Kohler engines.. an opinion based on 40 years experience in small engines.
So many ask.. "What's reliable in small gasoline engines ?"..
I have meticulously watched the faults and failure that have come through our service dept. over the past 30 years,
and I have to say, the way these engines are treated for a living, is the BIGGEST concern of all,
you wouldn't believe how often I see these engines abused to an early death..
people would rather lie, than to tell the truth, about the frequency of oil-changes,
but that aside for the moment..
I have sold Briggs v-twins over the others for better than averge reliability, and low-cost repairs,
ever since Hondas started failing at exhaust bolts breaking out on GX's
..and Honda denied ALL the warrantee claims at face value.
..That cost me about $ in warrantee work over about 2 years, on engines that were less than a year old.
Subaru came in with good price and good quality, but they've "burned the bridge"
with CRAZY-expensive parts pricing, as well as Sh!t 'fer service skills.
..So if I'm going to take sides right now, in public..
I'm pushing Kohler for what I've seen and not seen in our own service dept.,
and for what I saw and heard at the Kohler factory..
They do testing that insures success.
I went to Kohler's factory in October.. what an eye-opener..
I imagined an assmbly-line neat 'n clean with efficiency etc,
But let me tell you.. they are driven to produce the finest quality possible..
After 3 years "on a mission to modernize"..
they claim to have a first-year-failure-rate on only % .. not 6% .. but 6/ths of a percent !
..a phenominally low rate, but you should see their process proceedures and especially the "test room"..
all digital computerized, ..like a car manufacturer.. seriously..
every engine is completely tested and tuned.
As far as I'm concerned..
Kohler is absolutely "king", due to long-term company "backbone" for service,
general quality of product, factory upgrades in process-proceedures, competitive parts cost,
..and ALLways great customer-service.
I like to say "the jobsite tells you what it needs"..
..Well, I'm convinced..
You need beefy, meticulously tested, abuseably-"oversized" engine system.. preferrably a Kohler
..and use this formula..
GPM x PSI x .ooo7 = engine HPcontinuous .. add 15% just so a gas engine can run (without bogging) at sea-level,
or.. add 20% for reliability to 80degr.F,
or.. add 30% .. " " " degr.F
..and add 5% for every ft above sea-level.
AND ! .. Run that engine with a real BMP-style set of "Process-Proceedures" that make the BEST opportunity for
We get asked all the time which engine is best. Or just as often for confirmation that a brand is the best. (eg. “Brand X” is the best right?)
If I were to ask you, “is Chevrolet the best choice?” it would be hard to answer without knowing which Chevrolet we are talking about. There is a world of difference between a Corvette and a Chevette, yet they are both Chevrolet.
It’s much the same in the engine world. When you are talking about the very best each company has to offer, they are all solid commercial engines that are extremely unlikely to disappoint. These top model engines include:
➤ Briggs & Stratton Vanguard
➤ Kawasaki FX
➤ KOHLER Command Pro
➤ TORO ZX
If all these companies can make a great engine then why is Kawasaki’s reputation so strong? and Briggs & Stratton’s reputation so poor?
The difference is where they draw the line at the bottom of price and quality. Kawasaki’s bottom is their FR model which is a high end residential engine. Briggs & Stratton on the other hand will build an engine for almost any budget and it’s the cheapest lowest quality models that they tend to sell in the greatest volume.
As a TORO dealer, it’s been a decade or more since we’ve seen Briggs & Stratton engines on our zero turn mowers, but we do use a lot of Kawasaki, KOHLER, and of course TORO engines.
The FX series is their best and also the model you will see the most of in the Toro line. The FS & FT series are also commercial, just not their very best. The FR is their high end residential engine which is basically a cheapened version of the FS, and still a very solid engine.
The Command series is their best and many of the Command models have hydraulic lifters (no valve adjustments needed) and closed loop fuel injection (+/- 25% fuel savings). Under the Command is the ZT (Confidant) which is also commercial just not their very best. Next is the series which has proven to be a reliable consumer engine and shares may of the same core components found in the ZT. Below that is the Kohler Courage which has a poor reputation mostly due to the single cylinder versions, many of which had problems years ago.
