PDA

View Full Version : Gravely On Fire


acfttools
06-15-2009, 05:07 PM
I'm a new user - so thanks for your patience.

2001 Gravely 250Z, bought it in Aug. 08 with 44.2 hrs., it had approx. 143.7 hrs. on it at the time of the fire. The mower has been meticulously maintained. I had just filled both tanks with fuel on a level concrete barn floor, checked the oil & hyd. fluid, given it a thorough once over, backed it out of the barn and blown off all the grass clippings.

I'd been mowing approximately 35-40 minutes when the fuel fitting came out of the left tank bushing on essentially dry, level ground. When the fitting came out of the bushing, the bushing came out of the tank. I was mowing upwind and could not smell the fuel. Mowed down a small incline towards the pond on a path that I'd cut last winter, around the tree a couple of times, and was moving back up the slope when I smelled the gas. Checked the fuel caps to make sure they were on good. Immediately shut down the mower, got off & went around the left side. The left tank was gushing fuel - the fuel line was still clamped to the fitting which was laying on the frame of the mower. Reached down to grab it when it blew up.

The pictues below show the initial leak site, the trail down the embankment, and a couple pictues of the mower itself.

2nd & 3rd degree burns on my right arm and hand. 2nd & 3rd degree burns all around my right leg. 1st & 2nd degree burns on my left leg. 1st degree burns on my face. I have never experienced anything as painful as these burns, but am grateful that it wasn't worse.

Over the last few days I've been searching for similar occurances on the web & trying to learn as much as possible about the fuel tank set up on these machines. Came across the thread about the Scag fire.

The bushings on my fuel tanks were set down very low on the tank. They were also directly across from the engine. Once the leak started there was no way to stop it - the tank was going to drain. To their credit, Gravely has since significantly changed the design of the tank, the bushing, and the fittings. The bushings are now made out of a different material than mine were. The bushings are now located far up on the tank, and the fittings have big 90 degree elbows versus my small straight ones. (I managed to recover both fittings, the right hand fitting still had the bushing attached, but the fitting appeared to also be working its way out of the bushing.)

Went to a Gravely/Toro dealer last weekend here in Tulsa. The Toro's still mount their bushings low on their tanks. Asked the dealer to show me the replacement fittings & bushings for the Gravely. He didn't have any of the fittings, but brought out a bag of black bushings. I told him the "replacement bushings" weren't made out of the same material as what was on the new Gravely's. He admitted that they were the generic (read aftermarket) bushings that would fit any mower they stocked.

My initial conversations with Gravely have been pleasant. I spoke with the factory one morning and they pulled their territorial sales manager out of deep Texas and had him on my door step at 9:00 a.m. the next day. They have indicated that they feel this is "an act of God", but they have also said they like to take care of their customers. We'll see how this goes as time goes on.

The purpose of this post is to find out if others have had similar experiences and, more importantly, to hopefully prevent this from happening to someone else. I've not been necessarily kind to my body over the years - football, rugby, USMC, etc., etc., but this is the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life and it's going to be a long, long recovery.

Again, there was absolutely no visible evidence that anything was wrong with the fuel system. No leaks, no rotting/cracked lines, bushings in place, etc. However, I have come to very strongly believe that this is a terrible design. With the long-term effects of ethanol still unknown, there could be lots of little times bombs out there just waiting to explode. And yes, within a minute and a half I'd hit the fire with a big fire extinguisher. The flames were too intense & I couldn't get close enough to make a difference.

Thank you for your patience - look forward to hearing from you much more experienced veterans out there.

dwost
06-15-2009, 05:14 PM
Here we go again, second mower to go up in flames in less than a month!! Everyone check your fuel hoses! Man, I'm so sorry to hear about this and that you were hurt. All the best on a speedy recovery!

mowerbrad
06-15-2009, 06:13 PM
This is the first story lately that someone actually got hurt. The past time the operator was lucky enough to not get hurt. Best wishes to you!

ProStreetCamaro
06-15-2009, 06:27 PM
We have been running gravelys for years and never had a problem. Could you have possibly backed up into a bush that happened to grab the fuel line and pull it out?

