Spring is officially upon us. This also means lawn-mowing season is officially upon us. Something as mundane as a lawn mower can easily be taken for granted, until something goes awry and this simple chore becomes a massive headache. It is just as important to keep your lawn mower in good working condition as it is your vehicle. You wouldn’t neglect regular maintenance on your car at the expense of blowing your motor, right? Here are a few maintenance ideas to keep your lawn mower at peak performance.
- Drain old gasoline at the end of each mowing season – This is one tip I have never heard before researching for this blog post. I will be intrigued to see if it makes a difference ( but luckily I still have a whole mow season ahead of me ). At the end of each mow season, old gas should be used up or drained from the mower. Give your mower fresh gas every spring.
- Check the oil – Just like your car, mowers need oil changes. The perfect time for this is in the spring when you pull the mower out of the shed. To change the oil, disconnect your mower’s spark plug so it can’t accidentally start. Next, remove the drain plug underneath the mower and allow it to drain completely into an approved container. If your mower doesn’t have a drain plug, you’ll need to carefully tilt the mower on its side and drain the oil through the fill hole. Then replace the oil filter (if your mower has one) and refill with new oil. Be sure to consult our owner’s manual for the correct method and type of oil to use. Never over-fill; this can damage your mower. Last, reconnect the spark plug wire. During the mowing season, monitor your oil (check level, look for oil that is dark or black in color and floating debris in the oil). Old or contaminated oil needs to be changed.
- Check/replace the spark plug – A good spark plug is necessary for proper performance. Spark plugs are inexpensive and a relatively easy fix. Each spring, pull off your mower’s spark plug wire and remove the spark plug with a spark plug wrench or deep socket wrench. If you see dirt or signs of corrosion, spray the plug with brake cleaner, let it sit for a few minutes, and gently brush it clean with a wire brush. If your mower won’t start at all or continues to run poorly after you clean the spark plug, the plug may be bad. To replace the spark plug, checking your owner’s manual first to be sure you buy the right plug for your mower. Because spark plugs are relatively inexpensive, some people choose to simply replace their plugs yearly to save time and effort.
- Check/replace the air filter – Dirty air filters put extra stress on the motor and decrease fuel efficiency. Air filters are inexpensive and easily accessed. This should be added to your yearly maintenance.
- Clean out the deck – The undercarriage, underside, or deck of your mower tends to collect grass clippings and dirt, which can interfere with its functionality and potentially lead to corrosion. Take a wire brush and scrape grass and dirt away from the undercarriage followed by a good rinse with the hose. Remember to disconnect the spark plug for safety whenever you are working underneath the mower.
- Sharpen/replace the blade – Blades take quite the beating from rocks, large sticks and other hidden objects. Dull blades rip grass instead of allowing a clean cut. This is, again, yearly maintenance that should be addressed before the first cut of the season.Sharpening a blade can be done with a metal file, sharpening stone, or a motorized grinder. If you feel uncomfortable with this approach, a mower repair shop or hardware shop will usually sharpen them for a small fee. Or you can replace it all together.
Hang on to your Owner’s Manual and freely refer to it as needed. Owner’s manuals have product and model-specific information to ensure the longevity of your machine. Professional tune-ups are another option as well. A lawn mower repair shop will drain the old gas from the mower, replace the air filter and spark plug and perform basic diagnostic tests.
Here a few How-To Basics to remember when it comes to mowing your lawn:
- Don’t Cut Wet Grass – Wet grass tears, instead of cutting; Similar to using a dull blade. Wet grass will also end up in clumps all over the yard and can clog your mower.
- Mix Up Mowing Direction – One week, try mowing north to south. The following week try mowing east to west. This can help prevent ruts from forming and encourages grass to grow thicker.
- Set the Cutting Height to at Least 1-1/2″ – Taller grass not only retains moisture better, but allows the root system to “grab” the soil more efficiently. This equals a healthier lawn.
- Use a Grass Catcher – It is recommended to use a grass catcher for the FIRST and LAST cut of the season. Utilize the mulching feature the rest of the season to reduce yard waste and replenish nutrients back into the yard.