Lawn Mower Preparation

It’s been sitting in the back of the garage all winter, collecting dust, possibly rusting, probably caked with debris – the lawn mower.


In many cases, homeowners simply add gas, pull the rip cord and start mowing without much thought given to the equipment.  This is unwise, as mowers are investments with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand.


One of the first practices in spring is to disconnect the spark plug and examine the contacts.  They should be smooth and shiny.  Rusty connections can prevent starting or result in misfiring.  It’s possible to take some emery cloth or a wire brush and clean off the contact points, but considering the low price of a new one, it may be better to simply replace it, especially if it’s been more than a few years since it was switched out.


Next, examine the undercarriage.  If rust is starting, remove it with a putty knife and a stiff steel brush.  Once clean, repaint the surface with a rust-resistant paint and allow to dry.


Examine the mower blade.  The cutting edge should be sharp enough to cut a piece of paper cleanly.  If not, put it in a bench vise and use a file to sharpen it.  Strive for a 30 degree angle.  Alternatively, consider taking it to a small engine shop; this is usually a low cost service.


Drain the engine oil.  Discard the engine oil, discard according to local regulations and refill with the type and grade recommended in the owner’s manual.


The gasoline tank should have been empty for winter storage, but if not, drain the gasoline and discard.  Gasoline can separate and become gummy during the winter.  Replace with fresh gas.


The final step is to check loose bolts, wheels, nuts and other connections.  It’s useful to give the mower a thorough cleaning, wiping with a substantial rag on all surfaces.  When all of these steps have been accomplished, reconnect the spark plug and try out the refurbished machine.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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