The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Smallholding => Equipment => Topic started by: arobwk on March 29, 2017, 06:23:19 pm

Title: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on March 29, 2017, 06:23:19 pm
Any "don't buy" comments will be too late - I've just committed to buying one at 235. (Not used for several years apparently, but I reckon it was worth the risk and I know a man who can, almost certainly, make it run OK if I can't!)
Just wondering whether anyone has Howard rotavator experience that might help a new owner of a 300 model (1971) get to grips with and keep her work-worthy for a few more years yet.

(It won't be accompanied by an operators' manual!)

Thanks
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: Rupert the bear on March 29, 2017, 07:00:16 pm
keep it well maintained and more importantly keep it under lock and key, they are nice and simple and well built. I used to have one, and one day I went to the allotment and there it was ,gone  :( :(.
Plenty of manuals on the web, parts are still about.
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on March 29, 2017, 07:11:28 pm
Shame about your loss Rtb. I did check web re spares before committing to purchase, but further reassured by your comment "nice and simple and well built". 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on March 30, 2017, 12:08:49 am
And the seller has since advised that my Howard 300 has actually fired up after long storage. (I guess he just couldn't resist giving it another go before it left his shed.)  Obviously I'm even more happy about the purchase now.   
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on April 01, 2017, 01:04:10 am
As you say Rtb, manuals available (for the 350 anyway, but virtually the same physically as 300 and the Kohler K series manual I've acquired covers my K91 engine).  I probably now have all the manuals and parts lists I might need, freely downloaded.
No other 300s around for sale right now: it's all 350, 350, 350!  Perhaps the 350's extra horsepower (e.g. with K141 engine) makes a big difference, or the earlier 300s were not so well built or .. or .. or!  Anyway, my 300 looks pretty darn tidy and I reckon will cope well enough with rotavating seedling/sapling plots on land that has been ploughed and disc harrowed already and cope with inter-row weed maintenance idc. 
 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on April 17, 2017, 12:06:38 am
My last post on this thread was rather optimistic!  Having been really warmed up, my "tidy" Howard 300 is telling me it needs a new head-gasket (on-order).  Heh-ho!! 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: Rupert the bear on April 17, 2017, 08:52:48 pm
My last post on this thread was rather optimistic!  Having been really warmed up, my "tidy" Howard 300 is telling me it needs a new head-gasket (on-order).  Heh-ho!!
#
At least its not a difficult job, decoke if needed to, on the upside it should fit in the kitchen ok,got to be comfortable   ;)......
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on April 20, 2017, 08:43:17 pm
To Rtb:
Ha ha!  As you say, not too difficult a fix (as long as the head bolts will release their grip after all this time), but it won't be going anywhere near a kitchen.  After the full warm-up, one of the rotor-axle oil seals decided it had had enough.  Oil all over the floor on subsequent visit to my equipment store - bother! (Not the word I uttered.)  Not yet regretting the purchase (at the price), but really didn't need this.  Again, hey-ho!
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: cloddopper on April 21, 2017, 02:10:57 pm
Lovely machines .

Whenever you come to the end of a period of using it, drain the fuel tank & run the carb dry .  Then whilst the engine is still slightly warm gently pull the engine over so it enters the compression stroke . This will ensure that both inlet & exhaust vales are closed off with the valve faces sitting fully on the  valve seat ..it prevents th seat 7 valve rusting & getting pitted  plus it keeps out moisture from the cylinder .
   Draining off the fuel & running the carb dry prevents any leakage of fuel into the manifold & trickling down into the cylinder thus preventing oil being washed off on the cylinder walls . Cover teh engine with a shet of clean dry canvas & store the machine inside in the dry .

On waking a machine up from a sleep of over two months  take the spark plug out & give a spray of WD 40 in the cylinder this will lubricate the cylinder walls . Failure to do it often results in the piston rings scraping dry metal on dry metal . & producing vertical scoring inth cylinder bore  which leads to poor performance & poor compressions  ( making starting difficult or nigh on impossible .  )

 Learn how to service it corectly  make you own servici8ng log book & always do the servicing on time for hours run time or when it suggests a periodic service .


