I was 3/4 of the way through mowing my property along a street and made the same pass I normally do, close to a stop sign, and I see something land in the grass out of the corner of my eye. I glance, assume it's trash, and keep moving only to realize the rear of the lawnmower is now a 1/4" off the ground, the rear adjustment lever had broken off. I have an HRR216VXA mower that uses one lever to adjust both back wheels, so I couldn't even limp it along to finish the little I had left.
Quick search online, discover it's not an uncommon problem, order the replacement part (42960-VL0B00ZA), and after looking at the piece and the mower I figure it would be a quick fix and I would be on my way. No. If you search online you can find how to change the HRR215 all day long, but good luck finding the HRR216. Typically, I don't write tutorials, but being I couldn't find anything, I figured I would share my lessons learned.
Be aware that this is a dangerous machine and this is NOT a professional fix by any means. Use Extreme caution at all times; your best bet is taking it to a professional.
Step 1: Tools
What you'll need
- Replacement rear lever (42960VL0B00ZA) (~$10)
- 9/16" wrench or socket wrench
- 10mm wrench
- Snap ring pliers
- 5/16 wrench
- Scrap wood
- Flathead screwdriver or a scraping tool
- Locking pliers and/or pliers
- Bandaids (when you inevitably take your gloves off and immediately blast a knuckle open)
- Rachet strap
- Cardboard to work on
Warning: I am not a professional; be safe. This machine can easily injure or kill you or someone else, if not during the fix, afterward if something fails or goes bad. The mower is heavy, sharp, awkward, and infuriating. Seriously, if you are in a bad mood, I would not attempt.
Step 2: The Easy Part
As a disclaimer, I did this by myself, in a poorly lit room, and I took the pictures in reverse order, starting once I successfully put the new adjustment lever on. Also, everything is going to be filthy, be ready to scrape and clean as you go.
- Put your scrap pieces of wood under both sides of the lawnmower to support it once the wheels are off. You can also place the wood under the back of the mower.
- Use a 9/16th wrench, remove the outermost bolt holding the wheel on, remove it and the wheel
- Use snap ring pliers to remove the clip
- Remove the washer/collar (pulls off)
- Remove the Pinion gear (note its direction) and a Ratchet Key will pop out of the axle
- When you are putting everything back together, place the key in the axle and slide on the pinion gear. The pinion gear has 'shark fins' on the inside, the gear should not be able to spin towards the front of the mower, but spin moving backward.
- Remove the washer/collar
- Use a 5/16th wrench to remove the gold bolt holding the black cover on, remove both
- Use snap ring pliers to remove the clip
- Remove the washer/collar (thicker than other two already removed)
- Repeat 1-9 on the opposite side.
Your rear wheel adjustment shaft should be free now - this is where the jokes on you because you would think you could slip the old adjustment lever off and slide the new one on, or take off the adjustment shaft. NOPE! Feel free to waste time on trying to leverage it off like I did, but I had zero luck.
Remove the two bolts attached to the mower housing that connects to a support on the inside; you'll need to pivot the height adjuster to gain access to the forward bolt. The adjusters and washers will stay on the axle, you'll just need the movement. WARNING: Once the holders are no longer keeping the axle in place, a spring inside will pull the axle; could pinch a finger.
Step 3: The Part You Wish Didn't Exist
I honestly thought there would be enough play in the rear adjustment shaft to slip it over the axle, remove the broken adjustment lever, and put the adjustment lever on. Trust me, I tried, but I never could get it.
- Remove your wood blocks and gingerly set the lawnmower down.
- Flip your lawnmower on its side BUT only roll it to the righthand side (as if you were pushing it). If you roll it the opposite direction gas will pour out of the air filter, so don't do that.
- Remove Cover #1 (see picture). It has one bolt on the exterior of the housing and one nut behind the cover in the transmission area.
- Remove Cover #2 (see picture). It was holding cover one and has 3 bolts; one is in the discharge shoot, one is at the bottom left of the cover, and the other is at the top left of the cover (see picture).
