I love batteries. They give us backup of electricity, storage, portability, all good things. Last week one gave me a severe headache. It was the battery for the Ariens mower/garden tractor. Last month it was weak and I charged it and drove the mower around the driveway for 15 minutes to check things out. All systems were “GO”. Then this month happened and I needed the tractor to drag things around the yard and yes, actually to mow some grass/weeds. It wouldn’t start. Not even a click. I hooked up the charger and then gave it a try the next day. Nothing.
My logic told me something in the tractor had failed. I checked out the seat safety. It had been mangled by someone (me) sitting in the seat while a wrench had been left under it. I suspected it had been jammed up. Some digging on the Web told me that pulling its plug would do if a jumper were removed. Nothing. Finally, I RTFM. It said that in these circumstances, the fuse must be checked and that the fuse was behind the dash. Looking showed nothing, so I disassembled the dash. That meant five screws, a couple of electrical connectors and the steering column. No fuse… AHHHGGGHHH!
Digging on YouTube revealed that mowers like mine with a gear-shift lever had the fuse under the battery… This means to check the fuse one had to remove the battery, remove the battery compartment and look. I could see nothing until I illuminated the scene with a trouble-light. The fuse was not rigidly mounted but on a connector hanging out in space. Fuse was good.
At this point I was totally baffled. Research found several wiring diagrams for Ariens mowers all with some common features but all with some feature clearly different than my machine like having PTO clutches… Finally, I found one that seemed to describe my machine. The logic showed that the seat switch did not affect the starting sequence. That was controlled by the ignition switch, the brake switch and the lever for driving the blades. I positioned the battery outside the mower and rerouted the cables to reach it. I then brought out a trusty voltmeter and tested the live terminal on the starting relay. With the starting key turned to “start” there was a voltage but only about half the nominal battery voltage. A quick check of the battery itself revealed a dead battery, below the nominal 8V indicating dead!!!
All this work to discover a dead battery. I had never before seen the battery so dead that the starting solenoid would not at least click. But it was true. I was the faulty component in all this. I could have checked the battery first thing instead of last. Somehow I failed to do what I’ve been doing for over six decades, charge a damned battery. Clearly both the battery and I are beyond our prime. The battery is five years old and I am nearly seven (decades old…). My best guess is that the battery is not taking anywhere near a full charge and may be internally draining itself. Will mow the lawn a few times and keep a lookout for a decent replacement at a good price.