 I used to help run a large small plant hire &  repair business with my business partner Vic.
 I've been disheartened many many times when being presented with garden machinery for repairs to see that no one has done any regular servicing & as a result the ensuing damage either means the machine gets scrapped or it performs way under it's designed levels .

Parts for Howards ( and a lot of garden equipment over 10 years old )  are getting harder & harder to locate  so unless you really really need to ..... don't take the cylinder head or exhaust off for  you might not be able to find new gaskets for them . 
 You can buy a tube of caustic based decoking paste to squeeze into a hot engine  if you look at the spark plug fouling & decide that a decoke is needed  ..... without having to take the head off . 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on April 21, 2017, 07:47:12 pm
Thanks Cloddopper - your pearly words much appreciated.
Gonna have to take the head off though - gasket definitely blown.  Obviously no idea how long it's been "blowing" and just hoping block and head surfaces are not etched/eroded/wormed when taken apart. If head warped, seems I can still buy a replacement. All fingers crossed. 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: cloddopper on April 22, 2017, 12:39:19 am
Thanks Cloddopper - your pearly words much appreciated.
Gonna have to take the head off though - gasket definitely blown.  Obviously no idea how long it's been "blowing" and just hoping block and head surfaces are not etched/eroded/wormed when taken apart. If head warped, seems I can still buy a replacement. All fingers crossed.

 Before you take the head fully off slacken the head bolts two full turns and gently tap the head with a block of wood & hammer to loosen it .
 gently lift things apart the gasket may well break up otherwise.

 If the gasket you can buy is not the right one & you cannot locate one try eBay 201124660328 , that gasket material is great to make them from & very useful to have a sheet of .

The company will also apparently make you a gasket for a price too .

 Loosening the head bolts
Soak with WD 40 or a known good quality easing oil three time in 24 hrs .
 
Next day start the machine get it hot or if it won't start poura full kettle of  boiling water over the  head & bolts , then whilst it is still piping hot using s brass drift or aluminium bar & hammer  give the bolt heads a smart clout  with a 1 & 1/2 pound hammer  using the bar on the bolt head to transmit the shock /impact , making sure you don't slip to the side & break any cooling fins etc.
 Let it cool then gently try and undo the head bolts with a socket spanner extension & Tee bar or an off set ring spanner of the correct size held in both hands to keep the socket or spanner in best alignment to the bolt head  .
If they won't budge put a two finger gentle pressure pull on th spanner or slide the socket bar through to one end take off the extension & using a 1/2 pound hammer give the bar or spanner a sharp  crack about two inches back from the bolt head whilst it's still under tension & in a firm grip .
 That usually frees of a lot of stubborn head bolts .

If it still won't undo try a blow lamp to do the heating but do be careful not to over heat & melt any low heat metals .


 Re pitting of the faces at the cylinder head
 light ones can be wet & dry removed using a fine wet & dry paper wet with alight oil on  a small sheet of plate glass as a flat surface or a 1/4 inch bit of flat float glass glued to some thick plywood .

I do believe that on eBay  there are also high temperature gasket sealing copper spray compounds for sealing imperfections at cylinder heads & other high temperature joints .

 Here see what you think . ( I'd use it )  eBay 351782734014
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: Rupert the bear on April 22, 2017, 06:21:26 pm
Thanks Cloddopper - your pearly words much appreciated.
Gonna have to take the head off though - gasket definitely blown.  Obviously no idea how long it's been "blowing" and just hoping block and head surfaces are not etched/eroded/wormed when taken apart. If head warped, seems I can still buy a replacement. All fingers crossed.

 Before you take the head fully off slacken the head bolts two full turns and gently tap the head with a block of wood & hammer to loosen it .
 gently lift things apart the gasket may well break up otherwise.

 If the gasket you can buy is not the right one & you cannot locate one try eBay 201124660328 , that gasket material is great to make them from & very useful to have a sheet of .

