From the Vine: Mower Maintenance

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A riding lawnmower is an expensive investment for maintaining your lawn. Gas powered riding mowers can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $13,000. Properly maintaining your lawnmower at the end of the mowing season is essential to ensure it runs smoothly when you need it next spring and will help to protect your investment. Here is a step-by-step guide to winterizing your lawnmower.

Before starting any work or maintenance on your mower, make sure to cut the mower off and remove the key to prevent any unwanted starts. You can also disconnect the battery cable or spark plug wire as an added safety measure. Wait for the engine to cool down if it has been recently used.

Begin by cleaning the mower to remove any dirt, grass clippings, or debris that may have built up on the deck, undercarriage, and blades. Use a brush or scraper to dislodge stubborn debris, and a hose or pressure washer to rinse it off. Avoid spraying water directly into the engine or any electrical components.

Refer to your lawn mowers owner’s manual for specific instructions on oil changing intervals and the type of oil to use. Typically, you’ll need to remove the oil drain plug located underneath the mower and drain the used oil into an oil pan suitable container. If your mower has an oil filter, remove the oil filter and pour the oil into the oil pan. Spread some oil on the rubber O-ring of the new filter with your finger and install. Replace the drain plug and refill the engine with the recommended oil to the proper level.

Check the air filter by removing the air filter cap and inspecting. Some air filters can be blown out with an air hose, and some need replacing. If there is any question about the cleanliness of your air filter, replace it. A clean air filter is crucial for the engine to run efficiently.

Remove the spark plug with a spark plug wrench. Inspect the spark plug for signs of wear, corrosion, or fouling. If it is in poor condition, replace it. It’s generally a good idea to replace the spark plug at the beginning or end of each mowing season.

Empty the fuel tank to remove any old gasoline. Stale gasoline can lead to engine problems and ethanol gas can attract water. To minimize issues with fuel, you should use either ethanol-free gas in our lawn mower or fuel that has the least amount of ethanol content possible. Make sure to avoid any gas labeled E-15 because 15% ethanol gas may damage small engines. Another option is to select a precision-engineered fuel that doesn’t contain any ethanol. You can find a wide variety of these fuels that are ready to use in 4-cycle engines at automotive and big box stores. Remove and replace the fuel filter and inspect the fuel hoses for cracks and brittleness. Replace fuel lines if needed.

Start the engine and let it run until it runs out of fuel. This helps prevent any residual fuel from gumming up the carburetor during storage. Recheck the oil level and add to the full line if needed.

Lubricate the moving parts such as the wheel bearings, deck pulleys, height adjustment mechanism, steering arms, and all other grease fittings with the recommended lubricant. Remove the mower blades and sharpen them and check for balance. If you are uncomfortable sharpening mower blades, you can replace them.

Inspect engine and deck belts for signs of wear and tear. Replace any with damaged parts. If you have a serpentine belt, make sure that you draw a diagram of the way the belt is removed from the pulley system. If the belts look to be in good shape, apply a belt conditioner to them. Check control cables for tightness and signs of wear. Replace or tighten as needed.

Check the tires for wear and proper inflation. Keeping tire pressures at correct levels will increase performance and efficiency, minimize tire wear, and improve cut quality by keeping the deck level.

Finally, store in a cool, dry place. A shed or garage is ideal. Cover with a tarp or cover to protect it from dust and moisture.

For more information on lawns, and proper mowing heights, visit the Sampson County Home and Garden Resources webpage and download a lawn maintenance calendar for your specific grass species. The lawn maintenance calendars can be found online

Lawn Mower