With people starting to mow lawns in Chicago spring has finally come so it’s the perfect time to get your lawn mower ready for the season ahead. If you didn’t do it last fall a yearly tune-up is important to ensure all parts of your mower are functioning properly and safely. Use these tips to get your mower ready for spring:
1. Read the operator’s manual. Before operating your lawn mower, it’s a good idea to go over the operator’s manual in its entirety. this will help you remember how to safely and properly use it. Also be sure you understand and follow all instructions and are familiar with all the controls and functions. It’s best to keep your manual in a safe place in case you need to reference it at any time. Most brand websites have a tab in the support area where you can get a digital version of your manual.
2. Check and change the oil. Always check the oil level before starting your mower before you try to start it in the spring. Running a motor on low oil can lead to low compression and can burn out the engine. Be sure to change the oil filter and add new oil if you didn’t change it last year. Overfilling can damage the oil seals. If the mower is blowing bright blue/white smoke right away when you start it – make sure the oil is not overfilled. In this case, remove the oil plug, drain the old oil and refill the engine with the oil amount and type indicated in your operator’s manual.
3. Check your fuel. Fuel can go bad in as little as 30 days and bad fuel can result in a sputtering engine or prevent the mower from starting at all. If the fuel has a strange odor or has become thick and viscous, it’s best to drain it. Once you’ve drained the gas, fill the tank with fresh fuel. Be careful! Many gas stations now offer E15 fuel for your newer auto but that will wreck most lawn equipment. Be sure to use E10 or fuel without alcohol.
I wrote a blurb a while back on the best way to get good reliability. Do your changes – oil, air filter, and fuel filter regularly. Don’t use a pressure washer on the deck – and do the following with your fuel.
Yes, You need a new Gas Can!
With today’s fuels, you need a gas can that seals tight. It helps the fuel last longer and the escaping vapors won’t wreck the environment. But the biggest problem is finding one that works. The cheap ones ($20 or more now) don’t have vents so it takes forever to fill the tank on your lawn tractor. The cheap ones are also flimsy and the spouts break after the first year.
Well, I’ve found one brand that works great! It’s vented inside the spout so it pours fuel quickly yet seals tightly when not in use. I’ll give you links to Amazon for two sizes. I suggest buying the size so that you don’t keep more than a month of fuel around the house.
No-Spill 1405 2-1/2-Gallon Poly Gas Can. A good size for snow blowers and push mowers.
No-Spill 1450 5-Gallon Poly Gas Can (CARB Compliant) This one has a second handle on the back so it is very easy to use and hang onto when pouring into your fuel tank. A good size for lawn tractors and zero-turns.
If you have a problem holding a gas can the SureCan is a great can. It’s very comfortable to use to use and built well.
SureCan – Gas Can with Rotating Spout.
Fuel Stabilizer: When I go to the gas station and buy fuel I always put fuel stabilizer in the storage tank. It helps keep the fuel fresh and some also clean your carb and fuel system without messing it up. There a man good brands but I’ve used
SeaFoam for years and it’s always worked well. I use 2 tablespoons per gallon of fuel.
Other fuels stabilizers to check out: Fuel Stabilizers
3. Check the belts and lubricate moving parts. Check the engine to deck belt and the engine to transmission belt on lawn tractors. Check the deck belt, engine to deck belt and engine to hydro transmissions belt on ZTR’s. Make sure they are not frayed or cracked excessively. If – they are – replace them now or at least get new ones ordered so you can replace them when they break.
4. Clean/replace the air filter. Air filters shield your engine from dirt and can easily become clogged with oil and debris. This can prevent oxygen from entering the engine, resulting in coughs and sputters. It’s recommended you replace your air filter every season for best engine performance. Clean the excess debris off the filter from using it in dusty conditions last fall. If you didn’t replace the filter last year – do it now.
5. Install a new spark plug. Spark plugs are inexpensive and should be replaced once a season. Over time, they can become rusted and corroded, and a fouled or corroded plug won’t spark at all. Remember to always remove the spark plug wire before servicing. When removing the old one, check the spark plug cable for signs of damage or rust. Do not clean or reuse old spark plugs.
