I have a lawn mower and a lawn vacuum, each with interlocks / safeties. The lawn mower has a safety bar that must be held or the engine will not start, or stops when released. The lawn vacuum has a similar safety bar for the drive = the drive engages with the bar, disengages when the bar is released. Were there similar safeties or interlocks on the Power Wagon ?
If we keep buying from China, et al, and we depend upon their good graces to insure all the safety mechanisms are in place (remember dog food and sheet rock?), we will all have to become engineers just to solve these problems. My wife would have panicked and not known what to do- as would 3/4ths of the men I know.
A world of engineers. Now that's the Thanksgiving table I want to be sitting around!
I don't know, Warren. If China is building to spec, the design flaw and lack of development test could be originating here. It seems to me that quality in design and development is being sacrificed in favor of a cheaper product. It seems we have lost the culture that used to exist when people stayed in their jobs for years and quality was highly valued despite cost. With the current economy and trends in manufacturing it seems to be getting harder to find a really well designed AND well tested product.
IF they are building to spec. But they are upside down on the other side of the world and who is to check? We have to make a lot of assumptions when we have lost control of the process. We assume they are using quality people. We assume they are well trained. We assume QA was on the ball. And so we walk into Walmart, buy something Chinese, pay our bill, and go home and use whatever it is.
Who do you call when something isn't right? Walmart? Those guys only ring up the charge for minimum wage. There is no way to check, no one to call, no visits to the factory, nuttin! You pays your money and you takes your chances.
If it were made here, you would have someone to call, some place to complain to, or just get in your car and drive there and pound on the door until someone listened to you. Until the intercontinental freeway (I-666) is built from California to Shanghai, I can't do that. But it would make a heck of a field trip!
Good point, Warren. My friend who works for a distributor that buys from China tells me that they have QC at their end - but not everyone does that.
You did touch on a point that drives me crazy - not having any recourse on a product purchased that is defective. I 100% agree that it is so nice to be able to go straight to the manufacturer. However, even here they are avoiding dealing with any problems with those convulated automated telephone response systems. The consumer loses so often that we have become desensitized to it.
I purchased a camcorder from Sony and the casette holder had a design flaw. They would never admit that anyone else ever complained about it (a quick internet search located dozens of complaints) and they found a loop hole in my warranty that excluded them from replacing it. I was very frustrated - ironically, sometimes the inability to contact the manufacturer saves you even more time and heartache as would have happened in this case.
And once in a rare while you have a golden moment with a company that displays integrity and a desire to do things right...and you feel incredibly blessed for something that should be a part of the regular customer service we grew up with. Oh my, I will step off my soap box now...
I agree with the comments of the other contributers. Buying products made in China and sold here in the US makes it tough to get resolution when you have a problem. But, we know that going in and, thus can protect ourselves by not buying anything that we feel will fail and have to be replaced. I only buy disposable items in WalMart, knowing that there will be no service, warranty or follow-up of any kind (other than returning the product for a refund -and, as we know, "some restrictions may apply").
However, when a person tries to be a responsible consumer and buy "made in the US products", there is still no guarantee of support after the sale. My wife and I moved into a new a home and I was in the market for a lawn tractor. The home is on a 1/2 acre lot and wanted to mow the grass and bag it, so I could compost it and reuse it for future landscaping projects. In the past, I had always purchased Kubota tractors in the past. They were reliable and trouble-free and the dealers provided excellent service and support.
Nonetheless, I visited the John Deere dealer, which was only a mile away, to see what they could offer. I was a bit surprised to learn that the only criteria the salemean used to select the "best" machine for my proposed use was the size of the lot. When I mentioned the fact that the property had a couple of steeply-sloped areas, there was no change in his recommendation. I insisted that he visit my property and see for himself, which he did. He still insisted that the machine originally recommended was the "best" one for my application.
With some trepedation, I purchased the unit. I used it once a week for the spring and summer months, taking it back to the dealer for all scheduled maintenance, and storing it in a garage when not in use. After 3 years, it still looked brand-new.
