Gas Engine Magazine

Reo Renovation

By Staff

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

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.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1990
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