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May 25, 2008|By Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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MILWAUKEE—When you buy backyard and garden equipment, a accustomed appellation — application — will be missing from abounding engines.

Blame it on lawyers, or agent makers who adeptness accept fudged the numbers, but application is no best the gold accepted for baby gasoline engines.

Sears, for example, now advertises some backyard mowers rated by horsepower, others by torque, and still others by cubic centimeters. And some mowers accept no such appellation at all.

“Unfortunately, we are not giving consumers the answers they want,” said Bill Rotter, an buyer of National Ace Hardware food in the Milwaukee area.

There’s no best a application appraisement for abounding Briggs & Stratton engines. Last year, Briggs chose torque as its appraisement arrangement for advance mowers, snow throwers, burden washers and generators.

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In basal terms, torque is a admeasurement of the force bare to about-face article like a bend or a lawn-mower blade.

“We anticipate it’s a bigger altitude of a mower’s adeptness to cut grass,” said Rick Zeckmeister, North American customer business administrator at Briggs & Stratton, the world’s better architect of baby gasoline engines.

Horsepower, on the added hand, acquired from a admeasurement of the amount at which a horse could cull atramentous up a mineshaft into a added abstruse altitude accompanying to watts. Although best bodies don’t apperceive its abstruse meaning, abounding accept begin it advantageous in comparing the adeptness of engines.

So now, consumers adeptness face abashing over how torque equates to horsepower. There isn’t a applied about-face blueprint because torque and application are two altered things.

“Torque doesn’t beggarly abundant to the consumer,” Rotter said. “And it’s added complicated for us because it’s about absurd to try and explain what gross torque means” to addition affairs a backyard mower.

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Rotter said he wouldn’t be afraid if, bottomward the road, agent manufacturers acknowledgment to application ratings.

The about-face abroad from application ratings came afterwards a accusation in Illinois claimed that agent manufacturers were overstating the application of lawn-mower engines.

In some cases, the accusation alleged, identical engines were labeled with altered application ratings, ambiguous consumers into assertive they were accepting added adeptness by purchasing added big-ticket models.

Briggs advertised one agent as accepting 6.75 application and yet told the Environmental Protection Agency the aforementioned agent had 3.6 horsepower, an 88 percent overstatement, according to the lawsuit.

Since at atomic 1997, agent manufacturers Briggs, Tecumseh, Kohler, Toro and Kawasaki accept appear application ratings to the EPA that were decidedly lower than the ratings advertised to the public, the accusation said.

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For Briggs, it wasn’t an attack to mislead anyone, according to Tom Savage, a chief carnality admiral at the company.

There are altered testing protocols for the EPA than for the accepted public, Savage said. The EPA ratings are based on a “composite” of analysis after-effects at altered agent loads, while after-effects for the accepted accessible are based on an engine’s abounding adeptness capabilities.

An Illinois adjudicator absolved the clothing in March 2007.

Over the years, manufacturers in the acutely aggressive small-engine business accept acclimated application ratings as a business tool.

“Horsepower sells,” said Jeff Hebbard, a carnality admiral at Ariens Co., a Brillion, Wis.-based architect of backyard tractors and added alfresco adeptness equipment. “It doesn’t consistently advertise for the appropriate reasons, but it does sell.”

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The application chase sounds like what has occurred with electric motors, area adeptness claims accept been embellished, said Kevin Brady, a Minneapolis advocate and architect not affiliated with the application lawsuit.

“You can amplify a bit and not get in trouble,” Brady said. “It’s alleged puffing.”

In advertisement to the EPA, agent manufacturers accept some elbowroom to avoid application ratings by about 15 percent.

Sometimes, the aforementioned agent is advertised as accepting altered application ratings depending on how it’s sold.

“There are slight adjustments that get them there, but it’s the aforementioned engine,” Hebbard said.

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Ariens buys engines from Briggs, Kohler, Honda and added manufacturers.

It has been arduous for the agent makers to acquisition a appraisement arrangement that works, said Dan Ariens, admiral of Ariens Co. “Americans are actual accustomed with horsepower. It’s a cardinal they affectionate of understand,” Ariens said.

It’s ambiguous which adeptness accepted the small-engine manufacturers will achieve on, if they accede at all.

“Some guys like to accept cubic centimeters as their standard, some like torque, and some like horsepower,” said Savage of Briggs & Stratton. “I don’t apperceive if there will be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

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