The company will also apparently make you a gasket for a price too .

 Loosening the head bolts
Soak with WD 40 or a known good quality easing oil three time in 24 hrs .
 
Next day start the machine get it hot or if it won't start poura full kettle of  boiling water over the  head & bolts , then whilst it is still piping hot using s brass drift or aluminium bar & hammer  give the bolt heads a smart clout  with a 1 & 1/2 pound hammer  using the bar on the bolt head to transmit the shock /impact , making sure you don't slip to the side & break any cooling fins etc.
 Let it cool then gently try and undo the head bolts with a socket spanner extension & Tee bar or an off set ring spanner of the correct size held in both hands to keep the socket or spanner in best alignment to the bolt head  .
If they won't budge put a two finger gentle pressure pull on th spanner or slide the socket bar through to one end take off the extension & using a 1/2 pound hammer give the bar or spanner a sharp  crack about two inches back from the bolt head whilst it's still under tension & in a firm grip .
 That usually frees of a lot of stubborn head bolts .

If it still won't undo try a blow lamp to do the heating but do be careful not to over heat & melt any low heat metals .


 Re pitting of the faces at the cylinder head
 light ones can be wet & dry removed using a fine wet & dry paper wet with alight oil on  a small sheet of plate glass as a flat surface or a 1/4 inch bit of flat float glass glued to some thick plywood .

I do believe that on eBay  there are also high temperature gasket sealing copper spray compounds for sealing imperfections at cylinder heads & other high temperature joints .

 Here see what you think . ( I'd use it )  eBay 351782734014
What an excellent reply !
However you have omitted the cups of tea and fag breaks required   ;)

RTB
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: cloddopper on April 23, 2017, 02:49:13 am
It will take you about an hour all told from start to finish ..
 Tip
Use an old carboard box poke two valve stem sized hole in one side of it about 2 " apart ,  setthe box holes upper most , put each valve in a hole , mark that hole with the name of where it came out ie inlet valve  , exhaust valve . For it's always best to put the valves back in th right port once they have had exhaust gas heat on the exhaust valve head & stem .

 Use a clean bucket to hold all the bits that come off the machine & if you can work on the machine whilst it's on a newly swept flat clean smooth concrete floor so you can easily find any bits that you might drop .
 Take the valves & colletts off with the head on a clean solid bench & pop them in a big plastic screw top lidded jar if you have one .  Pop a block of wood cut to size or use a 1/2 " square drive socket taht fits under the cylind head so it allows the valve head to sit well on it & use a smallish  ring spanner to press down over the valve stem on the upper side to press down in the collett retaining washer that sits on top of the valve spring to allow you to free the collets off the valve stem lift it up under pressure control to stop them suddenly flying out as the spring reasserts itself .  Some times if the head is really gungey you'll need to use a small fine pointed wire or something like an  electricians fine terminal screwdriver to loosen the un clamped collets  .
 Once everything is clean & lapped in , washed , dried & re lubed  take care putting the collets back in & that the retaining washer is the correct way up .
Ensure the pair of collets are boith are properly seated as you lift the ring spanner up under full control of pressure or they are liable to not seat properly . Suddenly when free of all the influence of the spanner , every thing flies off , never to be found again . Unless you have a gert big strong magnet to go collett,  retainer & spring hunting with .
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: Rupert the bear on April 23, 2017, 11:19:44 am
It will take you about an hour all told from start to finish ..
 Tip
..... Suddenly when free of all the influence of the spanner , every thing flies off , never to be found again . Unless you have a gert big strong magnet to go collett,  retainer & spring hunting with .
Oh I've been there too   :)
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: cloddopper on April 30, 2017, 12:08:14 am
Use an extra deep socket where the open end that takes the nut fully fits over the retaining washer well clear of the actual collets .  Support the valve head on a block of wood then whilst holding the socket  in alignment with the valve stem give the socket a couple of decent wallops with a heavy rubber mallet . The collets will pop off the collar of the valve stem & stay inside the socket providing of course you're still holding the open end of the socket firmly on the retaining plate .


