With record amounts of snowfall finally behind most of the United States, homeowners are probably eager to trade in their snow blowers for their lawn mowers
Before you fire up the mower, though, make sure it – along with your other gardening tools – is cleaned, sharpened and ready to work when you are.
Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews
on local service companies, reached out to its highly-rated lawn mower repair specialists to get the dirt on proper lawn mower maintenance.
“The best time to have your mower serviced is in the fall – after that last mow of the season,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “But it’s easy to put the mower back in the garage and forget about it until the spring. Lawnmower service companies are at their busiest in the late spring, so try to schedule service early so your mower is ready to go when you need it. Having regular maintenance done on your mower can help avoid ill-timed breakdowns and extend its lifecycle.”
A service appointment should include an oil change and an inspection of the blade, sparkplugs, air filter, carburetor, cables and belts. Some facilities will require you to drop your mower off at their shop, while others will pick up or make house calls. Always ask for an estimate and guarantee on the work. A spring check up could cost between $50-$150, depending on your mower.
“If you have trouble getting your mower to start, if the engine is smoking or you notice a reduction in horsepower, your mower is probably in need of a tune-up,” Hicks said. “Most lawn mower repair specialists recommend inspecting air filters at least once a month. You can simply tap the filter on the ground to shake loose dirt particles. If you hold your filter up to a light bulb and you can’t see through it, it’s probably time to replace it.”
Experts recommend you check your oil level at each mow. Most engines contain a dipstick, much like a car, and the oil should not surpass the fill line.
For healthy-looking grass, have the blade sharpened annually. A dull blade can actually splinter your grass, causing it to wilt.
Your grass should be at least 3 to 4 inches tall before you mow. When you’re ready for that first mow, start with a fresh can of gas, as gasoline has a limited life and using old gas can damage the carburetor. If there’s a leftover gas/oil mixture still in the tank of your two-cycle engine tools, like a weed eater, give it a good shake to mix the two fluids back together, as they have a tendency to separate over time.
If you’re inspecting your mower yourself, never turn it completely over, as oil can run past the crankshaft seals and cause the mower to smoke.
Angie’s List tips on lawn mower maintenance:
• Bring in your mower for service in early spring – this will help avoid breakdowns and extend the life cycle. It also helps you beat the rush so your mower is in tip-top shape.
• A service appointment should check the oil, blade, spark plugs, filter, battery and belts. Some facilities will require you to drop your mower off at their shop, while others will make house calls. Always ask for an estimate and guarantee on the work. A spring check up can cost $50-$150 depending on your mower.
• Warning signs that your mower needs maintenance can include difficulty in starting, a smoking engine, and reduced horsepower.
• Be sure to sharpen the blade at least once a year. Cutting grass with a sharpened blade is important for lawn health – it promotes better grass health. If you notice the blade has some major gashes, it may be time to buy a new blade – which costs around $10.
• Before mowing for the first time this season, clean up your yard. Walk through and pick up any sticks and branches that have fallen over the winter. Then rake up all the leaves that are left over.
• Rake away all the thatch that has accumulated since the fall/winter. Thatch is that tangle of dried up dead grass and weeds that intertwines with your live grass. If left alone, thatch can prevent nutrients and water from reaching the roots of your lawn.
• Start mowing when the grass grows about 3 to 4 inches tall. Keep grass at least 2 to 3 inches tall. This height helps keep the moisture in the grass and the weeds out.
• After each mowing, wait until the engine cools and use a hose to spray the clippings and grass debris that may be clinging to the underside of the deck of your mower. This will keep grass clippings from building up and help prevent clogging.
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