When was the last time you checked in on your lawnmower?
It probably hasn’t been used for a while. It might be feeling depressed and rejected considering it’s been locked away in a dark shed for several months.
Perhaps it’s not as sharp as it used to be, and it’s lost its edge?
Maybe the old joints have stiffened up and could use some TLC?
Take a look at our lawnmower maintenance checklist – the ultimate guide to getting your mower back to its best – and make sure you’re ready for the next growing season.
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Lawnmower Maintenance – Too Long, Didn’t Read
Here at Yardthyme we know all too well the pressures of timely gardening.
If you’ve been caught with your pants down, you might not be able to spare a moment to read a whole article.
As such, here’s our lawnmower maintenance checklist in brief – (which applies to gas-powered mowers only).
- Change the oil.
- Check/change the spark plug.
- Check/change the air filter.
- Clean the engine.
- Change the fuel.
- Sharpen/replace/balance the blade.
- Lubricate where necessary.
- General clean and care.
That’s it! But if you want to learn more about each step in detail – plus how to maintain reel mowers and battery or corded-electric models, then feel free to read on.
By the end of this article, I promise everyone will have a grasp of the most basic lawnmower maintenance skills at the very least.
Why Maintain a Lawnmower?
It will probably come as no surprise that lawnmower maintenance isn’t exactly at the top of every homeowner’s annual “to-do” list.
Many folks take it for granted that this often expensive machine will simply run and run, without the need for the occasional tune-up.
But just like anything with moving parts, motors, and/or an engine – it needs regular upkeep to ensure it stays in tip-top condition.
Not least so it can cut the grass effectively and economically – saving both time and money.
A well-maintained lawnmower is essential for having the best possible finish to your lawn. You can also check this article for more of the best lawn care tools – especially if you’re just starting out.
And a proper maintenance regimen will ensure the longevity of your lawnmower, and keep it running for years to come.
We must be able to get the best out of these machines, and with the right care, a good-quality lawnmower can and should last a lifetime.
Types of Lawnmower
There are many types of lawnmower out there, all with their own maintenance needs and requirements. Follow that link for a more in-depth article on the subject.
For the purposes of this piece, however, we’ll focus on the most common examples – reel mowers, gas, battery, and corded electric.
Of course, you can take a look at this article on the best commercial zero-turn mowers if that’s more your thing – but be warned they require even more maintenance than walk-behind versions.
How to Get Your Lawnmower Ready for Spring
Perfect for smaller gardens, reel or cylinder mowers still require a bit of upkeep – even if they’re not spluttering fumes from a gas-engine.
And you can take a look at this article for some great examples of the best lawnmowers for small yards if you’re maintaining a more modest green space.
The first step on your spring lawnmower maintenance schedule – for a reel mower at least – is to make sure that all the filth and grass from last season has been thoroughly washed away.
Ideally, you should be doing this after each mow session – but I’ll let you off if you’ve been tardy.
Use an old brush to get into all the nooks and crannies – and don’t forget the cutting edge and the underside of the mower itself.
Feel free to hose it off – but try not to spray the wheel areas too much – you should keep water use to a minimum around metal parts – even if they have been protected from corrosion and rust.
You can also clean each individual blade with a bit of lubricant and a paper towel – but go slow, take care and watch those fingers.
Take some trusted WD40 or similar product, and give the wheels and rotary blades a liberal spray at all the points they are supposed to move.
This will also help prevent the metal from rusting, so don’t be stingy with its application.
Ensure the wheels turn freely – and add some oil for a smooth action if required.
Go ahead and remove the wheels completely if you deem it necessary, as grass can build up in areas you might not be able to see at first glance.
It’s worth doing this periodically to keep your mower rolling as it should.
Reel mowers have plenty of nuts and bolts holding them together, and you should visit each one with an appropriate wrench to ensure they’re all tightened up.
Hardware that has rusted, deteriorated, or is no longer functioning as intended should be repaired or replaced.
There’s no need to purchase a new mower – just pick up a new bolt or two at your local hardware store.
Apart from a general clean and hardware check, the most universal maintenance tip for all lawnmowers is to make sure the blades are sharpened.