Imagine my disappointment when the tractor refused to climb the slopes. I returned it to the dealer, who stated that the transmission in the hydrostatic drive system had failed and the repairs would be "something in the neighborhood of $800.00. Naturally, the warranty had expired and the dealer stated that he couldn't offer any assistance other than the repair, and no guarantee how long the repair would last. In his opinion, the machine had been stressed beyond its capacity by my using it to mow the sloping property! I reminded him that he recommended this particular machine, after personally examining my property. He had a severe case of "selective amnesia" regarding that and of all the service checks his "factory-trained" technicians had performed over the years.
After many phone calls and emails, I finally receeived a response from John Deere's corporate QA department, who stated that they rely on the dealers for all after sale issues - in other words : "we don't stand behind the products we manufacture".
So, here I am with a $5,000.00 tractor with a failed drive system, made in the US by American Monkeys and STILL have the same problem I would have had if I bought it in a Wal Mart.
Did I mention that my wife urged me to buy that John Deere because she is a teacher and the colors of the tractor are the same as her school colors?
Have you seen recent advertisements in some of the technical publications (MACHINE DESIGN, etal.) for JOHN DEERE? They're bragging about the fact that they are celebrating 150 years in business AND are actively recruiting additional technical employees to advance their design goals?
Maybe a beefier hydrostatic transmission is near the top of that list, but I doubt it!
Years ago we had an ECONOMY tractor. It was an extremely simple design, borrowing from the automotive world. It was built as a somewhat smaller scale farm tractor w/ 4feet tall rear tractor tires & smaller front tires. Steering was a simple gear box w/ standard linkage to the front wheels. Power was provided by an 11 hp WISCONSIN horizontal engine, coupled to an automotive style manual clutch. The bellhousing was cast iron, supporting a BORG WARNER 3 speed transmission. The enclosed output shaft terminated in a simple enclosed hypoid rear differential. To mow large acreage, an accessory mowing deck w/ 3 belt-connected blades provided at least a 4 feet swath. Power to this deck was achieved through a large V-belt connected to the front PTO pulley on the crankshaft. At the time, it was said that parts of this tractor were taken from FORD Model T or Model A vehicles, but we never affirmed that as being factually accurate. This machine was used for decades WITHOUT a single malfunction EXCEPT replacing the belts for the mower deck & an occasional mower shaft bearing assembly since there was considerable sandy areas being cut. And, an occasional 6-volt battery. In winter, the mower deck was unpinned & the snow plow attached.
I have to confess that it makes me a little crazy to hear stories like these. It's almost as if a bit of the collective design consciousness and experience has been erased. Reliable, well-engineered mechanical contrivances have been around for generations. Why not use that as a starting point and go from there?
The answer to your quandary has been cited numerous times in previous posts regarding deficient or ineffective designs. It's NOT the engineering in MOST cases, it's the direct result of the "bean counters" who have taken over the reins of governance in many large companies. When science introduces a new product as a raw material into the marketplace, there is a great urge to manufacture an end product using this material. When the product fails because the full extent of the material was not known at the time, then the blame gets pushed onto the engineers' shoulders. WHY did the engineers choose this material? Because the "bean counters" suggested that the product COULD be made "better" and less expensive by its adoption. Too many times products have been shown to be deficient in design because a cast part was replaced by a plastic part, where one would almost conclude that the same mold used to form the cast part was used to form the plastic part. Now, BEFORE someone corrects me, I'm well aware of the fact that metal casting molds are NOT the same as plastic injection molds, so don't bother to criticize that aspect of my comments. My point is that when going from one material to another it is usually NOT a 1:1 relationship in design or dimension.
Yes, I too, have seen the ads. I have also spoken with many, many unhappy JD customers who emphatically state that they will never do business with JD ever again.
I guess that the slick marketing folks at JD are planning the growth of their company by preying on unsuspecting "first time" customers, who may be unaware of the very, very poor "customer service" provided by JD.
As a member of the adjunct faculties of some some local colleges, I have the opportunity to work with students who are studying for their engineering degress and/or graduate degrees. I try to use case studies from the "real world" for our discussions in the classroom. Over the years, I have assembled quite a number of stories, similar to the JD tractor story, which I share with them.
I was recently contacted by my local JD dealer, who was complaining that my students were sharing the stories with some of their friends. The net result of this "sharing" was that he is losing sales to the other dealers in town, who represent other brands. He asked me not to use the JD tractor story with future classes. When asked for a reason why I should comply with his request, he stated that the story was creating a bad reputation for his business, which was translating into lost revenue.