- Now the transmission should be exposed. The spring that holds the top of the transmission to the back of the mower body (see picture) is your main problem for not being able to have enough movement to slide the height adjustment shaft off the axel. This is where I started to take a lot of allowances on how to get the job done, proceed at your own risk.
- I used a flathead screwdriver to 'wiggle' the spring off of the bar that connects to the transmission itself. I personally couldn't get a grip with pliers to pull it off nicely. THIS SPRING IS STRONG - BE READY FOR IT TO SNAP BACK AND POSSIBLY FLY AT YOU. WEAR GLOVES AND SAFETY EYEWEAR!
- Now you have enough movement to slide the adjustment shaft off the axle, remove the broken, adjustment lever, and put on your new adjustment lever (alining with slot on adjustment shaft). Soak in your success.
- Just reverse everything right? Maybe, if you have the strength of an ox, the main issue I came across was the resetting the spring and keeping the belt on transmission pulley. There was too much tension to allow me to pull the spring in place while keeping the belt on. Here are the steps I took after fighting with the spring for far too long.
- Flip the mower back over onto the wood blocks and reverse Step 2 (reattach supports, reattach all collars, snap rings, wheels (etc.). Mind the pinion gear direction.
- There is some going back and forth on reassembling the rear, particularly with the rear axle supports. Get one side on, but not tight, get the other side on, but not tight, then make sure everything is inline and then tighten down. Likely you will need to recenter and move your axle so you have correct spacing on both sides. Take your time.
- Once you have the wheel assembly reattached, flip the mower back onto its side so you can deal with that pesky spring.
Step 4: That Fudging Spring
Just to reiterate, this is where I started to take a lot of allowances on how to get the job done, proceed at your own risk.
- Your rear axle is reassembled, your new adjustment lever is attached, and your mower is back on its side.
- If you are strong, like super strong, you can attempt to pull the spring back over the transmission bar, where it belongs. I attempted this with lock pliers, my hands, and a screwdriver to no avail. I could get the spring attached without the drive belt in the transmission pulley, but the spring would pull the transmission back so much that it was seemingly impossible to eek the belt back on. Outside of disassembling the rotary blade and going further into the depths of this project I pulled a hail mary and it worked (albeit not ideal).
- Get a ratchet strap and attach one end to the end of the spring and the other to the front of the mower (yeah, I know it's a ridiculous.) Watch the strap placement, if you are too far one way or another the strap will put tension on the belt and bind up the entire situation. (See Picture)
- Start ratcheting the strap, watch the front end because it will try to slide on you and also make sure it isn't damaging your housing. Once the spring is barely past the point where it could hook onto the transmission bar, stop. (See Picture)
- Warning! You are working with a spring under tension - be aware it could fly off hitting you or someone else causing harm. Wear gloves, safety eyewear, and exercise extreme caution!!
- Carefully, take a flathead screwdriver and start to work the spring off the ratchet strap towards the transmission bar. Use small gingerly movements - don't rake on it! I worked the spring slightly off the ratchet strap and partly onto the transmission bar, then I release the strap, the spring transferred over to the transmission bar and I was able to wiggle the rest of the ratchet strap off the spring. Again, this is super dangerous and was my last attempt before more disassembly...for me it happened to work, but I took my time.
- If you had success and haven't injured yourself, kudos! Make sure that the spring and the belt are in their correct places and seated.
- Now, return to Step 3 to put Cover #2 back on, followed by Cover #1.
Step 5: Triple Check
- Look around. Do you have any extra parts/pieces laying around?
- Flip the mower back to its normal direction, visually inspect for anything 'off'
- Do the back tires look even and inline?
- Is the spring on the right-hand side of the mower reattached to the height adjustment bar?
- Move the height adjustment bar does it move both sides, move smoothly?
- Pull the mower back towards you, does it pull back easier than you pushing it? If it doesn't, you likely reinstalled the pinion gears backward or forgot the pinion key.
Remember: This is a dangerous machine, you should always follow the manual protocols and inspect your mower before and after each use for your safety and the life of the machine!