Lawnmower Tune-up Tips
You cut your lawn. Put the mower away. Went in to have a cool drink and then discovered that what was once a green and beautiful lawn is now a bright white patch of something else! What’s wrong here you ask? A dull lawnmower blade – that’s what.
When grass is torn by a dull lawnmower blade (instead of cleanly cut with a sharp one), the result is frayed edges of grass that dry out and turn white. This would be like the difference between a slice with a surgeon’s scalpel and a rip with Captain Hooks Claw. If the bad coloring wasn’t enough each torn blade of grass renders a lawn susceptible to disease – kind of like what would happen if you had an open wound. Looked into the cost of a new lawn lately? And you don’t even want to think about how much work a replacement would be.
Unfortunately, the blade isn’t the only part of the mower that you must maintain each season. This is especially true if you own a gas-powered mower. Getting ready for this years cutting and edging will require lots of preparation.
Even a sharp blade can do some damage if it isn’t spinning fast enough. That’s right! A sharp blade that is turning slowly is just as bad as a dull one that is spinning at the proper speed. When the grass is too long or when the lawn mower motor isn’t running just right the blade turns slower. This is when even a sharp blade can tear your lawn to pieces. That’s why a mower should always be properly tuned – to keep the blade running fast and smooth.
Actually, a tune up can save you big bucks in lots of ways. First, a well-tuned motor burns fuel more efficiently. This equates to lower fuel costs, more horsepower and greatly reduced emissions. Hey, a well-tuned motor even runs a little quieter. But there’s more. When a motor runs properly it lasts longer. Engine replacement is a really big cost that you’ll want to avert.
Besides a full-blown tune up you will want to perform regular maintenance as well.
- Check Oil. Check the oil level before every use. Make sure it is filled to the mark on the dipstick. Don’t overfill. The experts say that you should change oil after every 50 hours of operation. We think it’s a good habit to drain and replace the oil in your mower at the beginning of every season – along with the tune-up.
- Change Air Filter. The experts say that you should change your air filter at least every 3 months or after 25 hours of use. Go back and read that sentence again with an emphasis on the at least. If you live in a sandy area you might want to change your air filter monthly. Keep in mind that cleaning your air filter can be helpful, but there is no acceptable substitution for replacement.
- Use Clean Fuel. Talk about a slow, sloppy running motor? All you have to do is use old gas. Yuck! Use fresh gas and keep it in a well-sealed can.
- Check Blades. Periodically inspect the blade for wear or damage and have it professionally sharpened at least once a year. Yes, it is OK for you to sharpen the blade. However, having a pro bring it up to snuff once in a while might end up saving money in the long run. By the way, if you own a riding mower be careful not to leave the blades engaged while the mower is stopped. This can stretch the drive belt and result in decreased belt life.
- Spark Plug. Replace or clean the spark plug after every 100 hours of use. Again, if you don’t use your mower for 100 hours in a season you may want to replace the plug after each year of use anyway. Another good item to take care of during a tune-up.
Cleaning is another maintenance task that has great importance.
- Clean Blade Housing. Build up can occur inside the blade housing. Wet grass sticks to itself like glue. Another yuck! Use a wooden stake is sturdy enough to loosen such build up and it won’t damage the paint job that prevents from rust. Remember that a slow blade can result when grass build up occurs in the blade housing. Remember what we said about a slow blade not cutting properly?
- Spray vegetable oil in blade housing to prevent mud and grass build up and to reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do.
- Keep Engine Clean. The engine must always be clean and free of all debris – yes – including mud. Lawnmower engines are air-cooled and can only cool when the engine parts can get to the air and visa-versa. An overheated engine can cook in a matter of minutes.
Most importantly, keep all of your garden equipment stored in a sheltered area to prevent water in the fuel and rust everywhere else. And, that’s all there is to it.