Champion Lawn Mower Reviews
Over the years I've cut a lot of lawns. Actually, no, I've cut a few lawns a lot of time. I've done it with all manner of lawn mowers. I wouldn't say I've become an expert on the subject but I can say what I look for in a lawn mower, mostly through bitter experience. My first memories of coming to grips with a lawnmower ... were when I was probably about 10. Dad had a monstrosity of a mower, a huge cast iron antique that must have been brought across by William the Conqueror. No motor; you had to push it. It was a cylinder type with smooth rollers so when you pushed it, it slid over the grass more than it turned the blades. The garden was on a slope so when the grass was finally cut you'd had more exercise than you'd get in a game of squash!
If there was one thing I promised myself it was that the day I owned my own garden, the first thing I would buy was a motorised lawnmower. For that I had to wait another 20 years.
I've tried just about every type of mower there is. However, in the final analysis there are really only two types, cylinder mowers and rotary mowers. Rotary mowers are also divided into two types, hover mowers and wheeled mowers.
Cylinder mowers are the more traditional type. They have a reputation for giving the lawn the stripe effect that so many gardeners appreciate but this is more to do with the roller at the back of the mower that these type usually have. My experience of cylinder mowers, however, is not favourable.
I used to have a Qualcast electric one. I used it for many years but I never really liked it. It suffered from the main problem all cylinder mowers have, they only work well if you cut the grass very often, usually about every three days. I'm sorry but life's too short!
Why is this a problem? It's to do with its ability to cut long grass. Grass grows at different rates, even in the same lawn. Once stalks get over a couple of inches they tend not to be dragged into the blades but simply bend under the mower as it passes. The result is a lawn with dozens of 3 to 4 inch grass stalks sticking up all over.
So, if not a cylinder mower, how about a rotary one? Well, there are two types of those, the hover type and the wheeled type. How about the hover type?
I used to have a Black & Decker one. Now, aside from the fact that in my experience B & D products are rubbish, their hover mower was probably no better, no worse than most of the kind. On the face of it they seem to have a lot going for them.
However, they have one major problem, you can't adjust the height at which they ride over the grass. They cut the grass at whatever height the downforce lifts the mower off of the ground. Any unevenness in the ground can affect the height, which means that sometime the grass may be left too long and sometimes it's cut right down to the soil.
Grass benefits from not being cut too short. I have found that so long as you leave grass about 1Ĺ inches long it will thrive. Any shorter and it struggles and suffers from excessive moss growth; any longer and it just looks untidy.
The Champion is sold by FocusDIY exclusively. The Champion brand seems to be the house brand of FocusDIY and covers products across a large range of devices. They all share the red and black livery that identifies them.
The Champion is a rotary mower but runs on wheels rather than hovers on a cushion of air. The four wheels are all adjustable for height by unscrewing them with the handle in the middle of each wheel and by then screwing them into a different hole. The height of the back and front wheels can be set independently for precise adjustment.
The rear wheels can be removed completely and then the back of the mower runs on a full width roller if you want that striped effect. However, the height of the roller leaves the back of the mower lower than the lowest setting achievable with the wheels so the cut will also be low, even with the front wheels on the highest setting.
The body is made of tought but flexible plastic that seems more than able to shrug off the contacts with the sort of things you find around the garden, like tree trunks.
The rotary blade underneath the mower is shaped so as to act as a fan, to suck the cuttings up and throw them into a bin hung on the back of the mower. The bin is all plastic and has a fine mesh grill on each side, to allow the air to escape but retain the cuttings.
The on/off switch is a lever on the handle and only operates by pushing in a safety button with your other hand whilst squeezing the lever. This is to make it well-nigh impossible to switch the blade on by accident.
There is a reasonably long cable supplied but you will need an extension cable if your garden is more than average sized.
In operation the mower works extremely well. It is able to get pretty close to objects to trim the grass around things like birdbaths and rocks. You may still need a strimmer though although I havenít found a need myself.
Iíve been using mine now for around three years without a moments problem. The grass is left looking very tidy and all cut to an even length. As the mower blade induces a suction it also works very well at sucking up leaves and twigs at the same time.
This is definitely the best mower I have ever used. This model is the smallest in the range, it has a 13 inch blade, and is more than adequate for my garden. There are larger models for those with bigger gardens who want to cover as much ground as possible in each stripe.
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After another wet winter when the grass grows quicker than my hairline recedes, I thought it was time I replaced my Qualcast Concorde E30 (Deluxe!) electric rotary mower for a real mower. Something that wasn't an accident waiting to happen if you ran over the trailing electric cable, same cable still not long enough to reach the ... bottom of my relatively small garden without an extension lead. Something that could cut in wet weather and with a large collector box that didn't need emptying more than once per use.
A petrol mower now that's what I needed..
Looked on ebay, but the petrol mowers I bid for at £40 seemed to go for at least £80+. After nearly giving up my search and going to Argos I thought I would look on loot.com. This was good as long as you restrict your search to those adverts that are more than a week old - you do not need to pay for privilege, unlike the 'hot off the press' items. This does mean that potentially that you are looking at the scraping the bottom of the barrel items! On the other hand it might just mean that nobody has discovered the gem perhaps because of the way the advert was written etc.