Most people don’t think of TORO as an engine company. But in fact they were founded for the sole purpose of building engines and later got into the mower business. Along the way they’ve manufactured many types of equipment even including cannons and maritime mechanical parts for World Wars I & II. They have quite a few small engines for Walk Power Mowers & Snow Blowers but just two core designs for Zero Turn Mowers. The TORO SX is a 16HP consumer engine that has proven to be reliable after several years on the market.
In TORO released the ZX engine which has become the most widely used engine in the Toro Z lineup. B T South has sold over pieces of equipment powered by this commercial engine and its outstanding performance has pushed it into the same league with other top tier engines. There are three versions of the ZX, a HP version, a HP version, and a HP with a canister air filtration system. All three are the same core engine but have different carburetors and air filter components. Read more about the TORO ZX Engine’s features at this link.
The biggest advantage the TORO V-Twin has over other top tier engines is that TORO can have it produced less expensively than buying similar quality engines from Kohler and Kawasaki which frees up dollars to offer a lower mower price or to invest that savings in making the mower better in other areas like the frame, deck, spindles and tires. Part of the manufacturer's cost of an engine is the cost of standing behind the warranty. That cost is clearly very small for TORO as we see them continuing to offer longer warranties than competing engines of up to 5 years.
We often get asked if the TORO V-Twin is a re-branded Kohler, Kawasaki or Brigggs. It is not. Toro developed and tested this engine's design for their own use. TORO has it produced by an industrial machining company to meet their exact design and standards. TORO calls it the TORO V-Twin. Exmark calls it the Exmark V-Twin and you might see it used by some of TORO's other brands as well.
What about Honda?
Honda is a major player in the single cylinder engine market for products such as walk behind mowers and other small power equipment. But for whatever reason, their larger twin cylinder engines, which are a size more suitable for riding products, have just never caught on and are not prevalent in our industry.
First, realize that a big part of an engine’s life is maintenance. In particular changing the oil, changing the air filter, and cleaning debris from the engine as needed to allow it to properly cool. Also very important is proper fuel management and using the correct engine oil, as most automotive oils manufactured after do not meet the specifications for air cooled engines resulting in higher operating temperatures and reduced engine life. Commercial engines are of course designed to last for more hours of use, but even good consumer engines can last for decades when maintained well and not used excessively.
Likelihood of manufacturing or design defect.
Every manufacturer has an occasional problematic model or defective unit. Kohler for example had issues with its early models of the Courage engine, the single cylinder model in particular. Kawasaki had inexplicable problems with some of the early models of the water cooled FD series. Toro, while I don’t recall a problematic engine from them, their Series Z-Master was a problematic mower. The point being, even the best of the best companies are not perfect. All three of these manufacturers make solid products that are very reliable for the overwhelming majority of their customers. At B T South we are very selective about the products and manufacturers we choose to carry because in the event there is a problem, the customer comes to us for a solution. We are not like the big box store where they just hand you an # to get rid of you. It is a rare and unusual situation that we would have to send someone out the door for a solution somewhere else. Our business model is to sell quality products that work and to be able to provide any needed parts, service and warranty in our store.
In the event of a defect, how will the manufacturer stand behind the product.
When it comes to warranties you can count on most manufacturers to step up and take care of the problem when there is a clear “black and white” defect. Unfortunately there is a lot of potential for gray area in warranty coverage. One of the things I admire about Toro and Kohler is their traditional American customer service attitude. They believe the customer paid good money for their product and are almost always willing to step up and do what it takes to make things right. When they have a defect they admit it, and in such case often help the customer even beyond the expiration of the warranty. Of course if there is evidence a failure was caused by abuse or lack of maintenance then we need not expect the manufacturer to be responsible. Many of the other manufacturers of engines and of lawn mowers don’t tend to be so generous. Japanese companies in particular tend to be resistant to admitting problems and hence taking responsibility for failures. Several years ago when when Honda lengthened their warranty by an additional year, there was a spoof document faxed around among dealers as a practical joke that said “Good News! your Honda warranty claims will now be denied for an additional year” That of course is not true. Honda certainly does approve some warranty claims, but there is a grain of truth in most jokes including this one. And the grain of truth is that with some companies it feels like the customer is guilty until proven innocent and that we have to fight tooth and nail to get the manufacturer to step up.
