It’s funny how most of us will obsess over every slight change in the way our car engine sounds and consult a professional if there’s even a hint of a hiccup, but will remain frustrated pulling at a lawnmower’s starter cord while furiously wondering why the damned thing won’t start up again.
If you take only a fraction of the time and interest you devote to keeping your car running smoothly and apply them to your lawnmower, you’ll have an immaculate lawn every time, and a well-running machine to maintain it with too.
As the humble lawn mower is in essence a vastly simplified version of a car with deadly blades mounted underneath, setting up a routine that will ensure its peak performance shouldn’t be that hard.
We’ve condensed the most helpful lawn mower maintenance suggestions into this informative guide, so you’ll always have a point of reference to turn back to if need be.
Although the lawn it cuts becomes tidy, the lawn mower itself can become quite messy with use, so the most logical place to start with is first getting its business end back in order after each mow.
Disconnect its sparkplug before doing anything else though so you don’t accidentally start the mower up.
To clean the deck, simply take a garden broom and swipe over it a few times.
Provided that isn’t enough, wear some gloves so you don’t stain your hands and manually remove the caked-on grass.
To reach the blades, you’ll need to tilt the mower to the side, preferably the one opposite its filter so that mothing gets into it.
Repeat the same procedure you did to clean the deck while minding the sharp blades if you need to reach in with your hands. If that doesn’t help, hose the blades down.
Speaking of blades, they’ll need sharpening a few times each mowing season.
Not only do dull blades take longer to cut the grass and do so unevenly, they actually leave the cut grass more susceptible to disease and drying out.
Unscrew the blade and hold it in place on a work bench with a vice grip. It’s best to use an angle grinder to get a sharp blade that’s balanced on both sides, but if you don’t have one a file will do too.
The mower’s air filter should receive some attention too. With all the grass blades and mud flying around, it tends to clog up every so often.
Not doing so puts unnecessary strain on the engine as it struggles and overheats to power the mower. There are two varieties of filter – foam and paper.
The foam variety can and should be cleaned once clogged up. Its housing is located opposite the fuel cap.
Once removed from it, the filter can be soaked in a warm solution of soap and water and then dried. Paper filters are generally not cleaned as replacements are cheap.
You need to be aware of the mower’s oil level as well as the oil’s state. Locate the oil cap, take the dipstick out, and clean it with a cloth. Dip it back in and inspect to see how much oil is left.
If the dipstick is covered in oil at least up to the halfway point, you’re good. If not, or if the oil seems off (dark brown or black instead of amber-colored, full of debris etc.), it’s time for a change.
Usually you’ll need to tilt the mower to the side with the cap and let the unusable oil drip into a pan. When you’re sure that it’s pretty much all gone, pour in fresh oil and screw the cap back on.
Without the spark plug, your lawnmower couldn’t start. It only takes a few brush strokes and wipes with a cloth to make it shine again, so make a habit of doing this almost every time you use the mower.
Actually changing the plug is needed only every couple of years or so unless the engine won’t properly start up. You could let a licensed professional handle spark plug replacement, or you could buy a specialty wrench and do it yourself.
All it takes is unscrewing the spark plug like you would with a socket wrench and replacing it with a new one.
Getting the Mower Ready for Hibernation
As you’ll stop using your mower during the winter months, it is essential that you prep it for this time of cold and idleness so that when spring comes along it whirrs back into action from the get go.
Getting rid of all the leftover gas is the first thing you should do. If left inside the mower for months on end, the gas turns into a jelly-like substance that gunks up its internal workings and is a real pain to get out.
If there’s still a lot of gas left in there, siphon it out and either store it away or use in your car as long as it’s compatible. Is the gas low to begin with? Turn the mower on to let it consume all of it and die.
Check the blades to determine whether they could use a good sharpening and then either do it yourself or let your local hardware store take care of it.
Finally, drain the old oil from the mower and replace as described above.
General Lawn Maintenance Tips to Keep in Mind
While having good tools to help you keep your grass in top shape, it is also valuable to stay on top of your general lawn maintenance too. This can be easily accomplished by developing regular habits to ensure your lawn is healthily and looking its best!
1. Protect Your Grass from Burning
Your grass is prone to burning up in extremely hot temperatures. In order to prevent this from happening, if the temperature rises to or above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, you can protect your grass from burning by leaving it to about 1” to 2” tall.
By not mowing it down, you will protect your grass from the harsh sunlight and stop the soil from drying.
Did you know that the ideal time to water your grass is early in the morning? Watering between 4 am, and 8 am gives you the optimum results and can be easily managed by setting up an automatic sprinkler system if you don’t feel like getting up!
However, like with all plants, overwatering can cause irreversible damage and lead to mould. In order to avoid this, ensure that you are using a maximum of 15 liters of water per square meter as a rule of thumb to keep from overwatering.
3. Avoid Scalping Your Grass
Scalping refers to cutting your grass really short. This should be avoided in order to fend off diseases and weed infestation (which is more likely to happen in scalped lawns). If you insist on cutting your grass short, you will also force your grass to have a poor root system which can increase its vulnerability to damage.
4. Mow When Grass is Dry
While there’s no harm in mowing a damp or wet lawn, it will not give you the same results as mowing on a dry lawn. Wet grass has the tendency to clump and clog your mower and make it easier for you to tear your grass by jamming your wheels with moist soil.
If you still insist on mowing a wet lawn, prevent any of the above from happening by using a silicone spray or oiling the underside of your machine.
5. Don’t Mow in the Same Direction
Mowing in the same direction may seem like it’s giving your grass a nice, symmetrical finish but you are actually risking damaging it more than anything.
Mowing repeatedly in the same pattern can put your grass at risk of ruts and compacted soil. These can threaten the health of your grass, making it more susceptible to weeds.
6. Mow in Cooler Parts of the Day
Remember how 4 am to 8 am used to be the ideal hours to mow your lawn? This belief reinforces this point, which is that you should ideally mow your lawn at a cooler time of day to put less stress on your grass.
If you mow the grass at a time when the temperature is higher, your grass will lose more water and have a slower recovery.
Keeping your garden looking its best requires a combination of attention, care, and the correct strategy. It’s never enough to just rely on tools to get you the desired result.
See, lawn mower maintenance isn’t so hard!
As long as you keep its blades sharp, its oil a healthy shade of golden brown and its engine supplied with fresh clean air, you should have no problems taking on any kind of turf.
Remember to keep an eye on your mower’s performance regularly and intervene when needed. The smartest thing to do is to clean its deck and blades after each use and check up on the filter, spark plug and oil levels a handful of times each season.
Be sure to look up the mower’s manual if you aren’t sure on how to change the oil or perform other tasks, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a pro if you have further questions.