Putting them back
 Block the valve head with the same bit of cut to size wood . Making sure the valve stem & valve guide bore is clean & lubricated .   Slip the spring & retaining washer on . Then  use a large open jaw spanner to carefully compress the valve spring whilst some one else slips in a pair of collets . Gently under extreme control , with a pair of safety glasses on,   let the pressure up on the spanner    Both collets should be siting nice & square in the retaining washer 7 seated fully into the valve stem .

 If you have a reasonable drill press it is easy enough to use a bit of tube with gaps cut in one end to make a two pronged tool that you can push the vale spring retaining washer with when winding the raise & lower handle downwards .
Simply slip the un adapted end of the tube up to the chuck when the chuck jaw are protruding & wind the handle down whilst still holding the tube in the other hand till the spring is fully compressed & the locating rim on the valve stem is poking up l through the retaining washer.
 
This should leave you one hand free whilst your are still holding the valve compressed  by the chuck to put the collets in on your own . Bring  the chuck up under strict control just in case the collets jump as the spring starts to exert pressure &  it flies apart .
 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on May 02, 2017, 09:38:59 pm
cloddopper - I have only now skimmed through your most recent posts.  Thank you most kindly for all the tips/advisory comments. 
Diary bit congested right now so I have not yet started repairs:  best, I reckon, to find some good clear time to go about in an orderly fashion without distractions.
Thanks again.  Obviously I'll update idc. 
 
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: Kevm on May 08, 2017, 08:08:24 pm
Have you done anything to your rotavator yet? I had mine out today for the first time since last year, started first pull  and ran perfectly, mine is a 350 with a K141 but any Kohler engine is way better than a briggs and scrapum.
Some of what Clodhopper told you is incorrect, parts are easily available there are still a couple of places that specialise in Howard rotavators and you can get head gaskets off ebay with a quick search.
The head should come off easy, I can't imagine the bolts would be corroded unless it's been left outside for a long time.
It's a side valve engine with the valves in the block so you don't have to worry about disturbing the valves and once you have the head off pull the starter cord slowly and have a look at the valve seats if they look half decent I would leave them alone as getting the valves out, reseating them, then re-setting the clearance is a lot of fiddle.
Just give the head and block faces a clean, check there are no nasty scores or major wear in the bore, stick your new gasket on and slap the head back on  :thumbsup:
The oil seals on the rotor shaft are two lip seals back to back I believe, the seals are mounted in the housings bolted to the chaincase with half a dozen little 7/16" head set pins the heads usually get worn away by the soil so may be difficult to get a grip on and you might need new ones.
The reason the seals go is because some people seem to leave string and wire lying in the ground and it gets wrapped round the rotor shaft  >:(
The 300/350 is still the best, user friendly, perfect sized rotavator ever made and if yours is restored to good nick would be worth 300+
One thing I have done with mine is convert it to electronic ignition, which does away with the points and condenser, like this one  - eBay item number: 322502880161
Kev

Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on May 25, 2017, 02:06:39 am
Kev - obliged for your input.  Not tackled repairs yet due to daughter's temporary return from Oz - all I've managed to squeeze in over past few weeks is some unavoidable weeding of the young willow-patch and a sneaky couple days of gardening (couldn't leave clients feeling entirely un-cared for over the month of May!)  And now I have so many competing tasks begging attention on the land! 
I have new head gasket and condenser ready to install when I can (and won't be going down e-ignition route right now).  Also, might get some of the copper spray-gasket stuff, as suggested by Clophopper, if head looks just a tad uneven.  I won't order any new oil seals though until I've taken out the old ones and can see what's what.  I seem to think there might be a modified (single) oil seal to replace the original back-to-back seals, but we'll see idc.
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on May 30, 2020, 12:52:32 am
Time has passed and much has drawn my attention away from stripping down my Howard 300 & putting back to good working order.  But I have really really been wishing lately that Howie was in good shape.

