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Cool runnings: Alex Collins gets his job done one small engine at a time.
Collins, owner of Alex’s Mobile Mower Repair in Waldorf, said he got started fixing small engines in a high school course years ago on the Eastern Shore.
He recalls taking to a 4-cycle theory class, which covered 4-cycle engines such as lawn mower engines. Collins said he’s been fixing small engines ever since.
He has operated his own family business for 14 years.
Collins said in a typical day he may work with six or seven different lawn mowers that will range in problems from needing to fix a spark plug to having to swap out an engine.
“Every one is a challenge,” he said.
House calls: Collins works with lawn mowers that are brought to his shop, but the majority of his time he travels to people’s homes to do the work on location.
If the work for whatever reason can’t be done on site, Collins will take the lawn mower and then return it to the owner once completed.
What he likes about working with small engines is the sense of accomplishment.
“It doesn’t work when you start, and it runs when you are done,” he said.
During peak lawn-mowing season, anywhere from March to the end of September or beginning of October depending on the weather, Collins is steadily working repairing more than 300 mowers a month.
Collins knows many of his customers, and some he knows by the mower.
“I can go out and tell you whose is whose,” he said, pointing to the back of the shop where many mowers and other devices with small engines sit waiting for repair.
With some returning customers, he said he often can recall the previous work he had done on the machines.
Collins joked that he works with mowers so much as his job that he does not do the mowing at his own house.
Engines a hobby, too: Collins said he enjoys collecting antique chain saws.
“They’re not worth anything to anybody but me,” he said.
Collins’ business is not specific to mowers. Anything lawn- and garden-related that has a small engine, Collins has likely worked on.
When it’s not mower season, Collins finds himself repairing snow blowers, leaf blowers and many other things.
He recalls an antique tractor that a customer asked him to work on. The tractor would not start and had been worked on by multiple repairmen.
Collins said he was pleased with himself that he had fixed what turned out to be a fuel issue in 15 minutes.
One of Collins’ more memorable jobs had little to do with his small engine know-how. He went to a house to fix a mower that wouldn’t run. It didn’t take long for him to figure out that the problem wasn’t with the engine, but what had made that engine a home — a snake.
“The snake was still alive,” he said, recalling that once he removed the snake the mower was back in working order.
Collins said he accepts all challenges when it comes to small engines that aren’t working, no matter the brand.
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