I saw a Mountfield for £40ono, ideal. I was going to buy this from a chap who spoke with the strongest Scottish accent, I could not understand the majority of what said, so I thought I would let the goods speak for themselves. I drove 30 miles there to find that this elderly gentleman's hobby was fettling old mowers, he said that the Mountfield was readvertised after a prospective punter broke the starter string....
However this had been replaced and the mower was old but in good order, it was missing the collector box, vital if, like me, you are averse to raking up all the cuttings.
I was shown several Qualcast Suffolk Punch mowers probably at least as old as the gentleman (or the Ark?), all repainted in that well known Hammerite colour - Army tank Salisbury Plain green. Despite h is kind offer of a cuppa tea after my journey I made my politely made my excuses and moved on.
The next mower on my list was conveniently almost on the way back home, a Champion 434. The positive reviews I sawe on dooyoo earlier convinced me that it was a good make even though had never heard of it (the fact it was the cheapest petrol mower availabe at Argos had nearly put me off).
Phoned up the seller to learn that he was emigrating and needed to shift the mower soon, this was good news. I was told the mower was 18 months old, but was probably older given a date of 1999 on the mower plate with manufacturers details. Never mind, paid £40 cash after brief haggle and he even helped me load it in the boot of my car (no cuppa tea offered this time though). No instructions but how hard could operating a mower be? Oil in one hole, Unleaded petrol in the other, squeeze teat three times to get her ready (steady on!) and start moving by pulling the throttle bar, stop by letting go and that's it.
The 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton engine fired up first time when I got it home - after realising that the throttle bar needs to be pulled up at the same time as the starter lead is pulled, doh!
The garden hadn't been cut since last autumn and even though it was drizzling the job could not be put off any longer. With the height adhjuster aty its highest setting it cut even damp grass really well and compacted it nicely into the collector box.
The power of the engine took it across lumps and bumps with ease, the smell of petrol added to the attraction, maybe this was a reminder of earlier gokart driving experiences?
It was a little noisy compared to an electrixc mower but if the job's done in 1/3 the time frankly who cares?
All in all this mower made a tedious task fun, the mower appears durable and reliable - as it should be for something that weighs 20kg.
I'm very happy with my purchase but I will advise if it decides to let me down .
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I have owned my Champion R343 lawnmower for about a month now, having always previously been an electric mower pusher. However, as we moved into a new house recently and the old mower had packed in, it seemed like a good chance to get a petrol mower especially as the new gardens have much more lawn. Petrol mowers ... generally cost more than their electric counterparts, but if you have large lawn areas then they are far more suitable as you don't have wires trailing all over the place. I must admit to having cut through the electric cable of my old mower once previously, much to my embarrasment. Luckily I am still here today to tell the tale! The moral of the story is be very careful if you have an electric mower.
Petrol lawnmowers are themselves not entirely safe either, the fuel is of course highly flammible and you have a large blade spinning around under there not to mention a hot engine, so be careful at all times.
I opted for this particular model mainly based on price, it isn't the absolute cheapest as there was another one for sale in Argos for £20 less, I think it was a "Power Devil" model but it looked a bit "plasticy" to me so I went for the Champion, hoping it will last a good few years. I'm certainly not an expert on lawnmowers in general, but I would suggest that the amount you pay for a model depends on how big your lawn is and what standard of finish you want. My lawn isn't all that big and it's pretty much just an average "family" lawn with lumps and bumps, weeds and all. If you have an acre of land to mow then of course you go for a bigger model, maybe a sit-on effort and if you are trying to get a lawn up to the standard of the 18th green
at St Andrews you probably want to pay for a more expensive model with a roller for those stripes.
But I don't need that thank you, simply something which cuts the grass with minimum fuss and being easy to use, cheap and
hopefully long lasting.
The boring stuff first then, the techy bits.
Cost - £99 from my local DIY store, "Focus Do It All"
Engine "Briggs and Stratton" 3.5hp petrol engine, 4 stroke.
Weight - approx 20 kilos
Grassbox capacity - 55 litres
I bought a box of bits and pieces called a "servicing pack" with my mower, this included the oil I needed (check the specification of any oil you use with the manual) gloves, spare spark plug and new air filter. All the bits I will need to service the mower for £10.
They recommend you service the mower every year, you can do this yourself and it looks pretty easy from the manual and should ensure it lasts a long time. The mower runs on normal, unleaded petrol, and the consumption is very good, I can't give you a definite ffigure for this as I have only used the mower a few times so far, but a litre should last a few months. Obviously this depends on how big your lawn area is.
Before you can use the mower, you need to get it out of the box, read the manual and assemble it. When I say read the manual I mean it as well - don't risk getting anything wrong as it can have dangerous consequences. When I say you have to assemble the mower, don't panic as you only need to put the handle and grass box on, no need to fit the engine together!
This is where I had some trouble, as one of the instruction leaflets was not clear. To be fair to Champion I think this leaflet was added by Focus and is not standard, as their instructions in the manual are much better, but of course I used the extra leaflet as it was a larger diagram which I wrongly assumed would be clearer!
