When you live on an acre of land, a regular lawn mower just doesn't cut it.
So years ago, James O'Hara, of St. Charles, bought a 2003 Craftsman GT 5000 riding garden tractor.
All was well until May 2011, when the mower began acting up. He called Sears, and a technician diagnosed a bad coil. He told O'Hara he might as well replace both coils. O'Hara agreed, and paid more than $300 for the repair.
Later that day, O'Hara tested it. "I made exactly four cuts with the tractor when all of a sudden the tractor lost power and smoke began to come out of the engine," he said.
O'Hara again called Sears. The same technician came back, opened the hood, then delivered some disheartening news: The engine was shot, O'Hara said the technician told him.
O'Hara asked how much it would cost to put in a new engine. "He told me that it would cost well over $2,000," O'Hara said.
The technician, who told him it would be cheaper to buy a new tractor, retrieved a coupon for $90, O'Hara said. O'Hara went to the Batavia Sears and bought one for $1,714.
From day one, however, the new tractor mowed unevenly, leaving grass higher on the right side, O'Hara said.
Twice that summer, the Sears technician made adjustments, O'Hara said, but the problem persisted into 2012.
O'Hara continued to complain, and Sears sent a different technician, along with two representatives from Briggs & Stratton, who were doing a "ride along."
They fixed the mowing problem. O'Hara mentioned he owned a '65 Chevy convertible, which the Briggs & Stratton employees wanted to see.
O'Hara led them to his shed where they spotted his broken Craftsman GT 5000.
The men from Briggs & Stratton asked if he could start it.
O'Hara got the key and started it up. Immediately, the Briggs & Stratton representatives told him the engine was fine — it just needed a new cylinder.
Afterward, O'Hara bought some parts and fixed the engine, he said.
"I now have two running tractors, one which I do not need now. Just because (the Sears technician) misdiagnosed the 5000 GT tractor."
In all, he paid Sears roughly $2,000 for repairs and a new tractor, when all he needed was a few hundred dollars' worth of repairs, he said.
From late July through mid-September, O'Hara called Sears, including the company's corporate headquarters, more than a dozen times, he said. No one offered compensation for the technician's bad diagnosis, he said. So O'Hara emailed What's Your Problem?
"It's been a very frustrating ordeal going on with Sears, trying to get supervisors and to get anyone to even listen," he said.
The Problem Solver called Sears spokesman Larry Costello. Costello on Friday said the technician who examined O'Hara's old tractor did not say the engine was shot, but that the right cylinder head was bad.
"Sears actually recommended that we repair his 2003 lawn tractor last year. However, the customer wasn't interested in repairing the tractor, so no written estimate was prepared," Costello said. "Our service team tells me that type of repair would have been approximately $500 for parts and labor, resulting in a total repair that's much less than the $1,714 he paid for a new tractor."
Costello said the Briggs & Stratton representatives offered to replace the old tractor's engine for nothing, but O'Hara declined. "Regardless, as a good will gesture, we'd like to offer Mr. O'Hara a $200 gift card," Costello said.
O'Hara called Sears' version "completely false." The Briggs & Stratton folks offered him a new engine, but in trade for his 1965 Chevy, he said.
The technician who told him the tractor engine was blown and it would be cheaper to buy a new tractor "is trying to cover his butt now," O'Hara said.