In my last post about robot mowers, I mentioned that I bought the latest Robomow mower, based on my great experience with the RS630. With the RK630, I could tell that someone had thought through many of the potential issues and iterated on the platform to make it reliable and easy to maintain and even repair. Much of the robot could even be repaired or replaced without using any tools.

So I was excited to receive the Robomow RK4000. I had high hopes, but they were quickly dashed. The Robomow company has been bought and sold a few times over the years, and I think that the really good engineers have left, sadly. Now Robomow is a subsidiary of MTD, which just got bought by Black and Decker. I didn’t realize any of this until after I ordered the mower. It took weeks for the mower to even ship.

When I received it, I started setting it up and quickly discovered that this mower felt cheap compared to the RS630. I figured that I’d give Robomow the benefit of the doubt, though, and proceeded with installation. Then I realized that everything felt cheap. The 10 inch stakes that hold the robot’s charging base securely in the ground have been replaced by cheap plastic, 4 inch long stakes. That’s one place where they should not be skimping, as the robot needs to plug itself in to charge when it’s done mowing, and if the base moves, it won’t be able to dock correctly.

The base felt cheaper too. It’s made of lighter plastic and I was not convinced that it closed securely enough to keep water out of the wiring.

But I kept going. I powered the mower on and it asked me for my country and to set the date and time. Then it said that it was going to test the wire around my yard (most robot mowers require a perimeter wire around your yard that tells the robot where it’s safe to mow). This involves the robot following the wire all the way around the yard, back to its base. I pressed Go and nothing happened. Well, actually something did happen. The screen said that it was testing the wire, but the robot didn’t move. I left it overnight. It never moved. I made a second, smaller perimeter wire circle in my yard and tried that, to rule out bad perimeter wire…nothing.

I opened up an email ticket with Robomow. I got an immediate response from their helpdesk that my ticket was received, but I didn’t hear back for days (in fact, I still haven’t heard back). So I called the support number that was listed on their website, and it was answered by someone who mentioned Black and Decker, not Robomow. Based on my conversations with the guy who answered the phone, I think that their customer support is just one guy sitting in a room with a bunch of manuals for every Black and Decker product, and trying to troubleshoot based on the same information that customers have. Ultimately, he told me to try a bunch of things that I’d already done, and also a few things that were impossible to do, which he did not seem to understand.

So I returned the RK4000 and bought a Husqvarna Automower, which seems to be pretty popular these days. It worked right out of the box. So I guess that Robomow and I are done! It’s crazy how quickly a company that I would have recommended to anyone has lost me as a customer, probably forever.