There is only one thing I dread about spring: dragging out the lawn mower. Will it start? Will it run? Did I remember to drain the gas tank last fall? Regardless of whether you use an electric, manual reel mower or a gas-powered model, lawn mowers need a little tune-up to get in shape for spring.
Sharpen blades first. Research recommends sharpening blades after every 10 hours of use, and if you have you ever tried to cut anything with a dull knife, you can understand why. More energy is expended for a lesser result — ragged and sometimes torn edges that can give the lawn a whitish cast as the frayed ends dry out.
Performing the sharpening is simple enough, but if you are not mechanically inclined or a do-it-yourselfer, go ahead and take the mower to a professional for blade sharpening.
More adventurous lawn mower maintainers will need a socket wrench and a file or some sort of grinder. If your mower has a spark plug, remove it before doing anything else.
Begin the sharpening process by removing the blade arm with a socket wrench. I like to stick the nut and washer back on the mower to avoid losing anything while I am sharpening the blade. You might also want to mark the top or bottom of the blade arm to avoid replacing it upside-down.
Then, with safety glasses in place, use a file or grinder to sharpen the blades on either end of the blade arm, taking care to follow the original angle of the blade.
Sharpening the blades of a manual reel mower is a little more complicated; follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.
Once the blade arm has nice edges on each end, secure the arm tightly back onto the underside of the lawn mower, making sure to attach it right-side up.
Electric and manual reel mower owners can rest assured knowing their maintenance is done until 10 hours of use have gone by, or unless the manufacturer recommends other maintenance.
With the spark plug still removed, change the oil. Remove the plug and tip the mower over so that the oil drains into some sort of catch pan. Used oil can be disposed of at the Household Hazardous Waste facility (832-3030) or at many automotive supply stores. Be patient with the old oil to allow as much to drain as possible before replacing it with fresh oil.
For air filters, remove the cover to see if your mower has a paper or foam filter. Typically, paper filters should be replaced if dirty, but foam filters can often be cleaned. Refer to the manual that came with the mower if you are unsure.
To clean a foam air filter, wash it with soap and degreaser. (The water from washing the filter should be disposed of with the old oil because it may contain engine oil that washes out of the filter.) Put a few drops of oil on the filter and work it in with your fingers before re-installing the filter on the mower.
Check the spark plug for signs of wear or damage before putting it back on the lawn mower. If the plug is a few years old or looking a little corroded, replace it with one appropriate to your mower’s motor.
That’s all there is to it — you can now fill the tank with some fresh gasoline and get rolling. The lawn is waiting for you!