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Lawnmower maintenance tips for the fall season

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By Dennis Morgeson

The last lawn mowing of the season is probably upon us (if you haven’t stopped already). This means you should do some winterizing maintenance to your mowers, weed eaters, tillers and blowers.

Following a few maintenance rules now will save you time and frustration next spring when you try to start your lawnmower. There is no bigger frustration in the spring than having an overgrown lawn, time to cut it, and a mower that doesn’t work. Maintenance now will help your mower run smoother and increase the overall life of the motor.

The first maintenance procedure is to change the oil. This will prevent sludge that will cause internal engine parts and seals to deteriorate. Fresh oil should be added with the proper viscosity. The owner’s manual will list the appropriate oil.

Check the air filter. Late fall is a good time to change or clean the air filter if you didn’t do it during the mowing season. A dirty filter will restrict airflow into the engine and cause it to run rich. Also, check the spark plug to make sure it is not fouled and is properly gapped.

Don’t leave gasoline in the fuel system at the end of the season.  When gasoline sets in an engine during winter residues can form that clog the small fuel jets in the carburetor. There are two approaches to this problem, drain out the fuel from the engine or use a gas stabilizer.

After you drain the fuel, start and run the engine to remove gas from the fuel lines and carburetor; then, let the engine cool, take the spark plug out of the cylinder and put about one tablespoon of oil into the cylinder. With the spark plug wire off, pull the starter cord or use the starter to turn the engine over several times to distribute the oil over the cylinder and piston’s internal surfaces.

A gas stabilizer will keep gas fresh up to two years when added to the gas can right after it is purchased. You will not have to drain the fuel from the fuel lines if you use a gas stabilizer. However, you do need to let the engine operate several minutes to be sure the fresh gas gets into the carburetor.

Now is also a good time to sharpen or replace the blade on lawnmowers. A sharp blade is more efficient and uses energy. It also cuts the grass blade rather than tearing and chewing it, which makes for less brown cut ends and a better-looking lawn.

When performing engine maintenance chores you should keep in mind the rest of the mower. You should lubricate wheel bearings and throttle cables; grease height-adjuster brackets, tighten all nuts and bolts, and check belts, filters, and safety shields. Clean the outside of the engine and deck area because caked grass traps moisture, causing metal mower decks to rust. It also reduces a mowers service life.

Other tools such as shovels and rakes also need yearly maintenance.  These tools should be cleaned well and have a thin coat of oil rubbed on the metal surfaces to prevent rust. The handles may need a new coat of polyurethane to keep out any moisture that may get into the wood and to keep the handle smooth. These tools, like your lawnmowers and tillers will last longer with a good maintenance program and a dry storage place. 

Happy gardening!