The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lessons Learned - Buying Used Mixers...

risenshine's picture

Lessons Learned - Buying Used Mixers...

Hello All,

     I have bought two used Hobart mixers in the last couple years and learned a few lessons I would like to share about what to watch for and possibly avoid when buying used equipment.

     Caveat emptor ( from wikipedia "Caveat emptor /ˌkævɑːt ˈɛmptɔr/ is Latin for "Let the buyer beware"[1] (from caveat, "may he beware", the subjunctive of cavere, "to beware" + emptor, "buyer").

    Oh yes... buyer beware... Commercial equipment is made endure constant use, but it still will wear with age at best or lose structural integrity if abused at worst. You might find that 1958 Hobart 20 quart that sat in the corner of a church or school that kept it well maintained and rarely used but that is an exception to the rule... There are "deals" on Craigslist and Ebay, but those too are not the norm.

     Unfortunately, many sellers are either intentionally "ignorant" of the item's true mechanical condition, or out right intentionally deceptive. So you have to go into the "deal" knowing what to look for... and what information to seek to piece together the history of the item you are considering and put on your best Sherlock Holmes hat and use these insights to look for other clues of the mixer's condition.

     It is easy to do, and a mistake, to go into a deal with the intent to buy, and not with a an attitude of "wait and see". See, feel, hear, and ask questions... It is easy to let your excitement cloud your judgement.... ( I do speak from experience unfortunately)

     I hope others will post their good and bad experience related to this topic so everyone can learn from our experiences. I'll go into detail about mine in the following post....

    This is not to discouraging anyone from buying a great used mixer... It is just that the relatively high cost, might be only the beginning of a much higher cost and regrettable mistake.


risenshine's picture

Oh yes... this mixer was used by an old grandma to bake one small cookie every Christmas!  Yea... right... I fell for a line like this... sort of...  it was a former coworker's father's mixer in a restaurant that saw little use... I"m just selling it for her... This think probably made every twinkie sold by hostess!

Well this little Hobart 5 quart was not in bad shape.. yes it showed wear.. but inside it had a gear that needs replaced. The Hobart's gearing should not be noisy... A soft humm is can get louder at higher speeds... but you will also hear things shake as that planetary shaft's momentum starts shaking the whole mixer.. you may hear the bowl lightly "clunk: in the cradle... or the play in the agitator shift a little.. Whips will sometimes rub the sides of the bowl... etc..  but no grinding noises.. This can be low grease levels in the transmission.. and this can mean excessive wear of the gears..

     Ideally you should bring the maximum amount of dough the mixer can use and let it push that around for 5 minutes... Check that when you change the transmission's gears.. the lever is easy to move. Mine was bent... it could have been an accident or a pattern of misuse.

      I just changed the grease in my 20 quart and since then, is keeping the 2nd gear from fully engaging.  It starts with a clunk.. I think that will improve as the the grease settles into the right places. Now.. I just tore this thing apart and inspected each gear.. I know it is not a gear problem... it is the grease... but before tearing it down I had no clue.

    The 5 quart I tore down too, but did not replace a gear that was obviously worn. It "works" ok but is noisy.. I will tear it down, replace the grease ( again) and replace that gear... since I have the 20 now, I'm going to sell the 5.

    This is what I learned from the 20 qt mixer I bought.. It's history - It was from a chain store that sold pretzels... One of the most dense doughs a mixer can push around... I'm lucky I did not get "burnt" worse than I did... Now I can see the external and internal signs of wear...

     External - The bowl has fatigue cracks on one side at the attach point that is spot welded on the side of the bowl.. Hair line cracks you can not see unless you look carefully at the condition of the bowl.. Can you image how much cyclic pressure was put on one of those Hobart bowls to fatigue crack?  Be careful of dents pushing into the bowl.. Too large and they may rub your hook or paddle..

    Internal I had a gear with cracked key way and key.. ( the key keeps the gear from spinning around the shaft).. So they stressed the gearing to the point of a gear failing.. The other gears were in very good condition. But there were parts fused to the main planetary drive shaft that made full disassemble impossible. That cost me about $350 to fix.  I just noticed that the dough hook was so worn it wobbled compared to another hook I have in almost new condition. Usable but well worn.

