Is your mower ready for the season? A properly maintained mower makes for a better looking lawn and helps ensure the safety of the operator. The experts at Toro offer these walk-behind mower maintenance basics:
Safety first. Remove the plug wire from the spark plug so that it doesn't accidentally start while conducting maintenance when cleaning your mower, changing the blade or working on the engine.
Drain any remaining fuel from the system. Stale gas will result in your mower either not starting or running poorly. Store and dispose of the old fuel properly.
Check the sparkplug to make sure that it is in good, working condition. If you have any doubt - replace it. They are inexpensive and it doesn't hurt to have a spare. When choosing a replacement, purchase one that is pre-gapped for your engine (your owners manual should indicate the correct gap). When replacing the plug, apply a copper anti-seize lubricant to the threads to make future removal easy.
Change the oil. Drain the old oil and discard it appropriately. Check your manual for what weight the manufacturer recommends. When tilting the mower to drain the oil or access the underside, place a plastic bag over the opening under the fuel cap to prevent leaking.
Clean the engine's cooling fins so that they are free of debris. A small paintbrush or wooden dowel works well.
Clean the engine air filter by tapping it on a hard surface and using a paintbrush to remove loose dirt. If the filter is worn or extremely dirty, it is best to replace it. Before reinstalling, make certain the housing and cover are free of dirt and debris as well.
Blade and Deck
Make sure that the blade is sharp. A quality cut depends on the blade's sharpness.
With the sparkplug wire still removed, lift the front of the deck and insert a wood block to keep the blade from turning as you apply pressure on the locking bolt to remove the blade.
Sharpen the blade using a metal file to remove equal amounts of steel from each side and check the balance by inserting a screwdriver into the center hole. If the blade is out of balance, remove more steel from the heavy side until it sits level on the screwdriver.
If the underside of the deck still has last year's grass on it - scrape it off! Use a putty knife to remove caked on clippings. Doing so will improve mulching and bagging efficiency.
Once the deck is clean, reinstall the blade using a torque wrench to the specified torque listed in the service manual.
An application of spray on cooking oil will help make future cleaning of the deck easier.
Wheels and Drive System
Check mower wheels, bearings and axles for wear and lubricate them. If there are grease fittings, check them every couple of months. Replace loose, wobbly wheels.
Inspect the drive mechanism on self-propelled mowers by checking belts and gears for wear and fit. Replace as necessary.
These are just some of the basics that will keep your mower in good working condition for the season ahead. Consult your owner's manual for more specific maintenance items.
For additional tips on how to maintain your lawn care equipment, consult the Toro Expert Guide to Lawns - Pro Secrets For A Beautiful Yard. The book is available at ShopToro.com, select Home Depot stores and online retailers Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and BordersStores.com.