Honda HR214/215/216 Handlebar Support Kit (Homemade)
The aluminum deck Honda HR214/215/216 walk behind lawnmowers from the 80's & 90's are very well made mowers for any homeowner and many are still in service 30-35 years later. Commercial versions were also available which had the same commercial grade engine as the homeowner models, but also had upgraded features not found on the homeowner versions such as: 1) a steel deck, 2) front impact protection, and 3) additional handlebar support. Additional handlebar support will prevent or greatly retard excessive wear at the wear points on both the handlebar and the handlebar stay where the handlebar mounts to the stay. I've had experience with 7-HR214/215 mowers and 1-HRC215, and they all (except for the HRC215) exhibited this wear to the point where the handlebar had some vertical free play which eventually could get bad enough to require corrective action. In this thread I'll discuss my homemade version of the handlebar support kit which can bring the HR214/215/216 somewhat closer in quality to the commercial version.
Earlier this year I spotted a new OEM Honda handlebar support kit on ebay for a nicely discounted price and decided to buy and install it on my son's HR215 Masters series mower (see the pic of the parts and the 2-pics of instructions). The kit contained 3-simple parts plus hardware, which I thought could be replicated for a do-it-yourself kit. The parts included what I call the support arms (called handle support plates by Honda), handlebar clamps (called support hangers), spacers (called support collar), and misc. hardware (nuts, bolts, & washers).
The most difficult part for me to replicate was the hanger which attached to the handlebar itself. Not quickly coming up with an alternate for this part, I forgot about this project for a few months until I located a clamp on ebay for attaching rear view mirrors or lights onto bicycle and motorcycle handlebars of 7/8” dia. This clamp (see pic) also accepts an 8mm bolt for the support arm attachment bolt. After convincing myself that this clamp would also fit the Honda mower handlebar, I ordered a set of 2 for only $2.99. This clamp was manufactured in and sold from China, so it took about a month for delivery. After receiving these clamps and finding that they fit the lawnmower handlebar perfectly, I went to work developing the other 2 necessary parts – the support arms and spacer.
The OEM kit used steel plates for the support arms - my choice was to use 1/2” EMT. First, I cut two-12” lengths of the EMT (which is of similar length to the OEM plates). On one end of each piece of the EMT, I placed 1” into a vise and crushed the round section of the EMT until it was flat. I did the same on the other end, except that the crushed section is 3” long, and it was crushed 90-degrees to the flat section on the 1” end. Then I placed approx. 3/4” of the 1” ends and approx. 15/16” of the 3” ends of the crushed sections back into the vise and bent them to an angle (approx. 25 degrees) which would allow the arms to mate nicely with the handlebar clamps on the 1” ends and the deck mounting spacers on the 3” ends. Make sure that the bends on the 3” ends are bent in the opposite direction to each other (the right side arm is bent opposite of the left side arm). Look at the pics to see the bends. I don't have any more exact dimensions for these bends, but just get the bends close on the first try, and then see how the arms fit and then adjust the bends again on a trial and error basis until you are satisfied that you have them close enough for a good fit. Also, grind off any sharp corners and edges from the arms and drill mounting holes into the arm ends.
The final parts are the spacers. On the left side of the mower one or two washers will give adequate clearance and will serve nicely as a spacer, but on the right side, the OEM kit spacer is very close to 45/64” long and 13/16” dia., so that is what must be approximated for the do-it-yourselfer. In a misc. hardware box that's in my basement, I've been collecting misc. metal pieces and shapes (for decades) which I thought might come in handy some day. In this box I found a short piece of 1” dia. steel rod with a small hole drilled through, so I drilled the hole larger so the deck mounting bolt would snuggly fit in, and I hack sawed off a piece 45/64” long (or as close as I could get to that length). When I tried to fit this spacer onto the mower deck in the correct location, I discovered that 1” dia. was too wide, so I sawed off a slice at one end on a diagonal (see pic of this spacer sitting next to the OEM kit spacer) to make it fit flat onto the deck. Another option for this spacer is to use a 3/8” threaded rod connector sawed off to the proper length, and make sure that both ends are neatly sawed off flat and square. The right side mounting bolt should be 37mm long , but I could only find a 40mm one at Home Depot. If you use a mulching plug you will need to saw the mounting bolt off flush with the nut on the inside of the deck to avoid contact with the plug. Also, I used M8-1.25 x 16mm bolts for attaching the arms to the handlebar clamps along with a plain and a lock washer. Before assembly of these parts I recommend painting the arms and spacer to match the handlebar – I used black paint when installing on the Masters series mower because it had a black handlebar, and I used a metallic silver paint when the mower has a chrome handlebar.
On both sides of the mower, the 3” flattened ends of the support arms must fit in between the wheel height adjusters and the spacer on the deck with very little clearance (see pic). For drilling the support arm mounting bolt holes into the deck, it's not easy to accurately find the locations for the holes, so after you think you have the hole locations correctly marked on the deck (but before you drill them), place the spacer on the hole location and place a bolt of the same size, but shorter length, as that of the mounting bolt (the 16mm long bolt for mounting the arm to the handlebar clamp will work for the right side spacer, and for the left side spacer, temporarily glue a nut of approx. the same size as the bolt head onto the washer spacer) and check for clearance with the wheel height adjuster arm. There is a small tolerance in where the hole is drilled, so make sure the hole location will work to give adequate clearance with the adjuster arm before drilling the hole. See the pics of the OEM kit instructions for the hole locations and hardware sizes. Make sure to use a center punch before drilling the holes.
I installed this homemade kit on the mower I used during the last month of the 2019 cutting season and it gave a very solid feel (no flexing or free play between the handlebar and the deck) and it held up very well and should easily last the remaining life of the mower. I spent approx. $12-$15 for the parts needed for this kit, and the OEM kit costs about $40 (including shipping) at boats.net, and I also just found this kit on ebay for about $37 (delivered). The average guy (who doesn't have a lot of spare time) would probably be best off buying the pre-made OEM kit, but for a retired guy like myself the homemade kit gave me a challenge, plus I prepared 3-kits at the same time (economy of scale) for other HR214/215 mowers that I am (or will be) working on.