Is the Engine the most important part of selecting a good Zero Turn?
While the engine is a very important part of a lawnmower, it takes more than just a good engine to make a good lawnmower. Like quality hydraulic components for smooth operation and long life. A rigid mowing deck built heavy enough to stand years of rust and impacts. A mower frame strong enough not to break or warp. And there are qualities that can’t easily be measured by numbers, like weight distribution balanced to optimize traction, maneuverability and hillside stability. Deck aerodynamics to maximize cut quality and clean cutting speed. Expensive quality components alone don’t assure performance. Some manufacturers try to employ one or two quality components or brand names that are popular on shopper’s check lists and then skimp on quality in other areas compromising overall performance and longevity.
In general, a better mower can be built with more money, but to get the most bang for your buck means to balance the expensive components to meet a budget and combine those components with sophisticated engineering to maximize performance. The reason we’ve chosen Toro as the core brand of our business even after being offered more than twenty-two competing brands is because Toro brings the most bang for the buck in a wide array of different budget levels. The TORO ZX engine is a good example of how TORO has been able to bring more value. This ZX engine brings the commercial feature set of a top tier engine without the top tier price.
Maximizing performance per dollar along with industry leading support after the sale and long term parts availability is how Toro has become the most trusted brand in the industry. View the current Toro Z lineup at this link.
Toro’s success counts on strong relationships and the ability to distinctively meet the needs of customers. Each and every one of us at Toro is, responsible for, and committed to building on this legacy. That’s how we will keep our customer’s trust and earn their business.
Mike Hoffman - TORO President
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Kohler Excels at Manufacturing Small Gas Engines
Small gas engines are the lifeblood of the outdoor power equipment industry. They run all sorts of commercial and consumer devices, ranging from lawnmowers and generators to power washers and portable welders.
Wherever there’s hard-working machinery cutting grass, blowing leaves or chomping up debris, chances are good that it’s powered by a Kohler engine. It’s the same Kohler Co. that is a leading manufacturer of kitchen and bath products, such as bathtubs, showers, sinks, toilets and faucets. The company also makes tile, cabinets and furniture.
Kohler Engines is a division of the Kohler Power Group, which produces a wide variety of devices, including generators for commercial, industrial, marine and residential applications. Kohler’s gasoline, natural gas and propane powered engines are popular with many leading manufacturers of outdoor power equipment. Its OEM customers include Ariens, Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Deere, Exmark, Lincoln Electric, Miller Electric, MTD, Scag, Toro and Walker.
The company’s flagship plant is in Kohler, WI. It’s located on a large manufacturing campus that includes a foundry and factories that produce all sorts of plumbing fixtures. The ,square-foot facility specializes in high-mix, low-volume engines like the Command PRO, which is widely used in commercial equipment, such as zero-turn mowers, ride-on mowers and wide-area walk-behind mowers.
A sister plant in Hattiesburg, MS, produces low-mix, high-volume engines. The year-old facility assembles several different engine models, such as the Courage, a popular workhorse found primarily in consumer riding mowers, and two new models, the Series and the Confidant. Kohler’s engine division also operates plants in China and India, while a subsidiary in Italy specializes in diesel engines.
Kohler Co. is one of America's oldest and largest privately held manufacturers. It traces its roots to That’s when an Austrian immigrant named John Kohler purchased his father-in-law’s foundry. The company produced farm implements, such as cast-iron and steel plows, in addition to castings and ornamental pieces for local furniture manufacturers.
One day back in , Kohler decided to add feet to a livestock watering trough and turn it into a bathtub. Within four years, enameled cast-iron sinks and bathtubs accounted for 70 percent of Kohler’s sales. The company became a full-line plumbing manufacturer in , when it opened a factory to mass-produce faucets and other brass fittings.
