It’s time to throw off the covers and get that lawn mower working like new. First, you have to get it nice and clean, and not just to look good for the neighbors. You’ll want to get under the deck and clean the blades for optimal performance.
We recommend you make sure your mower cannot start while you clean it. Disconnecting the spark plug is an easy way to make sure the machine doesn’t start while you’re cleaning it. Get a rag and clean the whole deck. Leftover grass on the blades is important to get rid of for better cutting action. Also, cleaning grass off the exterior of the mower can make your mower look brand new. Don’t use steel wool on your mower, otherwise you can scratch the paint or damage the machine.
If you have rust forming on your machine, remove the rust and paint over the area. Apply some rust dissolver on there and scrub it off your machine. You may need to use a more abrasive material like sandpaper to get it out.
Lawn mowers need an oil change too. You don’t have to take it to your dealer either. It’s a pretty simple process. Give your mower an oil change before every season and then once every 250-500 hours after that.
First, you need a container to catch the oil. Then you pull the drain plug, allowing the old oil to spill into your container. Then you should replace the plug before you fill your mower with new oil. Change your oil filter whenever you change your oil or at least once a season. Check your machine’s manual for the best oil to use.
Walk behind mowers are a little trickier when it comes to oil changes. The drain plug may be tough to grab, so you may need to tilt your unit to get the oil to spill out. Replacing the oil is the same as it is for riding mowers.
Spark Plug Inspection
You can’t start your mower without a spark plug. Make sure your spark plugs are working properly before you try to cut your lawn for the first time this season. Take a look at your spark plug, pull it out, check for rust or damage, and make sure that the gap is set properly. Check with your mower manual to make sure everything is as it should be.
If there is rust or any damage on the spark plug, you should replace it before you use your mower. There are several kinds of spark plugs that you can use for your mower. When you can’t start your mower, the first thing you should check is your spark plug. That’s probably the culprit.
Air Filters & Belts
Air filters are an important part of your mower’s performance. You should replace air filters every season and check if they need to be cleaned every month. If your machine has a paper air filter, you need to watch out for water damage. We recommend you use a cloth filter if available for your mower.
Check your belts before and at the end of every season. Make sure to have a backup belt in your garage so you don’t have to push your mower back to the garage. Inspect your belt for cracks or dry spots. If you see any damage to the belt, replace it with a new one. You can maintain your belt to last longer by spraying belt dressing to help prevent drying and cracking. Apply this belt dressing every month or two.
If your belt is losing its tension, you should tighten it to avoid damage to your mower. Make sure your mower is turned off before tightening or replacing the blade. You’ll need a 10-millimeter wrench or one around that size to tighten the bolts. Check your mower manual for further instructions.
Check your mower blades to make sure they are giving you the best cut. If they look dull or you notice the cut is inconsistent, check your blades. Make sure your blades are not engaged before your inspection. You can use a metal file or blade sharpening attachment to sharpen your blades.
Blades should only be sharpened 3 or 4 times before you need to replace them. If there is any damage to the blades, give yourself permission to buy a new set of mower blades. Buy a new set of mower blades, not just a single blade as the balance can be thrown off if 2 of the 3 have been sharpened or worn down. It’s better for your lawn and your mower.
Checking your riding mower’s balance is something everybody forgets about. Unbalanced mowers can lead to all sorts of problems. Uneven cuts don’t just look bad, they can scalp your lawn and lead to more difficult growth later in the season. Watch out for these signs as you mow; it’s probably because the unit’s balance is off.
You’ll need a pair of wrenches, a ruler, and level concrete. You can start by parking the mower, disengaging the blades and moving the deck all the way up. Next, rotate the blades to the side and measure if the difference between the ends of the blades is over 1/8”.
If so, then you will need to turn the lift link lock until the blades are even, measuring each full turn (typically adjusts about 3/16” per full rotation). This is typically in front of one of the rear wheels or on a deck hanger. Once the height of the deck and the ground are within 1/8” then you are halfway done. Once you have made sure that the side to side and front to back measurements are within 1/8” of each other your deck is balanced.
Test Drive Your Mower
Reconnect the spark plugs, lower your blades, and start your engines. Now’s the time for a test drive. When you mow your lawn for the first time, look for any inconsistencies in the cut and if you hear any strange noises, take another look and see if there’s something wrong under the hood or under the deck.
Are you looking for tools to maintain your mower, or want to shop for a new one? Fleet Farm is your lawn care headquarters. Take a look at our lawn care lineup and visit us at FleetFarm.com or stop by a store near you.