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Can this lawn mower be saved?

3 common problems that are cheap and easy to repair

Published: March 27, 2014 12:30 PM

Change spark plugs annually.

User reviews and tweets are full of gripes about mowers that don’t start or mow like they used to. When does tossing a mower make more sense than fixing it? Our latest survey of 30,000 subscribers suggests ditching most broken mowers after six years, based on typical prices and repair costs. But the more you spend, the longer it usually pays to repair what you have, especially for pricier zero-turn-radius riders.

Here are some common problems that are cheap and easy to repair and prevent. A rule of thumb: Replace any machine if repairing it will cost more than 50 percent of the cost of a comparable new model.

Problem: The mower won’t start. Old gasoline that oxidized over the winter is often to blame. Try removing it and adding fresh fuel. Always add a stabilizer to gas before fueling; certain additives might also help keep ethanol from harming internal parts. Changing the spark plug and air filter—plus the fuel filter on riders—annually also helps improve starting and running. Have an electric start? Be sure to trickle-charge the battery between mowing seasons.

Problem: Uneven mowing with clumps. Sharpen the blade three times a year (about $10). And hose out the underside of the deck after every mowing to keep built-up clippings from compromising airflow. For tractors, also check that the deck is level if mowing is uneven.

Problem: Your mower needs a push. For self-propelled mowers, check the belt that transfers power from the engine or motor to the wheels. Replace it if it’s broken, slipping, or showing cracks or other damage. Also ensure that the drive system is adjusted to fully engage.

Recommended mowers
If your mower is beyond repair, check the results of Consumer Reports' latest mower tests. Mowers from Honda and Toro top our tests of multiple speed self-propelled mowers including the Honda HRX217VKA, $600, which is tied at the top with its brandmate, the Honda HRR2169VLA, $500. Following closely is the Toro 20381, $520, which we named a CR Best Buy.

If you have a small yard, you can spend half that for one of four push mowers that we named CR Best Buys from Cub Cadet, Craftsman, Yard Machines and Lawn Boy.

—Ed Perratore

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