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Riding lawn mower

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Some people say it is not summer until they see neighborhood dads mowing lawns in jean shorts and grass-stained white sneakers. While this attire may not be mandatory to use a lawn mower, proper routine maintenance of all lawn mowers is a requirement to keep them running properly.

Marcus Garner, an Alabama Extension urban home grounds regional agent, said while a lawn mower may eventually have to be replaced, performing routine maintenance every year will extend the overall life of the machine.

“There are several basic maintenance steps that people should take to keep their mower in fine working order,” Garner said. “These steps will also help extend the life of the mower and will help owners avoid more expensive repairs in the future.”

Read the Manual

In the owner’s manual, manufacturers provide specific instructions on how to properly care for that specific model of mower. Garner said it is important that owners read and follow these guidelines.

“Depending on the mower, some have guidelines to follow that other models do not have,” he said. “Also, the service manual will let you know the specifics of your mower including what oil to use, what size blades to use and the intervals in which you are supposed to perform maintenance.”

Oil and Fuel Maintenance

Just like the oil in vehicles, people must maintain the proper oil levels in a lawn mower and change the oil when needed.

Garner said how people service the oil in a lawn mower affects the life of the engine.

“The moving parts inside the engine undergo friction, which causes heat. This heat causes parts to breakdown, so they must be lubricated with oil,” Garner said. “Refill the oil reservoir to the designated mark on the dipstick, remembering that too much oil can be just as bad for an engine as too little oil.”

Checking and changing the oil is one of the more commonly known acts for mower maintenance. Performing maintenance on the fuel, however, may not be. Fuel that sits for a long period of time can cause issues in the fuel system. During the mowing season, operating the mower often will prevent the fuel from clogging up the system. If a mower goes more than 30 days at a time without use, people should add a fuel stabilizer.

“Whether it is a spare mower not used often during the mowing season or one that is being prepared for storage, adding a fuel stabilizer is recommended,” he said.

The Blades

Not only is it important to mow with correct size blades, it is also important for them to be sharp.

“Sharp and balanced mower blades are a critical part of cutting grass,” Garner said. “When the blades are dull, the motor requires more power to turn the blades. Also, the blades are not making a smooth cut.”

Sharpen lawn mower blades often, especially if the grass is fast-growing and requires frequent mowing. It is also a good idea to keep an extra set of blades on hand.

More Information

Garner provides more information on routine mower maintenance in the Alabama Extension informational article The 10 Steps of Lawn Mower Maintenance. For more information on this and other lawn and garden topic areas, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu.

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