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How Do I Care for My Mower?

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

If you have purchased or own your own mower, then there are a few things you should do to take care for and insure the life of your mower. Most mowers require weekly, monthly, and yearly maintenance to keep them running in optimal condition. Keep in mind that many of these things are only minor in duty but can determine the life-span of you mowers & trimmers. Note: if you are not mechanically inclined, there are those who can do the work for you at a nominal cost. Just click on: Lawn Mowers & Equipment Sales and Service in your Area to find a listings of mower service companies in your area. The following should serve as a guide for caring for your mower & trimmers:
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After Each Mowing:

After each mowing, wait until then engine cools and then use a hose to spray the clippings and grass debris that may be clinging to the underside of the deck of your mower (where the blade spins) Warning:
always make sure that your mower engine has stopped and if you have to put your hands near the deck that you have disconnected the spark-plug cable from the plug prior to cleaning. You can reconnect after cleaning. This will keep grass clippings from building up in the deck of the mower and help prevent clogging while bagging. This will also allow ample room for the mulching to take place while mowing.

Once a Month:

Spark Plug
Disconnect Spark Plug

It's a good idea to have the blade's of your mower sharpened once a month. If you mow more then 4 times a month, or run over rocks and debris that can dull the blade, then you may want to sharpen the blades more often. It can NOT be over emphasized the importance of mowing with a sharp blade! Dull blades can make your lawn look "dull" and uneven in appearance and can also lead to lawn diseases and excessive work for you and your mower. With a dull blade, your mower could even use up to 20% more fuel and you could spend a lot more time mowing your lawn then is ordinarily required. For a company who sharpens blades near you, see: Lawn Mowers & Equipment Sales and Service in your Area. Note: if you notice the blade has some major gashes or deformities, then it may be time to buy a new one. Don't despair if you need a new blade, most cost around $10 and are an inexpensive way to cut down on your mowing time and improve the look of your lawn. Once you or a repair service have completed your sharpening, you can simply reattach the blade and tighten-up the bolt.
Remove Blade from Mower
Remove Blade from Mower
Always remember when re-applying the blade that the sharp "cutting" end of the blade should be facing down, not up! Most mulching blades are twisted, so make sure that the sharp end is facing toward the ground.


After the last mowing of the year, when either the grass goes dormant, stops growing, or the snow falls, you will need to get your mower ready for storage. Most mowers have an instruction manual to follow, but if you don't have one, here are two things you can do prior to storage:
  1. Drain the remaining fuel from your mower. Warning: Always disconnect your spark plug connection prior to draining. In general, the longer your mower sits in storage, the more likely it is for your gas (either in the mower or can) to get bad. By draining the fuel from your mower, you are preventing the remaining fuel from aging and potentially going bad inside your mower engine and carburetor.
  2. Once the fuel has been drained, reconnect the spark plug wire and run the engine until it burns all remaining fuel and runs out of gas.

Spring Time:

Once your lawn starts to grow again, it's time to bring your mower out of hibernation. Once again, if you don't have your mower's owners manual, then there are a few things you can do to get your mower ready for the new season: Please note: If you are not mechanically inclined, you may want to take the mower to a local shop to do this work for you. To find a service and sales location near you, click: Lawn Mowers & Equipment Sales and Service in your Area.
Blade Sharpening
Blade Sharpening
  1. Change the oil in the mower. If you run a two-stroke engine, then your oil is already mixed in with the fuel and you can skip this step. Most smaller gas powered four-stroke engines tend to run a 30 weight oil. However, you should first check your owner's manual to find out what the manufacturer recommends, if possible. Most smaller engines also have a drain-plug located under the deck of the mower. Most decks have a small cut-out area on the bottom that exposes the bolt to drain the oil.
  2. Replace the spark plug. Most older spark plugs can fowl-up and should be replaced at least once a year.
  3. Replace the fuel filter (if present). Some smaller sized and older engines may not have a fuel filter. If your engine does, it is typically located on the fuel line between the tank and the carburetor. It's usually an off-white or black color.
  4. Replace the air filter. Engines need to breath, too! If you kick up a lot of dust and debris while mowing, then your filter could be choking your engine. In such cases, you may want to replace the air filter more then once during the year.
  5. If you have completed these steps and your mower still doesn't seem to run properly, then go back and make sure everything was completed correctly. If you still continue to have problems, then you may want to take your mower to a service center near you to get help: Lawn Mowers & Equipment Sales and Service in your Area. You may have a simple problem, such as a carburetor adjustment, or something more complicated, such as an internal engine problem. Either way, these people should have experience and can usually identify what the problem is based on a call or email.

Buying Tip:

When replacing your mower's spark plug, air filter, fuel filter, and blade, try taking them off the mower and with you to your local sales and service dealer so they can assist you in finding the right replacement part. Additionally, most air filters and spark plugs have a part number written on them so you can identify which replacement part you will need.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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