When it comes to lawn mowers the best defense against summer breakdowns is a good maintenance routine. This starts with getting your lawn mower up and ready right away in the spring. If you do run into any problems, you can get on top of them before your lawn grows out of control. At the very least you can get into the repair shop early, ahead of all the other people whose lawn mowers went on the fritz over the long cold winter.
Spring lawn mower maintenance is absolutely critical. Especially if you didn’t necessarily do the best job of putting your lawn mower away in the winter. Not to mention the very real threat of rodent issues or even mold problems developing under the mower deck. This is the time to really give your lawn mower a thorough going over to make sure it is working like a clock all summer long.
Drain The Fuel
Old gas that has separated or destabilized is one of the common reasons a lawn mower won’t start in the spring. Residue can settle, enter the fuel line and choke the engine. This is especially important after it hasn’t been used in a while. (You know, like after you read this article because you really don’t want to do any of this.)
If your oil has been sitting all winter long, then chances are it’s gummed up. Especially if you didn’t change the oil near the end of the previous summer, and left it to sit all winter long with dirty used oil in the engine.
Change The Spark Plug
While you’re changing the oil, you should also take the time to check the spark plug and replace it. This will give you the best chances of your mower running smoothly all summer long. You might need a torque wrench to do this, but it’s worth the time and effort. You can usually get a replacement spark plug for a lawn mower at an auto parts store for next to nothing.
Clean The Carburetor
As long as you’re changing the oil and checking or replacing the spark plug, you might as well go the full 9 yards to check and/or clean the carburetor. Especially if you have an older two-stroke lawn mower, where the engine is highly prone to carburetor buildup.
Replace Or Clean The Air Filter
An engine that can’t get sufficient air intake not only runs poorly, but it is far more likely to overheat and dies an early death. Sometimes you can carefully clean an air filter to restore proper air intake into the carburetor. Though with an older model, you might need to completely replace the air filter with an aftermarket alternative.
Sharpen & Clean The Mower Blades
Mower blades go through a lot more than grass. Sticks, stray stones and stuff your kids forgot in the middle of the lawn can all ting to the cutting edge. Not to mention the risk of surface rust developing on the edges of the blades over the long winter.
This typically means removing the blades from under the cutting deck and hand sharpening them with a metal file. If you have a power grinder and you are proficient with it, you might be able to do the job quicker.
If the blades have been through many serious sharpening, they are cracked or badly dinged, you might need to replace them completely. Especially if you are dealing with a mower that has thin blades like you often find on some electric models. Check out our lawn mower blade sharpening guide here.
Clean The Deck & Check The Belts
While you are checking the blades, take the time to also check the belts that power their rotation. If you see any cracks or signs of excess wear and tear, you should seriously consider replacing the belts.
Of course, this is also a great time to give the cutting deck a good cleaning. Scraping away all the old organic matter and stuck-on grass clippings will go a long way toward preventing rust issues. It can even help eliminate the mold problems that afflict so many bagging mowers later in the summer months.
You can usually clean the underside of your cutting deck with a putty knife and perhaps an old tablespoon. If you have a newer lawn mower with a deck washing feature, you can give it a quick power wash to get everything looking clean and new.
Lubricate All The Moving Parts
Regular use and abuse from last season can leave your mower’s moving parts unlubricated. In times like this, you need to pull out the old grease gun and meticulously grease every single grease port you can find. Just be modest with the amount you use. Too much grease injected into the system can make a terrible mess and foul other components.
Air Up The Tires
If your mower has pneumatic tires, then chances are good they have lost some air pressure over the freeze-thaw cycle of the winter. Take the time to check each tire and pump it back up as needed.
Charge The Battery
If you have a riding lawn mower or lawn tractor, then you need to recharge the battery at the start of each spring. Then check the charge to make sure the cold temperatures of the winter haven’t killed your battery. If it isn’t performing properly, then you need to replace it in the spring to keep it from fouling a mowing session deeper into the summer.
Maintaining Your Mower During The Summer Season
While getting your mower off to a good start with spring maintenance is essential, you still need to take the time to clean and maintain your mower properly during the summer season. This includes things like:
You should change the oil in your lawn mower every 50 hours. This will rid the system of that dirty oil wearing down your engine from the inside. Yes, you might get your hands dirty.
Replace The Oil Filter
Every time you change the oil on your lawn mower, you also need to change or replace the oil filter. Otherwise, your oil change is doing little to get sediment and particle matter out of the engine system. You’ll just end up with dirty oil again and a higher risk of carburetor and spark plug problems. Make sure you choose the right oil for your lawn mower to keep everything running to peak performance.
Clean The Discharge Chute & Deck
Grass clippings and other organic matter can build up over the course of a single mowing session. So, make sure to take the time to clean the discharge chute and the underside of the cutting deck after every time you cut the grass. This will go a long way toward preventing grass mold issues and rust problems.