6. Inspect blades. A dull blade will cause grass tips to turn brown, and weakened grass blades are prone to pests and disease. If your blades are bent or dull, replace them with new blades to deliver a clean cut, optimum performance, increased life for your equipment and professional-looking results for your lawn. You can also quickly sharpen your own blades. However, always replace parts with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) pieces that are specifically made for your machine to maximize performance and results.
7. Replace the battery? Check your operator’s manual for specific instructions for charging or replacing your battery. If the battery needs a charge every time you want to mow replace it. If you’ve never done it before just search for the procedure on Youtube and bring your old one with you when you go to your local farm store or auto parts store. Batteries are relatively inexpensive and generally cost less than $40 for your lawn tractor or ZTR.
Have I helped you? If would you like to support TodaysMower just click on this link and buy anything you need. I’ll make a small commission from the sale. Buy at Amazon. TodaysMower.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and we get a commission on purchases made through our links.
I just finished my first season of using my first zero turn mower, which is a scag cheetah mower with the 61 inch deck. I was getting ready to clean underneath the deck with a pressure washer and then possibly grease needed areas, but then I read your article where you are advising not to use a pressure washer.
In light of that, canyou tell me the best way to clean underneath the deck and get it back to its original new non contaminated look? I look forward to your response.
Hi Michael, Australia? A pressure washer will force water into greased bearings so… If you are practiced and know what you are doing you can use the pressure washer to clean everywhere on the deck except around the bearings. Don’t try to clean the spindles underneath the deck or under the pulleys on the top with the pressure washer.
Myself, I usually remove the deck, flip it over and scrape off the excess with a plastic scraper first. I may also use an air compressor or leaf blower to blow the small stuff off as I clean.
I’ll then use a bucket brush and garden hose to clean off what’s left. I usually spray the areas to clean with water – let them soak for a while and go about cleaning them off. Here are links to the items I use.
Plastic scraper at Amazon
Bucket Brush at Amazon
i enjoy the different post and your comments on all items. However, i have not seen anything on how to adjust the brakes on my Sears model 290000 Rear Engine Rider. i have search all over and can’t find anything on this subject. Hope you can help me out.
Hi Harold, just to be clear – riding mowers do not have brakes like your car. Most have a brake pedal but it’s just a parking brake. You can’t feather it like the brakes on your car. The brake pedal actually releases tension on the engine to transmission belt and then sets a small caliper outside the transmission housing (most hydros have an internal disk brake.)
So, If the tractor wants to roll on an incline with the brake set look at the right front side of the transmission. Do you see a small (2 inch) brake rotor? You can replace the pads that tighten up on that rotor. If it does not have that small rotor then it has internal brakes and you can repair them.
I have a Craftsman 46″ 20442 tractor and going into my 3rd season. I originally replaced the blades with G3 gator blades. I would like to replace them this year and noticed there are G3, G5, and G6 models. Do you know the part numbers for each of those blades for the 20442? I could not find it on the Oregon site. Also, what is the torque that should be applied for this tractor? I have seen different numbers.
Hi Michael, The proper torque is:
1. Block the blade with a piece of wood or hold it with a thick, gloved hand. Use a combination wrench or a 3/8 ratchet – socket and tighten with the other hand. That gives the fastener enough torque to slightly compress the cupped washer and hold everything tight. The spindle/blade assembly spins in the right direction so it won’t come loose.
DO NOT tighten it with an air impact wrench.
Thanks Paul, sounds better than buying a torque wrench! What about the Gator blades? Do you know what model G3, G5, G6 blades fit my 20442?
Hi Mike, Sorry, too many interruptions yesterday. I don’t know. But it’s the same blade that fits the 2015 and later Cub Cadet and Troy-Bilt 46 inch decks. It’s generally easier to research looking for a Cub Cadet blade than a Craftsman Pro or Troy-Bilt Super Bronco.