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Mower Down!!

It’s the crack of dawn and the Superintendent is out on the golf course mapping out his plans for the crew after this morning’s 8 am shotgun start. In the meantime, the crew has just finished receiving their morning assignments from the First Assistant. As they are released from the meeting the Equipment Manager, barks out the reminder to check the oil and fuel levels and tire pressure in your mower before leaving the shop. One crew member, mutters under his breath that “The Equipment Manager sounds like a broken record, as those words are recited almost every morning”.

After few moments all the mowers including the backup units begin to roar to life in harmony and head out of the shop. They quickly scatter across the golf course in numerous directions to prep the course. Well for me, The Equipment Manager it’s time for a quick cup of coffee before jumping into checking the cut on the fairway mowers that were used yesterday afternoon.

Before the first wrench is lifted my cell phone sounds a text alert from Bob who is operating one of the greens mowers. The text message says my mower won’t start. Before a reply can be sent, the shops 2-way radio blasts out with a distress call from the First Assistant. “A mower has quit running between first green and the second tee.” While walking to respond the radio call, the cell phone rings. It’s the Superintendent calling. I answer only and hear the words “We have a mower down on the backside of one green and there is a shotgun start in less than one hour.” I turn and look across the shop where she sits ready to go My War Wagon. With quick reply to the Super’s call “I got this” as my head is spinning from the bombardment of distraught calls. I jump in the War Wagon race out of the shop towards the mower down. I had to pat myself on the back for taking the time in the offseason to prepare my War Wagon, she is going to start paying off right now.

I quickly pass golfers that are headed to the driving range for a quick warm-up before the shotgun start. My mind is already analyzing the possible scenarios of what is wrong while driving down the first fairway towards number one green. There was not very much detail of the problem from the multiple forms of communication I had just received. At this very moment, all I know is that I have a mower that won’t start, quit running and its down. This sounds like multiple problems but I am sure it is really only one problem. I am just getting three different descriptions of what is going on with the mower.

Upon arrival, my auto diagnosis mode kicks and begins assessing the situation for any obvious problems. I figure I have about ten minutes or less to get him up and running again. With a quick walk around there are no flat tires, no hydraulic leaks or any parts hanging off of the mower. Out of habit, like muscle memory, I checked the engine and hydraulic oil levels, fuel and all is good.

Bob begins tells me he got off the mower long enough to put the flagstick back in the cup. When he sat back on the mower’s seat it would not start. He turned the key and nothing happened. I said, “nothing happened, no sounds at all?” Bob replied, “no sound it all”. The parking brake is set, the mower is neutral and the Bob is sitting on the seat. I reach into The War wagon and grab the 12-volt battery jumper box with the built-in voltmeter. The voltmeter tells me the state of charge in the battery. The meter reads 12 volts, which is good. If this no start situation was just a week battery there most likely would have been a repeated clicking sound when the key was turned to start indicating low battery voltage or a failed battery. Just to confirm this I pulled out the battery load tester and attached it across the battery posts and the meter on the load tester read 12 volts. A load test was applied and the battery passed.

What is the next step? Well, battery power is not getting to the starter. Next tool in my kit is a remote starter switch with alligator clamps. I hook one end to the positive terminal of the starter and the other to the negative post on the battery. I push the button and the engine cranks over but it does not start. Hmmm, as I pause for a moment and grab the spark tester from the toolbox. The spark tester is connected to spark plug terminal and ground. Again I push the remote start button and it is confirmed no spark. I look over my shoulder and see golfers staged to go out to their designated holes. My watch confirms it 7:45 am, I have but a few minutes left to get this mower going. A little frustration is beginning to build as I look the other direction I see the super headed our way.

Again I am thinking this mower was running when Bob finished the green. I said, “Bob tell me what you did when you got off the mower to put the flag back”. He replied with “I turned off the mower and got off the seat and oh wait! I put my empty energy drink bottle under the seat until I could get to a trash can”. So now we have possible clue to our mower won’t start problem. I lift the seat and find that the mouth of the upside down bottle has broken the plug off of the seat safety switch. Once again, to the toolbox and to pull out a piece of wire, connectors, and cutters and make quick jumper across the broken plug leading to the seat safety switch. With a turn of the ignition switch to start, the mower comes to life just as the Super pulls up and motions Bob ahead to help finish up the last green to be mowed. I never condone disarming a safety switch but this one will be repaired before the mower leaves the shop again.

The Superintendent turns to me and exclaims “I knew that War Wagon would come in handy” just as the clock strikes 8 and the shotgun sings its song…..

This scenario is just of many breaks down that will occur out on the golf course. What matters is being prepared. I would like to hear how you are prepared for breakdowns that may happen on your golf course. Feel free to submit your comments, questions, and ideas to Brian Duffy at mxk92@yahoo.com.


Brian Duffy’s career spans thirty-five plus years in the golf industry. With a diverse background of working on golf courses and turning wrenches on all types of equipment. Plus teaching Golf Course Equipment Mechanics and progressing into turf equipment sales and service. For any questions, comment or ideas contact me at mxk92@yahoo.com

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