Reasons you should complete your lawn mower service
The maintenance on lawn mowers, especially push mowers is very simple. The average home DIY type person can easily handle their own lawn mower service. With a few simple tools, and a little bit of elbow grease, you to can handle the upkeep on your mower. The first place to look would be your owner’s manual. If you don’t have one, you should contact the manufacturer of your mower. This will list all the service intervals of various items on your mower.
There are many reasons to maintain your mower.
Longevity – You wouldn’t drive your car without changing the oil would you? Then why would you neglect your lawn mower? When you keep up on the maintenance on your lawn mower, you lower the overall cost of ownership. Your mower will last you many years if properly taken care of.
Quality – When your mower is completely serviced, it will perform at its peak. This means engine running in top shape, and also your blade(s) are sharp and balanced. The end result is a mower that will start reliably, cut clean, and always be ready when you are.
Common Tasks during a lawn mower service
Basic maintenance goes a long way, and is simple. Most jobs can be completed at the end of the cutting season before winter storage, or can be completed right before season begins. These common items include the following.
Sharpen and/or replace blades
Cleaning under the deck
Typical lawn mower air filter.
As cheap as they are, air filters should just be done once a year. Most lawn mowers have easy access to the air filter housing. Either unlock a couple tabs, or loosen a couple screws. Air filters for lawn mowers are usually the soft foam type, or paper type. If you allow your mowers air filter to become clogged, it will lose power and not burn the fuel completely. See you owners manual for the correct filter.
Oil catch pan
At least once per year you should change your engine oil on your lawn mower. This will usually require you to tip your lawn mower up on its side, and drain through the fill port as most don’t have drain plugs. Many lawn mowers will run SAE 30, but there should be a chart comparing your climate temperature to recommended oil use. Simply unscrew the fill plug, tip the mower on its side and drain all the oil into an approved container. When your container is full you can bring it to a local garage or recycling center for disposal.
Oil chart for recommended oil weight for climate. Consult owners manual for your specific engine.
The type of oil you use will change some, depending on your local climate. Most all manufacturers have a chart in the owner’s manual showing temperature ranges.
All small push lawn mowers have a single spark plug. The job of the spark plug is to ignite the gasoline to supply power to turn the blade. Overtime this spark plug may become dirty, or fouled. When this occurs your mower will either not start, or will run rough and not perform well. To change a spark plug you will need a spark plug socket. Spark plug sockets have a special rubber insert inside them to protect the ceramic of the spark plug, and also grip and hold it in place.
Once your spark plug is removed you will see what model number it is, by looking on the side of the ceramic. You should be able to see a number, usually in blue colored writing. This will tell which spark plug to replace. Install the new plug, and snug down.
Lawn Mower Blade
When the lawn mower blade is sharp, it will make for a cleaner cut obviously. But this also helps the grass grow better by actually cutting it and not ripping it. When you look at a blade of grass on the tip you should see a nice, clean cut. If its ragged and torn, it means you need to sharpen your blade.
Having a sharp blade also requires less work on the engine. This over the long term will result in longer engine life, as it is not loaded all the time.
Sharpening your blades at home is something a DIY person can do. At the minimum it requires a file, and would make it much easier with a vise to hold it securely while you will work.
Another option is also a grinder, which is much faster, but not everyone has a grinder at their home.
Newer styles of sharpening are using a blade sharpener. These work much like a knife sharpener found in your kitchen, but scaled larger for lawn mower blades.
Sharpening is pretty straight forward. But first we must remove the blade.
Removing a lawn mower blade
Securely raise the mower, so you can access the underside where the blade is located. If you do tip it on the side, drain as much of the gas as possible, and also put the muffler of the engine pointing up. This will keep the oil from running into the muffler, and causing quite the smoke show on startup.
Remove spark plug wire just as a precaution to accidental startup.
Using your blade holder, secure the blade from rotating. This tool is a life saver compared to using a block of wood.
Using a breaker bar and correct size socket, loosen center retaining bolt.
This is also a good time to remove any grass buildup from under your deck.
Sharpening and Balancing
Now that you have your blade removed, its time to sharpen. Now considering you haven’t hit any rocks or other solid objects you shouldn’t have any major chips in the blade. If you do, just buy a new set of blades and install.
Hold your blade either securely in a vise, or you could hold by hand. It’s important to wear gloves! This will keep your fingers intact. Using a blade sharpener, run from center to tip until a nice sharp edge is formed. Repeat on the other side.
Now we must make sure your blade is balanced. Using a blade balancer, set your blade on it and make sure it is setting level. If one side seems to dip more than the other, take more material off.
The purpose of balancing is to reduce vibration. It’s the same concept as balancing your car tires.
When complete install blade back on your lawn mower. Installation is reverse of removal.
Final thoughts on lawn mower service
Doing your own lawn mower service is something just about anyone can do. This is a job that you should complete once a year, and is fairly low cost. Once you purchase all the tools you need, maintenance on your mower will cost next to nothing.
Completing your own lawn mower service is rewarding as you know the job will be done right. It will also save you money over and over again.
Enjoy your lawn mower service, and Happy Cutting!