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might be worth looking for a ariens mower if you are shopping used. i haven't seen a rotten one yet so i would assume the steel they use is better quality. just make sure to avoid self propel. parts are expensive. got one here that needs a $60 belt. avoid honda's with the steel decks. the engines are good but seem to see a lot with rotten decks so i would assume they use junk steel for the decks. the mtds are ok but i think they are effected by how you maintain/store them since they usually start rusting from 1 spot and it just spread from there.
 

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it is likely cheaper to pick up a used machine than paying a shop to try and weld that. if you got a welder you can try and weld that up but i would guess you would just burn through because the rust has left the metal too thin. if you where going to try anything i would say brazing is likely your best bet but really not worth it. you could likely pick up a mower dirt cheap right now from someone who is motivated to get some space back.
 
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