“ Brand: McCulloch „
** Finding Maureen **
Just how many lawn mower varieties does a universe need? I came across at least ten different manufacturers, each with a bewilderingly 'not quite the same' range. Mcculloch themselves have a staggering twelve variations of petrol mower (that I could discover on the Internet). If that is representative of all manufacturers then there must be around 120 subtly different machines to choose from.
In making my choice I identified two important issues. The price needed to be under £200. I have a largish garden so I decided on an 18 inch or 46 cm cut width (they seem to range from 40 up to 53 cm)
Things that didn't seem so relevant turned out to be:
~ mulching - I already have a big moss and thatch problem
~ roller - not really fussed about making pretty stripes and adds £70 to the cost
~ grass collector size - this is generally matched to the cut size and I guess bigger also means heavier
~ self-propelled - another thing to go wrong and, anyway, this is all part of my fitness regime!
Given that my current mower, Old Smoky, is too thirsty/noisy/smelly I was keen to compare useful things like:
~ fuel consumption
~ noise level
But this type of information is not generally made available by the manufacturers so I could not make a judgement on these issues. To their credit Mcculloch do publish a figure of 96 dB(A) LWA for noise. Just what does that mean? A little research suggested that this is a measure of the sound power level adjusted for human sensitivity (this is not the same as a straight dB(A) figure). Some comparisons I found were:
~ a jet engine - 160
~ a rock concert - 140
~ a chain saw - 110
~ normal speech - 70
Buried inside the engine manual it suggests the noise level 'at the ear' is a modest 84 dB.
I spent hours looking through web sites and visiting the likes of B&Q and Homebase. Having decided on the Mcculloch I found it was available at the same price (£159 on 26/9/8) at a number of Internet shops. More by chance than anything else I purchased from www.gardenlines.co.uk and got free next day delivery and a free bottle of engine oil in the deal.
** The Box **
Due to the size and weight this is really only safe as a two man lift. Even the courier asked me to help him get it off the van. The box measures 44x57x74cm and is labelled as weighing 31.2 Kg.
Inside the box is a worrying limited amount of packing. One piece of stiff cardboard and a sheet of bubble wrap was clearly not enough to get my precious new possession from the factory in Italy to my door. There were quite bad abrasion marks on the tubes that make the upright handle assembly and a smaller scratch on the mower body.
Another surprise "right out of the box" was the branding. Just what exactly did I buy? The motor is labelled Briggs & Stratton Sprint XC40, the mower has a Mculloch M46-500C logo on the front and a Husqvarna product plate at the back. No mention of Titanium anywhere. When I queried this I was told the black version I had opted for was badged as the M46-500C - the same specification in silver is badged as a Titanium 46S. I suspect that this is really a substitute as the M46-500C can be found as a separate product described as the "new 2008" model at £10 more. Too confusing!
Inside the box was an envelope with a manual for the mower and another for the motor, a bag of fixings (nuts bolts, washers, cable ties, a spring and a squiggly metal thing), two moulded plastic parts for the grass catcher, a plastic guard for the rear opening (for when the grass catcher is not in use) with an associated metal rod, the metal tubing handle assembly in three parts and the mower base (with wheels, cutter and motor all pre-assembled).
** The Manuals **
Horrific! Written for multiple models and in multiple languages with the most confusing combination of pictures and words that I have ever come across. It took me about 45 minutes from opening the box to cutting the first blades of grass and I have a university degree, 25 years work experience in a technical field, I've rebuilt motor bike and car engines and am regarded as generally competent by my wife when it comes to jobs around the house. The mower assembly manual is as useful as Granny when it comes to joining the bits ("perhaps its not supposed to go there dear"). Fortunately there are a limited number of parts so a little trial and error and repeated squinting at the pictures eventually won the day.
** Build Quality **
The grass box, made of two moulded plastic parts, snaps together and then seems reasonably sturdy if not a little bit heavy. More expensive products use a plastic and mesh combination to reduce the weight. When trying to match the two parts together I spent about five minutes convinced they had sent me the top from one model and the bottom from another. Eventually I found that by judicious use of force I could bend the plastic to meet and snap into the slots intended.
The grass box fits by lifting up the rear cover (yellow plastic flap on a hinge) and hooking it onto a couple of pegs. This seems to work well although the box rides low and can be unhooked when going over bumps or tilting the machine to help with cornering.