Kohler has long been a pioneer in product design and innovation. One of its big breakthroughs was a one-piece bathtub with built-in apron in A few years later, Kohler engineers developed a way to produce identical pastel colors on both vitreous china and cast-iron fixtures, which revolutionized bathroom and kitchen design.
In , Kohler entered the power systems market when it produced the world’s first engine-driven electric generator. The rugged device was a big hit with farmers in the days before the advent of line electricity.
After World War II, Kohler diversified into small gas engines to meet growing demand for outdoor power equipment. By , the company was supplying engines for nearly half the lawn and garden tractors built in the United States.
In the mids, Kohler engineers developed the industry’s first overhead camshaft small engine, which was quieter, more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly than traditional side-valve engines. The next wave of small engine technology was unveiled in with a line of liquid-cooled products. The next-generation engines were based on technology used in large off-road equipment.
Kohler is also known for its unique family approach to business. In , it established a planned community that was modeled after European garden communities and American company towns, such as Hershey, PA, and Pullman, IL.
Kohler Village featured single- and two-family homes, a school, a village hall and a dormitory for unmarried workers. A prominent landscape architecture firm was hired to design a bucolic setting just outside the factory walls. Today, the community continues to thrive with winding, tree-lined streets, attractive homes and numerous parks.
And, Kohler still prides itself on the design and craftsmanship of its products. Whether it’s a luxurious whirlpool tub or a hp gas engine, all products must pass the approval of Herbert Kohler Jr., chairman of the board and CEO of the company that his grandfather started years ago. In fact, Kohler has designed more than new products himself.
Demand for power lawn and garden equipment depends heavily on the housing market and the weather. According to the Freedonia Group Inc., the market will grow 4 percent annually between now and , reaching $11 billion. Demand for commercial mowers will be driven by landscaping services and recreational activities, such as golf.
Turf and grounds equipment will record the most rapid market gains during the next three years, stimulated primarily by an expansion in the number and average size of landscaping firms. The Freedonia Group predicts that higher landscaper revenues will also be the primary driver for increased commercial sales of power lawn and garden equipment, as firms hire additional employees and invest in new equipment to capitalize on growth opportunities.
In addition to requesting alternative-fueled equipment, the marketplace has been demanding lighter duty commercial mowers that retain heavy-duty engines.
“There’s been a gradual replenishment of equipment, as people continue to recover from the recession,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. “Today’s machines are much cleaner and more efficient than in the past. We’re especially seeing growing demand for propane-powered equipment on the commercial side.”
That’s good news for assemblers at Kohler Engines who build products known for high-power performance, durability, reliability and efficiency. “Consistent power is the defining characteristic of all our products, which are proven to go from zero to full load with only a market-leading 10 percent drop in rpm,” claims Brian Melka, vice president of Kohler Engines Americas.
“Commercial landscapers depend on their mowers and engines for their livelihoods,” adds Melka. “Down time is not an option. Because cutting conditions won’t always be advantageous, Kohler engineers focus on designing products with an optimized governor system that can respond with peak performance even when confronting thick, wet grass.”
One of the biggest challenges facing the outdoor power equipment industry in recent years has been increasingly stringent environmental requirements for exhaust gases. “It requires us to do things differently,” says Melka. “Our challenge is how to meet all the emissions requirements in the most cost-effective way. We’re tackling that through innovation, such as electronic fuel injection (EFI) control systems.”
Kohler’s flagship plant serves as its center of excellence for EFI technology, which the company pioneered in the mids. “Our next-generation closed-loop EFI system, which is the most efficient fuel-injection system available in the small engine market, was unveiled four years ago,” says Melka.
The Kohler Command PRO EFI engine provides optimal fuel efficiency and reduces emissions. The engine is popular with commercial mower manufacturers that want to offer their customers faster starts, smoother operation and greater efficiency.