Reel mowers are no different, and you might want to try a special reel mower sharpening kit.
Alternatively, a simple bastard file will do the trick – although it will take you a bit more time. Just make sure to wear gloves during the process.
Gas Powered Lawnmowers
By far the most common type of lawnmower (at least in the US and Canada) – is the gas-powered machine.
Unfortunately, the major downside to these mowers is they require the most maintenance, and are the most labor-intensive as a result.
So, let’s get started with these gas lawnmower maintenance tips.
First, you should be changing your engine oil.
Don’t worry too much if you’ve already started the mowing season, but it is recommended you build good practice by taking a look when you first pull your mower out of the shed.
Oil should be changed at least once per year, and the spring is the best time to do it. It should also be changed after approximately 50 hours of use – whichever comes first.
You’ll want to turn the engine over for about 10 minutes prior to changing to heat it through and loosen any sludge.
Drain the oil tank using an oil pan and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and then add fresh oil that’s compatible with that particular small engine – up to the dipstick line.
Watch the video below for a full guide on how to check and change your lawnmower’s oil.
Check/Remove/Change the Spark Plug
For all other mower maintenance, it’s a good idea to remove the spark plug – if nothing else but from a safety point of view. With no spark plug installed, the engine won’t fire, and you’re not risking losing a hand.
And so you might as well take this opportunity to check it over.
Locate the spark plug on your mower’s engine. If you’re not sure where this is, check the instruction manual, or look online if you’ve misplaced it.
You’ll find that it’s in the same spot as most mowers – particularly those of the same brand.
Check the spark plug gap. The correct size will be in your lawnmower manual, and you need to adjust if necessary with one of these spark plug gap tools.
If the spark plug looks black or damaged in any way – it’s time to replace it.
Simply switch it out for a compatible new one – but wait until you’ve finished with the rest of the mower maintenance before fitting it back in.
Clean the Engine
First, you’ll need to gain access to the engine by removing the protective screen – or whatever panel houses the inner workings.
Use an engine degreaser to give the engine a thorough clean. Brush away any dust, debris, or other material, and let the degreaser work its magic for 10 minutes before wiping it down.
Dust off the cooling fins, and anything else that looks like it could do with a general clean.
Check/Change the Air Filter
Your lawnmower needs to be able to suck in clean air in order to operate at maximum performance.
As such, it’s recommended you check the air filter from time to time, to ensure it’s not clogged and free from dust, muck, and debris.
Plastic and foam filters can be cleaned with some warm water. Add a bit of dish soap and make sure they’re left to air dry thoroughly.
After, put the filter in a ziplock bag and add about a teaspoon of clean oil. Coat the filter evenly before replacing in your lawnmower – but be sure it’s not dripping with oil and the excess has been wiped off.
Paper filters will need to be replaced with a compatible product – they’re inexpensive and easy to change out. Check your lawnmower manual for more details.
Change the Fuel
Gas-powered lawnmowers won’t run without gas, and you should make sure you’ve got clean, fresh fuel in the tank before commencing a new mowing season.
Of course, you should have emptied the machine at the end of the fall, but there’s no time like the present if you forgot.
Over time, stored fuel will deteriorate unless it’s been treated with a fuel stabilizer. If untreated fuel is left in your lawnmower gas tank, it can coat and seriously clog the carburetor.
Then you’re looking at a lengthy time on the sidelines as it gets a proper clean – or possible costly replacement.
Always use fresh fuel in your lawnmower gas tank – and replace it every season.
Sharpen/Replace/Balance the Blade
Out of all the lawnmower maintenance tips this is perhaps the one that homeowners actually remember to do. It’s been drummed into us so much it should really be second nature.
The trick is in knowing how to sharpen the blade, as well as ensuring that it’s balanced so as not to damage the bearings in the lawnmower, and suffer a poor-quality cut on your lawn.
Check this article for the best lawnmower blade sharpeners on the market – and follow the instructions of the product you choose. There’s quite a selection!
Always make sure to wear a pair of thick gloves when handling lawnmower blades. Some of these heavy-duty winter work gloves will be up to the challenge – no matter the season.