The on-off handle bar, handle tubes, cutter, mower base and engine assembly all appear sturdy and likely to survive the rough and tumble of garden life.
The wheels are a disappointment. Black, solid plastic wheels. With yellow plastic wheel trims! These are a push fit and look a bit tacky, its tempting to add some yellow racing stripes and furry dice to complete the ensemble. I would have liked to have soft, squishy rubber wheels that spread the weight more effectively when running over soft ground. The main problem I have with the wheels is the height adjustment. Each wheel must be adjusted individually by moving a lever into one of five different positions. The lever locks into position thanks to a bit of bent metal poking into one of five holes punched in the side of the mower base at each corner. Two things worry me with this. Firstly the adjustment is a bit too course - I already want to set the height between two of the provided holes but I can't. Secondly those little bent bits of metal poking through their holes are bound to go rusty over time and if they break off then the cutting surface will crash to the ground and be unusable. This design seems to be standard at this price point.
Overall I am reasonably happy with the look and feel. I had a choice of silver or black finish (the yellow bits are mandatory) and chose black. It looks sleek, modern and powerful - every boy-racers dream.
** The technical details **
Obviously the details might vary a little if they keep updating the model. Here are the details for the M46-500C:
~ length 142cm, width 53cm, height 108cm
~ Weight 31.2kgs
~ 46cm/18inch cut width
~ Hand propelled
~ Steel cutting deck
~ Ball bearing wheels
~ 5 position (25-70mm) cut adjustment height
~ 50 litre grass bag
~ Adjustable handle angle/height (but only slightly)
~ Folding handles for storage (making it 60cm high)
~ Briggs and Stratton Sprint XC40 four-stroke petrol engine
~ Pull start
~ Pre-set engine speed
~ 1 Year manufacturer's warranty, 2 years for the engine
The manual says you should change the oil after the first five hours of use and then every 25 hours or at the end of the season. There's also some advice about cleaning the spark plug, air filter and some waffle about longer term storage.
** Cutting the grass **
Once assembled you:
~ Fill up the oil (0.6L SAE30)
~ Fill up the petrol tank (0.9L unleaded)
~ Squeeze and hold the on/off bar at the top of the handle
~ Pull the starter handle situated half way up the handle
and it starts! Just purrs really. No fuss, no bother. It just runs. Push it along and it cuts the grass.
I found the pull start quite easy although my wife can't seem to generate enough speed and force to make it work. This is a significant problem as starting is a regular activity. The on/off bar must be continuously squeezed to keep the machine running. As soon as you let go, for example to move a toad out of the way or empty the grass box, the machine stops dead. Perhaps I should have paid more and got an electric start model.
Due to the weight of this machine I found the 4.5cm wide hard plastic wheels sunk into my soft and mossy lawn leaving two small furrows that were useful as a guide when lining up the next run. This also means that the mower is a bit harder to push if the ground is soft and, of course, it affects the height adjustment. On my lawn these furrows disappeared after a day or two leaving a smoothly manicured swath of green. Very pleasing.
During operation the motor noise and smell are not a problem. Just a slight whiff of exhaust if you get immediately downwind and its possible to hold a normal conversation when friends gather around the running machine to admire your new purchase.
As its wider than Old Smoky (an extra three inches of cut per run) I guess it is taking me a little less time to get around the property. It is certainly a lot less noisy and smelly.
I found that the 0.9L of unleaded petrol (a full tank) allowed the mower to run for over two hours when engaged in average grass cutting (the grass is not too long or too wet at the moment). I worked out, roughly, that I cover 60 metres a minute which gives me a fuel consumption of 8 kilometres per litre (your results will vary). A friend suggested that his Honda mower did much better but then it did cost him three times as much to buy.
** Conclusion **
If you are looking for a cheap mower capable of handling a large lawn then this is a good choice.
If you want ultra quite, self driven, variable speed cut, built in DVD player, etc then you need to pay a lot, lot more.
Maureen - she's cheap but I like her.
Brand: McCulloch / Fuel: Rotary Petrol / Engine Size: 4.5 HP / Start Method: Recoil Pull Start / Cutting Width: 46 cm / Fuel Tank Volume: 0.9L