Here is the text of a letter that I sent :
John C. Walden
Executive vice president
Chief customer officer.
Sears Roebuck and Co.
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179
Dear Mr. Walden:
In March, 2004 I bought a Craftsman model 917.273641 riding lawn mower for $1,637.08. It was my first riding lawn mower as well as my first major purchase from Sears Roebuck and Co. Over three years later now I can safely state that it has been one of the biggest mistakes and worst purchases that I have ever made. If the lawn mower I bought is any indication of the quality of the products that Sears sells, then it will be the only purchase I ever make at Sears.
While I have meticulously maintained the Sears Craftsman riding lawn mower from the day of purchase, I have had nothing problems.
In the beginning the problems weren't serious, - all of the tires developed slow leaks and the gas line was constantly clogging. Although there was plenty of tread on the tires, they were developing small leaks in their sidewalls. They appeared to have a case of "dry rot" something that is usually not found in rubber products for at least several years. I was lucky and four cans of stop-leak fluid solved the problem, though not after a lot of frustration. The gas line clogging problem was due to dirt in the gas tank. I have no idea how it got there, but it appeared to have been sold with it in the tank. It required a thorough flushing of both the gas tank and gas line, after replacing numerous fuel filters, to resolve it.
Six months later, in December 2004, the main drive belt broke. The reason that it broke also seemed to be "dry rot." The entire belt had segmented into 6 inch sections before it broke. The replacement belt has been in use for two and a half years with no problems. Please note that none of these items - tires, gas tank and belts were covered under warranty and their repair cost was $200.00.
In September 2006, the mower would not start. At that time there was only 98.9 hours on the engine. It was discovered that the engine had a bent pushrod. I consider this to be highly unusual. Nothing can explain why it happened, and it certainly wasn't anything that I could have done. Luckily, I managed to have it replaced for less than $100.00. Once again, the warranty didn't cover the cost. It was then over two years old and no longer valid.
The latest problems occurred in June of this year. The electric clutch bearings seized. This is not only very serious, but also very expensive. An electric clutch costs $218.52 (uninstalled.) In addition, both of the mandrel bearings located on the deck need replacing. The total cost for all the repairs necessary to have a functioning mower would cost $680.00.
The only thing that I would consider being "normal" in all of the maintenance that needs to be performed is the battery replacement. But two years is a considerably shorter life than I would normally expect to receive from a battery. Please note that I have not included any oil, air and oil filter changes, spark plugs, new blades and lubrication in any of the above mentioned maintenance costs.
I honestly do not know what I am going to do. I am very hesitant to put any more money into what seems to be a very poorly made piece of equipment. I would have to put more than half the value of the original purchase price in repairs (for just three years use) to be able to continue to use it.
Since the development of the bearing problems, I have endeavored to look at riding lawn mowers made by other manufacturers to see if they would have the some of the same problems. I have made some interesting observations that I would like to share with your.
1. Craftsman riding lawn mower deck design is the only design that seemed have completely neglected what happens to yard clippings after lawn is mowed. All other mowers have a flat top that prevents the collection of debris. Craftsman has an indentation where the bearings that hold the spindles for the lawn mower blades that does an excellent job of collecting and holding debris. It is also difficult to remove. If water is used to remove debris, it results in the eventual destruction of the mandrel bearings which leads to observation #2.
2. Almost all other riding lawn mower manufacturers use shielded or sealed bearings. If they don't, then they equip their bearings with zerk fittings so that they can have additional grease added which flushes out debris in addition to providing new lubricant. Craftsman mowers have almost no zerk fittings anywhere and they have none on any of their bearings. This guarantees that there will be significant maintenance problems for the life of the mower.
A piece of equipment that is intended to be used outdoors, should be designed appropriately and have parts that are intended for outdoor use, or at the very least, be able to be maintained to continue reasonable operation. Exposed bearings, in a location that has been designed to collect debris will cause rapid deterioration of the bearings. This applies to the mandrel bearings as well as the clutch bearings.
I was told recently that the engine on the mower has "good compression." However, considering the repairs that have incurred for less than 125 hours of operation, I have serious doubts as to the overall longevity of a lawn mower that requires over $900 in repairs every three years.
As a result of my experience, I have very serious reservations about ever buying anything at Sears Roebuck and Co. I can't imagine why anyone would want to purchase what appears to be nothing but problems.
After reading numerous complaints about Craftsman riding lawn mowers on the internet, I have have noticed several things about Sears and Craftsman products:
* I am not alone with my problems. In fact, compared to some other people I have been relatively lucky.
* Craftsman quality seems to be an oxymoron. There appear to be a LOT of Craftsman riding lawn mowers that are unreliable. The reason appears to be that they are poorly designed and use inferior parts.
* Sears service is an oxymoron. Repair and service of Sears Craftsman products is not only expensive, but unreliable.
* Sears doesn't seem to care very much, if at all.
As a result, there are a LOT of people who emphatically state that they will never buy anything from Sears and have told their friends to not buy anything from Sears.
"Commune hoc ignorantiae vitium est: quae nescias, nequicquam esse profiteri"
(A common thing with the ignorant, to despise what they do not understand; James Leoni's translation, London 1726 - this translation is not entirely to the point, either, I feel - a better one might be: "A common vice among ignorants is to reject the idea that there is anything to know" i.e., "don't confuse me with the facts.")
"It's much easier to suggest solutions when you know nothing about the problem." -- anonymous