When I reminded him that his lack of cooperation cost me significant "revenue" because I had to purchase another tractor (a Kubota), he replied that I should not feel slighted, as he was only following JD policy and, as a result, could not be held responsible for the failed drive unit. He maintained his position even after I reminded him that he personally recommended the tractor after inspecting my lot!
I was stunned and speechless by his mindset!!! "Made by Monkeys" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface!!!!!
The good news is that my JD story has been enhanced by the dealer's continued cluelessness. I doubt that I will ever run out of material for my classroom discussions!!!!!!!
While I truly appreciate your efforts on consumers' behalfs by instilling in your students the problems of poor and/or ineffective design, I'm convinced that your efforts will for the most part will go unapplied.
When these students become wage earners, they'll be required to answer to a "higher" authority, that being the "bean counters" of their employer. So, while all your "preaching" may have instilled in them a personal ethical (moral) code, it will undoubtedly only be exercised in earnest on their own property when they're mowing their lawns, painting their houses, running a new circuit for a recently acquired appliance, etal. In other words, their own personal work will be done precisely and with due diligence in respect of local codes & sound engineering.
As an optimist, I HOPE for the best in design; as a realist, I know the results will be influenced otherwise!
We have a DR field & brush mower - basically a walk behind self propelled bush-hog. It will eat blackberry vines, kudzu, Johnson grass and 2" diameter sumac all day long. Give it a small patch of hazel nut bushes and all bets are off. The machine pushes the tough stems over and chops up the tops, leaving a sharp stub. This stub springs back upright after the mower deck passes over, unfortunately there is no protective cover over the drive mechanism so the stub jabs into the mechanics, flipping off the drive belt, breaking the wheel drive chain or jambing the wheel clutch. This inevidably happens in some remote corner of the property, forcing one to drag the now inert piece of machinery back to the shop, or lay down in a mass of chigger infested sawbriers and attempt a repair. I have spoken with the DR people about providing a guard over the exposed drive mechanism on several occasions, didn't get the sense that their was much interest in improvement.
The DR is made in America. Chinese stuff certainly has its issues but that's not the problem here.
I called the DR folks to inform them of the issue, and did not have the feeling they were really paying attention. But I was not trying to buy parts or get a warranty claim, so I can't say if their customer service is good or bad.
Yeah, they could have done it any of the ways you mentioned and it would have been safe, but I bet they saved 5 cents by doing it dangerously. That's how cheap everything has become. Save 5 cents even if it's unsafe. Makes no sense, just one huge lawsuit ruins that profit margin.
I have had a DR tow--behind mower for several years. For the most part it has some clever design features; like a triangular piece in front of each wheel so that if you get too clse to a tree or post it will not take off the wheel. It also has the ability to offset the mower from the tow machine so that you can mow to the side of the track of the tow vehicle. However, I had a problem after a few years that it all of a sudden started leaving an unmowed strip behind it. I called customer service and even sent them some pictures of an area that I had just mowed to show them exactly what I was talking about. They had no idea of what could be causing the problem and made a few suggestions which had no affect when I tried them. It was that way until just recently when I noticed that the blades were not attached correctly. After correcting that it has worked much better, but does not cut evenly in heavy brush. Certainly like they show in the TV ads. Another problem that I had was with the operation of the throttle. After several years the only way it would run was with the throtle in the choke position. Again, I contacted Customer Service and they were of no help. Also, again, I sent them pictures to fully describe the situation. The few suggestions that they made were not only of no use, but really did not address the situation. Finally I took it to a local repair shop (who normally will not aork on DR equipment, but did for me as I am a steady customer). After him having many more discussions with DR and not getting any useful information, he finally solved the problem by adapting a part from another model Briggs and Stratton engine to this engine, like it should have been in the first place.
One feature that I feel is poor design is that the hitch only allows movement in the horizontal plane, but not in the verticle plane. This is fine if all you mow is fflat land, but can cause problems if mowing on uneven ground. I would think that a standard ball hitch would be adequate, or some other design that allowed free movement in both directions.
I know this is not all exactly "Made by Monkeys", but it certainly "Sold and Serviced by Monkeys". Other than these, and a few other minor problems, the unit is well designed and, so far, is very rugged and reliable. Just a few corrections to their design and this would be almost a perfect mower.
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