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 Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap

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Doc Sprocket
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PostSubject: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeSun Aug 11, 2013 8:31 am

This has come up recently, again, so I'm going to post this here. What you are about to read is a couple of articles I wrote sometime back, that address the function of the governor, the exploding flywheel MYTH, and all the crap to go with it. What I have written in based on years of personal experience (not "I heard, read, or was told" as well as extensive research and others' personal experience. It was originally written for the go kart crowd, but the same information applies to all similarly-derived small engines. Take it for what it's worth and insert your favourite fine print here, but I'm telling you- there is so much MIS-information out there, it's disgusting. Grab your favourite beverage, smoke if ya got 'em, and read on...

It is absolutely amazing how often we run into this here- and how often we find ourselves banging away on the keyboard, typing out the same old answers. So, I felt it was a good idea to write up a little blurb on the topic- If requested, I'll sticky it- to hopefully save us all some future work. Let's start by outlining the governor's job description. Everyone knows that the governor tries to limit engine speed to (usually) 3600 RPM. But wait- there's more. The reality of it is this- the governor's job is to try to MAINTAIN 3600, not just limit it. The governor reacts to changing loads on the engine- decreasing throttle if it starts to run too fast, and INCREASING throttle if it starts to bog. This is why it is called a "governor", and not simply a "rev limiter".

Now- On to the question: "If I take out my governor, is the flywheel gonna go off like an atom bomb, blowing semi-molten schmutz everywhere, and killing every living thing in a 15-block radius?"

The short answer is no. The long answer: There are many factors involved here, and each must be carefully considered.

1) I always advise people that IF they are going to run well above governed RPM, to do it by fully removing the governor's internal mechanisms, and NOT simply bypassing it externally. Many governors are designed in such a way that if over-revved, can suffer component interference inside the crankcase, and/or have internal parts forced right off the shaft and bounce around loose inside the crankcase. Either case can cause severe engine damage. NOT an "explosion", just largely F'd up internals.

2) IF you are going to run ungoverned with an otherwise stock engine, keep the factory spec valvesprings in place. At a high enough RPM, weaker springs will cause a condition known as "valve float" or "valve flutter". This occurs when the valves cannot slam closed fast enough before the next cycle. This cause compression losses, and as a result, prevents the engine from spinning faster than that point. Valve flutter tends to occur in our engines around 5000-5500RPM. Your results will vary, based on your individual engine, spring condition, etc. Valve flutter occurs at a lower RPM than it would normally take to cause a flywheel mishap.

3) IF you want to get into RPM ranges HIGHER than this (say 5500+), now is the time to go shopping for high-performance internals. A billet aluminum flywheel, connecting rod, and stiffer valve springs are what's called for. Stiffer springs allow the valves to react faster, so at higher RPM, the valves won't float- NOW things really do have the potential to get a little crazy, so it's time to reach into your pockets for better quality parts.

4) Your connecting rod is MUCH more likely to fail than your flywheel. I have witnessed MANY more conrod failures than flywheel failures. In fact, I have never seen a flywheel failure. Most here haven't.

5) Contrary to popular belief, a flywheel is NOT going to vapourize at 3601 RPM. This is NOT why your engine is governed to 3600 RPM. Your engine is governed to 3600 RPM because it is an industry-standard operating speed for all the implements these engines are designed to power. Let's NOT lose sight of the fact that these are industrial stationary engines- made and marketed with the primary purpose of powering equipment. Generators, pumps, power washers, welders, cement mixers, tillers, trenchers, tampers- you name it- and the implement are designed to run at 3600 RPM- So the engines are factory set to 3600 RPM. It's that simple. When a flywheel is manufactured, it is designed to run well above normal operating speed. It's called a safety margin.

6) NOTHING is 100% guaranteed. You can do everything completely properly, and have a flywheel fail at a "normal speed". OR, you can do everything wrong, and run the he// out of the engine at 7500 RPM on a stock 'wheel for a lifetime and never have a problem. Sometimes, there's just no accounting for "Spit Happens". Write that down.