Unless that bushing was rotten, not pushed in all the way or something snagged it and ripped it out I dont see how it could just work loose and come out on its own.


Here is our 160Z from behind. They now use the red grommets and have them high on the tank.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v426/prostreetcamaro/P1000417.jpg

1993lx172
06-15-2009, 06:33 PM
Here we go again, second mower to go up in flames in less than a month!! Everyone check your fuel hoses! Man, I'm so sorry to hear about this and that you were hurt. All the best on a speedy recovery!

I second that. Every one, tomorrow before you or your crews head out check the fuel lines, fuel system, and any wires or possible ignition points near the lines or tanks. this includes the hydro units as well. Fuel lines seem to be a problem this year and as our equipment ages things like this may happen more frequentily so we all need to be aware of the little thing that can and do lead to problems.

Acfttools, I hope that you have a fast and complete recovery good luck man.

acfttools
06-15-2009, 07:11 PM
We have been running gravelys for years and never had a problem. Could you have possibly backed up into a bush that happened to grab the fuel line and pull it out?

Unless that bushing was rotten, not pushed in all the way or something snagged it and ripped it out I dont see how it could just work loose and come out on its own.


Here is our 160Z from behind. They now use the red grommets and have them high on the tank.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v426/prostreetcamaro/P1000417.jpg

The first thing that the factory guy thought, and the salesman looked for, was some sort of evidence that a branch might have gotten tangled in the fuel line & pulled out the bushing. However, if you look at the last two pictures you'll see that's not what happened. I went over a small piece of about a 2 1/2" branch on the ground (left side of picture) at the point of origin of the leak and that appears to have been the catalyst for the failure. Even the territorial sales manager admitted that there was nothing next to the mowing path or on the ground that could have ripped out the fuel line.

The picture of the placement of the bushings on your fuel tank and those BIG right angle connections is exactly what I was talking about in my original post. I will bring in my fittings tomorrow & try to post pictures of them so you can see the enormous difference in the design.

On a last note, there have been posts in the past about the pickup lines inside the fuel tanks deteriorating. A local Gravely dealer admitted that to me. He said the pickup lines were made out of a different material than the fuel lines and the ethanol disolved them inside the tank. Sorry, but I have to seriously wonder if ethanol was the reason for the material change in those bushings. I doubt anyone knows the true long-term effects of ethanol on some of these lines and we may just be seeing the beginning of a trend. Not an alarmist - just trying to deal with the facts.

Thanks to all for the support - hopefully we can help someone out there.

Okielawman28
06-15-2009, 07:21 PM
First of all Semper Fi,

A fellow devil dog here hopes that you get better and back to feeling like your old self. I recently baught a gravely 21" with a kaw engine and love it.

I hope that gravley does you better than the other fella on here whos mower burned to the ground.

Sorry to hear that you were hurt.

I also am here in tulsa,, did you get it a BA lawn and garden.

Get well.
Chris

ProStreetCamaro
06-15-2009, 07:24 PM
The lines inside our 34Z's tanks deteriorated and I had to replace them. Most fuel lines are not designed to be submerged in fuel so it takes a special fuel line to do that. Im not crazy about the fuel line setup on the gravelys either but we like the mowers so we keep buying them.

Richard Martin
06-15-2009, 07:34 PM
I know how excruciatingly painful burns can be. I've had a few nasty ones over the years including grabbing ahold of a piece of steel that had just been welded and having acetalene blow up inside of a welding glove that was on my hand.

I hope you get well real soon and the pain goes away quickly.

