Maintaining your Lawn Mower: Annual Checklist and Cleaning Tips
The growing season usually peaks in late spring, early summer, but it depends on the climate in your particular area. In most of the US, most growing and mowing happens between March and October, with a dip in the middle when the weather is hottest.
Generally speaking, you should give your lawnmower a good clean at the beginning and end of the season. When you first bring your machine out, you need to clean it up and get it ready to roll. If you did a solid job of packing it away, this shouldn't be too difficult.
The big annual job comes at the end of mowing season before you pack up for winter, which we are going to look at in detail soon. Between these two times, only some light maintenance is required after each use.
General Cleaning Tips
During the mowing season, there are a few things you can do to keep things moving smoothly. Depending on how often you cut the grass, you may not need to do it every time. Here are some mid-season maintenance tips to help you take care of your machine:
- Lightly hose down the outer body of your lawnmower after each use. Avoid getting water on the engine and never use a high-pressure hose. It is best to wait until the machine is cool before rinsing off any dirt or stray grass clipping.
- Sharp blades are far better for the health of your grass. Although you should check the blades at the beginning and end of the season, it is worth sharpening them once or twice throughout the busy period.
- At least once in the middle of the mowing season, clean the deck (underneath) of your machine. You need to run the engine until the gas is empty, then sit the lawnmower on its side. Use a hose to blast off any debris then give it a good scrub. Always remove the spark plug before starting this task to avoid any accidents.
- Store your lawnmower in a cool, dry place. Keep it away from dampness or direct sunlight, and it is likely to last you a lot longer.
- Before doing any maintenance, read the user manual. Every machine is different, and it is essential to know about any specific requirements you have.
Maintaining your Lawn Mower: Annual End of Season Maintenance Checklist
Arguably the most important maintaining your lawnmower comes at the end of the growing season. Whenever something is going to sit dormant for several months, it is essential to pack it away in the best possible condition.
Follow this checklist to ensure your lawnmower always performs at its best and lasts as many years as possible.
Remove or Disconnect the Spark Plug
Before you do any maintenance, always disconnect or remove the spark plug. You must ensure there is no source of power or any chance the blades could start turning. As you can imagine, that is not a good situation for anyone. Double-check the spark plug before you go any further.
Drain the Gas or Stabilize the Fuel System
What to do about fuel comes down to the model of lawnmower you have and how long it is going to sit unused. Anything over 30 days in storage calls for the whole thing to be drained. Anything less than that can be treated with a stabilizer.
You can pour out any leftover gasoline or run the engine until it is empty. Leaving gas sitting idly in the engine for months is not good for the mechanics and may give you trouble when you try to restart the engine in spring.
Wash the Exterior and Deck
Give the lawnmower a good wash down before you tackle the technical stuff. A simple garden hose and a scrubbing brush work just fine. Underneath is especially important to get rid of any debris, mud, or grass clippings that could get moldy over winter.
Spray down the exterior and wipe it down. Tip it onto the side, untangle anything caught on or behind the blades, wipe any excess dirt then blast it with the hose. Let it dry completely before you put it away.
Check And Change the Oil
Consult the user manual for specifics on what oil is required and how to change it. You want the oil full and clean before you store the lawnmower. You may not need to change what is already there, depending on when it was last changed. As long as it is topped up, you are good to go.
Clean or Swap Out the Air Filter
The air filter is an extremely important part of a lawnmower. It regulates the temperature and keeps everything flowing, so it needs to be kept clear. Your machine may come with backup filters and instructions on how to change them, or you could have to source a provider.
Most filters can be removed and cleaned at least a few times before you need to buy new ones. The important thing is that there is no debris, dust, mold, or dirt anywhere on the filter before you pack the machine away for winter.
Blade Maintenance: Sharpening and Balancing
Although you should sharpen your blades several times throughout the mowing season, it is worth spending a little extra time on this last one. If you have the technique down to a T, you can do this by yourself, but it is also possible to get a professional in for the job.
Sharpening involves removing the blades, checking for imperfections or bends, then filing down the edges. When you reinstall them, you need to check the balance is correctly adjusted. If not, the grass is not cut straight.
Fog the Engine (If Necessary)
Not all lawnmowers require this step. Check the user manual for your specific model to determine whether or not yours does. Oil fogging stops the engine lubricants from draining over the winter, leaving the interior mechanics vulnerable to corrosion.
You can fog the oil by removing the air filter and running the engine while spraying the special formula on the intake. Make sure you consult your manual before attempting this process, as every machine is a little different.
One Final Clean
Give the exterior one last wipe down after all the individual bits and pieces are cleaned, fixed, and changed. Store it carefully and in a place without any wet or dampness. Give everything a once over, just to be sure, then store it safely away.
The Bottom Line
A high-quality lawnmower does not run cheap, so it is in your interest to look after it. The more effort you put into the pre-winter maintenance, the less work you have when the mowing season starts. Being cooped up for two or three months is enough to damage anything, especially if it is not properly prepared.
Lawnmower maintenance does not take up too much time over the year. Before the mowing season starts and once it's over, give your machine some proper TLC, and your life is sure to be easier. Not only that, but your lawn is going to thank you for it too!
Some light maintenance after each use doesn't hurt either, but there is no need to overdo it. Most of all, care for your lawnmower as much as you care for your lawn.