Even up through the Command era, Kohler was on the top tier. The Briggs wasn't as robust. Unfortunately, the Series 1 KT17 left a black eye to their stellar reputation at the time (late 1970's). The series 2 KT17 and Magnum flat twins were great, mainly with the improvements to the oiling system. No doubt the classic K series single cylinders are legendary for their durability and longevity. Many are in use 40-60 years after they were manufactured.
The latest Kohler offerings are pure dreck. The Courage line is one of the biggest piles to ever come from a engine manufacturer.
Now days the Kohler has hydraulic lifters and a little better governor on them I like that better, Briggs is cheaper and the parts are always there Kawasaki small engines eat up cams and Kawasaki has paper tags that get sun burned and lost and you can’t get the right parts for carb or accessories !!!!!
I think that may be the heart of the problem. Once upon a time it was a nice fairy tale to think of a small engine surviving for half a century. Today's more. more, more business model cannot handle the thought of a consumer only buying one of anything and having it last half a century. A decade is even a stretch.
I've only seen one Kaw blown (a 9 hp.) but other issues show up. Last yr I tore down a 23hp Kaw that NEVER had an oil change eventually the sludge plugged parts of the comp. release...I've worked on all different types of engines..Most are very good quality,oil changes are the biggest issue.People just climb on and if it starts they run it.It seems the average owner doesn't understand ANY maintenance.The exception is the Kohler "courage"it has a great habit of coming unglued. Their warranty coverage of the courage was an insult.The rest of the Kohlers have been very good..Briggs has been at it for a long time and are good at it except the last few yrs of valve guides moving and bending pushrods..Been too common,they need to put a crimp in the block to keep the guides from moving.....Tecumseh failed by letting the corp.world push them into cheapness...All opinions of a guy who just keeps wrenching and learning..
I think Kohler really seemed to know what they were doing, especially with the K series. I just fired up my little Kohler K90 yesterday after sitting all winter. The K90 was the first of the K series, produced from 1952-1959 when it was replaced by the K91. This little engine unfortunately sat all winter with water in the fuel system (endured 36 hours of nonstop rainfall at the county fair last August) and after a quick carb and sediment bowl cleaning, this 60-something year old engine is running like its almost new on gas that has rust floating in it. If that's not a testament to the quality of these engines then I don't know what is!