    If I had the work done on this 20 qt at Hobart with all new Hobart parts It could have cost me $1500 and up to fix....  As it is.. If I sold this 20 qt, I could sell it at market value and not lose money for the repairs I had to do.. in other words, I broke even. If you are mechanically inclined, the Hobarts are fairly basic, and easy to maintain/ repair machines.. If you have to use Hobart parts watchout... They are the best.. but you pay for that level of quality. I will see if these after market parts give me any problems and will do an update if a problem comes up.

Bob Marley's picture
Bob Marley

I will not longer lust after a used Hobart on ebay.  No way.  It's like purchasing a high-end bicycle frame on ebay.  You can't observe any cracks in the frame just from looking at the photos and there are, I'm told, lots of cracked bike frames for sale. every minute.

doughooker's picture

I've had good luck buying used mixers on ebay. Maybe it was just luck or the specter of being listed as a bad seller and ebay's recourse system that helps keep people honest, at least in these cases.

Out of three purchases, two were just plain folks, not businesspeople liquidating a bakery or who speicalize on selling junk on ebay. The third transaction I'm not sure about but it worked out well.

I suppose you have to take into consideration that the item may not functional or may be serviceable but in need of repair. You also have to weigh that against how much money you'd be out if the deal went bust.

People have rebuilt old Hobarts, a task predicated on the current availability of parts.

hanseata's picture

I bought at a store for used restaurant appliances. It had been refurbished, and I use it for my little bakery since 5 years. By now its making quite a bit of noise. I bought some special machine grease, but I was told I shouldn't try to grease it myself, but get somebody from Hobart come and service it.

So, you did it yourself? Is it really rocket science?



risenshine's picture

Hi Karin,

No.. it is not rocket science... but you have to ask yourself if you are up to the task.... Some people have the mechanical aptitude and some not. I'll try to give you a general idea what you will have to do..

First - How long have you heard this "grinding" sound? It could be just low grease but it also could mean you have been wearing down some of these gears.. Changing grease will help prevent further wear, but it may not stop the grinding sound if there has been excessive wear. You may need to replace these gears. Did you hear this sound when you bought it? Have you been seeing an oily liquid seeping from areas near the transmission? Around the gear shifter? etc... Have you asked if the place you bought it from can change the grease? 

Is the grease you bought a food-safe grease?

Look at this video to see what you would be getting into from the mechanical perspective.. 


Hobart charges $100/ hr service and $70 ( I think it was a technician fee or something) so you are $170 to step foot in there.. Plus grease ( $50?)...  I'd guess that at most you'd be about $450 to have them do this. ( they may not service in your shop and require you to take it in.. not sure) The advantage with them is they can have that done in a day and you know it is done right... They will also inspect the transmission as they disassemble and clean the grease off everything.(Unless they just pump new grease in and displace the old..I'm not sure of their procedure.) If the business loss while you do this yourself is more than the cost of Hobart doing it, you know this is your more economical option. If you do decide to do this yourself, the experience will give you a better understanding of your mixer if basic maintenance is needed in the future.

 if you have no mechanical experience you may not have the tools( but not many are needed - screw driver, open end wrenches, hex (Allen) wrenches, etc.). so that may cost you $50 - $150 depending on quality and if you buy separate tools or sets.

You will need time - Changing grease is not so much science as it is method.. and a constant eye for how things are assembled..  the assumption is that everything else is ok so you are not even trying to diagnose or fix a problem. Can you afford to have your mixer down for a full weekend or more if it takes you this long? If you are mechanically inclined  you probably will not have a problem and may have this completed in 4- 6hours.

Do you have a place to lay things out in as you take them apart? You must be very well organized so you everything is where it should be when you put it back. It is also a bit of a messy job... you'll have a quart of old grease you have to scrape out with you latex gloved hands and an old spatula or wood paint stirrer.. lots of paper towels to with parts clean.

I'm not sure what model hobart you have but look for the proper manual to see how the parts are assembled. Here is the manual for mine.. You can call Hobart's parts supply and they will email you the right parts manual for your model.. You can also look it up on line at Hobart but they do not have the technical manuals ( that I could find)..  they do have the parts manuals that will show the assembly.

If you want to take the plunge let me know and I'll try to help what I can..