We show you, step-by-step, how to give your mower a tune-up just in time for spring.
Some simple pre-season maintenance can ensure that turning grass into lawn is more pleasure than pain. Your local hardware store can supply any tools you need, and your mower shop with have the blade kit, spark plug and any extras required. So let’s get started.
Before you start, do a quick inspection of your mower to determine what parts you’ll need. Aside from the obvious items like blades, spark plug and air filter element, check the starter cord, throttle cable, fuel hoses and wheel bearings. Do this and you’ll only need to visit the mower shop once this year.
2. Spark plug
Big safety tip: before you do anything else, remove the spark plug, as this will stop the engine from starting accidentally.
Spark plugs generally need to be replaced every second or third mowing season and should always be replaced if the electrode is worn, pitted or badly gunked up. Spark plugs that are okay but dirty are best cleaned with a fine-wire brush (like a suede brush). Never use a file or sandpaper. Before refitting the spark plug, use a feeler gauge to check and adjust the electrode gap to the correct setting (it’s in your owner’s manual). Tips: always use the correct spark plug for your mower. New plugs will also need their gap checked and, if needed, adjusted.
3. Drain fuel
Any fuel left from the previous season should be drained and discard responsibly. To drain fuel, turn the tap to the ‘on’ position, undo the drain plug at the bottom of the carburettor’s fuel bowl and catch the fuel in a container. Tip: draining the fuel first also makes it safe and easy to change the mower blades and oil (see steps 4 and 6).
4. Mower blades
Tip the mower on its side (make sure that the side of the mower with the carburettor is facing up). Blades damaged in any way are best replaced rather than straightened. New blades are usually sold in a kit that includes the blades’ retaining bolts, nuts, spacers and washers – so replace all these parts, don’t re-use old ones. Tip: if the old bolts/nuts are difficult to remove, use a ‘freeing’ agent such as Reducteur (available at Bunnings) to loosen them up.
5. Clean the deck
While you have the mower tipped on its side for the blade change, clean any accumulated grass from the underside of the deck and in and around the cutter disc.
6. Oil change
This is done on four-stroke mowers, and is best done while the mower engine is still warm (so all the old oil drains out). With most mowers the oil is drained via the oil filler neck by tipping the mower on its side. You’ll need a low, open container to catch the old oil. Only use a quality brand of oil of the correct type as specified in your owner’s manual. Don’t overfill the oil and double-check the oil level after the engine has been run for a short time and then left long enough for the oil to drain back to the bottom of the engine. Finally, dispose of the old oil in a responsible manner.
7. Air filter
Air filter elements are either paper or oiled foam. Some mowers have both. If either type of filter is ripped or has a hole in it, replace it. Badly soiled paper elements should also be replaced. Paper filters are best cleaned by tapping them gently against a hard surface; never clean them with a brush. Clean an oiled foam element in warm water and detergent (not petrol or turps), then let it thoroughly dry. Finally, re-oil it with clean engine oil, but do squeeze out the excess oil before re-installing the filter.