Main image for A Broken Chain Can Be a Reel Problem Time to Read: ~3 min

I started cutting my lawn with a reel mower in May 2014. Before that, I'd used a Neuton battery-powered mower, but the battery life kept diminishing. That, and the plastic handle cracked one day. Why not throw back to how people really used to cut their grass? Thus began my relationship with the original model of the Fiskars 18 Inch Staysharp Max Reel Mower.

Several years into using it, the reel mower became incredibly difficult to push. I found a fellow owner who theorized that removing the grass chute would help. The way it was designed, grass clippings were thrown forward, resulting in mowing the same blades of grass multiple times. When I removed the grass chute, I was instantly thrilled. Instead of being thrown forward, grass clippings now delightfully flew out of the top of the mower, dispersing in the direction of the wind. I felt like a kid pushing one of those toy bubble mowers! So fun. Fiskars likely knew this was a problem, too, since their current model can throw grass forward and through the rear of the blades. It's currently Wirecutter's #2 pick for reel mowers.

Fast-forward to present day, and I had my mower out for the second time of its 7th season of use. The chain had been falling off of the drive wheels fairly often since the prior summer and I really hadn't taken the time to register that it was slackening. There's a spring that's supposed to push down on it to take up slack, but the chain had slackened far too much for that to have any impact. To my dismay, the chain snapped in two when it got caught up on a turn. After sheepishly borrowing my father-in-law's zero-turn mower to finish the job, I set about finding a way to fix my reel mower.

My first go-to resource was Fiskars, but my quick Internet search led me to conclude that they don't sell replacement parts for this mower. Really? A few results later, I found an owner who had replaced the chain and posted some photos about it. "Chain stretch" is a thing, and I was not alone! Knowing that I didn't have any chain or tools, I thought of the next-best option. A local bike shop? Maybe. I emailed John Compton, owner of Main Street Bike Shop here in Trumansburg. I asked how he was, hoping that he was weathering "this nonsense" well (looking at you, pandemic), and asked my question. His response:

Hey, I’m good. Hope your guys are!
Yeah. Bring it in. Fun.

I was so grateful for his willingness to tackle the job! Within just a few hours of dropping it off, John emailed me that it was all set to pick up. Phenomenal. I cut the grass yesterday with my renewed mower, with no slack in the chain. It cut like a dream again. Thank you, John! If this happens to you, hit up your local independent bike shop. They might be able to help!

Update May 9, 2021

Tori emailed me to let me share their story about the very same issue. They bought their Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower in 2011 and used it every season since then ... going into 10 years of weekly mowing a rural home lot for 8 months out of the year.

I had chain issues this year; on my 4th mowing the chain slipped off 6 different times and I was beyond frustrated. I didn't really want to spend another $200+ for a new Fiskars so I emailed their warranty dept. explaining that I knew I was not in a warranty period but needed a new chain and possibly a large sprocket because I thought it might be bent. Their response: "Anyone that has a 10 year-old reel mower that has performed faithfully deserves new parts". Seriously! They sent me a new chain, a chain tensioner (something new that mine did not have), and a new large sprocket. I had them 8 days later. Absolutely no cost to me. Fiskars rocks! If you have problems in the future you might want to try their warranty dept. I suspect you will have the same positive experience I had.

What a great story from Tori! Fiskars' warranty email is

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