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Preparing Mowers For Spring and Summer
March 21, 2018 - Grounds Management
By Ron Scheffler
Like a runner training for their first marathon, lawn mowers need to be primed and prepared before they’re ready to go the distance for the long spring, summer, and fall mowing seasons. Even if this isn’t the beginning of the season for a particular facility, these maintenance tips will make sure mowers are ready when needed.
Taking care of mowers should always be on the facility department to-do list, because proper maintenance can extend the life of equipment and help ensure breakdowns don’t happen at inopportune times. Always check the specific owner’s manual for exactly what maintenance is needed, how it should be performed, and when it should be done, but this general checklist can help keep a mower in prime condition.
Choosing brand-compatible replacement parts is important to ensuring quality and fit with a mower. Your dealer will be familiar with them, so they can help you order any parts that are needed.
The first thing to check is the spark plug. A worn plug makes starting difficult, increases fuel use, and can even cause engine damage. It’s recommended that you clean and monitor the spark plug constantly throughout the season and replace it as needed.
It’s also important to check and clean the air filter every day and replace it when needed or when the manufacturer recommends it. Airflow is key to efficient engine operation, especially in the heat of the summer months.
Check the fuel filter, and if it needs replacement, be sure to do that as soon as possible. Worn fuel filters cause hard starts and increase fuel use. It’s also recommended that you see the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended oil and filter when checking and changing oil. New or clean oil is a light brown color that resembles maple syrup. Oil that’s dark black or has debris floating in it should be drained and replaced.
Dull blades will tear the grass instead of cutting it off cleanly, causing grass blade tips to dry out. This has the potential to harm the health and appearance of the lawn. Dull blades also make the mower engine and belts work harder than necessary to cut to the desired grass height. To circumvent these concerns, inspect the mower blades for wear or damage and sharpen them if necessary. Always be sure to detach the spark plug wire before working with the blades so the mower doesn’t start up accidentally. When the blade has been removed to check for dullness, it’s also a good time to clean the underside of the mower’s deck. Use a putty knife to thoroughly scrape off any caked-on grass, and then clean it further with an air hose.
After marathon runners have trained enough to handle the physical stress of a long run, they may buy new shoes to maximize support through the entire run, or even slather on sunscreen before the race so they don’t get burned. In the same vein, make sure the outside of the mower is ready to go once inside is working at peak performance. Grease all fittings after checking the owner’s manual for the right grease and the location of the fittings. Tires should also be inspected for wear or damage, and they should be fully inflated according to the manual’s specifications, as tires with varying pressures can result in uneven or poor cutting. For replacement tires, contacting the dealer.
Use an air hose and a rag or brush to clean any debris from the mower’s body and upper deck. Avoid using high-pressure water spray as it could force water into the fittings, seals, and other internal components, affecting the mower’s performance.
Finally, the fuel tank wasn’t drained at the end of last season or a stabilizer put in the fuel, drain out any old gasoline and fill the fuel tank with fresh gasoline. Gasoline that has been sitting through the winter can become dirty or gummy, which can cause issues when starting the mower. Keep in mind that the owner’s manual has information about the recommended octane and always handle fuel with the utmost care.
Any questions about or concerns with the maintenance of mower should be taken to a local dealer. They can also help order parts, give advice, and make the most out of the mower’s overall performance.
Remember: mowing season is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure the mower is ready to go the distance from early spring all the way into fall by preparing it properly for the long haul.
Ron Scheffler is product manager at BOB-CAT Mowers.