small patch is always nice, and who knows, we may end up having grand-kids running around out there one day. I reduced the size of the lawn and expanded the garden, keeping a play area. There's still grass, but now it's down to only about 130 square metres.
  • We've got solar power, why not go battery powered, and charge the batteries from the sun? This idea was really tempting - free charging, quiet, plenty of torque, the way of the future, could easily do our yard on a single charge. They're expensive, though - even the cheapo brands are around the $350-400 mark for anything half decent, and it's easy to spend more.
  • We could also get electric, but distant memories of my mum's awful cabled Flymo (the hovercraft model) meant that there was no way I'd dragging electric cables around, especially not in the vicinity of spinning blades.
  • Manual. When I was a kid, my parents had a push mower. It was heavy, and hard to use, but was fun when we were big enough to manhandle it. Surely they'd be better for the environment, too. I wonder.
Bunnings had very option covered, including ride-ons, and a price to suit most pockets. Very deep pockets if you need a ride-on! I'd decided petrol was out, so it was a debate between battery and manual. $70 to $130 for manual vs $370 to $500 for battery. I'm tight, it's a small, relatively flat patch of grass, and I need the exercise. Manual it was, and we went for the mid price model, $99 including a catcher. Scotts Elite.

Getting it home was easy, the box is small and light enough to have carried it on the moto (I didn't). Once home, you have to assemble the handles, the catcher, and set the clearance. You can also muck around with blade distance from cutting plate, but, meh. No tools were needed.

Despite the lawn being long kikuyu and weeds, that first cut went remarkably well. The long kikuyu was no problem, I just had to keep getting up some speed and hitting it over and over. Long weeds just folded under and sprung back up when I passed. I found that allowing the long weed to get in between the blades and then mowing worked, but was a PITA. I ended up manually trimming.


  • Other than the problem with long weeds, I discovered that unlike a petrol mower, a push mower doesn't cut as wide as the wheel tracks, which means you need to later finish the edges. For me, that's a noisy petrol whipper snipper. Boo! I might go battery powered there. 
  • Small sticks in the lawn (a fact of life living in bushland) can jam the blades, but a quick kick to reverse the blades and sticks usually drop out.
  • That first cut was a real workout. When the grass is long, you have to push much harder than when it's maintained - again, I figured that the exercise would do me good!
  • The catcher was a joke, and it now languishes in the Pit with the dead mower. It's not really needed anyway - the clippings are quite fine.


  • Ummm. I hate to admit it, but now the lawn's had three mows, I'm enjoying it! 
  • Now the grass is shorter, it's easy to push the mower around. There's still more effort than using a petrol mower, but not by much.
  • The mower makes a noise as the blades cross the plate, but it's not unpleasant. 
  • I think the grass looks better - it's cut, not bludgeoned to length (this may be psychological). 
  • I feel green - or at least greener than I was. 
  • There are no unpleasant clouds of fumes being emitted unless I've been hitting the garlic... 
  • It was only half the price of a petrol mower.
  • I don't have to buy petrol for it.
  • It's not a deadly weapon, unlike a regular mower, the blades stop when you stop.


If you've only got a small, reasonably flat lawn, and are willing to keep it maintained, push mowers are a viable alternative. You will still need something to do the edges.