Gone are the days of using the old rotary push mower to earn teenagers spending money. When you purchase a lawnmower, it is an investment, but bigger, better, faster also comes with responsibility. That means seeking out lawnmower maintenance tips to keep your mower running.
Most people don’t worry much about their mower until it doesn’t start. That almost always occurs when you’re trying to get your lawn mowed before a three-day storm. Employing a simple routine and following lawnmower maintenance tips can prevent catastrophe.
When winter hits, many folks just park the mower in the garage or shed and forget about it until spring. Doing a bit of fall maintenance will make sure your mower starts in the spring.
Why Fall Lawnmower Maintenance Is Important
You might be wondering why fall lawnmower maintenance is important. It really isn’t… that is, if you want to fight to get your mower started in the spring. If you don’t want that fight, an hour of your time in the fall can make your spring much more enjoyable.
Taking care of a few things before you put your mower away for the winter will make sure that it is ready to go when you need it. Before you exchange your mower for a shovel or snow blower, doing these tasks will protect your investment.
Remove the spark plug wire before performing any maintenance on your lawnmower.
8 Winterization Lawnmower Maintenance Tips
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is:
- Drain and replace the oil
- Check, clean, or replace the spark plug
- Check, clean, or replace the air filter
- Clean the mower deck
- Check and sharpen the blade
- Clean out the grass collection bag
- Check axles and wheels
- Drain gasoline or add a fuel stabilizer agent
That’s all there is to it. We’ll cover each task in detail below. Plan to spend one to two hours from start to finish. It may take you less time, or longer, depending on your mechanical abilities. The good news is that once you learn these tasks, they will serve you well for years.
1. Drain and replace the oil
Draining the oil will differ slightly depending on the type of mower you have. Please consult the owner’s manual or maintenance guide for your model. If you don’t have them, you may be able to find them at the manufacturer’s website. You can also check Manual Library online. You will need the model number for your mower.
Draining your oil
The steps for changing your engine oil are:
- Run the mower for several minutes to warm up the oil so it flows better
- Clean the area around the oil fill, deck, and oil drain (not all mowers have drains
- Have an oil pan ready to catch the used oil and rags to wipe with
- Remove the oil fill cap
- Without an oil drain: Gently tip your mower on its side allowing the oil to drain from the fill spout
- With an oil drain: Remove the drain plug and direct the oil into your drain pan
If your mower has a drain plug, you may still need to tip it slightly to make sure it drains completely. It is a good idea to leave your mower tipped for a few minutes to get complete drainage.
If your mower has an oil filter, you should change that also. Most push-behind mowers do not have an oil filter. Check your owner’s manual to see if your mower has this feature.
Refilling your oil
Make sure that you close the oil drain if your mower has that installed. Use the oil specified in your owner’s manual. This is normally SAE-30 engine oil.
Place your mower on a flat, level surface. Fill the crankcase to the level on your dipstick. This normally does not use a full quart, and you want to be sure that you don’t overfill the reservoir. There should be a dipstick on your oil fill cap. Add small amounts and check between addition until it reads at the full mark.
2. Check and replace the spark plug
Spark plugs will generally last more than one year on a lawnmower, but they may need cleaning. Using a spark plug socket, remove the spark plug and inspect the electrode.
Clean it with a soft cloth to remove residue and inspect it for damage. If it is pitted, burnt, or degraded, you should replace it. If the electrode looks good after cleaning, you can check the gap using a gapping tool and reinstall the spark plug.
3. Check, clean, or replace the air filter
Checking, cleaning, or changing the air filter on your lawnmower should be a regular part of your maintenance. It is a fairly simple procedure:
- Remove the air filter cover
- Clean the cover and metal filter with a cloth and solvent as needed
- Clean the foam filter using the recommended procedure from your owner’s manual
- Remove and discard the paper filter, if installed
- Insert new paper filter if your mower uses one
- Reinsert the clean foam filter
- Replace the air filter cover
Refer to the manual for your model, as there are slight differences with each engine.
4. Clean the mower deck top and bottom
Keeping your mower deck clean will prevent rust and help your mower last longer. While there are many methods you can use, perhaps the easiest is using compressed air. If you have a compressor this job takes seconds.
