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I received a Craftsman push mower (Model 917.377543) from my sister. She had left it outside all winter in the snow/rain.

I have got to the point where the mower will run for 15-20 minutes initially before dying (it runs good when it does). After that, I have to let it sit for 5-10 minutes before it will start again, and it will only last 5-10 minutes, and eventually will stop starting.

Heres a list of things that I have done (the mower wouldn't start at all at first)

  • Replaced the air filter
  • Removed old gas & oil and replaced
  • Took the carb apart (the bottom tin can part) and cleaned with carb cleaner. This is what got the mower running in the first place.
  • Replaced rotted gasket in the carb
  • Mixed some cleaner into the gas to help clean the engine out as well
  • WD-40'd necessary spots

Is there anything else I can try to get this thing running? I am about to just go buy a new mower, but I am no mechanic so there may be something else little I can try out.

The only other part visible on the mower that may be the culprit is this black tube that i believe is hooked up to the oil tank, and it runs near the carb, it is rotted at the end and it seems air may be able to get in. Looking at the engine parts here, it may be the 'breather tube' (part #12). Would this make sense with what is happening (shutting off after some use)

Another thing I notice when it shuts off, is that if I remove the oil cap white smoke comes out. Is this normal?

(I can try to get some pics of the tube that is rotted when I go home)

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Are you adjusting the choke after you have it started? –  HandyMan Jun 27 at 17:36
2  
How does it die? Sputters and then stops or is it sudden? Try it with the gas cap off and see if that helps. Quick guess is the gas cap is not vented properly. –  treeNinja Jun 27 at 18:41
    
The mower does not have a adjustable choke like some. Also, it will be going fine for awhile, then I can hear it start to die and eventually it sputters for a few seconds and stops. I will try the gas cap suggestion. –  RyanG Jun 27 at 20:56
    
So it may just be the gas cap! This past weekend I was able to cut the yard w/o it shutting off. A few times I heard it dying out, so I unscrewed the gas cap for a few seconds, and it seemed to kick right back in. I never would have guessed, if anything I probably was trying to put it on too tight! I am going to give it a couple more weekends before I believe 100% thats the issue, I don't trust this mower! hah. –  RyanG Jun 30 at 18:29
    
Good to hear! Its is always a good place to start. You can get a replacement one for pretty cheap. Sounds like you and the mower are building trust now, it lost it being left out all winter. –  treeNinja Jul 1 at 21:27

2 Answers 2

Just had a similar problem on a similar mower, True-Value rather than Craftsman.

Fixed it.

Turned out the safety interlock cable (AKA driver presence control bar cable) had stretched a bit, and the switch it controls had gotten just dirty enough, that when the mower heated up, contact would be lost and the motor would die.

There was no easy way to adjust cable length, and a new one was a bit pricey, so I ended up tying a knot in the cable up at the control bar end. That shortened things by about half and inch, and the engine now runs sweet, even when hot. Had to tighten the knot by pulling ends with pliers, or the safety device remained permanently engaged regardless of lever position. That's dangerous.

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Check or replace your gas cap. Looks like it is not venting properly. Try it with the gas cap loose or adjust it occasionally while mowing.

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