7) IF you are running an otherwise stock, ungoverned engine, is it adviseable to avoid excessively free-revving the engine. Use proper gear ratios to keep a bit of a load on the engine at full speed, wide open throttle. Don't try to rev the wee out of the engine with the clutch, chain, or belt off. A load on the engine helps keep harmful vibrations (harmonics) in check. If you have an insanely long, steep downhill stretch in your riding route, back off the throttle going down it. If you hear the valves floating or the engine starting to over-rev, apply some brake force. Coasting too fast can force the engine to spin even faster than valve flutter can prevent.

8.) Inspect your flywheel before removing your governor. A previously damaged flywheel can break apart at a completely unpredictable speed. Damage may not be visible (spit happens) but if it IS visible, replace it.

9) If you have to remove your flywheel for repair/maintenance, remove it properly. Do NOT beat the he// out of it with a BFH or pry on it. Invest in a flywheel puller. Failing that, try the following: Loosen the retaining nut until the nut is flush with the end of the shaft. Now, hit the nut squarely and sharply a couple times with a hammer. Most times, this will do it. You can also aid in loosening the flywheel with mutiple taps around the circumference with a soft-faced mallet or deadblow hammer. Do NOT beat on it with a steel hammer.

10) If you need to hold the engine from turning while you are tightening/loosening a crank bolt or clutch, do NOT wedge a screwdriver or bar in between the flywheel fins. Although this is not likely to crack the 'wheel, a fin could break off. This will throw the 'wheel's dynamic balance off. An out-of-balance 'wheel is just asking for trouble. Same goes for sawing off alternate cooling fins (an old performance trick). If your fins are cast into the 'wheel, don't do it. If you have a Honda, clone or other engine with plastic fins, go for it.

11) Handle with care. Once you have the 'wheel off, don't drop it...

So- Armed with the above information, go ahead and make an informed decision. This guide arms you with what you need to know, to decide whether removing your governor is a feasible idea, and how to handle things if you do. And remember (for all the "Armageddon-is-coming-prepare-to-meet-thy-maker-in-a-sintered-metal-flywheel-induced-world-war-3-esque-everybody's-gonna-die-including-the-cockroaches-in-the-cupboard"-nervous-nellies out there... Spit happens. On the one hand, your stock flywheel will very likely be fine. On the other hand, even a performance parts could fail. Spit happens.

One last point here- For those that may not yet be ready to dive into their engine and come out with a handful of governor parts- Some engines (most notably Hondas and clones) have a VERY user-friendly means of governor adjustment. This adjustment is designed to fine-tune the governed speed to spec, but makes it super easy to gain a few hundred RPM- usually you can bring your GOVERNED MAX to 4000-4200 RPM with the turn of a screw. Your governor will still do it's job, but you'll run a little faster. Locate the manual throttle control on your engine- the little lever you would slide to increase or decrease RPM if you didn't have a remote throtte (gas pedal). Behind that lever is a screw with a spring wrapped around it- Notice how the throttle rests against the tip of that screw when you move the lever to the "fastest" position? Great. Remove that screw. Presto- instant maximum RPM increase- no fuss, no muss.

It is also worth noting that these engines were designed to run at 3600 RPM, day in and day out. If you do run faster, the engine will wear faster. Fact of life. Treat it well, maintain it well, and you'll never notice the potentially shorter lifespan.

Governed Idle FYI

The governor is a seriously misunderstood engine control system. For the greater good, here's a little FYI, an experience I just had. Might benefit someone in the future.

Where were we? Ahh, yes- the governor. Contrary to popular (mis)belief, the governor does much more than limit engine speed to 3600 RPM. Wonder why it's not called a "rev limiter"? 'Cause there's more.

The governor's purpose in life is not so much to limit RPM, but SET it. What's the difference, you ask? (I swear I just heard one of you ask that!) The difference is this. SETTING an RPM means KEEPING it throughout the workload. Let's use a lawnmower for example. You start the engine on your walkway and run the throttle up to max. The governor sets the engine to 3600 RPM, and there is no load (not cutting grass). As you move into the grass, the engine starts encountering a load. The governor allows a throttle increase to bring the revs back up to 3600. Cutting away, you encounter a thick patch over the septic tank. As the engine begins to bog and the revs start to drop, the governor allows the throttle to open more and bring the revs up to 3600. Cool? Great. Going around the corner thru that thick grass with the throttle wide open, you hit that bare spot where the dog keeps peeing. The load comes off the engine, and as it begins to increase, the governor closes the throttle to prevent over-revving and holds at 3600 RPM. Got it?

