We don’t need no stinking model numbers!

The curtain rises and act one begins…

“Hi! Welcome to Lawnmowerpros.com. How may we help you?”

“I need one of these!” (dropping item on the counter).

“I…uh…see. Um. Ok. (Trying not to reveal that I have absolutely no idea what that thing is). What did that come off of?”

“My mower.”

Right. What mower do you have?

“MY mower. I got it at…”

“I understand it’s your mower, do you have your model number?”

“I looked all over that thing and I couldn’t find one. (Glancing sheepishly away.)

“I see, well; do you happen to know the year it was made?”

“I bought it about three years ago.”

“Ah. So maybe its a 2012?”

“I don’t think so. It was used.”

“I see. Alright. What brand is it?”

“Yellow.”

Deep cleansing breath.

“Is this part from the engine or the mower?”

“I think the engine. See what happened was that it fell off of the thing that’s right next to where the cable thingy attaches. I think. I was mowing last week and I noticed the front wheels were really wobbly and I had loaned it to my brother-in-law last week and when I got it back, first off he didn’t even fill it with gas. But then when I was using my trimmer around the mailbox I saw that we had…”

“I’m sorry. So, this is from the wheels?”

“No. The cable part where when you move the thing, the mower runs…in one direction, but when you pull the handle back-no wait..forward then the engine makes this noise like “poing clack poing” so when I turned it off then the engine stopped but I don’t know. I checked the oil.”

You stare at me with wide eyed apprehension because it has suddenly become as abundantly clear to you as it has to me that you sound like a crazy person.

I take a deep slow breath. I smile. I imagine riding horses on the beach with my girlfriend…and violins playing…and stuff.

“So, your wheels were wobbly, and when you moved the handle, it won’t go any more. Correct?”

“Right. Yeah, but then when I go to start the mower, then the pulley thing wouldn’t go back around so then I looked and I found this on the ground.”

“And you think this may have been part of where one of the cables attach?”

“I don’t know where the cable attaches.”

“I’m sorry. I meant-“

“Plus, there’s only one cable.”

“Sorry?”

“There’s only one cable on the mower.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry. Where that cable attaches.

“Huh?”

“Where the cable attaches. This might have come from there.”

“Where?”

“No…I’m asking you. This may have come from where the one cable attaches.”

“I don’t know. I was using the weed whacker when I saw it.”

Realizing that we’re really not getting anywhere, I decide its time to take a different approach. I pick up the part and notice the word “Huffy” engraved into it.

“I’m going to ask a crazy question, but bear with me, ok?”

“Alright.”

“Does anyone in your family own a bicycle?”

“It’s my mower/”

“I understand. I’m just-“

“This is a mower shop, right?”

“Right. Mower. Yellow.”

…end scene.


What you have just witnessed is a dramatization of an event occurring in repair shops everywhere…every day. While the names have been changed, the absurdity has not.

In a perfect world, I say “I need your model number.” and you say “Oh, ok. Here it is.” Then we find the part, we sell you the part and everyone parts friends.

But the reality is inexplicably different. I say “I need your model number.” and you look at me like I’m screwing with you. Then you dig in and argue with me about how easy it should be to just go pull the part off of a shelf. Now I’m looking at you like you’re screwing with me!

I have met folks who are willing to spend more time arguing with me over why they shouldn’t need the model numbers than it takes to just go get them and be done with it.

In the end you still need the right part, we haven’t made a sale and everyone’s lost sight of something very important: We actually want to help you. The CSR and the service writer want to help you, the manager wants to help you. The technician wants you  to leave his shop, but that’s why we don’t let him deal with customers.

Bullet Point- A quick, smooth transaction gets you back on the road and frees me up to help the next guy but it takes two for this tango.


Urgency – preparation + ego= a bad time at the mower shop.


The truth about model numbers

Let’s break it down.

Your machine is a combination of parts, all fitted together to create a working device. But every one of those parts can break, and the manufacturer knew it.

So, in anticipation of said breakage, they wisely assigned a number to each part. Then they had their engineers draw up schematics (or parts diagrams) of the machine showing each available part and they listed the description and part number for each of them.

That is how we find parts.


What are we really talking about here?

While it helps to know about two cycle and four cycle machines, when it comes down to finding parts, there’s really only one relevant question you have to answer: Do you care whether you get the right part or not?

If you don’t (and it would appear that many people don’t seem to) then we probably need to talk about who’s going to end up paying the return shipping costs when you end up sending that part back to me.

But if you do care about getting the right part, then walk with me.


Them’s was the good old days

Now, there was a time when the old shade tree mechanics could just look at a part and know exactly which one it was, then go right back into their shop and pull one out of a bucket. He could do that because there was only a few engines to choose from. They were all basically the same and most parts were interchangeable.

He doesn’t work here any more.

So, now you’re stuck with a guy like me who uses a computer to tell him which part goes where and how much it costs and where it can be found.

And while I may not posses the down homey simplicity of old “Shade Tree” , I have air conditioning, the internet, and I can keep track of 3 million more parts than he ever could on his best day.

