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Wisconsin-Onan don't here much about either


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Someone brought up at good point about Wisconsin engines. Ok what about Onan engines also? Are Twin cylinders better than singles with the "same horse power"? Tell us more about the Wis. and Onan's. Is cast iron that much better? I thought it was but are'nt alot of the twins made of something else now. So lets here about all 4 brands-single or twin-cast or alum. blocks. Engines we could put on our older or newer tractors. Also horizonal shafts. Are Wisconsin's more of a commercial engine? Ok lets see what we do know about these engines good and bad, not just opinions but facts also. I hope we can learn some more stuff here with two other brands out there. "Thanks" so lets go for it. JackL
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One man's opinions, Jack, and they're like you-know-what: everybody has one!
1) Wisconsins: Very solid, rugged, and expensive engines, but very old designs and a limited line of one single, an inline twin, and four (really three) V-4s; from nine to 65 HP. All are iron except for the heads and are horizontal shaft. The twin and fours are so primitive that they still use low-pressure (spray) oiling and bypass oil filters! They haven't built any of the models which were THE premium choice for many '50s and '60s garden tractors for many years. For comparisons here, the AENL single is 3.00 X 3.25 (23 cu. in.) and 9.2 HP @ 3400. The TJD twin is 3.25 X 3.25 (54 cu. in.) and 18.2 HP @ 3400, but it's way too high (most of two feet) and heavy for a tractor. The V-4s have been built since the late '30s, and haven't changed much, but are still somewhat popular for commercial and agricultural applications as they are extremely smooth-running due to a four-plane crank. Wisconsin was bought by Teledyne in the '60s or early '70s and moved from Milwaukee (since 1909) to Memphis. Teledyne bought and combined them with Continental (since 1903) as Teledyne Total Power. They are now Wis-Con Total Power and owned by Nesco, Inc. since 1992. They no longer seem to deal in the Wisconsin-Robin (Japanese) engines, and are closing some out on their web site.
2) Onans: In general a good engine, roughly comparable to Kohlers; not as broad a line; perhaps more expensive to buy and for parts; and a little harder to work on, I've found. They've been around a long time and have gone through changes of ownership as varied as Studebaker (years ago) to Cummins (now). I guess one can still buy them for replacement use, but judging by their (Cummins') web site, it looks as though they may not even be selling to OEMs any more, just making for their own gensets; and possibly only the flat-twins at that. Those are aluminum with iron cylinders, like Kohler flat-twins, and are horizontal shaft.
3) Any multi-cylinder engine will vibrate less, or at least in different harmonics, than a single. (Except for Harleys - they literally make sure that they don't design OUT too much vibration. I'm serious!) The advantages of splitting up an engine's displacement over multiple cylinders include lighter and cheaper reciprocating parts which allow a higher RPM range, volumetric efficiency, noise reduction, easier cooling, dimensional improvements in the engine's layout, and ease of starting, to name a few.
4) Some engines use iron cylinders, some aluminum with an iron sleeve, and the low-cost Briggs singles are all-aluminum. Will a modern lightweight design last as long as a big ol' chunk of the Mesabi Range did? Maybe, maybe not; but it's also 'apples and oranges' because the old heavyweights were stressed lower and the new engines are pressure-oiled and filtered.
5) Two other brands? Shoot, there are lots of others out there! (And I don't mean just Tecumseh, which doesn't go above about 12 horse.) There are good European engines, most of which are too expensive to sell here. (Remember when Briggs imported Farymann Diesels from Germany 20 years ago? Well Farymann is back, but a "43 F" 15.5 HP air-cooled weighs 191 pounds!) And there are many good Japanese engines (Boy! I'd get lynched for that on Machinery Forum!) Hondas are even fairly readily available over the counter, and they are nice runners. I know of someone who got tired of driving too far and paying too much for Onan parts, so he stuffed a Honda 20 V-twin in his A-C 620. Does it run nice! Deere uses Kawasakis in addition to their Yanmar Diesels. Toro has used Suzuki. And go look at a gas version of a Kubota garden tractor (not a 'compact Diesel'). It's a gas engine built in the same crankcase as the Diesel in that model!
6) The major problem with retrofitting is that for a vertical-crank engine you're pretty much stuck with Briggs or Kohler, but that's not bad. I have zilch knowledge of the latest Briggs stuff, like the Intek series, but others of their better aluminum models are pretty good too. I've replaced 'irons' that couldn't be rebuilt with later, and sometimes more powerful, 'aluminums'; and with good results. And I'm very fond of the Kohler 'Command' series, if you can spend a little money. Don't forget that a lot of the modern engines were built to standardized dimensions, so that they would interchange with older ones.
How 'bout I shut up now?
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