For Dan Vestgard of Palm Bay, Florida, the path to becoming a small engine repair guru was set by a high school teacher.
“He was a Marine engine mechanic and he basically found my switch and turned it on at the age of 16,” Dan remembers. “That small engine and Marine engine technology class was where I found something that I was very good at, I got complimented on, and I just went on from there.”
With that education and experience working on the engine of his father’s boat, Dan got a job at a boatyard. He loved being outdoors and he loved his job, but when he got laid off one November, his path veered.
“Around here, the boating industry shuts off from November to March. That’s five months without being employed. But the grass grows 11, sometimes 12 months out of the year, so I went to work for a very large lawn mower shop because it was steady employment year-round.”
And Dan found another switch. He is now in his 39th year in the lawn mower business.
One day in 2005, after working for years at various dealerships, Dan and his wife, Teresa, decided to start their own business: Palm Bay Power Equipment. It boasts Dan as a master technician, who has reached the highest levels of certification in the industry. Ask around these parts for a repair expert and Dan’s name comes up.
“I’ve been doing this for most of my life, so everybody who’s been cutting grass at one time or another knew me or knew of me,” Dan said modestly, “because I’ve been in every major shop in the area.”
Palm Bay Power Equipment sells and services a mix of zero turn mowers and handheld power equipment including Gravely, Husqvarna, Hustler, Echo and other brand name products. Dan also repairs air compressors and generators.
“We work on a wide variety of equipment here, which keeps it interesting.”
Repair tips from the guru
Dan’s most frequent engine repairs are fuel-related.
“That’s because of the ethanol in the gasoline that’s tearing these carburetors apart,” Dan said. “Ethanol…is highly corrosive to brass, rubber and aluminum. Everything carburetion-wise is brass, rubber and aluminum, so it immediately starts degrading the fuel system.”
What can consumers do?
Use ethanol-free fuel in your lawn mower and run the engine every 30 days to a hot enough temperature – about five minutes – to get fresh fuel through the system, Dan advises.
“If you do that every month, you are going to avoid 90% of your problems and that would put a damper on my repair business.”