Whether you have a riding mower, walk behind push mower, or a self-propelled mower, giving it a good once over before each use is only good sense. By checking the unit over, an issue may be found. If an issue is caught early, the repair is often cheaper and easier. The check is also a good safety measure; you never know what you could find. Also, refer to the owner’s manual for safety and maintenance tips.
Safety is the first tip; always use caution whenever using any type of power equipment. Even though it may be hot outside, always wear long pants when using a lawnmower or trimmer. The debris that is thrown up from a trimmer is like getting stung by a bunch of bees (or even worse). Lawn mowers can possibly kick up mower debris. Never remove safety guards or shields, they are there for a reason. Also, wear some kind of eye protection.
Check the basics first; for example, check the owner’s manual to see if it has the correct amount and type of oil in the engine. When was the last time the oil was changed? If the oil needs to be changed, most mowers have a drain plug on the side or the bottom of the engine. If this is a walk-behind mower, use caution when tipping the mower. The best way to tip a mower is so that the spark plug is up in the air. If the engine is tipped in any other way, gas and oil will get into places that you do not want it to. If after tipping a lawnmower over, you start it and a lot of smoke (I mean enough that you will not have a mosquito problem for a month) comes pumping out of the engine, you tipped it the wrong way.
While the unit is tipped over, check the blade condition. There are three main parts to a blade: the edge, the sail, and the body. Depending upon if the blade is a mulching or non-mulching, the body will either be wavy or flat. The edge of the blade should be sharp (not ginsu sharp) but sharp enough. If it is dull, the grass will be ripped off instead of cut off. A few days after cutting your grass, look at the tips of the grass. Are they green or brown? If brown, the blade is dull. Next check the sail of the blade. This is directly behind the edge of the blade. The sail gives the grass lift. If you have a bagging system on the mower, you need more lift. Unfortunately, sand and other debris will eat the sail very quickly. So much so that it will become thin and could snap off while the mower is in use and cause damage or injury. When in doubt, replace the blade.
If you need to remove the blade for sharpening or replacement, remove the spark plug wire before doing any work. Using a block of wood, wedge the wood between the edge of the deck shell and the blade. This will allow you to loosen and tighten the blade bolt. When tightening the bolt, make sure that the blade lines up with any alignment pins/wedges/grooves before torqueing down the blade. All blade bolts get torqued down to specific tightness; DO NOT GUESS! This is very important for safety reasons. Refer to the owner’s manual for the correct torque.
There are other items to check like:
- Air filter - This should be done several times a season especially if you live in a dusty area.
- Wheels – The bearing area of a wheel will wear over time. Check to see if there is any side to side play. If so, either replace the wheel or the bearing. Check the air pressure as well. This will affect the cutting performance.
- Handles – Always make sure that the handles are tight and not broken at the mounting area. Vibration can loosen and crack the bolts and handles.
- Cables – Cables will stretch over time. Some are adjustable; if they are, about ½” of slack is about normal. Never leave a cable tight as this will keep the item engaged partially.
- Engine – Check the engine mounting bolts as the vibration of the engine can cause them to come loose.
- Belts – Belts will wear out and stretch over time. Check the owner’s manual for the proper tension and adjusting.
- Deck – While mowing, the blades throw around debris, like sticks and rocks. Over time, parts of the deck shell can get worn out and holes can appear. Unfortunately, this is when the deck must get replaced.
Spending 5 minutes checking these items will provide a safe mowing environment and help catch any potential issue early before they can become a serious issue.
To keep the engine running smoothly, remember to use Ethanol Shield in the gas at all times. This will prevent ethanol related issues like phase separation, deteriorated fuel lines, and carburetor repairs. For the gold standard in fuel protection, use the Gasoline Tank Snake as well as Ethanol Shield. Together, water and ethanol issues are a thing of the past.