Now that we are officially into the full swing of Summer, the weather has gone from "Hey this is nice" to "I'm melting" in a matter of days (at least here in Sunny Central Washington). One of the trends we start seeing in the shop this time of year is older equipment, like me, aren't big fans of the heat. You may find that your machine doesn't want to start after you have been using it for a while, or it starts but just doesn't want to move. There are, of course, are a whole slew of heat related problems you could be dealing with in the near future. The big question we are routinely asked by customers is if it is worth fixing?
Once upon a time, like pre-COVID, before out of control inflation and supply chain issues, etc. this was a fairly easy question to answer. In most cases if your machine was getting long in the tooth and starting to nickel and dime you to death it was time to send it down the road and get something newer. Simple, right? Well those days are gone, at least for a while. Getting a new piece of equipment that is on par with your old one is more difficult than you think.
One of the trends we have been seeing coming out of the pandemic is more and more faulty units and parts right out of the box. Some manufactures have even resorted to building their own components rather than waiting for the their traditional suppliers to get back up to speed. But, like any new production of a product, the first couple of years can be really tough getting the bugs worked out. For the consumer, this can mean that your brand new machine is breaking down as much or more than your old one.
On top of that we have heard from several customers that they can't even find a replacement, and if they can it's very expensive. Gone are the days of new $1000 lawn tractor or $100 push mowers. Many people find that when they go replace their equipment with the modern version the price has literally doubled, with the specter that the new unit might be a dud from the factory.
So back to the original question, at what point do you say "junk it" and move along? The first thing you have to ask yourself is how much do you want a new machine? Sometimes we just want something new and shiny, and that's okay. The key here to at least be honest with yourself, even if you have to sugar coat the purchase to your significant other.
If, after searching your soul, you come back with the notion that you don't really want something else, but you don't want to throw money away on some old turd; then it's time to start looking at the problem objectively.
When it comes to making a decision there are really only a few key things you have to look at. Start with the most obvious, it it rusting into oblivion? If yes, junk it. If no, keep going. The next question is the engine; does it run? Is it blowing blue or white smoke (the color is actually pretty important), does it sound like someone is playing Rock'em Sock'em Robots inside a garbage can? If your answer is "yes" to either of the two last questions it may be time to move on, but do yourself a favor and get a quote for a new engine and compare that to what it would cost to replace the machine.
Now if your machine has passed the engine sniff test, take a look at the transmission? Does it go forward and backward? Is it making terrible noises like something from the pits of Hell? Well there is your answer.
The bottom line is this, if the overall condition of the machine is pretty good it is generally worth fixing. But if it has been used and abused for 20 years it may be time to move on. Just be careful that you don't get caught in the trap of thinking because it looks old and dated that it's not worth fixing. Often times that old equipment, with a little love and money will surprise you. One other thing to keep in mind, outside of the Powersports and Vehicle worlds, the technology really hasn't changed much. The nice shiny lawn tractor you have been eyeing is pretty much the same as the old clapped out machine you have been using for the last 10 years.
Personally, I am a fan of keeping things going. If it's been a good machine overall and parts are still available, I would rather put money into something that has shown it's own merit over the years, rather than rolling the dice on something new and shiny that may turn out to be a lemon.