Taking good care of your lawn mower ensures that it will last for many seasons, prevents the high costs of mower repair and can even make it easier to maneuver across your lawn. Plus, a mower that is cared for properly creates a lovelier lawn than one with a dull blade that chops your grass to ragged pieces.
Here are easy lawn mower maintenance steps for your new or older machine.
--Change the oil. "Like any gas-powered motor, changing the oil on a regular basis is important and easy," says Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner With Danny Lipford." "Just access the bottom of your mower by tilting it, follow your mower's maintenance manual instructions for unscrewing a small part on the bottom, and let the old oil drain into a flat plastic container -- one that has a snap-on lid for easier disposal. Fill with the amount and type of oil recommended for your mower brand, but be careful not to overfill it. Just add a little bit of oil, and check it with a dipstick. Add a little bit more, and check it again. It doesn't take a lot."
--Clean or replace the air filter. You'll most often find the air filter above the carburetor, says Lipford. Remove the filter, and either replace it with a new one or "simply soak the air filter in soapy water, squeeze it out and wring with a small amount of 30-weight motor oil to keep the air filter pliable." An air filter optimizes the power of your mower's engine and keeps it running efficiently.
--Change the spark plug. "If you can't remember the last time you changed the spark plug on your mower, it's time to replace it," says Lipford, who suggests removing the spark plug from your machine and taking it to an auto parts store or to a home store to buy an inexpensive new spark plug for your mower.
--Sharpen or replace the blade. A sharp mower blade cuts grass cleanly, whereas a dull one shreds it, leaving you with an unsightly, damaged lawn. A dull blade will also make your mower work too hard, putting strain on the engine. Lipford says that replacing the blade is an option, but even a new blade benefits from a quick sharpening. "Wear thick gloves, and use a metal file to sharpen the blade," says Lipford. A grinder isn't necessary, because its high speed can cause injury or over-sharpening that ruins the blade. A manual sharpening is all that's needed. "When you remove your old blade, be sure to sharpen it right then and put it away for the next time you need to replace your blade. It'll be right there, ready for you," says Lipford.
--Remove mud and debris. A well-used mower will collect dried mud, leaves and caked-on grass clumps, which make your mower heavier to push around. Lipford suggests scraping the largest debris off with a putty knife and wire brush, spraying your mower with water and giving any stubborn spots an extra scraping. "Blast it with water, and then use some silicone spray all over the blade and undercarriage, which helps prevent future grass clippings, leaves and dirt from sticking."
--Care for your cables. Those little cables, such as for the throttle, can get corroded over time, so give them a spray of silicone or your favorite lubricating spray, and work them back and forth a few times. That way, they'll remain pliable and functional for a longer period of time.
To keep your mower in top condition after each use, simply brush your lawn mower with an old dustpan brush to remove grass clippings before you put the machine away until the next time you need it for.