Mowingman
06-15-2009, 07:36 PM
Gravely had to do a warranty repair on a lot of their ZTR's, as the rubber fuel pickup tube inside each tank would break off the fitting inside the tank. The repair involved installing a new tank bushing and new pickup tube. If the repair was done on your machine before you bought it, it is possible that the servicing dealer did not get the bushing installed into the tank properly. It was kind of tricky to get it just right. If the bushing was not inserted just right, it would pop out. It is "wedged" into place by the right angle fitting that is inserted into the bushing, which causes it to swell up and stay in place in the side of the tank. I was a dealer and did quite a few of these warranty repairs on various ZTR models. If yours had the update, it would have had "red" bushings. The originals were black as I recall.

nosparkplugs
06-15-2009, 08:09 PM
acftools I hate burning my finger!!! let alone the number & degree of burns you received I know burns are painful, use to work in a Level one trauma center with one of the best burn units. I have seen folks with more than 40% burns over their body not pretty or an easy injury for the body to recover from. I would rather break a leg or get shot than burned. Skin is our largest organ.

With the increased amount of ethanol in gasoline does not help in older equipment either, with the ZTR being a 2001 I don't think you will see a dime from Gravely, expect you won't get a dime, and anything more is always a bonus.

Yet another reason I am done with gasburners & air cooled engines their dangerous, and run way to hot in these ZTR's

Take it easy, good luck on a speedy recovery. Because burns are so painful their is a high rate of prescription abuse, so Don't get hooked on the pain meds either!!!!!! I have seen good people go down this path after burns.

kb9nvh
06-15-2009, 08:14 PM
Wow!!! Sorry man, I just went through a fire but not as bad as yours. Mine was a SCAG and it was a total loss as well. Sorry for your injuries. My homeowners covered my loss, SCAG would not so I wish you better luck. Since you have injuries they may be more inclined to "help you out"

Also, my Scag has the "push in" fuel lines but these were not my failure point.

Take away from this for everyone is that a fuel leak on this type of mower WILL likely result in a fire and unless you can put it out with an extinguisher you can count on a total loss. I think the design on these needs to be readdressed to lower the fire risk in case of catastrophic fuel leak.

Triplex
06-15-2009, 09:01 PM
I noticed a common thread between both cases is that the machines had very low hours. Someone else made a comment about ethanol in the fuel; I wonder if fuel sitting for long periods of non-use had something to do with it. I invite the mechanically-oriented people here to comment; I don't know much about engines.

ProStreetCamaro
06-15-2009, 09:12 PM
I have actually been thinking about running Sta-Bil marine formula in our equipment. Gary at BOP recommends this.

http://www.goldeagle.com/brands/stabil/default.aspx

greenred
06-15-2009, 09:19 PM
I have actually been thinking about running Sta-Bil marine formula in our equipment. Gary at BOP recommends this.

http://www.goldeagle.com/brands/stabil/default.aspx

I was told to stay away from that stuff and just use Sea Foam by a dealer / mechanic I trust.

johnwon
06-15-2009, 09:37 PM
Thanks for sharing this and doing your part in spreading this info. This is a very good place to share this info to many others. Also, I have just prayed for you as well.
May God Bless

gene gls
06-15-2009, 09:48 PM
I had a problem with my gas line conection on my Hustler S/Z a few years ago. The push in fitting would not hold. Hustler has come out with a screw in connection that works fine. After reading this I will double check mine tomorrow.

kb9nvh
06-15-2009, 10:03 PM
Please describe this screw in fitting? Is this a retro fit that may work on all ZTR's?

I had a problem with my gas line conection on my Hustler S/Z a few years ago. The push in fitting would not hold. Hustler has come out with a screw in connection that works fine. After reading this I will double check mine tomorrow.

LouisianaLawnboy
06-16-2009, 01:20 AM
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO not a Gravely:(

gene gls
06-16-2009, 07:51 AM
Please describe this screw in fitting? Is this a retro fit that may work on all ZTR's?

Its a formed metal part with the elbo fastened to a metal plate that has raised threads at the base of the elbo. A rubber gasket is put onto the part and the part is instaled from the inside of the tank. A washer and nut is tightened on the outside to hold it in place. Its the same idea as a "tank plug". I would think it would work on any tank that came with the push in type fittings.

kb9nvh
06-16-2009, 08:15 AM
Sounds like a good alternative that cant be pulled out and if it gets loose it will start to leak (minorly) and it will be apparent there's a problem thereby failing gracefully and safely.