The leaflet simply shows how to assemble the handle and join it to the mower, unfortunately it shows the screws in their wrong positions and the wrong screw altogether in one case. If you buy one of these and h ave any troubles, send me an e-mail and I can give you some advice. There is also a number you can ring for help, I had to ring them later on when I couldn't find the dipstick - no funny comments!
The grassbox was easy to assemble a bit fiddly perhaps but once in place it started to look like a mower ready to go. The grassbox is quite large, 55 litres which will hold enough grass to complete a decent sized lawn without needing emptying before the job is done. For the record I consider my lawn a decent size and it is roughly 1500 square feet.
So after an hour I eventually got the handle on the mower and then I searched around for the dipstick so I could put in the oil. You should never start any type of engine unless it's got oil in it and the manual says to be careful as the engines are shipped without any oil. So I quickyl located the oil drain with dipstick, but couldn't work out how to actually put the oil in there - a quick call to the helpline (2 actually as first time I couldn't get through) and I managed to find it. But I still found this part a bit tricky, there is a hole where it says "oil", but it didn't look like you could put anything in as the hole didn't appear to go anywhere.
The hole is like a wide slot for a screwdriver, with a circle in the middle and two posts at either side. I tried to twist the poles to see if the whole assembly came away but no good. Eventually I worked out you need to put a screwdriver in there and twist, the whole thing does come away to reveal a built in dipstick type device and then you realise where the oil goes. What a dipstick!
Being careful not to overfill with oil, I gingerly tipped a bit of the stuff in, checked the lel and repeated. The manual says the mower
has a capacity of 600ml of oil, which is nice to know. Unfortunately I didn't know if there was maybe already some small amount of oil in there from the factory so I took my time fillin g it. Good idea to check the oil level every time you use the mower.
So, oil in place it was time to fuel her up. The fuel was much easier to work out, unscrew the cap and pour in fuel. However don't do what I did and try to put 5 litres of fuel into a 2 litre tank! After leaving the mower to dry out for a while it was time for the moment of truth - would it start? If you do spill fuel, like an idiot like me, make sure you move the mower somewhere else and let everything dry out after mopping up what you can. My spillage wasn't too bad and it was outside so I was fairly lucky there.
There is a little rubber "button" you squeeze to get the fuel to start flowing before you can start the engine up. Usually you squeeze this 3 times before starting, but after I had done this and pulled the starter cord for all I was worth I decided to read the manual properly this time.
Aha, you squeeze the thing 6 times when you first use it! So another three squeezes and I pulled the cord - success the engine
chugged into life! It's quite satisfying the first time you get this beast to start, maybe that's just a man thing?
When you want to start the mower, as well as pulling the cord you need to hold a lever at the top of the handle. This is a safety device which cuts the engine if you lose control, when the lever is released the engine will die automatically. It's quite stiff to hold the lever for the duration of the mowing, but you do get used to it and safety is very important so I can't grumble too much.
So off I go, mowing the lawn, it's harder than I thought for the first few yards. Then I looked back and realised the height setting was a bit wrong. You see this mower has 5 different height (or length) settings, depending on how long or short you want your grass to be. Straight out of the box, my mower was set to the lowest possible heigh, so I was in effect more-or-less dragging it along the ground. Looking back expecting to see some nicely trimmed grass, I had now got a nice line of mud, devoid of any greenery at all! I'd only recommend the lowest heigh if you are mowing a golf course green, it's not really suitable for lawns at all I reckon. There is no roller on this mower, so you wont get that stripey effect which some gardeners like to see.
I then adjusted the height, it's very easy, just press a small lever near to each wheel, so it was now set to the highest setting. My lawn is quite bumpy and I think I read somewhere that the first cut of the year should be quite gentle. With the heigh raised up the job becomes much easier, but several areas of the lawn were untouched, some practise required here I think! My advice would be to try the heighest level first and then reduce it a notch at a time until you get the desired effect.
Although this is quite a light mower as far as petrol models go, with large-ish wheels, it is still quite tiring if you are unfit like I am and have an uneven lawn with a bit of a slope. Probably not ideal for the elderly, maybe better to pay more for a self-propelled model. You need to be quite careful too if you have any fiddly bits in your lawn as it can be a bit unwieldy, you soon get the hang of it though. It takes me about 20 minutes to do the whole garden, not bad I reckon. As you'd expect for a petrol engine it's pretty noisy, but I don't feel like I need to wear ear-defenders. There is a label on the mower saying "98 decibels" if that means anything to you.
Overall, for the price this is a good mower, you probably want to do more research if you are a keen gardener but for the average garden this fits the bill nicely. I'll be updating thsis review as time goes by and things develop. If you read this review and there is nothing added, then you can be sure that my mower is still going strong!
http://www.briggsandstratton.com/display/router.asp ?DocID=67912 - This is the engine manufacturer's website if you want to know more.
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Champion Lawn Mower
Brand: Champion - Lawn mower with 41cm (16 inch) blade, 3.5hp unleaded petrol engine and 5 cutting heights.
Lawn Mower / Brand: Champion
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