November 15, 2019

The gift of holiday lawn mower maintenance

The holidays are great for lawnmower maintenance. For most of the country, they come just as we're ready to put the lawn to bed for the winter.

Now that we’re at the end of mowing season, resist the temptation to shove the machine to the back of the tool shed and forget about it.

By spending an hour now, it will be easier to get it ready in spring, when the grass suddenly starts growing.

First, is there any leftover gas? If you can’t use it up with a quick mow, then add a drop or two of gas stabilizer – available at any home or garden store.

Then, disconnect the spark plug wire for safety while you do the rest of the work.

Hopefully, you’ve been giving your lawnmower a quick cleaning with a brush or rag after every use. But this time, turn it on its side and remove any debris and detritus caked around the blade or underside. Use a putty knife or a hard plastic ice scraper.

You can also use a soft brush and soapy water, then rinse with a garden hose. But you should cover the electrical system, muffler, air filter and carburetor to keep water out.

At least once a year, check the air filter. Paper filters should be replaced when dirty, but plastic foam filters can be taken off, cleaned in soapy water, rinsed and air dried.

Use a hard stream of water from the hose to clean the grass catcher. Let it dry completely.

Once a year you should also change the oil. Most mowers are designed to drain out of the fill cap just by tipping the machine on its side.

Catch all the old oil in a container suitable for recycling. Refill the reservoir with fresh oil to manufacturer’s specifications. Replace the spark plug. Use a gapping tool or screwdriver to make sure the gap is measured correctly.

Tighten loose nuts and other fasteners. On belt-driven mowers, tighten the belts as needed and check for excessive wear or cracks. Replace damaged belts.

It's a good time to sharpen the blade. It’s easy to remove it from the mower, usually just by turning a single bolt. Put the blade in a vise and give it about 50 strokes with a mill bastard file, and always sharpen on the top cutting edge. Don’t try to make it razor sharp, as that will just make the blade wear out faster. Just a nice, even edge.

Before storage, consider coating the entire mower with a light oil to prevent rust. Put the mower away in a dry place.