If the blade is beyond redemption, or you simply fancy a new blade that offers dethatching or mulching capabilities, check out this article on the best lawnmower blades.
And for tips on how to balance a lawnmower blade – check out the video below, and pick yourself up a balancing tool to help you out.
Lubrication and Hardware
Using our old pal WD40 or similar lubricant, go over all the moving parts with a generous application of lube to keep things running silky smooth.
Check to make sure the wheels are moving freely and apply oil as and when required.
Now is also a good time to check over any hardware on the mower, tightening any loose nuts and bolts as you go, and replacing anything that might be beyond repair.
General Cleaning and Care
As a rule of thumb, you should be making sure your lawnmower is clean and free from last year’s debris, grass clippings, and oozy green scum.
No dried material should remain on the mower deck, so use a brush to remove it – and give the deck a hose down every once in a while.
This might not do anything for the mower’s performance, but it’s nice to have a clean-looking machine.
But it’s very important to keep the underside of the mower as clean as possible, as this will drastically improve your mower’s suction capability, and you’ll get an improved cut as a result.
With the mower on its side (and the spark plug removed – of course) scrape out all the residue and gunk with a suitable tool – a putty knife or chisel scrapers is ideal.
After it’s spick and span, it’s worth spraying the underside of the deck with a non-stick lubricant – which will help prevent grass clippings from getting clogged under the deck and reducing performance.
Of course, you’ll still face an uphill battle cleaning a mower if you’ve used it when the grass is wet. While this is not recommended, check out this article if you absolutely must mow in damp conditions.
While they don’t require nearly as much maintenance as their gas-powered counterparts, battery lawnmowers still need the odd check up now and then.
Check the Battery
It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people bring their cordless lawnmower out of the shed for the first mow of the year, only to discover the battery is dead.
Get ahead of the curve by checking to see if the battery is still holding its charge, and it’s in fully working order – well before the garden jungle starts to set in.
Most batteries have a built-in charge display, but you can use some battery testers to achieve the same result.
Weak, under powered or malfunctioning battery packs should be replaced with the relevant official part for your particular model.
Check the Battery Compartment
Sometimes, a duff battery can be down to a poor connection in the actual battery compartment.
As such, it’s important to check this to make sure there’s no lingering debris, dust, or dirt that might be causing such problems.
Remember to always store your battery and charger in a cool, dry location, away from bright sunlight and damp conditions.
Then go ahead and clean the deck/sharpen the blade as you would a gas-powered machine, and tighten any hardware that might have worked loose.
Corded Electric Lawnmowers
If you’re a corded electric lawnmower owner – congratulations! They need the least amount of maintenance of all lawnmower types.
Visually Check the Cable and Plug Connection
Aside from cleaning the deck, sharpening/balancing the blade, and checking the hardware, your annual mower maintenance consists of ensuring the cable and plug are in good condition/working order.
This is as simple as giving it a look over, keeping an eye out for any damage along the cord – particularly where it connects to the plug.
Cords can easily be replaced and repaired, so a shoddy cable is in no way a sign you need to throw the mower out.
If the mower doesn’t start, there might be an issue with the motor itself – which also has a chance of being repaired depending on how far gone it is.
Still, some of the best cheap lawnmowers are corded electric models – so check out that link if you think you really might need a new machine – but only after you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.
Before we finish up, I thought I’d include a note on riding lawnmowers – since they’re becoming more popular and affordable.
They do require more maintenance, however, and you need to follow the same process as you would with a gas-powered lawnmower – with a few caveats.
The oil will require changing once per year, or for every 100 hours of use – whichever comes first. The fuel filter will also need replacing annually.
Check to make sure the tires are inflated and in working order, and replace any damaged wheels or other hardware as necessary.
And if you’re interested in picking up a riding lawnmower, check out this article on the best riding lawnmowers for rough terrain – they’re awesome at handling just about any yard out there.
That season is upon us again, when we say farewell to the winds of winter, and hello to the constantly growing grass.
And with our lawnmower maintenance checklist, your machine will be ready to handle whatever nature throws its way.
Let us know if you have any top tips for lawnmower care in the comments below, or any advice that might help the gardening community in general.