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I have a 2005 John Deere 115 19 HP automatic riding mower. After leaving it in the garage all winter, I started the mower, drove it about 50 yards, and engaged the blade. It went about 20 feet, made a loud boom, and has not started since.

I had a lawn mower repair guy come out who said that the engine was "gone". He didn't do really anything as far as I could tell other than listen to it and spin the top of the engine. He said the engine shouldn't spin like that.

He said he would do research and see about options on a replacement. He said it was going to be $450.00 US for a "Short Block", and he would charge an additional $200 US for labor. He said that he would just bolt my existing parts (starter, muffler, etc.) to the short block and it would be fixed.

My question is whether or not I should put $650.00 US into a John Deere mower which is almost 10 years old and that I paid about 1,300.00 US for when I bought it brand new. As far as I can tell, it will cost me about $1800.00 US for a similar replacement. I'm really not sure if this "short block" solution is common and a good option.

Is it worth the repair costs, or should I just buy a new one?

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2 Answers 2

Firstly, you should find out the actual problem - "engine gone" could be almost anything, and may well be something you can fix for a lot less than an entire new engine...

Can you describe the symptoms a bit clearer? Does the engine spin freely? Does it spin faster or slower than it used to? Are there any visible signs of damage, or leaking oil? Does the oil look normal (have a look in the filler)?

The economics of repair vs replacement are off-topic for this site, we're all about repair here anyway! If you want to save money, repairing it yourself is an ideal opportunity to learn a bit more about how engines work - and shouldn't be difficult for a small engine like that...

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I would get quotes from one or two other repairers.

John Deere is a good brand, I'd hope that parts would be readily available at reasonable cost even though it is old.

$450 seems a lot to me (though I've no experience with this situation) so I'd ask a John Deere parts retailer for parts prices. It may be the repairer just assumed that the crankshaft, pistons and cylinders were all ruined. This may not be the case.

Replacing a "short block" might be the simplest and fastest repair - and therefore it may be the cheapest if you are paying someone else on a time and materials basis.

If you (and your son?) would like a project to do together, stripping down the engine together and looking at any damage might be a good experience for both of you and worth more than $450. If you hate working on mechanical things this may not be the best place to get answers :-)

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Where engines are concerned, the expensive thing is almost always the labour. –  Juann Strauss May 13 at 9:36

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