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Your grass is growing. Slowly, quietly it grows taller. Every day on your way to work you take note of its progress, vowing to cut it down when you have time. Late meetings, poor weather, and dinner appointments all conspire against you until that one evening arrives when the weather is perfect and your schedule is clear.
You pull out your lawnmower and heroicly pull on the starter cord…and nothing happens.
Again and again you attempt to start the mower.
You check the fuel level: full.
You check the oil level: good.
You check the that the choke is engaged, yes.
As you crank away it eventually begins to dawn on you that you’re going to spend this perfect day fixing the mower instead of mowing the lawn with it. But there are ways to prevent that from happening next time and next year when Spring and Summer roll around.
20 Minute lawn mower maintenance routine
With a little planning (buying gas, ordering parts) these steps can be completed in under 20 minutes. Simply go online and buy your supplies. You can have them delivered or even do site to store from Walmart.com to pick up the next time you’re there and since it’s already a one-stop shop in your busy life and currently on roll back. Both save you precious time before actually doing the work, plus we have found it to be less of a headache buying online because niche and hard-to-find items are offered online you might not be able to find in store.
6 ways to tune-up your lawnmower for mowing season
Change the air filter.
(5 minutes, $6-$10)
Mowing is a dirty job and an air filter can become quickly clogged with dirt and debris. During the season, they can be remove and tapped out or blown out with compressed air. However, starting the season with a new air filter is a relatively inexpensive way to insure clean and proper airflow to your engine.
Look on the side of your mower for a black plastic box. On the top or bottom of the box are tabs that, when pressed, will release the cover to the air filter box. Pull the air filter away from the engine to remoe. Press the new air filter onto the filter box and reinstall the cover.
Replace the spark plug
(5 minutes, $5-$15).
A fouled spark plug will prevent your mower from operating consistently and will need routine replacement. Thankfully, they are relatively inexpensive and readily available at local stores and online (search using your engine model number, not your lawnmower model number).
After warming up the lawnmower, use a wrench or spark-plug socket to gently unscrew the old plug. If you’d like, you can inspect the old spark plug for wear indications
Next, and very critically, carefully thread in the new spark plug until it seats; cross-threading your spark plug is one of the very worst things to do to your engine, so go slowly. Re-seat the wire/boot and you’re all set.
Change the oil.
(5-10 minutes, $5-$8).
The oil in your lawnmower needs changing just like the oil in your car to provide ideal engine operation and Pennzoil is a great way to clear out sludge from other oil you used last season. Oil is both drained and added through the oil tube sticking out from the side of the engine. To change the oil, first identify which side of the mower contains the oil tube and what you’ll use to catch the old oil; wide and shallow seems to work best.
Run the mower until the engine warms up, then shut it off. Remove the spark plug from the engine block and then remove the oil cap. Slowly turn the lawnmower on it’s side to drain the old oil through the oil tube.
Now is a good time to clean and oil the deck (below) and check the blade for nicks and cracks. Once the oil is reasonably drained, turn the mower right-side up and refill with your preferred weight and brand of oil (I use 10w30). Add oil slowly and measure frequently to make sure you don’t overfill; a syringe or straw can be used to remove oil if you add too much.
I used Pennzoil Platinum® 10W-30 full synthetic motor oil. Check your manual to see which oil weight is most appropriate for your specific mower. With PurePlus™ Technology, the Platinum® motor oil keeps pistons up to 40% cleaner than the toughest industry standard.
Clean and oil the deck.
(5-20 minutes, $1-$3)
Most lawnmower decks will begin to rust with use, here’s how to significantly slow it down. With the lawnmower on it’s side, inspect the bottom of the deck. Grass stuck to the bottom of the deck can trap moisture against the deck surface, use a stick or piece of wood to scrape off any you find.
Paint is the first line of defense against rust, so look for any areas where the paint has cracked or otherwise failed. With an old paintbrush or rag apply a very thin layer of oil over the entire underside of the deck; used engine oil form your last oil change works well for this task. Oil blocks moisture, hindering the onset of rust, and prevents grass from sticking to the deck surface.
Buy fresh, no-ethanol gasoline.
The fresh gas you bought last year is no longer potent, it’s been sitting in your gas tank and gas can oxidizing and soaking up moisture all winter. So begin the season with fresh gasoline and prevent one of the hardest-to-diagnose reasons for hard starting and rough idling.
Start by using a siphon or syringe to remove any remaining gas from the lawnmower’s tank. Old gas goes straight into my car’s gas tank; my mileage goes down by 1 mpg, but it’s free gas. Next refill your gas can with fresh, no-ethanol gasoline from a gas station that sells high volumes; no-ethanol has less of a tendency to gum up the carburetor and high volume gas stations will generally provide fresher gas.
Clean out the carburetor.
Gas left in the carburetor over the winter can become gummy (AKA varnish) and clog or block the small passages on the carburetor. Since the carburetor is responsible for providing the right ratio of air and gasoline, a clogged or blocked carburetor will prevent the mower from starting and idling properly.
A completely blocked carburetor can be removed and incrementally blown out with aerosol carburetor cleaner from the auto parts store. In-tank fuel additives can be added to your gasoline to clear partially clogged carburetors; your lawnmower will improve in performance as you consume the tank and the fuel additive flows through the carb.
Lisa C says
Is it best to run the lawnmower at the end of the fall season until I use up the gas in the tank?
I know you mentioned refilling the tank with fresh gas each spring when it is time to start mowing again, but does it harm the mower to store it through the winter with gas left in it?
Chris Carrero says
I personally drain/siphon them and then run them until they die. Otherwise I have to treat them with SeaFoam; this is the same agent I use to get newly-acquired, used tools to start after the old fuel has sat for years!
Lisa C says
Hi Chris, I’m not sure if I ever thanked you for your advice regarding whether I should leave gas in my lawnmower over the winter. Thank you So much for your reply. It was helpful and I really appreciate it.