“What makes these engines unique is an oxygen sensor that analyzes the air and fuel mixture in the muffler,” explains Melka. “If the oxygen level strays from the ideal air-fuel mixture, the sensor triggers adjustments to the amount of fuel injected into the system. Only Kohler EFI engines close the loop between the air-fuel intake and the exhaust output to provide a constant stream of critical feedback, which helps deliver optimal fuel efficiency and other benefits.”
Because of the increased demand for engines that run on alternative fuels, Kohler recently expanded its EFI offering to include propane and flex-fuel models. Melka believes that all engines for outdoor power equipment will eventually move to an EFI system, due to the performance benefits the technology provides and increased emissions requirements.
“Our operational organization has had to constantly evolve to support these new products,” Melka points out. “Back in the days when everything we produced was carbureted, it was an entirely mechanical assembly process. Now, we’ve introduced a lot more electrical components. This has required us to retrain operators and make changes in areas such as material handling.”
Outdoor power equipment comes in many shapes and sizes, so Kohler makes engines in multiple configurations to meet different customer needs. Each of the company’s plants is dedicated to a different family of engines. Assemblers at the Kohler, WI, plant build the Command PRO EFI and the Command PRO Twin Cylinder, which are available in sizes ranging from to hp.
“This is our highest mix and most complex plant, where we have the most number of product specifications” notes Melka. “We produce several hundred more SKUs in Kohler than at our Hattiesburg plant. We are targeted toward the higher end, commercial market, where there’s a lot more customization of the product to meet customer needs. As a result, we rely on both manual and automated operations on the plant floor.”
“There’s tremendous variation within our SKUs; most assembly is build to order,” notes Dave Mauer, vice president of operations. “We produce both air- and water-cooled engines, which each react differently from an emissions perspective. We also assemble both gaseous-fueled (propane and natural gas) and gasoline-powered engines in the plant.
“On top of building a variety of engines for different marketplaces, our operators have to contend with many architectural differences,” adds Mauer. “For instance, we produce engines with both vertical and horizontal driveshafts.”
Kohler engines are also equipped with many features that appeal to commercial landscapers, such as a heavy-duty cyclonic air cleaner that traps grass and other fine contaminants to help maximize power and engine life. Other options include recoil or electric starters, different types of carburetors and throttles, and large-capacity air, fuel and oil filters.
Most of the engines on the Kohler assembly line look alike on the outside. But, inside, they’re quite different. Due to all the variations required by customers, the assembly line averages 10 to 12 changeovers per shift. “We have gone as high as 25 changeovers, especially during our peak season, which occurs in the fall and winter,” says Jim Nussberger, production manager for assembly and finishing.
“With the wide range of specs within eachengine, one of our biggest challenges is cross training our employees so they understand all the variations,” adds Nussberger. “The wiring harness changes on some of our engines can be very labor intensive, especially when we get into the EFI options.
“Some of the setups for the throttle bodies are labor intensive, depending on what spec we’re building,” adds Nussberger. “We often have to move people in and out of those production areas.”
Some components, such as engine block castings, are made by suppliers. “However, highly engineered components and parts that require complex steps, such as engine blocks, are machined in-house; we buy the castings from external suppliers,” says Nicholas Devine, production manager for Wisconsin machining. Plastic parts for the external shrouding are also supplied by third parties.
Key components required to assemble all engines include camshafts, crankcases, connecting rods, cylinder heads, flywheels, pistons and valve covers. More variation occurs when it comes to attaching components such as air cleaners, air filters, blower housings, manifolds, oil filters, starters, throttles and wiring harnesses.
“Manifolds and fuel rail systems are a couple of the most challenging components to assemble, because they require both mechanical and electronic components,” says Nussberger.
Mechanical fastening is widely used on the assembly line. Engines are assembled with studs, screws and bolts, in addition to some press-fits. A wide variety of pneumatic, DC electric and battery tools are used throughout the plant.
“Our fastening strategy depends on the type of joint,” says Nussberger. “If it’s a critical joint, we use DC electric tools to provide feedback to operators.”
Several robots are used in the plant to apply liquid adhesive to help seal the case and the closure plate together. Robots also attach cylinder heads and are used for some material handling applications in the machine shop.
