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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
i have an old John Deere Sabre lawn tractor that is probably about 12 years old. It came with a 15.5 hp Briggs and Stratton engine and a 38 inch deck. My closest John Deere dealer is about 35 miles from my home and never has the parts in stock that I need, not even belts. I prefer to buy locally rather than order and pay shipping charges and wait on parts.

I recently bought a Honda HXR217VKA self propelled mower that I love even though I have to walk behind it rather than ride it. My Honda dealer is a mile and a half from my home and can order parts for all lawn mowers except John Deere. I have been considering buying a Honda GXV390 commercial engine with a recoil starter to replace the B&S 15.5. I assume my two biggest concerns will be 1) if the engine is powerful enough to propel the tractor and turn the blades at the same time and 2) if the engines turn in the same direction at about the same rpm so I won't end up with 4 reverse gears and one forward gear. I have no problem with replacing belts, spindles and pullies if necessary and even the deck for a smaller one if needed. The Honda website says the 390 is 389 cc with 10.2 net horsepower at 3600 rpm's and 17.8 ft-lbs of torque at 2500 rpm's. Our first lawn tractor was a Craftsman that was new in 1969 with a 12 hp engine that drove a 48 inch deck with 3 blades, so 10.2 hp doesn't seem under powered to drive 2 blades with a 38 inch deck. Besides, who knows how the horse power was measured and by whom. 10.2 sounds like it was measured by engineers where 12 and 15.5 sound like they may may have been dreamed up by the marketing department.

I have very little experience working on lawn mowers but do light maintenance on cars and have first class hand tools. I very much want to get a Honda engine, not another brand. Will this one be adaptable to my Sabre? Since it has a recoil engine, will I be able to remove the battery, starter and wiring which has been my biggest problem since day one.

I have 3.2 acres to cut but will only cut half per week. I have also considered a smaller deck with only one blade because my yard has always looked better when cut with a smaller deck. I prefer a better looking yard to a faster cut. As far as the engine goes, I demand reliability.

This is a link to the Honda 390:

http://engines.honda.com/models/model-detail/gxv390

Thanks for any help anyone can offer.
 

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:welcome: to MLMF. It sure sounds like it's doable. That Honda engine is a commercial grade engine, and off the top of my head, I wouldn't think that horse power rating would have any trouble handling the 38" deck and tractor. Seems like that is right in the ball park with some of the riders and tractors they used to offer. According the the Honda Spec sheet, the engine rotates counterclockwise (from PTO shaft side). It also shows the dimensions of the PTO, so you could compare those to the Briggs already on the tractor. Your Honda dealer could probably help with your questions too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for the welcome and the reply; I think I have seen your name attached to some Honda threads, so it is good to hear from someone with experience with their engines. I will probably have some questions after I get out Saturday and look the tractor over again. Again, thank you for the help.
 

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Might want to go here and find a Honda Engine Dealer for your area; they are typically experienced with re-power / engine swaps, and can often match different brands to a Honda model. The GXV390 is available from Honda in different configurations, and you'll want to get the one that is compatible with the frame, belts, mounts, crankshaft/PTO, etc.

Honda Engines - Find a dealer
 

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Now there's the guy who knows Hondas. I know enough to be dangerous from tinkering with a few of them I have. Let us know what you find out. I know I'd like to hear how the swap goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Might want to go here and find a Honda Engine Dealer for your area; they are typically experienced with re-power / engine swaps, and can often match different brands to a Honda model. The GXV390 is available from Honda in different configurations, and you'll want to get the one that is compatible with the frame, belts, mounts, crankshaft/PTO, etc.

Honda Engines - Find a dealer
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My Honda dealer (Bartlett Small Engines, Bartlett, TN) has given me a quote which was actually lower than I expected. I am going to get the serial number and model number off the B&S 15.5 engine so hopefully I can get the specs off the internet and see if the shaft length, circumference, and direction are the same or adaptable to the Honda 390.

I hope to do the work myself to save some money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Now there's the guy who knows Hondas. I know enough to be dangerous from tinkering with a few of them I have. Let us know what you find out. I know I'd like to hear how the swap goes.
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I plan to research the B&S engine when I have time over the weekend to see how the specs match up. If everything is right (or adaptable), I plan to order the engine in the next few weeks. It will be a relief to have a commercial grade engine with pull start. I plan to strip the tractor of the starting system and the wiring which I believe have been a large part of my problems with the John Deere. Unless I'm missing something, with recoil start, the Honda will be self contained with no need for external wiring, battery, starter, solenoid etc. At some later time, I may look for a smaller but more heavy duty deck as well, preferably with a single blade. I have let the back yard get away from me, and it has become a jungle.
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If everything works out as I anticipate, I may start a small (as in yard size and number of jobs) lawn care business when I retire. Before I bought the Honda self propelled mower, I never would have considered such a thing, but my front yard looks so much better now, and the Honda is so reliable that I trust it to use on other people's yards.
 
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