Atco Consort 14 (CT14) self-propelled lawnmower repair

A mid-90’s take on a classic design, dodges the tip

When they say; “they don’t make things the way they used to”, they’re right… sadly.

With many repairs that I do, half the battle is identifying the correct or closest-match replacement part.  Half the fun is finding a part to do the job, when the original manufacturer can’t or won’t sell that part.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Atco Consort 14 (CT14)

Make and model: Atco (Qualcast) Consort 14 (CT14- 002107A)

Fault reported: Intermittent running

Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts:  £24.44, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Hours spent on finding parts: 1 hour

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of tea:  X 1

Biscuits: Custard Cream X 1

Some things are just a joy to work on because of the way the original design and engineering teams that came up with the product, saw their machines being used in real life.

Even though this machine was built in the 1990s, the Consort 14’s DNA comes from a long line of designs that include the famous ‘Suffolk Punch’ lawn mower created by Suffolk Iron Foundries of Stowmarket in 1954.  This machine is badged as Atco (and Qualcast in places) but the electric motor was made in Stowmarket, England.  The original factory had a reputation for making everything, literally everything, for its machines, right down to the nuts and bolts and this ethos lives on in the CT14.

I’m not going to bang on about sustainable design and circular economy here, but today, unless one pays serious money, garden equipment is simply not built to last any more than a couple of years.  Many of the mowers and strimmers you can buy for under £100 in B&Q, Tescos (here in the UK) and alike have a built-in obsolescence factor measured in months, not decades.  Personally, I believe that products like this should be banned.  Too many end up at my local tip with the price label still attached…

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A neighbour asked me to look at their Atco lawnmower, which had stopped mowing recently.  They were wondering if it was worth bothering with a repair, I of course said that the machine that they had was better than many machines available now, so it was absolutely worth repairing!

The mower is a self-propelled, cylinder type with speed control and clutch to engage the propulsion system, as desired.  It’s a neat design that’s hard to better.  The next time you are at Wembley or Wimbledon, just look at the mowers still used by professional grounds maintenance teams.

The Atco is designed to receive occasional maintenance and all items which might require the owner or maintenance engineer to inspect are easy to access.  Forward thinking again, shown by the designers.  The main issue in 2020 is that parts are only available from aftermarket suppliers and although there are still (thankfully) specialists ready to supply, part numbers and cross-referencing is a nightmare and despite me doing this work in the UK and this machine being made in the UK, the repair required a degree of investigation and sleuth work to get the parts needed.

The motor was my first port of call and with only a couple of bolts holding it in place, the motor was soon removed.  It was in good overall condition but the carbon brushes were a little short and needed replacing. This explained why the motor had suddenly cut-out.

You might think that finding carbon brushes for a UK made motor, might be easy.  You would be wrong.  Despite several conversations with mower experts, these brushes were seemingly unavailable, off the shelf.  I did order some brushes for an equivalent model produced a little later, but these were too large.  I could have filed them down to make them fit, but after rooting around in my collection of brushes (as one does) I found that a new pair of brushes from a Kenwood Chef A701 fitted perfectly.

While I had the mower in pieces, I decided to inspect the drive belts which were both in poor condition.  One was split and one had stretched badly.  For smooth, reliable operation, both required a replacement.

Again, the Consort 14 was not on many mower supplier inventories, so finding the correct belts required cross checking with other Qualcast and Bosch (Bosch later acquired Qualcast) models and a little bit of luck to match them up.  Fortunately, eBay sellers came to the rescue again and I managed to find the correct belts which fitted perfectly.

With the mower back together, it was ready to run for another 30 years.  Time for another cuppa.

Footnote:  I’m very aware that I sound like a stuck record…

Look, many products made and sold nowadays are much better than older ones.  I’m not saying that all old things are better. Take old cars for example (although I have a soft spot for old cars):  They were polluting, they didn’t have safety built-in (in general) they rusted-out and broke down, all the time.  New ones generally don’t break down, last for longer and you’ll walk away from many crash situations.

New things are usually safer, more efficient and capable.  However, many older machines were designed to be serviced, repaired and re-used over and over, which in my opinion, is more sustainable.  Many products today, especially mowers and alike are designed to last for 18 months hard-use and then the whole thing is scrapped, but it’s apparently acceptable to society as it ‘only cost 40 quid- I’ve had my monies worth’.

It’s this notion that doesn’t sit well with me and I see a growing cohort of people who are not prepared to accept this waste of resources either.  What say you?

 

Qualcast Hover Safe 25, left out in the cold

An old hover mower avoids the great lawn in the sky.

Another email popped in to my inbox asking if I would have a look at a Qualcast Hover Safe 25 which had stopped working.  It had been working intermittently for a while before giving up the ghost and now it had thrown in the towel.  Bad news.  It had literally been kicked into the long grass.

Make and model:  Qualcast Hover Safe 25

Cost of replacement:  £40.00 (ish)

Cost of parts:  £0.00 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Tools needed:  Basic screw drivers, multimeter, pliers, hair dryer

Sundry items: WD40, silicone spray, wet and dry sanding cloth

Repair difficulty:  4/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Qualcast Hover Safe 25.

The owner of this mower had reported that the handle mouted switch (dead-mans handle) had been a ‘bit tricky’ to use and that it didn’t always work.  These kinds of statements make me wonder what kind of life a device has had.  Judging by the rust and discolouration on the metal and plastic parts, I think this mower had been left in a shed with a leaky roof!

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The water had not been kind and the mechanism had seized.  The only thing to do was to open up the switch, clean up any moving parts, lubricate the switch with switch cleaner and lubricate the sliding plastic parts with a little silicone spray.  The small lever which actuates the main on/ off switch was also slightly bent, so after a little straightening, using a hair dryer, it was as good as new. After the switch was repaired, the lawnmower’s motor still wasn’t working.

The cable running from the switch to the motor housing appeared to be in good condition, so the only thing left was to remove the motor itself.  Removing the motor means removing the blade and 4 small screws (see photos).  Once exposed, the motor was revealed.  Power was indeed reaching the motor when the switch was operated, as confirmed with a quick dab of the multimeter.

The motor itself seemed to have little resistance when manually spun, which led me to suspect the motor brushes had worn out.  Doubting that brushes were available, I decided to remove them anyway for closer inspection.  This revealed seized motor brushes, which backed up my theory about the mower’s damp environment.  A quick bit of jiggery pokery and a clean up and the motor brushes were as good as new.  A quick clean up of the motor commutator, I refitted the brushes and the motor was ready to be refitted.

Now, this mower is not in the first flush of youth and the motor bearings were a little noisy, but after a quick spray of grease in the bearing area it sounded fine.  The mower will never be perfect, but at least it will work for a little longer, which has got to be the point, hasn’t it?