And given just how many parts are floating around out there, looking for a part without a number is often like looking for a needle in a stack of needles.

Let’s see old Shade Tree pull that one out of his butt! Ha!


Still not convinced?

Ok.

So, you’re looking for a new air filter. Sure! The air filter is one of the most commonly replaced parts on any small engine. Need a small engine air filter? Here you can purchase small engine air filters.

Oh. So, it’s a Briggs and Stratton air filter? Well why didn’t you say so? Here you can purchase Briggs and Stratton Air Filters.

Not seeing a picture of yours? Numbers would eliminate the guess work. But forget about air filters. How about Briggs and Stratton Fuel Line? Champion Spark Plugs? Briggs and Stratton Carburetor Repair Kits? Finding what you’re looking for? Are you sure? How long did it take? Some parts are not returnable. Are you sure now?

You think it’s hard to find replacement tires for your car? All four of them are the same. I bet your car doesn’t have two different sizes of tires, plastic and steel, drive gear or no.

At this point, old “Shady” would be up in that tree sucking his thumb, crying “Maw! Paw! That mower feller has come a tormentin!


A Tale of Two Cities

Wanna hear something crazy?

When it comes to finding parts, your machine may actually be two separate pieces of equipment. I wouldn’t make it up! It’s true!

See, there are two cycle and four cycle engines but for the purposes of this conversation, we’ll just say big engines and small ones.

So, when it comes to finding parts for the big engines (mowers, walk behind tillers, wood chippers, log-splitters, etc) the engine is actually separate from the machine. It has its own model number, serial number and manufacturer. For example: you may have a Craftsman mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine or you may have a Snapper Mower with a Honda Engine.

But for smaller equipment (trimmers, chainsaws, blowers, edgers, etc), the engine is normally considered part of the machine as a whole; requiring one brand, one model number, one serial number. For example: your echo trimmer is one piece of equipment, your Troy Bilt blower is one piece of equipment.

So, to find the part you need, we have to know where to start looking. Is it part of the engine or the machine?

BRAND

Would you go to a Ford dealership for Chevy parts? No? So you already see why brand is important.

Some brands are easy to look up (Snapper, Craftsman, MTD) while other brands are a bit more proprietary and require direct assistance from an authorized dealership. (John Deere and Stihl, respectively).

So, the brand of the engine tells us whether we can even provide parts for your machine in the first place.

While there are many brands that Lawnmowerpros.com can provide original (OEM) or aftermarket replacement parts for, some we simply can’t.

Knowing the brand also allows us to figure out where you need to look to find those numbers. For example, the model and spec number on a Kohler engine is on a decal on the side of the engine while a Briggs and Stratton engine has numbers stamped into the engine itself, and a Honda engine requires numbers on a decal at the top of the rewind starter assembly as well as numbers pin stamped into the side of the engine block.

Why so complicated? Bring it up with the manufacturer and let me know what they say.

Model Numbers! They bum me out, man.

They’re a drag. We know. What with all those numbers and letters and having to look at stuff. I am of the opinion that the entire model number system clearly reveals the repression that is inherent in the system. It’s just another way for the government to keep the working man down. You have our condolences.

Having said that, they’re important if you want the right parts the first time.

Serial Number

The serial number can also be valuable, but it doesn’t replace the model number. And, no…we can’t back track and find your model number with your serial number.

The serial number actually tells us which version of your model you have. For example: Let’s say you have a Dixon zero turn mower model 4423 and you need the outer spindle shaft. As it turns out, Dixon manufactured that particular model between 1997 – 2003 and between those years, there were four different shafts used.

When you provide your serial number (in this case, it will be 98944) tells us that your mower was manufactured in 2003. By looking at the 2003 diagram, we are able to find the right part. Among other things, your serial number helps us to narrow down which unit to look at.

Before we go…

  • I think you know by now that all parts are not the same. I know enough to know I don’t know enough when it comes to just guessing at the right ones. Model numbers eliminate guesswork.
  • Going all “Beautiful Mind” and just firing off every number you find on your machine is just as bad as giving me no numbers at all. Keep It Simple: Ask and I’ll be happy to tell you what I need.
  • Time is money. I may be able to determine which part you have by looking at your old part or a photograph of your part (I’m pretty good with primer bulbs), but it will take far too long to unravel the mysteries of your snow blower to make the experience cost effective. I’m not messing with you here; I’m just giving it to you plain. Model numbers eliminate guesswork. Bring the numbers…the Fonz would have.
  • Buying a part because it looks like the right one online is a suckers bet. Pictures are representative of the type of part and are rarely exact representations of the part you’re looking for. Model numbers eliminate guesswork.
  • Even if it says it in the name of the part; there is no such thing as truly “universal”. Some parts work on multiple machines. Do not assume that if it says “universal” it will work on your machine. Model numbers eliminate guesswork.

For more information on how to find the numbers we need, check out How to find your model numbers.

It’s easy when you go “by the numbers”!

HA!

-Bill

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Bill Brown

Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.