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Mower maintenance is a must

Lawn-mower neglect and abuse might not be crimes, but people who are guilty of them could find themselves paying a hefty price.

With mowing season already under way, no doubt a lot of people already have learned the hard way that they should have drained their mowers’ fuel tanks or that they should have used a fuel stabilizer before they parked the machines for the winter.

“A lot of people don’t drain their gas out from the year before and have to have carburetor work done, usually,” said Barney Gilbert, shop foreman at Lexington Outdoor Power Equipment.

Gasoline gets “real, real thick” when it sits for several months, he said.

Lawn-mower maintenance is best done in the fall. But if you didn’t get to it then, here are some tune-up tips for your mower that can be tended to now, before you’re too far into mowing season:

• Change the oil and sparkplug.

• Replace or clean the air filter.

• Sharpen and balance the blade in your push mower.

The routine is basically the same with other types of mowers, Gilbert said.

Sharpening and balancing blades take a little more work than some of the other facets of mower maintenance.

“There’s really an art to it,” Gilbert said. People who doubt their ability to do this should take their mowers to professionals for service, he said.

It’s best to sharpen the whole face of a blade, he said. Most people just sharpen the edge, which makes for fewer crisp cuts, he said. A hand or bench grinder can be used for sharpening.

“If you’ve got time, use a file,” Gilbert said.

Sometimes people accidentally break blade bolts when trying to remove blades for sharpening, and that can cause crank problems. If the blade is not balanced, the mower will vibrate. A mower with a loosely bolted blade can be dangerous.

Gilbert said customers sometimes request that he leave blade bolts loose so they can remove the blades more easily for maintenance. He won’t do it.

“A small mower runs at 5,500 rpms. If that blade comes off at 5,500 rpms, somebody’s going to get hurt,” he said.

If you don’t allow your mower to chew concrete or hit tree stumps and you do routine maintenance on it, a mower should last 10 to 15 years, Gilbert said.

He has seen 40-year-old Lawn-Boy push mowers and 30-plus-year-old Gravely walk-behind mowers that were still in good operating condition, he said.

On the other hand, he said, “You’d really be surprised at the stuff people bring in here.”

One man recently brought in a riding mower with its cutting blade bent in half.

Already this year, he said, he has seen five mowers whose engines had seized up “because people don’t bother to check their oil.”

Unless you have a brand-new lawn mower, you should check the oil level in your mower every time you use it, according to Gilbert.

Grease fittings, if there are any, should be greased at least after every 25 hours of mower use. Gilbert recommends a high-temperature lithium grease for this.

Before cutting grass, it’s also a good idea to check the mowing area for rocks, sticks and other debris that could hurt the mower or the person using it, Gilbert said.

Mower maintenance

Lawn-mower neglect and abuse might not be crimes, but people who are guilty of them could find themselves paying a hefty price.

With mowing season already under way, no doubt a lot of people already have learned the hard way that they should have drained their mowers’ fuel tanks or that they should have used a fuel stabilizer before they parked the machines for the winter.

“A lot of people don’t drain their gas out from the year before and have to have carburetor work done, usually,” said Barney Gilbert, shop foreman at Lexington Outdoor Power Equipment.

Gasoline gets “real, real thick” when it sits for several months, he said.

Lawn-mower maintenance is best done in the fall. But if you didn’t get to it then, here are some tune-up tips for your mower that can be tended to now, before you’re too far into mowing season:

• Change the oil and sparkplug.

• Replace or clean the air filter.

• Sharpen and balance the blade in your push mower.

The routine is basically the same with other types of mowers, Gilbert said.

Sharpening and balancing blades take a little more work than some of the other facets of mower maintenance.

It’s best to sharpen the whole face of a blade, he said. Most people just sharpen the edge, which makes for fewer crisp cuts, he said. A hand or bench grinder can be used for sharpening.

“If you’ve got time, use a file,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said customers sometimes request that he leave blade bolts loose so they can remove the blades more easily for maintenance. He won’t do it.

“A small mower runs at 5,500 rpms. If that blade comes off at 5,500 rpms, somebody’s going to get hurt,” he said.

If you don’t allow your mower to chew concrete or hit tree stumps and you do routine maintenance on it, a mower should last 10 to 15 years, Gilbert said.

He has seen 40-year-old Lawn-Boy push mowers and 30-plus-year-old Gravely walk-behind mowers that were still in good operating condition, he said.

On the other hand, he said, “You’d really be surprised at the stuff people bring in here.”

One man recently brought in a riding mower with its cutting blade bent in half.

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