By the middle of the summer, you’ve likely worked out your regular mowing routine. However, with regular mowing comes wear and tear, which can lead to larger maintenance issues and poor cut quality if not tackled in a timely fashion. By keeping up with these light and quick maintenance steps, you can tune up your mower to keep it running at peak efficiency all year long.
Mower Tune-Up Checklist
Change the Oil
One of the most important steps in your mower tune up routine, changing your oil will keep your engine ticking along smoothly. Most manufacturers recommend that you change your oil once every three months, depending on your frequency of use. It only takes about 15 minutes to do, and will only cost you a couple of bucks.
Like with any tune up, the first step is to remove the spark plug wire and review your owner’s manual before performing any maintenance.
You might consider running the engine for a few minutes to warm up the oil, allowing it to drain more easily. Then, shut down the engine and let it cool before emptying the old oil into a suitable drain pan.
For some mowers, you can drain the oil from the dipstick tube using an oil siphon, or by tilting the mower so that the air filter and carburetor face upwards. For others, including riding mowers, you can drain the oil by removing the oil plug with a wrench or pair of vice grips.
While the oil is drained from the reservoir, you can change the oil filter (assuming your mower uses one; again, it’s helpful to consult your owner’s manual). Replace the drain plug and fill the oil reservoir with oil until it’s visible through the oil fill hole. Or, you can check the level on the dipstick. Be careful to add the recommended amount of oil; overfilling can cause damage to your seals, while underfilling can cause your engine to overheat.
Replace the Air Filter
Air filters keep dust and other debris from entering your engine, as well as helping your engine maintain a proper fuel-to-air ratio. This lets your mower burn less gas. Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your air filter every three months to keep your mower engine running smoothly.
To replace the filter, you’ll loosen the air filter cover screw and remove the cover. Then, pull out the old air filter and press in the new one with the filter pleats facing outward. Finally, replace the cover and tighten down the cover screw.
Sharpen Up Your Mower Blade
A sharp blade gives your grass a clean and even cut, while a dull blade rips grass apart and leaves it susceptible to disease and damage. Sharpening your blade really should become a part of your mower tune up routine. Thankfully, it’s easy to sharpen up the cutting edge of your mower blade.
Before you sharpen, drain the fuel from your gas tank before removing the blade. This keeps you from leaking fuel during the next step.
For a walk-behind mower, tip the mower over on its side. For a ride-on mower, use a mower jack to lift the mower or remove the cutting deck to gain access to the cutting blades. You’ll want to consult the manual for instructions on the best way to accomplish this.
Once you’ve got your mower into position, you can remove the blades. Use a blade removal tool or a wood block to keep the blade from turning. Loosen the blade using a wrench or breaker bar and socket. As you remove the blade, note the blade’s orientation so that you can reattach it correctly.
To sharpen the blade, you can either use a small angle grinder or a bench grinder to tighten up the edge on your blade. You need to make sure that you’re taking off the same amount of metal from each side of the blade to keep it balanced.
For more information about how to sharpen your mower blade, check out this comprehensive article.
Replace Your Spark Plug
You’ll likely only need to work through this step once a year. But, if you neglected to replace your spark plug at the beginning of the season, you might want to include it as you tune up your mower now.
If you removed the spark plug wire at the beginning of your maintenance routine, you won’t have to do it here. Otherwise, remove the spark plug wire. Then, use a spark plug wrench or deep socket wrench to remove the old plug.
If the plug has rusted tight, spray it down with a penetrating lubricant like WD40 to loosen it up.
Insert a new plug by hand-turning it until the threads catch, then use your socket wrench to tighten it down. Take care not to overtighten.
Keeping your mower lubricated is an important part of your mower tune up routine. Use a light-duty lubricant on contact surfaces, paying particular attention to your wheel bearings, cables, and cut height adjustments. Avoid lubricating surfaces that will come into contact with drive belt.
You’ll also want to hit the underside of the deck with a layer of silicone spray. This will protect the deck from rusting, as well as keeping grass clippings from sticking to the deck.
Following these steps will get your mower back to tip-top operating conditions this season!