Prepare Grass Cutting Equipment for New Season

Lawn mowers, lawn tractors, weed trimmers, edgers and other small engine powered equipment used to cut and trim lawns will perform better and last longer if a few simple maintenance operations are completed before the new cutting season begins. This type of maintenance can prevent many breakdowns and repairs during the season if performed on an annual basis. The following list of suggestions will aid you in going over each piece of equipment and completing necessary maintenance tasks:

  1. Change the engine oil if oil was not changed in the fall prior to storage. Start the engine and allow to warm up to operating temperature before draining oil to get a more complete drain of used oil. Refill with new oil of the proper viscosity to the proper level. If the engine has an oil filter, replace the filter when you change the oil. Use SAE 30 oil if the engine will be used at temperatures above 32 degrees F. Use SAE 10W-30 below 32 degrees F.
  2. Service the air cleaner. Most newer model engines use a paper element type filter which is discarded and replaced with a new filter. Oiled-foam type filters on some older engines should be cleaned in kerosene or varsol and allowed to dry before re-oiling with one tablespoon of the same oil used in the engine. If the foam is disintegrating from age, replace with a new foam element which has been oiled. Clean the filter housing and gaskets with solvent and a clean rag before re-installing the filter element. Replace any damaged seals or gaskets which can cause severe engine damage in only a few hours of operation.
  3. Inspect the spark plug and clean or replace if needed. If spark plug replacement is needed, make sure to replace with the same plug number. Inspect the plug wire for cracks or damage and replace if necessary. Spark plugs on two-cycle engines such as weed trimmers will require more frequent replacement because oil and gasoline mixtures used in these engines tend to foul spark plugs more quickly than gasoline only fuels.
  4. Sharpen the cutting blade(s) on all cutting equipment. Sharpen mower blades to an angle of 30 degrees for best cut and durability. Sharp blades require less power for operation, thus less fuel consumption and wear and tear on the engine and drive components. Dull blades will bruise and tear grass leaf blades and can create openings into the plants for disease to invade.
  5. Inspect the v-belts on equipment for wear and cracks. Frayed edges on belts and cracks on the bottom side indicate wear and age. Worn belts tend to stretch and slip on pulley drives which reduces power and efficiency. Replace worn or damaged belts with proper size and type belts. V-belts for automobile applications are not a good option on lawn and garden equipment. Lawn and garden equipment belts are stronger and will usually last much longer. Belts that are slipping may only need adjustment of the pulley spacing or you may need to apply a belt dressing to the sides of the belt to return them to operating condition. Remember that new belts will stretch slightly after installation and use and will require re-adjustment after a few hours of use.
  6. Lubricate wheels, throttle cables, idler pulleys and safety controls periodically with a suitable lubricant. Wheels on garden tractors will usually have grease fittings which require a grease gun for lubrication. Use a good quality all-purpose grease and do not over grease. Lawn mower wheels, handles, throttle cables and choke cables are best lubricated with a silicone-base aerosol spray. Do not use oil. Oil will remain sticky and cause dirt, grass and other material to stick to the lubricated area and can cause damage to bearings and lubricated surfaces. Silicon aerosol sprays contain a lubricant and a carrier. The carrier is what you see when you spray the part to be lubricated. The carrier will evaporate and leave a non-sticky lubricant on the part sprayed. Spray the higher ends of throttle and choke cables and allow the lubricant to flow down the cable inside the cable housing. Two or three applications may be required to get enough lubricant to the lower parts of the cable.
  7. Weed trimmer lines are best lubricated by soaking the cutting line in warm water for about 15 minutes. If the cutting line tends to weld together or stick, remove the reel of line from the trimmer housing and soak the line reel for a few minutes to alleviate this problem. Always use the diameter of cutting line recommended for your machine. The trimmer will not function properly with larger or smaller diameter line sizes.