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How to Tune Up Your Lawn Mower

It is estimated that over two-thirds of all lawn mowers do not receive the tune-up they need each spring to keep them running in tip-top shape.

Keeping a well-oiled machine is the key to lawnmower efficiency and safety.  Photo: Dreamstime

Keeping a well-oiled machine is the key to lawnmower efficiency and safety. Photo: Dreamstime

Regular tune-ups reduce fuel consumption and emission levels and help to increase mower life and reliability. Now is the time to get your mower ready for the season with a few simple tasks.

Hopefully last fall you remembered to run the fuel out of the gas tank. If not, drain the old fuel and replace the gas filter. Keep in mind, fuel older than 90 days can gel and clog the carburetor, making the mower hard to start. Once the fuel tank is empty and the spark plug wire is disconnected, you’re ready to get started.

A clean mower is a healthy mower. Caked-on grass and debris can clog a mower and significantly decrease performance. Wash and thoroughly dry the machine (a power blower can be effective in blowing standing water off the mower deck and from hard-to-access areas). Use a screw driver or putty knife to clear the under carriage of grass and debris.Sharpen or replace the blade.

If you have an air-cooled engine, use a wooden dowel or stick to remove any gunk from the cooling fins. If your machine is water-cooled, check the condition of the coolant and top off the reservoir if necessary. Use a strong jet of water to clean the radiator’s cooling fins.

Sharpen the lawnmower blades once a year. A dull blade can harm the grass and make it more susceptible to disease. Have the blade professionally sharpened or replaced if there are large knicks or dings in it. Refer to your owner’s manual for additional information on maintaining the cutting blade.

Changing oil keeps the engine properly lubricated and ensures that clean oil is continuously distributed to engine components, reducing friction. Manufacturers may recommend specific oil removal techniques so refer to your owner’s manual before starting this process. Clean the oil fill area, remove the dipstick, and place a catch can under the mower. Depending on manufacturer recommendations, either tip the mower on its side to allow the old oil to drain from the oil fill tube or remove the oil drain plug located under the deck. Allow the oil to drain completely, and, if necessary, replace the drain plug. Change the oil filter and refill the engine with oil.

Replacing the spark plug every spring ensures a consistent spark, reliable starting, and improved fuel economy. Remove the old spark plug, blowing away any debris with compressed air first. Before installing the new plug, be sure to check its torque, or gap (refer to your owner’s manual for specifications). Once you have checked the plug for proper gap, screw it in tight with your fingers. Then give it a one-quarter turn more with a socket wrench. A few dabs of anti-seize compound will ensure easy removal next time.

The air filter should be cleaned or replaced every spring and checked periodically throughout the mowing season. A clogged air filter reduces the air/fuel ratio, resulting in higher fuel consumption and a rough-running engine. Check your owner’s manual to see which type of filter your mower requires. There are generally two types: paper or foam. If your mower requires a foam filter, be sure to saturate it with fresh engine oil, wrap it in a clean rag, and then squeeze out the excess oil before installing.

Clean and lubricate the choke and throttle linkages, and apply grease to all the fittings, including the mower deck. Spray all linkages, cables, and wheel areas with WD-40. Do not use oil to do this because oil will retain dirt and eventually clog the area.

Inspect drive belts and tighten loose belts. If your inspection shows any deep cracks or ply separations, replace the belt.

Charge the battery and check the security of the terminals. Clean and apply grease to the posts to retard corrosion.

Visit your local outdoor equipment dealer or hardware store for the necessary parts. When the tune-up is completed, replace the spark plug wire and fill the gas tank with fresh fuel. Your mower is now ready for the mowing season.

Courtesy Yardcare.com

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