With no compressor, you can use a cloth to brush away grass and debris from the top and bottom of the deck. This should be done each time you use your mower. Wipe away any oil or gasoline drips on the deck. Clear any collected grass from the chute area and under the mower deck.
5. Check the blade and sharpen
Checking your mower blade at the end of the season gives you time to sharpen it before spring. You can do this yourself, or you can take it to your local mower repair facility.
Sharpening a lawnmower blade is not difficult with the proper tool. Using a blade sharpening attachment for your electric or cordless drill is the recommended procedure. The tool ensures the correct angle and sharpens the blade without files.
You should remove the blade for this procedure, and balance the blade using a blade balancing cone. If your blade is not properly balanced, it will create strain on the lawnmower shaft while cutting and damage your mower.
You can use many other methods to sharpen a lawnmower blade, but this is definitely the easiest.
6. Clean out all grass collection bags
If your mower has a grass collection bag, you should empty it after each use. Frequently, mower bags will collect an absurd amount of dust during regular use. To remove that we recommend compressed air. Please wear safety goggles and a face mask, as this will produce a lot of dust.
An alternate method, if you don’t have an air compressor, is to knock the dust out by striking the bag with something. Hold the bag up away from the mower and strike it with a wrench or similar item. This won’t get all the dust out, but will remove a lot of it.
7. Check wheels, height adjustments, and axles
Checking your wheels is an easy task many of us put off until the wheel falls off. You should be inspecting wheels for cuts or missing chunks, checking the rotation, and making sure they don’t wobble.
In addition to checking the wheels, you should check and lubricate the adjustment bracket. This allows you to raise and lower the height of the lawnmower deck. Keeping these in good working order makes that task easier.
If you have wobbly wheels, there are a number of ways to correct them. You can replace the wheel assembly with new wheels. Or you can shim the old wheels. It seems that every lawnmower mechanic has a different fix for wobbly wheels.
This video shows the replacement of the shoulder bolts and wheel bushings.
This video demonstrates the procedure to replace a broken tire with a new wheel. The dogs are free.
8. Drain gasoline or add a fuel stabilizer
Gasoline has a shelf life. Who knew? Well, we do, and now you do. While most people leave gasoline in their mower over the winter, that isn’t a good plan. Fuel can break down after three to five months and cause problems with your mower:
- Unused gas may clog fuel system
- Carburetor may get damaged
- Fuel may separate and go bad
Old gasoline turns into a varnish-like substance that can really gum up a mower engine. Preventing that is simple, though:
- Run the mower until your fuel is completely gone
- Add a fuel stabilizer to your gasoline
If you didn’t do that last fall and now your mower won’t start, use a product such as TruFuel Ethanol-Free Fuel to start your mower. TruFuel will offer a reliable first start and keep your mower reliably all summer.
Keeping a starting fluid in your garage can also aid in starting a stubborn mower. Used sparingly, a spritz directly into the carburetor can save your back from excessive pulling on the starting cord.
Lawnmower Maintenance Tips for Periods of Use
Each week when you mow your grass, there are maintenance checks that will prolong the life of your lawnmower. Taking a few minutes each time you use your mower can add years to its life. Because a new mower is an investment, you want it to last a long time.
Checks to perform before you mow:
- Check the fuel level and fill as needed
- Check the oil level and fill as needed
- Make sure all levers and cables move freely
Things to check before you put your away:
- Clean debris and grass off the deck of the mower
- Clear any clumps of grass and dirt from the underside of the mower deck
Taking a few minutes before and after you mow can ensure that your mower starts and runs reliably for the entire season. Winterization maintenance will make your first mow of the season an easy task also.
Lawnmower Maintenance Tips Work for Snow Blowers Too
Lawnmowers and snow blowers use very similar (and often identical) engines. All the lawnmower maintenance tips for winterizing your mower can be used on your snow blower in the spring before you put it away for the summer.
Although your snow blower doesn’t have the same configuration for the deck and blade, clearing the area around the auger is just as important. Your yard and garden equipment is an investment, and if you take a few minutes to care for it, it will last for many years.
Protecting Your Investment is a Year-Round Task
Lawnmower maintenance tips aren’t just for the fall. Taking care of your equipment is a year-round task. It only takes a few minutes to perform checks before each use and to clean after use.
We hope you learned a new trick or two. Please let us know in the comments if you have tricks and tips you use to keep your equipment running at peak efficiency.