Saturday, May 13, 2023

Today’s plan, tomorrow’s problem

Today’s plan was to mow the lawns, and I waited until early afternoon to give it the maximum amount of time to (maybe) dry, not that I thought it’d actually help. In the end, it was every bit as bad—or worse—than I expected. And, it turns out, I may have a new problem.

Out front, I had to stop twice to scoop out the clumped grass gunk from the underside. Then I mowed the part of back I can’t see out of my windows (the side yard with my clothesline and where I keep my rubbish & recycling wheelie bins). I did that because I figured there wasn’t much juice left in the battery, but it actually still had power left after that, so I switched it off and wheeled it to the patio so it—and I—could cool down.

About ten minutes later, I went back out and started the part of the lawn I can see out my windows, stopping once to scoop out more clumped grass gunk. Then the mower abruptly stopped, I checked the power gauge, and the battery was spent. I went and got the other battery, put it in—and nothing, as if it was dead.

My first thought was that maybe I hadn’t re-charged it two weeks ago, and only thought I did. I knew that was unlikely to be the case, and, anyway, I knew that I’d only used a little bit of it back then, so there should still have been power to use. With no other options, I put the mower away, and brought the charger into the house to charge up the battery I’d just drained.

I decided to try charging the second battery first, but I got alternating flashing red and green lights, which means there’s a problem with the battery’s electronics or the charger. Uh oh. This is the original battery that came with the mower, so I’ve had it for more than 3 years—and 3 years is, of course, the length of the warranty. A replacement 4Ah 36v battery today is $269 (around US$167), while the bigger 6Ah 36v one is $369 (US$229).

There are a couple things I can do to try to bring it back, but, honestly, the prognosis isn’t good. It could, theoretically, be repaired, but in reality it’s actually impossible, not the least because that would cost more than buying a new one. Also, when I put the working battery on the charger, it charged normally, so the problem is definitely with the battery.

I took the newly charged-up good battery and went back outside to finish the mowing. It only took about 10 minutes to do that, the mower working hard nearly all the time.

The still-working battery is a 6Ah battery I bought a while ago because under normal circumstances, it’s enough to mow all the lawns without changing batteries. But, what’s “normal” now? The last two times I mowed, I needed both batteries because the lawns were so wet and gluggy from all the rain. If this is the new normal, I won’t be able to mow all the lawns on one battery.

I’m still weighing my options. I’ll probably buy a new battery (the store I bought it from and Hamilton City Council both accept the dead one for recycling for free). The batteries are expensive, though, which is why I’m not completely sure what I’ll do.

That was a huge disappointing ending to what had already been hard work doing the mowing. It was bad enough that I wondered, once again, if it was worth continuing, or if I should just throw in the towel and hire a mowing service. So, I looked it up.

In Hamilton, it would cost around me $35-45 per mow, maybe as low as $25 if I had them do only the front. Assuming an average of once a fortnight, that would be $910 to $1,179 per year for mowing all the lawns, which, in turn, averages out to around $76 to 98 per month (in US dollars, those figures are around US$22 – US$28 per mow, or US$721 - US$726 per year and US$47 to US$61 per month). Oh yeah, that’s why I never seriously considered it before.

On the other hand, since a mowing service would cost me more in a year than what I paid for the lawnmower three years ago, and since I recharge the batteries for free, my mower has already paid for itself a couple times over. Even if I have to buy a new battery once it hits 3 years old, I’ll still come out ahead financially—and health-wise, too.

There will come a time when mowing will be too much for me to handle physically, but I’m not there yet. When I am, maybe I’ll move somewhere that doesn’t have lawns. I can’t possibly know that now. But I do know how to troubleshoot technical problems, first by getting to the core of what’s wrong, then working out what my options are. At least that’s one thing that wet, gluggy lawns can’t change.


Roger Owen Green said...

I stopped mowing my lawn because of similar problems with the batteries. I bought a couple more online, but they were incompatible, even though the literature I read said they should have worked.

Arthur Schenck said...

Yeah, I've run into that with not as expensive things, but if the battery isn't salvageable, then I'll buy a new one from a reputable store so I get a warranty. I've been bitterm too often.