Having actually run out of space to do a strip down myself, I finally called my bro'  ...  "Now that the Cobra is pretty much done, would you have time to get another vintage machine back to some sort of running order ?" ... "Maybe !" 
Howie is now sitting in his workshop rather than in a dusty corner of one of my ISO containers.

I think Howie is in the best of hands (check out Kernow Skunkworks on YouTube if interested in inspired mechanical manipulation/engineering for a work-over of an AC Cobra) and I'm hoping it won't be too long before my Howard 300 is ripping up the beds as he should!  I have had to tell bro' that I just want it to work again without spitting out fluids etc & that I'm not looking for a make-over and a metallic spray job.  He smiled!

I'll update idc for anyone that might possibly be interested in knowing that an old Howard 300 is once again trugging along between the rows in fine working order !  :)



Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: cloddopper on August 29, 2020, 12:30:49 am
Have you done anything to your rotavator yet? I had mine out today for the first time since last year, started first pull  and ran perfectly, mine is a 350 with a K141 but any Kohler engine is way better than a briggs and scrapum.
Some of what Clodhopper told you is incorrect, parts are easily available there are still a couple of places that specialise in Howard rotavators and you can get head gaskets off ebay with a quick search.
The head should come off easy, I can't imagine the bolts would be corroded unless it's been left outside for a long time.


Yep I messed up .................. reading my post many moons later I realised it too .  My ancient added brain  is long past precisely recalling what I did  30 or so years ago .

 Usually if someone has had the head off & put it back together with a bust up gasket it's because the bore has been scored and it was was bad at starting so Maniac Dennis the Menace  has a go at fixing it.
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on July 21, 2021, 02:58:26 pm
Well, the intended 2020 makeover of my Howard 300 rotavator didn't happen (due to so much other stuff happening).  HOWEVER, it IS now happening. 

Poor ol' bro' though: he insisted on splitting the case & stripping it down to its individual parts, but good job he did because we discovered the mangled idler gear which had clearly been imitating the movements of a whirling Dervish with teeth that looked like a Dervisher's skirt - the selector gear was also unevenly/badly worn.
Lots of stuff close to or exceeding Howard tolerances (to be expected), but also lots of stuff (e.g. gearbox innards) that looks like it's just been shined-up a bit !
Bro' savvy enough to find OEM stuff to replace advertised Howard parts at reduced prices, BUT I'm afraid this makeover (now read "restoration") is gonna cost me a pretty penny. Probably less than buying a fully refurb'ed example, but bro' and I haven't yet agreed a brotherly remuneration for his amazing efforts !

[ I have promised bro' never to buy an "un-refurbished" bit of vintage machinery ever again ! - unless it's an Anzani Iron Horse !!  Edit:  I should correct that - someone has been in there before us to refurbish, but didn't do a good job at all ! ]

Really not quite there yet, but the cylinder re-bore video he's sent me (to accept the new +10 piston) is quite cathartic.  (Was thinking new +10 piston would need be purchased USA, but came across Meetens Ltd who were able to supply.  Went for it rather than do mega search for cheaper US equiv'.) 

For Howard fans, I'll update when "we" are closing in on the day that all the bits are put back together ready for the revival !
[Cylinder head looked very good in the end - new gasket only needed.]
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: arobwk on July 21, 2021, 06:38:49 pm
Forgot to ask:  anyone with any suggestions for different oils than the standard recommends from new? Originals are SAE 90 for g/box & chain-case and the usual SAE 30 etc for the engine, according to temperature range.

We are tempted to go rather more viscous maybe with molybdenum additives for g/box & chain case (as majority of cogs/gears will not be replaced or will be 2nd-hand replacements).  Will probably stick with SAE30 for engine as lots of re-machining and new bearings. 

Any thoughts anyone ?
Title: Re: Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?
Post by: Kevm on July 27, 2021, 05:31:11 pm
Stick with the original oils, especially the ep90 gear oil, do not go for modern hi tech stuff, some modern oils contain additives that will attack the phosphor in the bronze bearings.
Also a straight 30 engine oil is cheap and works why try to overthink it and use fancy stuff it was made and meant for basic.