Springtime isn’t the time to make repairs and do maintenance on your landscape tools. A good time to do it is now, during the winter when you don’t need to use them. Come spring, your lawn and landscape plants will burst forth and start growing regardless of whether or not your mower and other tools are ready.
Your mower is, arguably, your most valuable piece of outdoor power equipment, and requires preventive maintenance at least once a year. The best time to do this maintenance is in the fall before putting the mower away for the winter. The worst time is in the spring when you need it to cut grass. If you didn’t do it last fall, that leaves winter – now.
A push mower needs only an oil change, new spark plug, blade sharpening and under deck cleaning. You may also have belts and cables to check on a self-propelled walk behind. Riders are a bit more complicated. Check your owner’s manual for your brand’s maintenance requirements.
On a warm winter day or in a heated garage, doing mower maintenance on a push or self-propelled mower is easy. Start by cleaning the underside of the deck. Tip the mower over on its side and scrape any accumulation of grass clippings off with a putty knife. I do this first because you have to remove the blade to sharpen it, the oil drain is on the underside of almost all mowers and I’d rather work under a clean deck.
To sharpen the blade, remove it, being careful to note where the washers and shims go so you can replace them in the proper order. Place the blade in a vice and file the cutting edge until sharp. Try to remove approximately the same amount of metal from each side since the blade needs to be balanced. You can buy an inexpensive balancing tool at a hardware store or mower dealer. Just place the blade on the balancer. If it isn’t level, remove a little more metal from the side that hangs lower. When the blade is balanced, replace it. Be sure it’s tight. A blade can do a lot of damage to you and your surroundings if it comes loose and flies off.
Next, put a little gas in the mower, take it outside and run the engine until it warms up enough for the oil to flow. Then, prop it up so you can remove the drain plug. Put a pan under the drain, remove the plug and drain the oil. Replace the plug and fill the crank case with oil before you forget it.
Also, open the air cleaner, remove the filter and check to see how dirty it is. If it’s dirty, replace it.
Finally, remove the spark plug. If it still has plenty of electrode, clean it with sandpaper. Read the instruction book that came with the mower for the proper spark plug gap. Check the gap and adjust it if necessary, reinstall the plug, attach the wire and start the engine to be sure everything works.
Don’t forget to check your handheld power equipment like string trimmers. Most of these tools have two cycle engines so you don’t have to change the oil. However, spark plugs get carbon on the electrodes faster than they do in four cycle engines like the one in your mower. So, check the spark plug and replace if necessary. Check the air cleaner and replace the filter if it’s dirty.
If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, take the mower to a mower shop. But do it now. They get pretty busy as we get closer to spring.