Reo Renovation

| July/August 1990


24579 Adams Avenue Murrieta, California 92362

During a visit to my brother-in-law last spring, we happened to be strolling about his property when he pointed out an old engine lying behind the garage, covered with dirt and rust. It appeared to be from an early reel type lawnmower. It had lain there for the better part of five years so it was definitely not 'ready to run'. We loaded it into my truck and I took it home only to find from the nameplate that it was not one of the more common engines like a Briggs & Stratton, it was a 'REO'. Never heard of it!

It lay in the corner of my shop while an ad was put in GEM for Reo data. The excellent response included several letters. Irv Troyer of LaGrange, Indiana was especially helpful with extensive technical data, Reo history and a source of parts. It turned out to be a 1952 Model 404F used on the Model WF-18 Runabout Mower.

Although the piston seemed free, there was no compression. Disassembly revealed a rusted exhaust valve that had stuck open. A broken muffler had allowed rain water to seep into the combustion chamber. Fortunately, the rest of the engine seemed to be in reasonable shape. Even the valves and seats were salvageable through grinding and lapping. Other than that, a cylinder honing and new ring set was all that was needed internally.

Soaking the carburetor overnight in cleaner resulted in a satisfactory test by clamping it in a vise, holding a cup of gas under the feed tube and blowing compressed air through the intake side. Clouds of fuel/air vapor coming out the other end proved it was not clogged. A manual throttle was fabricated adjacent to the carb using a large bolt and a wooden knob. A new spark plug, lead wire and filing the points finished the repairs. From then on it was largely elbow grease and paint spray cans to finish the Reo. I had an old Shop smith diaphragm type air compressor and paint sprayer, unused for years, lying around so the next step was to mount those on a wheeled stand so that a small, portable air compressor could prove useful to paint in remote places, spray engine cleaners, insecticides and the like. It beats hundreds of feet of electric cord for the electric motor type air compressors.

The Reo runs great, sprays everything in sight and only cost the price of a few parts, standing a long time in front of a wire brush wheel and some paint spray cans.