Ah, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the dandelions are mobilizing on their annual campaign to take over your yard. Spring is here. Now that Mother Nature is awakening from a Winter nap, it is time to prepare yourself for taking things in hand and keeping the lawn under control. This means bringing the trusty family mower back from its annual exile in the garage or storage shed. Before actually using the mower though, there are several tips to minimize your efforts and get the best out of your lawn maintenance activities.
Over the course of a Spring and Summer spent cutting grass, regardless of the quality of the lawn mower’s filters, impurities will find their way into the gas and oil. As the lawn mower sits idle through the off season, these impurities will settle and form a sludge. This sludge will make the engine burn excess fuel and actually reduce the mower’s power. Draining and replacing fluids will ensure that the engine functions to its full potential.
Replace the Spark Plug(s)
The rule of thumb is that the spark plug(s) should be replaced after 100 hours of operation. Unless your mower is being used in a professional capacity, for most owners once a year is fine. A faulty plug is an insidious problem. Often they will fire but do so erratically. This results in the mower having less cutting power as the engine struggles to remain running. Remember, the spark plug is the initiator of the entire process that gives an engine power. Any problems there will carry through to every function of the lawn mower.
Replace the Air Filter
Engines function by burning fuel. Fuel requires air to burn. A clogged air filter will rob power from the lawn mower. The general rule for air filter replacement is every 25 hours of operation. For the average user, once to twice a year is usually enough, depending on the amount of dust in your particular area. Visually inspect the filter occasionally and replace if it appears to be clogged with debris. Not replacing a clogged air filter can actually result in engine damage as the intake system is placed under tremendous pressure to get the needed Oxygen.
Give the Mower a Bath
Clean the underside of the cutting deck and the engine thoroughly. Wet, freshly cut grass can harden into an incredibly tough mass over time. Having this mass gumming up the underside of the cutting deck can obstruct the blade(s) and clog the outlet chute. Either problem can result in your lawn mower losing power. For the engine, aside from possibly clogging the air intake, matted on grass particles provide insulation to the engine that results in its being unable to release heat as quickly as necessary. This could result in engine damage as parts overheat. In a worst case scenario, the lawn mower engine could literally burst into flames!
Replace Worn Belts and Hoses
Fluid hoses with nicks or dry rot could leak. Such leakage wastes money, robs the lawn mower of power, encourages debris to stick to the machine, and could present a fire hazard. With all the hazards they represent, the small price to replace old fluid hoses is a tiny cost. Worn belts should also be replaced. These will cause slippage that results in the mower losing power, and could send dangerous pieces flying through the air at high speeds if they fail completely. For the sake of safety and getting the most out of the lawn mower, replace these as soon as they show visible signs of wear.
Have Blades Sharpened or Replaced
For a lawn mower, the blade is where “the rubber meets the road”. This is the component of the mower that has the most direct effect on how cleanly the lawn mower cuts grass. A dull, worn blade will cut less efficiently than a sharp one. The result of a dull blade is the mower requiring more fuel to cut the same patch of grass, costing money. Plus, a lawn mower with a dull blade will require the operator to go more slowly to achieve the same results as a mower with a sharp blade. This adds time to a chore most people already dread.
A lawn mower is a homeowner’s number one tool in the effort to maintain a neat, attractive lawn. Ensuring that each major component of the mower is in good condition will make that tool as effective as possible.