Its a formed metal part with the elbo fastened to a metal plate that has raised threads at the base of the elbo. A rubber gasket is put onto the part and the part is instaled from the inside of the tank. A washer and nut is tightened on the outside to hold it in place. Its the same idea as a "tank plug". I would think it would work on any tank that came with the push in type fittings.

kb9nvh
06-16-2009, 08:16 AM
After looking at many of these it seems that the muffler up high would be a better option than down low where any leaking gas will eventually find its way to the hottest part of the engine.

acfttools
06-16-2009, 06:01 PM
Good Afternoon All - been a long day already.

I have attached, in order, the following pictures of the left fuel tank fitting which came out of the bushing:

1. The left fitting before being cleaned - it had been sitting out & had gotten rained on. Sorry for the poor picture.

2. The left fitting after I had removed the fuel hose clamp and cleaned off the barrel of the fitting that goes into the bushing.

3. The left fitting inserted into a new, from a Gravely dealer, "generic" replacement bushing.

4. What the new, "replacement" bushings look like.

Please take special notice of the fact that the fuel line was still clamped to the fitting and, even after I had removed the clamp, portions of the fuel line remained attached to the fitting.

Please also take notice that there is no evidence whatsoever of the bushing. This is extremely important because it will relate in my second post.

acfttools
06-16-2009, 06:45 PM
The three pictures below show the right fuel tank bushing, fitting, fuel line, and the fuel line hose clamp. The fire melted the tank around this assembly and it fell out on the ground as pictured. You will also notice a portion of the pickup line that went into the fuel tank. There was no evidence of the pickup line on the left fuel tank fitting.

Probably more important than anything else, to me anyway, are the following measurements I took with a caliper:

1. The ID of the new bushings was .3660. The OD of the barrel of the fitting that passes through the bushing was .4040. This means that the fitting is expanding the bushing .0380. Not a whole bunch, huh?

2. The length of the barrel of the fitting that goes through the bushing was .6300. The height of the bushing was .6320.

3. The diameter of the fitting at the widest point of the barb that goes through the bushing was .4510. That means the lip is approximately .0470 inches high.

4. The diameter of the fitting that sat on top the bushing on the outside of the tank was .5000. That means there was an approximately .15" lip around the opening in the bushing.

IMPORTANT

Now, let's look at the right tank assembly. Please take special note of the fact that the bushing on the right tank fitting extends past the shoulder of the inside barb. Remember, this shoulder is only approximately .0500" tall. It would definitely appear that the right tank fitting was working its way out of the bushing as well. At a minimum, the right tank fitting was not properly seated into the bushing.

Just playing devil's advocate, I need to ask how a person can feel the fitting "seat" inside the bushing with a .0500" shoulder on that barb. I can only wonder what happens when people change their fuel lines in the normal course of operations. How much twisting/pulling on that fitting before you pull it over that shoulder and not even know it? And finally, this is an 01 model purchased June 15, 2001. Back then ethanol was not nearly as prevalent as it is now - the % of ethanol in fuel has also increased over the years.

Regardless of anything else, I very strongly feel that this is an inherent design problem on most, if not all, of these fuel tanks. Yesterday I gave Gravely great credit for fixing what I had a strong suspicion was a very bad design. Having said that, there is a reason why the design was changed so radically. If Gravely and/or any other company had knowledge of this inherent design problem and failed to give proper notice, then I would find great fault with that company. Everything to do with this failure happened "behind the scenes", that is, on the inside of the tank. The outside shoulder of the bushing was never exposed to ethanol and appeared in perfect condition, so it really doesn't matter how well you maintain your equipment. Sad thing is, this appears to be the "industry standard".

That's basically it for now, but I'll be glad to answer any questions anyone has. I bought this mower from an individual who is a senior mechanic with one of the airlines. He's more meticulous than I am about maintenance. It was a darned good mower.