If you examine your external throttle linkage, you will notice that there is no direct connection between the hand throttle control and the carb butterfly. Governor again. The hand throttle does nothing more than alter the spring tension between the governor arm and the throttle butterfly. Setting the manual control to "Idle" merely alters the spring tension from the governor enough to allow it to SET engine idle speed. The idle adjust screw is the bottom end rev limiter in that it sets the baseline that the governor drops to. I told you that to tell you this:

I recently had a situation that some folks might misdiagnose- an engine that refused to idle properly. After a barrage of time, abuse, and adjustments, the chinese Kohler clone on my kids' kart would not sit at idle. The kart constantly wanted to take off with no throttle input. At a glance, the idle was too high.

Close examination revealed that the idle stop screw on the carb was not doing anything- the butterfly just would not rest against it. If I pushed the lever by hand, it would sit at idle RPM, but as soon as I let go, it would take off again.

I tried to adjust the external governor components to no avail. With the arm off the shaft, something just did not feel right inside the engine. I pulled the engine off the kart and tore it down. I don't even know how to describe what had happened inside, but the governor guts were all over the place- literally.

By some miracle, nothing was really damaged. Short version of the story? I epoxied the "press-fit" governor gear shaft back into the side cover and reassembled everything. I (re-)adjusted the external components, and wouldn't you know it? Idles like it just came outta the shipping container at 1310 RPM, and maxing at 4230 as measured by my optical tach. Food for thought.

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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeSun Aug 11, 2013 8:47 am

Excellent info DOC, this should be stickied for the newbies!
Any advice on adjusting the governor on a standard Briggs motor? I've experimented on mine a couple of times before... Got a little more out it, but you have to bend a "spring tang" to adjust those ones.
Wondering if anyone found a more effective way?...
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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeSun Aug 11, 2013 8:54 am

Thank you, I will sticky it now. I hesitate to sticky my own stuff, don't want to look like I'm stroking my own ego or anything.

With most Briggs, it unfortunately does tend to come down to bending the tangs. When I do mine, I check my progress with a tachometer to make sure it stays reasonable with the internals still intact. There is supposed to be a special tool for this, but I just ground a slot in a flathead screwdriver, and bent the screwdriver to 90*. Some Briggs governors have an adjuster screw but it's only good for 100 RPM or so. After that, you're supposed to order a special spring. Other engines allow you to buy some RPM by changing the hole that the spring goes into.

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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeSun Aug 11, 2013 3:19 pm

Great info thanks Doc
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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeFri Mar 13, 2015 10:36 am

Great info. But I have in what we have to run in kart racing is billet flywheel on either predator or clone. We have to have stock rod. And of course 10.8 lb valve springs. Akra legal. We turn these motors up to 6800 all day with no rod failure. it will burn up the rod before breaking it in half. Same for 5hp Briggs engines. I ain't talking down the post cause its great info for most people that don't need these high rpms for mowers or karts. I build race engines for karts and know alot of stuff bout running them type engines.
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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeFri Mar 13, 2015 7:19 pm

@Marines2621 wrote:
Great info. But I have in what we have to run in kart racing is billet flywheel on either predator or clone. We have to have stock rod. And of course 10.8 lb valve springs. Akra legal. We turn these motors up to 6800 all day with no rod failure. it will burn up the rod before breaking it in half. Same for 5hp Briggs engines. I ain't talking down the post cause its great info for most people that don't need these high rpms for mowers or karts. I build race engines for karts and know alot of stuff bout running them type engines.

Yup. General guide here, not race specific. Haven't noticed you around in awhile. Welcome back!

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Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Facebo12
Put down the wrench, and come out with your hands up!-Doc "Tranny Crusher" Sprocket, ATLTF Forum Admin, Thinkerer and Tinkerer, and all-around good dood. Wink

Gen. Mayhem- https://www.atltf.com/t2597-general-mayhem-race-tractor
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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitimeFri Mar 13, 2015 9:03 pm

Thanks, been busy on College and Racing. Havent really had time to get on. Hoping to get another mower going soon. Its been a very long time since ive had one
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PostSubject: Re: Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap   Governors, Flywheels, And An Internet Full Of Crap Icon_minitime

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