Preparing a lawnmower for springtime weather

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

As Old Man Winter departs, many start to bring out the lawnmowers and bags of fertilizer. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of all lawnmowers do not receive the annual tune-up necessary to run in tip-top shape. Regular tune-ups reduce fuel consumption and emission levels and help to increase mower life and reliability. With springtime quickly approaching, now is the time to get your mower ready for the season with a few simple tune-up tasks.

Hopefully you remembered to run the gas tank empty before the mower was stored away last fall. If not, drain the old fuel. After completing the following maintenance items, replace with fresh gas. Gasoline older than 90 days can gel and clog the carburetor, hindering engine start up. Once the fuel tank is empty and the spark plug wire is disconnected, you're ready to get started.

Sharpen or replace the blade. It is a good idea to get the blade sharpened 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. Please refer to your owner's manual for additional information.

Change the oil

Fresh oil keeps the engine properly lubricated and ensures that clean oil is continuously distributed to critical 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.

Allow the oil to drain completely and if necessary, replace the drain plug. Refill the engine with oil.

Change the spark plug

Replacing the spark plug every spring ensures a consistent spark, reliable starting and improved fuel economy. Remove the old spark plug. Before installing the new plug, be sure to check its gap (refer to your owners manual for specifications). Once you have checked for proper gap, screw it in tight with your fingers. Then give it a 1/4 turn more with a socket.

Replace the air filter

A clogged air filter reduces the air/fuel ratio, resulting in higher fuel consumption and a rough running engine. The air filter should be cleaned or replaced each spring and checked periodically throughout the season. 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 the filter with fresh engine oil, wrap it in a clean rag and then squeeze out the excess oil before installing.

Lubricate moving parts

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.

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.

Shelf Life of Everyday

Yardcare Products

Gasoline - Gasoline has a shelf life of around 90 days. Like milk, gasoline can go bad and may significantly harm a lawnmower's life span.

Oil - Oil can have a shelf life of up to three years, but it is important to change mower engine oil at least once a year.

Remember, when discarding old fuel or oil, make sure to dispose of it properly in places such as a service station or waste disposal station.

Grass Seed - Depending upon the storage, grass seeds can last two to three years. In order to test its vitality; plant a few seeds in a small flowerpot, keep them moist and cover them with a plastic bag. Good seeds will germinate within a week or two.

Fertilizer - Fertilizer never goes bad. Even when it becomes compacted and hard, all you need to do is take a hammer and break it apart. However, spread the compacted pieces sparingly to not destroy the roots.

Store all products in your garage. Do not keep in a shed or other type of outdoor storage, due to weather extremities (i.e. too hot in summer, too cold in winter), for this may alter product shelf life.