Wizz
06-16-2009, 07:26 PM
Geez...with that type of damage any phone-book lawyer could get an out of court settlement easily from the company, very easily.

lawnjocky
06-16-2009, 07:46 PM
Keep us posted on what Gravely does or say's. I have talked to them over the phone a couple of times and they seem like good people.

kb9nvh
06-16-2009, 08:52 PM
Let me ask you, did you get burned attempting to do something about the fire or was it unavoidable? I think I read that most folks get burned due to trying to put the fire out on these fires. On my fire, since I couldn't really do anything, I just ran off and call the fire dept but I can see where if I had tried to pat the fire out or sprayed water on it or just stayed close I could have been burned.

kb9nvh
06-16-2009, 10:42 PM
make sure you report to the cpsc
http://www.cpsc.gov/

Scotland Yard and Garden
06-17-2009, 09:42 AM
Hello. I hope you are recovering as this is a horrible accident. I would like to make a point to all who read this post. Make sure you have insurance for what we do, thank god you where not hurt more than you where, however you could have been permantley disabled from an accident like this. Also so everyone knows had this been an employee on this machine he could have sued YOU for the damages, had the homeowners house burnt to the ground they could have sued YOU. Worse yet had you been using a cash employee, not on the books cash at the end of the day, any of the ambulance chaser attorneys could take your home and all else. I hate this happened to you,and hope for a fast recovery, I do want all lawnsite guys to really think about how they do business,having no insurance may save you $1000 a year or so, but it could cost you everything in a matter of minutes. Please be careful.
Posted via Mobile Device

kaferhaus
06-17-2009, 10:14 AM
Hello. I hope you are recovering as this is a horrible accident. I would like to make a point to all who read this post. Make sure you have insurance for what we do, thank god you where not hurt more than you where, however you could have been permantley disabled from an accident like this. Also so everyone knows had this been an employee on this machine he could have sued YOU for the damages, had the homeowners house burnt to the ground they could have sued YOU. Worse yet had you been using a cash employee, not on the books cash at the end of the day, any of the ambulance chaser attorneys could take your home and all else. I hate this happened to you,and hope for a fast recovery, I do want all lawnsite guys to really think about how they do business,having no insurance may save you $1000 a year or so, but it could cost you everything in a matter of minutes. Please be careful.
Posted via Mobile Device


Amen

AND workers comp! Your best "buddy" will not hesitate to sue your ass off should he get hurt working for you and becomes even temporarily disabled.

I've seen it all too often and it's not often reported because these non-legit guys often haul ass when something bad happens to try and keep from losing everything they own. But many of course have nothing of value too lose except most of their future earnings.

Scotland Yard and Garden
06-17-2009, 10:21 AM
"Buddy" just means he knows what you have and what he could try and take.

Insurance should be just like a mower you can't work without it.
Posted via Mobile Device

ed2hess
06-17-2009, 10:51 PM
Bad news is all my units of different brands use the same little device to hook the hoes to the bottom of the tank. Since that bushing is smooth on the outside kinda hard to understand why it holds inthe tank. Obviously the hole in the tank has to be undersized and I guess the tee expands the bushing when you push it through? That don't seem like a very good setup. If that corn gas is softening the bushing material that would be bad.

dakota2112
06-18-2009, 01:22 PM
After reading the SCAG fire thread, my Tiger Cub now has a small automotive fire extinguisher on it at all times. I bought it at walmart for about $15, it's rated for liquids (including gasoline according to the label), and it fits perfectly on the SCAG. It lays on its side right behind where the deck access door lifts up, and it is a small enough diameter that it doesn't interfere with anything, including the access door or my feet or anything else. It's inside an old sock to keep it cushioned from direct metal-to-metal contact, and it's held in place with a single bungee cord.

I've personally avoided major catastrophe twice in my life thanks to a fire extinguisher being immediately available. Just thought I'd pass this along. $15 is cheap insurance. :)

ed2hess
06-18-2009, 07:28 PM
I was in the dealer shop today an noticed an exmark tank laying there and they got a very very good device sealing into the tank It is metal and has a nut on it.
By the way those pictures of the new bushing are the generic brand and are missing the tangs you will find on the Kohler parts.