Keep your mower going for 15 years or more

Keep your mower going for 15 years or more

Pay attention to your mower and it'll be running for years to come

Published: April 16, 2015 03:45 PM

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Whatever kind of mower you have, proper maintenance should help keep it going a decade or more. Here are the most common ways to have your machine humming from the mower pros at Consumer Reports

Fuel matters most

Gasoline degrades and gums up over time. Ethanol in the gas can compound the problem by degrading rubber and plastic parts and coating linkages.

• Add stabilizer, particularly one designed for ethanol, to gas before fueling.

• Siphon extra fuel out of a walk mower and run it dry at the end of the season.

• For a tractor or rider, either run it dry or top off the gas tank so that there’s no room for condensation—but be sure to add stabilizer to gas first.

Change the oil

Having sufficient, clean oil is what keeps your mower or tractor engine from overheating and failing prematurely. For all lawn gear, consult your manual for how often to change the oil and what grade to use.

• With a walk mower, be sure the fuel tank is empty (to avoid spilling) before you change oil.

• To change oil: Position an auto-style drain pan beside the mower on the side of the dipstick cap. Remove the cap and tip the mower over the pan to drain the oil. Refill.

• For a tractor or rider, the manual gives the oil-change schedule by the number of hours it’s in use, which the machine’s hour meter will provide. (If not, you can buy one separately.)

• Most riding mowers have an easy-access drain plug. Drain the oil and replace the oil filter. Refill to the “full” mark.

Mind the deck

Built-up clippings in your mower or tractor deck will obstruct airflow, leading to uneven cutting and corrosion. Dull blades make the machine rip, not slice, the grass.

• Many walk and riding mowers have a washout port for a hose; use it after every mowing, and let it dry before stowing. If you have to wash out a riding mower manually, drive the front of the tractor onto a set of automotive ramps to elevate it for easier access.

• If you’ve neglected the washouts, scrape clumps off with a plastic putty knife.

• Sharpen the blade three times per year. For a walk mower, having a spare lets you replace a dull blade with a sharpened one at the same time. To avoid injury when removing the blade, wear heavy leather gloves, remove the spark-plug wire, and jam in a short two-by-four to keep the blade from turning.

Keep up contacts

A spark plug needs changing about every 100 hours of operation; otherwise, engine startup and overall performance will be affected. Even electric mowers need attention to maximize battery life.

• With the mower off, remove the spark-plug cap and use a socket wrench with a spark-plug socket to remove the old plug. Take it to an auto-parts store or outdoor-gear dealer and get a new one.

• If you have an electric mower, periodically charge the battery throughout the winter. Otherwise, its ability to fully recharge will diminish gradually before failing altogether—sooner than you expected. Mowers should be brought indoors over the winter.

• For lawn tractors or riders, keep your battery fully charged, or at least periodically recharge it when it’s not in use.

• Even if you have to store the tractor outdoors, buy a trickle charger for this type of machine and keep just the battery indoors.

Don’t forget filters

You’ll also need to replace your air filters to protect the engine. In addition to the oil filter, riding mowers have fuel filters.

• On most walk-behind mowers, the air filter is paper and can be removed in seconds. Not sure which to get? Take the old one to your dealer.

• On riding mowers, if the air filter is paper, replace it. If it’s foam, wash it in soap and water. Rinse and squeeze dry.

Need a new mower?

If despite your best efforts your mower has given up the ghost, see the results of our new tests of push, self-propelled, and riding mowers. And read "Pros and cons of walk-behind and riding mowers" to find what's best for the size of your lawn and your budget. Take good care of it and the machine will last another 15 years.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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