If you spend just a little time on your mower each time you use it and a little more time before you put it away for the winter, there is no reason why a lawnmower should not last you for many years. Some people talk about a well looked after mower lasting up to 15 years, but we have seen some much older.
A stiff brush, a can of oil, and replacing a few bits that wear or get dirty can put years on your mower.
A new cable (Not electric cables, we are talking about petrol mower maintenance). A new cable for your mower can cost many pounds especially if you buy it retail. But a few drops of oil a few times a year and a bit more before you put it away for the winter can stop wear and rust that can damage or destroy these cables. Ordinary 3 in 1 oil will do just fine. Every house should have some 3 in 1 anyway for all manner of home maintenance jobs.
If you have a spray, freeing oil, that is good for freeing up a stuck cable, but being a light oil it will slowly evaporate and leave your cable unprotected.
While you have your can of oil in your hand, give a few drops to each moving part on the mower, (Not the engine, but the wheels, hight adjusters etc.) oiling will protect from corrosion and wear, but will also guard against any parts seizing up.
Using a stiff brush cleans the whole mower down after each use. The grass is wet when cut and will hold moister and increases rot in your deck and reduce the life of your mower. If the grass gets around your engine this can reduce cooling, and an over hot engine can seize or wea badly. Do not forget to clean the grassbox. The grass box is often the first item to go.
More modern mowers may have a washout port to which you can connect a hosepipe. If it does you can use it to clean the underside of the mower after each use. Be sure and let the mower dry before putting it away. If your mower does not have one of these you can lean the mower back, use something to hold the handles down, then you can use a hosepipe or a stiff brush to clean under the deck. If the grass cuttings are dry and form clumps under the deck, you can use a plastic putty knife or scraper to dislodge them.
ALWAYS REMOVE THE SPARK PLUG LEAD BEFORE DOING ANY WORK UNDER YOUR MOWER.
Changing your engine oil.
Keeping your mower’s engine topped up with oil is essential. Unless you do a lot of mowing you should not need to add much oil if any, but it is better to spend a few second checking than to run your mower dry and ruin your engine. We find a small washing up bottle, well cleaned and filled with engine oil, is ideal for mess-free small top-ups of oil.
If you have a new mower, you may want to follow your manufacturer’s instructions on how often to change your oil. But for most domestic situations, changing your oil once a year is probably a good idea. It is easy to remember that you change your oil before the season starts or before you put it away.
Changing your oil can be a bit messy and old oil is often spoken of as being carcinogenic, so you do not want to get it on your skin. If you do not have a specialist oil extractor you can put a tray on the side of your mower where the dipstick cap is. Remove the oil filler cap, then tip the mower over toward the dipstick side to drain the oil into the tray. When completed, refill. If you do not want to go through all this work, MAD Mowers will change your oil every time you bring your mower in for a service so why not have it serviced once a year.
Help your engine breath.
Changing your mower’s air filter periodically is also important to the efficient running and the long life of your mower. Again if you have a new mower you may want to follow your manufacturer’s instructions on how often to change your air filter. But for most domestic situations, changing your air filter once a year is probably a good idea. Again MAD Mowers will change your air filter when we service your mower, so having your mower serviced once a year will cover this too.
A ride-on mower manual will suggest when you should change your oil and air filter based on the number of hours the mower is in use. A ride-on mower or tractor should have an hour meter that will tell you how long it has been running. If it doesn’t have one built in, you can buy them on places like eBay that you can attach to the mower.
Keep that spark of love for your mower alive.
You should also replace the mower’s spark plug every 100 hours of use or so. Many domestic mowers could probably do this every year, or if you have a small lawn every two years. If you don’t replace the spark plug the engine’s starting and performance may be impaired. You can thoroughly clean and re-gap your plug if you are concerned with reducing waste, but in time its performance may still break down. MAD Mowers will change your spark plug at every service, so if you get us to service your mower once a year, that will normally be as often as you should change your spark plug.
Before the winter.
Modern petrol does not last long before it starts to degrade. This should not be a problem during the summer, you will be using your mower often enough to use up old fuel. (Do not use petrol you have had in a can over winter, it will often not start a mower, and you may bring it to us thinking it is broken when it is just old fuel). On your last cut, just put in enough to mow your lawn and then let you mower run until the fuel is gone. If you store your mower half full, you can get condensation in your fuel tank. This will sink under the petrol and then cannot evaporate away when it warms up. This can lead to rust in a metal tank, or just poor fuel and poor running if you have a plastic tank.
If you have too much left to burn off by running the engine for a few minutes, you can carefully syphon out the majority of your old fuel. You can take your old fuel to a waste recycling site. They will recycle it back to a refinery so it is not wasted.
You can add a fuel stabilizer, to your petrol, that could see it ok through the winter, but unless you have a lot of fuel to keep going, that is probably a step more than needed.
If you have a ride-on mower and you do not want to run it dry, you might then want to add a stabilizer and fill up the tank to prevent condensation.
Give every moving part a good oiling before the winter. You could even use grease if you have some to hand as that will last longer.
For the winter you can give the inside of your engine a good oiling too. Remove the spark plug and pour three or four teaspoons of engine oil into the cylinder through the spark plug hole. Slowly pull the starter cord to assure that the oil is distributed through the moving parts and then re-install the plug. Your engine will smoke for a few minutes in the spring, but it will keep your upper cylinder and piston from corroding or seizing.
If your deck is beginning to rust, and eventually all steel decks will, you have a couple of options. You could give the rusty area a light sand or a good wire brushing to remove any loose rust and then paint with a rust inhibiting paint. You will probably not make it match the rest of the paint, but do you prefer a rusty mower or a mower with a slightly odd looking paint job? Alternatively, you could just coat the rust with some spray on grease. This will protect the metal, especially during the damp winter. We can repaint a deck for you, but it can be pricy.
If you store your mower on a concrete floor them it might be an idea to put some plastic underneath to prevent damp rising onto your mower.
Do let us have your tips in the comments below.