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Best 12-15hp vert engine [thinking about a repower]

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing Equipment' started by yankdownunder, Dec 24, 2013.

  1. Hello,
    I've got a Husqvarna "Rider" [13h or 850-12] lawnmower. Very handy, well built [late '90s] that is doing a great job. I got it for next to nothing [$100] because it had an out of production mower deck that was rusted out. I built a "fabricated" deck for it that solved the lack of deck availability.
    It is the biggest residential version of Husqvarna's "Rider" line. But, being a "residential" and older ['98], it has the flat head 12.5hp Briggs [does run well] and I was looking around for a donor engine for an upgrade to a little bit more power, OHV, fuel economy [petrol=$2.50/liter], and a bit quieter.
    I mow aprox. 3/4 acre once a week, and so far it uses about 1/2 of a 7 liter tank to do this. That would equate to about 4 liters/acre.
    First, how does this fuel consumption sound?
    Second, what would be the "best" OHV vertical engine in the 13-15hp range be [so I can keep an eye out for a deal].
    Third, I've got to replace the blades. Any opinions/suggestions. Gators, doubles, stock high lifts...
    Thanks, John
  2. jkilov

    jkilov LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MS
    Posts: 1,415

    The "best" OHV replacement would be a Honda GXV390.

    It should use less fuel and outlive the mower. It's rated at 10 hp (net) which is more than your "12.5" Briggs was producing. Being a single cylinder, it should be easy to fit (check crankshaft dimensions) and get the cables to work.
  3. Thanks, I've got a Honda on my pressure washer [replacing a flat head unit] that got me on the OHV change over for small equipment.
    There are not that many Honda powered mowers/tractors, so I was thinking of looking for a donor mower/tractor engine.
    Most seem to be B&S, Kohler. I had a kohler [flat head] in my old Cub 125. Sucked the gas, but would always run and powered through most anything put before it. Reason I didn't repower that was that it had a double sided take off [one for power to wheels, one for PTO].
    Any suggestions for commonly used engines in mowers/tractors?

    Thanks, John
  4. jkilov

    jkilov LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MS
    Posts: 1,415

    I suppose it depends on how much you want to spend.

    A homeowner grade Briggs will set you back $500 or so. These engines are single cylinder and you can order generic parts, say a muffler, charger coil or starter for them so fitting should be easy.

    Kohler has some homeowner grade equivalents (Courage) but these have a bad reputation around here. Early models had a tendency to self destruct and I really don't know in what state of quality they are now.

    Briggs also makes a commercial line called Vanguard but they only come as V-twins. A 2-cylinder engine is larger and might not fit your mower, it needs an exhaust system which is typically custom made, most have a fuel pump which needs to be hooked up, nearly all need an electric starter and associated hardware to start.

    Personally, I would spend the extra money, save me the hassle and buy a Honda GXV390. It's a single cylinder, comes with a muffler and optional fuel tank and is easy enough to start by rope. This makes it a bolt-on replacement with next to no worries about electrics, fuel lines, mufflers and so on.

    $800-$900 shouldn't ruin your budget and these commercial engines last 2000+ hours vs. a homeowner Briggs or Kohler which wear out after 400 hrs. If the mower falls apart before the engine (which it will) you can always sell a Honda GX with a minimal loss as they have good reputation.

    One more thing, all prices are USD, I have no idea how many NZD this equates to.
  5. "Kohler has some homeowner grade equivalents (Courage) but these have a bad reputation around here. Early models had a tendency to self destruct and I really don't know in what state of quality they are now."
    That's the kind of information that I'm looking for.
    I'm trying to avoid the pitfalls of well known [not by me] of known faulty engine history.
    I've seen that B&S have OHV engines, but know little of their durability. Kohler has the "Command" line, is this more commercial?

    Thanks, John
  6. jkilov

    jkilov LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MS
    Posts: 1,415

    Yes the Command is a commercial engine, but they don't make single cylinder verticals any more. Briggs homeowner engines are mediocre at best, perhaps a tad better than Courage. But if you put 50 hrs on it per year, it should do just fine.

    Mind I ask why you're replacing the flathead if it still runs? Fuel savings will be minimal and won't pay for a new engine.
  7. It runs and runs well.
    I put a 5.0 Mustang motor in a Ford Ranger.
    Just a bit of Hot Roding. I'd like to be able to use less fuel, as petrol [as it's called down here] is $2.50/ liter.
    Aprox 4 liters to the gal, that's $10/gal gas. So, some fuel savings would be welcome.
    A bit more power would be nice. I don't do much heavy cutting, but it'd be nice to have a bit of power in reserve.
    I cut the strip [between the street and fence] in front of some young guys two doors down [that gets mowed once a month, if that], because it looked untidy [and a good test of the deeper grass cutting ability]. The 12.5 pulled down to where the blades were not going fast enough to cut well. Slowing down fixed that, but if there was a bit more power, maybe higher RPM [though most of these engines are made to turn the same, like PTOs on tractors], it would've gone through like hot knife through butter.
    So, if I know which engine to look out for, if one becomes available for good price, I could maximize performance and sell my good running flat head for $100.
  8. jkilov

    jkilov LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MS
    Posts: 1,415

    If you want good fuel economy Honda is considered best in this segment, followed by Kohler and Vanguard, whilst Kawasaki and residential Briggs would be the thirstiest.
  9. Hondas have a very good reputation, and hence have commanded a premium price [at least down here].
    So, I've been looking for a "diamond in the rough", or a brand/model that may be a bit less well known but a quality piece so I can scoop up a deal.
    If I know which models to look for and which models to run from, I'll be able to search with a smirk.
    I'll look for a Kohler Command or a B&S Vanguard or any Kawasaki if it's not too much, but it probably will be.
    Any OHV will be way less thirsty than the B&S I/C flat head, and that'll be good enough.
    Long life, less fuel consumption, quieter, more power, in no particular order.
    This is a "wanna have" not a "gotta have", so no real hurry.
    I'm trying to take advantage of research and diligence.
    Thanks, John
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013

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