8 maintenance tips to keep your lawn mower running
Regular, preventive maintenance will prolong the life of your lawn mower. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
Few pieces of lawn equipment take a beating like the lawn mower, yet this popular appliance is often neglected until it won't start or something breaks.
A lack of preventive maintenance almost guarantees an early death for your lawn mower, but you don't have to be a mechanic to keep it buzzing all summer long.
1. Read the owner’s manual. "It tells you how the maker of your mower wants you to take care of it," says Chris Arvin, owner of highly rated Mow Better in Greenfield, Ind. "It’s in their best interest to keep you, the customer happy with their product so when it finally wears out in 10-15 years, you’ll buy another."
2. Drain the gasoline at the end of each mowing season. Lawn mower repair technicians say old gasoline is one of the main suspects when a mower won’t start. Arvin says you should run the remaining gas out of the mower or drain it at the end of each mowing season, and always use fresh gas in the spring.
3. Check the oil. Monitor the oil level in your mower and look for floating debris or oil that is dark black in color. Old or contaminated oil should be drained and replaced. To change the oil, remove the drain plug underneath the mower and allow it to drain completely. Be sure to consult your owner's manual for the correct type of oil to use.
4. Clean out the undercarriage. Grass can get caked in the undercarriage potentially clogging the mower’s discharge chute. Use a wire brush to scrape grass clippings and dirt from the undercarriage and spray the remaining debris away with a hose. As a safety precaution, always disconnect the spark plug before working around the undercarriage.
5. Inspect the air filter. A clogged or dirty air filter puts added stress on the mower and burns gas less efficiently. Most lawn mowers have a paper or foam air filter that can be easily accessed. Replacement air filters are inexpensive so most pros recommend an annual replacement to ensure optimal performance.
6. Change the spark plug. Like the air filter, the spark plug is extremely important to a functioning lawn mower, yet inexpensive and easy to replace. Change the spark plug every year to ensure an easy start. Unhook the spark plug wire and remove the old plug with a socket or spark plug wrench. Install the new plug but make sure not to over tighten it or it could prevent the mower from starting.
7. Sharpen the blade. Mower blades endure a great deal of stress thanks to rocks, large branches and other hidden objects. A dull blade rips and tears grass instead of providing a clean cut. Some people sharpen their own blades with a vice and metal file, but it's not recommended for the inexperienced. A mower repair shop can sharpen your blade for a small fee, and it's usually included with mower tuneup.
8. Get a professional tuneup. It's a great way to ensure your mower is in top working order for the mowing season. 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.
For a quick turnaround, take your mower in at the close of the mowing season or before spring grasses start to grow. Prices will vary depending on the shop, but you can expect to pay between $50 and $75 for a tuneup.
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For more information and mowing tips, visit the Angie's List guide to lawn care.