Hearing the hum of small engine powered lawn equipment this summer and thinking, “why can’t I get my mower — or string trimmer or pressure washer — working?”
A Fondren neighbor aims to solve your dilemma.
Meet Andrew Hitchcock, a “tinkerer” since childhood who was scouring Craigslist, looking for non-working, free mowers and other yard implements. His plan was to get them up and running again, then sell them, making a bit of fast cash.
That idea got the better of him as he thought more of helping others to get their own small engines purring again. A friend’s string trimmer was Hitchcock’s first “official” project, dubbing his service Fondren Small Engine Repair. That friend wrote a glowing review on the neighborhood’s NextDoor message board and the calls have been flooding in.
It’s a “good little side gig” for this geologist-for-the-state-by-day since, as he says, “everyone seems to have a working mower — and a broken one.”
From a small shop behind his home, Hitchcock works, an early riser who prefers to begin his day by replacing fuel lines or adjusting timing. “I like taking something that’s not working, putting the effort in and cranking it,” he says. “It’s tangible and makes me feel like I’ve done something…to hear that engine.”
Some repairs are mundane [air filter replacement is a common, easy fix] while others take time and patience. “I worked on this guy’s leaf blower, three hours to get it running,” Hitchcock explains. “Two carburetor rebuilds, a tune-up, fuel lines, a new spark plug and still, it needed a new carb. Some things I say, ‘I give.’ But then I go inside and come back out. Another hour or so of tinkering and I get cranked up! Then I’m glad I didn’t just quit!”
Modern engines just aren’t made for self-service, Hitchcock asserts, and so, with his arsenal of know-how and tools, he’s taking on two to three tune ups, carb rebuilds, blade sharpenings and general reconditionings per day. He prefers 1980’s-2005 engines, clean and easy to work on, he tells. The only thing he really won’t do: riding mowers. “I could,” he interjects, “but I just don’t have the space for it.”
Having Fondren Small Engine Repair has allowed Hitchcock to meet more of his neighbors. “I’m realizing so many of my personal circles overlap,” he says. “There’s been an overwhelming flood of support – a warm reception to my helping serve them and save them money. It’s a win-win all around and I’m very happy to be doing this right now.”
Hitchcock’s Three Tips for Small Engine Maintenance
– “The number one thing? — air filter replacement. You may think, ‘the engine’s running fine, I don’t need to replace it. But when it fails, and it will, the mower will quit. It fills with dirt and dust, that gets sucked into the carb and it’s an expensive repair job.”
– “Install an inline fuel filter. You can pick them up for cheap at the local hardware store, snip the line in half and put the filter between the cuts.”
– “When the season for that piece of equipment is over, empty the gas tank and run it until it stops. Doing this alone will extend the life of your engine.”