In general I’m not a big fan of buying a used brick saw; the saws are inexpensive compared to their tub saw counterparts, and are usually run until they can cut no more. A used saw is often on the verge of collapse when it’s offered for sale.
But if you just don’t have the money to buy new, here are a few things I picked up from a small engine repair instructor when evaluating a used brick saw.
1) Inspect the inside of the cylinder. This isn’t as hard as it may seem, and usually only requires an allen wrench or flat head screwdriver. Simply remove the 2-4 bolts holding on the muffler, then remove the muffler. Open the compression release valve, and spin the blade or arbor slowly until the head of the piston isn’t blocking your view of the inside of the cylinder. Using a flashlight or good daylight, look at the cylinder wall; if you see scratches and gouges, dirty air or contaminated fuel has been inside that cylinder and damaged it. You may notice some blow-by in the exhaust when you run the saw. It’s possible that this could be fixed by boring out the cylinder and putting in some slightly larger piston rings. But unless you have a set of tools that would make a mechanic jealous, you’ll have a hard time doing this. Piston ring and head replacement can cost around $300 for parts and labor. Add that to the cost of the used saw, and you’re almost better off buying new. Plus with a new saw you get a warranty, and usually a few coupons for discounts on oil or blades.
2) Check the general appearance of the saw. Does it look like it’s been tossed from the top of a building a few times, or given the passenger seat for the ride home? I found that too much jostling can cause some big problems. We had a Partner K700 brick saw that the guys must not have been treating with the respect it deserved. There is a single bolt that holds the entire air filtration unit to the body of the saw. This bolt somehow was nearly broken from being tossed around, and the vibration while in use finished it off – snapped clean off. The entire air filtration system was now just vibrating around the saw, gravity was the only thing holding it down. In the meantime, outside air filled with brick dust and dirt was going directly into the cylinder for combustion. This was caught pretty quickly and duct tape held the filtration unit on for the rest of the day, but the bolt had to be replaced. This alone was about $150 in repairs. So a well cared-for saw should bring a premium over one that looks like is was dragged to the job with a chain.
3) Look at the air filters. This one is pretty simple and straightforward. If the air filters are past their prime, it’s a good bet the brick saw is, too. Who would try to sell a saw without cleaning it up and replacing the filters?
4) Start and run the saw. This is probably the most obvious. See how long it takes to fire it up, how it idles, and whether the saw bogs down during a cut (you might want to bring your own brick blade for testing purposes). Is there a lot of smoke when it’s running? (If so, you probably found a problem in #1.)
If you’ve gone through this checklist and the saw still looks like a good buy, than it probably is. Make sure it’s a brand you can find parts for locally, and you should be able to get several good years from buying a used brick saw.