Lawn Mower Spring Tune-Up

For some reason, we notice people take care of their car, their home, and a wide variety of other things that need regular maintenance. But somehow many folks seem to neglect taking care of their lawn mower.

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The thing is, if you know how to tune up your lawn mower, you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself, especially when it comes time to take care of your lawn. Make sure you follow the basic lawn mower spring tune-up steps each year to extend the life of your lawn mower.

Air Filter:

Mowers use one of two filter elements, either a pleated paper style, or a foam rubber type. If your mower uses a paper filter, you can remove it, blast it thoroughly with compressed air, and then reinstall it. For the foam rubber style filter, you should wash it thoroughly with water and detergent soap and let it completely dry before reinstalling. A few drops of a light oil should be applied to the filter element and it’ll do much a better job of catching dust.

Oil Change:

While there may only be about a quart of oil in the engine crankcase of your lawn mower. It is quite simple, it doesn’t even have an oil pump, instead they rely on splash oiling from dippers on the crankshaft counterweights. Most single-piston push mowers also lack an oil filter, and while your mower runs in some dirty, dusty conditions, monitoring the oil condition is important. Just like with your car’s engine, dirty oil that’s full of particles will speed up the wear of your mower’s engine. Drain it and refill with motor oil containing a detergent before the lawn care season starts. Most push mower engines, it’s a matter of just removing the oil filler plug and tipping the mower over to let the crankcase drain. The location on newer engines may differ slightly, so check your owner’s manual for details.

Spark Plug(s):

That spark plug sees some hard use, and is both inexpensive and simple to change, might as well do it annually. Most spark plugs for lawn mowers have a pre-set electrode gap. It is a good idea to check the specs and gap it with a feeler gauge anyways. The good news is that it is easy to access unlike on some automotive engines. The most difficult part you might have to do is to remove an engine cover. You can remove and install the spark plug using an automotive spark plug socket that has a rubber insert in the base to grip the insulator. Be sure to carefully thread them in and torque the new plug down tightly.

Cutting Blade(s):

The implement that does the actual effective work here is surprisingly one that gets neglected far too often. When it comes to lawn mower maintenance you want a good, sharp blade that cuts the grass instead of ripping or tearing it. This is why removing and having the blades sharpened should be done annually since the blade takes a pretty good beating – especially if you ever hit rocks or sticks in your yard.

For safety’s sake, remember to disconnect the spark plug before removing the blade. The last thing you want is the mower to accidentally start from torque on the crankshaft which would turn the engine over. It is best to mark the blade so you know which side is supposed to face downward. If you have the tools, you can sharpen it using a stone, grinding attachment, or file, or if you really want the best-quality edge, take it to a shop that specializes in sharpening.

Clean Underneath the Mower Deck:

The mowing deck tends to get a pretty nasty build-up of cut dead grass over a the season. It’s best to get rid of that buildup by hosing it down with water. The water will soften it up. Afterwards you can go after it with a putty knife or scraper while the cutting blade is off. To prevent further grass accumulation on the underside of the deck, use a silicone lubricant spray on the whole deck surface alternatively a good cooking spray will work!

Carburetor:

Hopefully, you’ve drained the fuel in your lawn mower last year, and won’t have trouble with your carburetor. It’s a good idea to lubricate the choke linkage and shoot some carburetor cleaner down the bore. If you notice any sediment or other junk that’s may be causing the float to stick or causing any other problems, that should be enough to loosen everything up again. If your carburetor is gummed up and is refusing to start the engine, use some starting fluid, unscrew the plug, and fog a little bit in the cylinder as well. It is also possible to remove the fuel bowl from the carburetor to clean that out as well. If these suggestions all fail, you now know how to remove the carburetor and install another one. Fortunately they are generally fairly inexpensive.

Riding or Push Mower?

For smaller lawns, the tried-and-true is still the old favorite push mower. It’s simple, compact, and reliable. They are available with a self-propelled option for slightly larger lawns.

Others prefer a riding lawn mower and some use >0.5-1 acre as a guidepost of when to consider the switch to a ride-on lawn tractor, which is available in anything from the most simple, bare-bones model to a bells-and-whistles one with headlights, armrests, a comfy seat, and even cupholders. A riding mower needs a bit more maintenance, so add the following to your list:

  • Check the¬†battery and cables. Put the battery on a battery tender (trickle charger)¬†during the winter to make it last longer.
  • Inspect all tires for condition and proper inflation if they are cracking or loosing pressure, but have remaining tread, consider running an inner-tube. For non-pneumatic (air-free) tires, check for straightness (trueness) and clean and inspect any lubrication points or wheel bearings.
  • Clean the discharge chute and bagger attachments, inspecting them for condition.
  • Look at the condition and test the tension of all the drive belts for the mower deck, check for cracks, or chips and chunks missing from the belt – replace if the tension is too low or cracking is evident, if the new belt is still loose, check the spring tensioners.
  • Some also offer other attachments which could extend its useful life well into the winter with a snow blower setup.

Now you know how to tune up a lawn mower, go enjoy a cool beverage, and take a little break and then start on that lawn!

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