The year-old Kohler Engines plant operates three separate assembly lines. “Each one is a little bit different,” says Nussberger “They’re arranged specific to product families.” One line is linear and another is laid out in a traditional race track configuration.”
The third assembly line is horseshoe-shaped, with engines manually pushed on carts. But, that process is being replaced by a new assembly line set up in a section of the plant that formerly served as a stock area.
The new line’s pallet-based conveyor system uses RFID technology for traceability. Another key feature is that it allows operators to work on both sides of the line. The more open layout also accommodates for more line-side storage and point-of-use delivery.
“The ability to deliver materials to inside and outside portions of the line will improve flow,” says Mauer. “We believe that some of our greatest opportunities for improvement moving forward involve how we move and store parts. Our long-term goal is to eliminate forklift transportation within the plant.”
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Engines review small kohler
As for a broken Governorcheck your Governor spring, or carb. throttle valve, or even for a vacum leak before you ship it off for more repairs.
The problem that I had with Kawasaki's isWhile employed by a JD dealer, I saw alot of low oil pressure problem that caused gaulding on crank mains & rod journals. The warranty restrictions were always problematic and most customers wound up paying a non-covered parts failure bills that never should have been.
I too spent years in the industrial epuipment rental repair shop, I saw Honda's, Briggs, Kohlers, and Kawasaki's, Wisconsin's that took alot of abuse. I had scrap piles of them all, except oneKohlers. They just worked like mules all the time! I did do maintainance like clock work to them all.
Oh, BTW if you get any moister in your fuel you can do some valve damage tooCheck you fuel filters.
Kohler is a great engine depending on which model it is. They have great models and ok models. Kawasaki is a top of the line engine. Kawasaki seems to have fewer problems.
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Similarly, it is asked, who makes Kohler engine?
|Company headquarters in Kohler, Wisconsin|
|Products||plumbing fixtures, tile, furniture and cabinetry, engines, generators|
|Number of employees||32, ()|
|Divisions||Kohler Kitchens, Kohler Design Service, Kohler LuxStone Showers, Kohler Engines, Kohler Walk-In Bath|
One may also ask, how many hours will a Kohler Command engine last? We currently have over 12, hours on old K and 9, hours on a Kohler Command 25hp. Both had oil leak issues, but a little maintenance and oil gasket replacement seals up the leaks and they run great. The K runs SAE 30 to make up for some wear, but it's reliable as a backup rig.
Additionally, is Kohler engine better than Briggs and Stratton?
Kohler will last longer and is a superior design to a Briggs. It's a far better balanced engine, even the single cylinders are better. Briggs and Stratton used to make a great engine - not so much anymore. Have had two in the past 5 years.
What riding mowers have Kohler engines?
- Toro TimeCutter MX 50 in.
- Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro 46 in.
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42 in.
- Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series LT 50 in.
- Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series GT 50 in.
- Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46 in.
- Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro ST 54 in.
- Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46 in.
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Briggs vs Kohler, Which is better
I don't believe the warranty is tied to the motor but to the tractor. ie if you buy a John Deere, the the motor is covered by John Deere tractor warranty. This is the same as other industries, you do not take your Buick to Chevy dealer if the Chevy engine in the Buick has problems.
As far as the warranty, the most important consideration is the reputation of the tractor manufacturer. If you buy a John Deere tractor, the warranty work is done by the local John Deere Dealer. Every JD Tractor the big box store sells carries a stick of the local John Deere dealer where any warranty work would be performed. Other tractors are covered by whoever the big box store has a contracted for the warranty work.
As far as the above comment about the Kohler warranty being worthless, I have never had the opportunity to find out whether the warranty was good or not, my JD with a Kohler engine. It has run find for over 15 years and never had a problem.
PS: When it come to cost of work done at the John Deere Dealer, I have found it comparable in price to the cost of have the local Shop do the work. I have priced the Spring tune up kit at the John Deere dealer and the big box store, the JD dealer has always come up cheaper for the same items from other stores.