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Lawn mower maintenance tips

A lawn mower tends to be one of the hardest-working tools in the yard, helping homeowners make quick work of cutting grass. Keeping your lawn mower well-maintained will save you a lot of time, trouble, and money on the cost of repair and replacement.

The easiest way to ensure that your lawn mower continues to run hassle-free for years to come is to create a regular service schedule for different parts of the machine. Here is a guide to the main lawn mower maintenance tasks you need to stay on top of.

Sharpen the blades

At the start of each spring, the first thing you will want to do is sharpen your lawn mower's blades. Dull blades will rip rather than cut through the grass, leaving it damaged and susceptible to disease. They will also hinder the efficiency of your mower.

The most common way to sharpen a blade is with a vise and a metal file. For blades with more substantial wear and tear, you will have to use a bench grinder. If you are unfamiliar with using these tools, then a professional at a hardware store will often be able to sharpen the blades for you.

To remove the blades, set the mower on its side and use a socket wrench to loosen the bolts holding them in place. Locking pliers will keep the blades from slipping while you work. Make sure that the mower is unplugged or the battery is removed while you do this, and that you are wearing a good pair of work gloves to prevent any cuts.

If your mower gets a lot of use, then it is a good idea to check and, if need be, to resharpen the blades about halfway through the season. For smaller yards, however, a good sharpening at the beginning of the mowing season should be enough to take you through to the fall.


Replace the spark plug and air filter

The spark plug is a critical component of a well-functioning lawn mower, and it should be replaced roughly every year to ensure optimal performance and an easy start. Spark plugs are inexpensive and replacing them is quick, making this a very simple and worthwhile maintenance task. To remove a spark plug, you must first disconnect the wire and then loosen the spark plug with a spark plug wrench. Insert the new spark plug using your hands and give it one final turn with the wrench, taking care not to overtighten it or to break the porcelain tip.

Replacing the air filter is another important task at the beginning of every season. As a lawn mower operates, the air filter becomes clogged with oil and other debris, hindering its efficiency. Like spark plugs, an air filter is an inexpensive and easy replacement. Just remove the air filter cover using a screwdriver, take out the old filter, and insert the new one. Routinely replacing the air filter will keep the engine running as it should.


Check and change the oil

To run smoothly and efficiently, an engine also needs a regular change of oil. This will help increase its longevity and lower your overall maintenance costs. Before starting your lawn mower up for the first time, check the oil level using a dipstick and top it up if necessary. If the oil appears dark or you can see a lot of floating debris, then it is time for an oil change.

Most lawn mowers have a drain plug located on the undercarriage, which you can remove by hand to allow the oil to drain. Other lawn mowers need to be drained through the fill tube, which requires carefully tilting the mower on its side. In both cases, it is important to have a drain pan ready, as the oil will begin pouring right away.


Check the fuel

If you didn't remove or use up all the fuel in your lawn mower's tank prior to winter storage, then it has likely gone bad by now. As fuel ages, it becomes less combustible and degrades into sediments that build up in the carburetor and the fuel line. This will make it harder to start your lawn mower and may prevent it from starting at all. Remove old fuel using a siphon pump and top it up with fresh fuel before tackling your spring lawn.

When it comes time to put your lawn mower away again for the winter, make sure you remove any unused fuel or add a fuel stabilizer to it so that it doesn't degrade in storage. Alternatively, you can simply keep your eye on your fuel level as the season draws to a close so that you use it all up during your last mow.


Complete routine cleaning

Help your blades stay sharp and keep your lawn mower running as it should by giving it a basic cleaning after each use. This doesn't entail much - just tip the mower on its side and remove any large clumps of grass or other debris. While you have the chance, do a quick visual inspection of the blades for any signs of damage.

On top of regular cleanings after each use, you should also do a deep cleaning before putting your lawn mower away for winter storage. Make sure that the mower can't start unexpectedly and turn it over on its side. Use a wire brush to scrape dried-on grass from the undercarriage and spray it with a hose to wash away any remaining dirt or debris. Make sure you allow the mower to dry thoroughly before putting it in storage.

Pro Tip

Before jumping into your new DIY lawn mower maintenance program, it is highly recommended that you consult your user manual for more information. This will help get you acquainted with the machine and alert you to any of its unique maintenance considerations. For example, the manual will tell you the best kind of oil to use and what types of replacement plugs to purchase. Performing maintenance tasks according to the manufacturer's instructions will help maximize your lawn mower's longevity.