Two hours now will save you time and money later
Getting Your Lawn Mower Ready for Use
by Benjamin Roussey
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Spending time outdoors is something we all look forward to during the summer, especially after a long, dreary winter mostly spent cooped up inside the house. As the snow melts and you can see your yard, the first thing you will probably notice is how tall the grass has grown while you were busy trying to stay warm indoors. So, now it is time to get that lawn mower out of storage and put it to use.
If you are conscientious about preventative maintenance of your gardening equipment, you are sure to have done the necessary preparation before storing your lawn mower for the winter. Before you use your lawn mower for the first time after a long period of letting it sit idle, you must ensure that it is in working condition. Here are some tips that might not be detailed in the owner's manual that you received with your mower.
Take a Sharp Look
Inspect the mower closely for any parts that might have come loose, especially the bolts, blades, and fasteners. The tires and wheels must also be checked for any serious damage. If there are any parts that need to be fastened or replaced, do that first before you proceed to check out the rest of the mower.
Fuel and Oil
If you had not emptied the lawn mower of fuel before storing it and there is still some remaining in the tank, then first empty it. Moisture or water might have gotten into it and this is not a good thing. Also, the gas can turn stale and break down leading to issues with the lawn mower.
There are treatments available that you can use to help stabilize the gasoline, but if it has been in the mower for 90 days or more, then the best option is to discard the fuel. Using fresh fuel will help you optimize the performance. The next thing you need to check is the oil, and for this, you will have to first locate the oil plug. Using a high quality synthetic motor oil can help provide marvelous protection against corrosion.
You do not want to save a few dollars on oil but then realize that cheap oil has just cost you a fine machine that you now have to replace at the same time many other people are looking for a lawn mower or an upgrade. This only means the prices for lawn mowers are going to be at their highest.
Spark Plug and Filters
It is always a smart move to replace the spark plug with a new one every year especially since it does not cost you too much to do so. Remember to put a few drops of engine oil in the slot before putting in the new plug. The air, fuel, and oil filters will have to be inspected and replaced if needed. Air filters are available in a wide range of materials and shapes. Paper or cardboard filters will have to be replaced while foam or sponge ones can be cleaned and reused.
You can just soak the air filter in some warm, soapy water and squeeze dry it before placing it back in. The frequency with which you need to clean the filter will depend on the geographical location you are located in. In dry and dusty regions, the cleaning will have to be done more frequently but you may not have too much lawn to mow, considering the terrain you live in. Either way, if you do have a lawn in an environment like this, such as in the southwest, you need to take care of your mower. Furthermore, a clean filter increases the performance of your lawn mower significantly.
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Cables and Blades
Next on your checklist are the cables which will have to be adjusted depending on their use. You should also check the belts and replace any that are worn or damaged. There is a possibility of grass buildup under the belt and this buildup needs to be cleared before you can operate the lawn mower. This problem occurs more frequently when trimming long or wet grass.
The blades of the mower need to be sharpened. Dull blades result in rough cutting of the grass, which can then lead to the lawn being vulnerable to sun damage as well as disease. One option is keeping a spare pair of blades handy so you can have the other pair sharpened. The sharpening can be done by yourself or professionally.
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Cleaning and Lubrication
In the event you had not cleaned the lawn mower before storing it, it is highly possible that there is quite a bit of debris on it. You can clean it with some soap and water before you start trimming the lawn for summer. The motor and the deck must be checked properly to ensure that all the dirt and grass has been removed. Failure to do so will only result in more debris buildup, which gets tougher to clean the longer it stays. Last but not least is lubrication, which will help your lawn mower work efficiently while increasing its lifetime. All the moving parts of the machine including wheel bearings must be lubricated frequently to ensure they function smoothly when you need them to.
Doing all this will not take more than an hour or two of your time, but it can save you a lot of effort and money in the long run. Remember this is a machine just like your car. You have to maintain a lawn mower just like you do your own car. (Obviously a car is more expensive and the maintenance schedule is different.)
Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA, and grew up doing all varieties of home improvement projects around the home since his parents did not hire contractors or outside help to maintain their home or vehicles. As a result, he has acquired a multitude of home handyman skills in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and everything in between. He also has two Masters degrees and he served four years in the U.S. Navy.
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