« Garage organization systems | Main | The Ice Dam Cometh »

October 19, 2007

How to winterize your lawn mower

Mower Than You Know  - Watch Mag's pithy video on the subject of  lawnmower maintenance

I got a new lawnmower in April. All summer long I was as proud as a 13-year-old with her first bra.

And like all bras, which go grey with neglect and lose their elastic, lawnmowers languish in the absence of regular maintenance. So if you’re thinking of putting your lawnmower away for winter without giving that baby some love, think again.

For one thing, gasoline isn’t stable and should be used within 30 days of purchase. Otherwise it gets gummy. If you don’t drain your lawnmower of fuel now, by next April the engine will be sluggish, bordering on moribund.

If you’ve got leftover gasoline this fall, either add it to your car’s gas tank or mix some gasoline stabilizer into the gas storage container; the stabilizer prevents gas from breaking down  and losing volatility over the winter, at which point it won’t spark any engine known to man.

If your lawn mower has finished the season cutting so poorly that you might as well be using a sickle, I can help.  Brown-tipped grass is a telltale sign of a dull blade, as is a tufty texture in your lawn. 

Run through these steps now and next April, you’ll be one happy yardener (‘Gardeners’ are good at flowers and plants; yardeners just do lawn.)

 

  1. Drain the beast. Use up surplus gasoline by doing a last pass on the lawn until the engine croaks.
  2. Remove the air filter and clean the creases with a popsicle stick.
  3. Remove the rubber cap from the spark plug.
  4. Put the lawnmower up on two saw-horses so you don’t have to turn it on its side and possibly cause gas to leak out. If the sawhorse technique isn’t convenient, and it never is, lay the lawn mower down on the ground, letting it fall to the side opposite the air filter; this will prevent oil from draining into the air filter (which screws up the lawnmower’s inclination to start).
  5. Remove the cutting blade. Put a block under the blade to brace it and use a wrench to remove the connecting bolt. It requires a lot of torque. If the bolt doesn’t budge, use a ‘cheater bar’; Slip a 10-inch piece of pipe over the handle of the wrench to increase your leverage. Bear down. (Turning the bolt to the left loosens it, to the right, tightens it. Hence the phrase: Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty.)
  6. Sharpen the blade. Blades are supposed to be sharpened after every 4 hours of use. Like, try      every 80 hours for most of us.  However, blade sharpening is easy. Clamp the blade in a vise and use a Dremel rotary tool with a kick-butt sharpening attachment that includes an aluminum oxide #932 grinding wheel ($20 at Canadian Tire). Guide the grinding wheel lightly across the blade until the metal is shiny and sharp. Mulching blades have an extra dip in them; just follow the curves. It took me about 10 minutes to sharpen each edge of my blade.  Oh baby.  Having this Dremel attachment will make you feel almost as good as being a man who’s having a good day.
  7. Remember to consider the experts’ unanimous agreement that you should replace your blade with a new one every 2 years. (About $20.)  Tell that to my Dad, who never replaced a blade in 40 years.
  8. While your lawnmower is in the vulnerable 2-wheels-off-the-ground position, scrape off Lawnmower Cheese – the felted mat of grass and dead bugs - with a paint scraper. This will prevent the deck from rusting out over winter. The mower will also mulch clippings better when it’s not cramped by layers of lawnmower cheese.     
  9. Give the sharpened blade a swift spray of oil to protect it from rust over winter.
  10. Re-install the sharpened blade, positioning the cutting edge so that it’s nearest to the ground. (If you re-install the blade upside down you’ll just make crop circles on your lawn next spring, but you might get your photo in the National Enquirer.)

Dremel_cu_with_lots_of_sparks

Sparks fly from the Dremel blade-sharpening attachment.  What a rush.

Comments

Abi

Mag,

Its funny how you mentioned the mold underneath the mower. We had a problem with our mower, where I could not get it to work for some weird reason. I kept pulling the whatever the thing is called to push to get it to start, but it wont start. So To make a long story short, my mother figured out why it would not start. It was because all that old grass was underneath the mower from when it was last used, so when theres like too much grass that hasn;t been cleaned out, it wont start. Funny how things work out like that!

take care Mag,
with love Abi

Mag

Yup - the felted grass can bind on the blade and prevent it from starting. This is an issue with mulching mowers especially, because the blade chops the grass blade off and then keeps it airborne while it cuts it a few more times into smaller and smaller pieces. If you've got a lot of grass felt stuck to the underside of the deck, there's less room for the mulching process to occur so your lawnmower leaves big clumps behind instead of pulverized grass particulate. So that's why it's good to unplug the spark plug after every use, tip over the lawnmower (to the side opposite the air filter) and scrape off all of the crud. Aren't you glad you know now?

Mag

Abi

Oh yeah Absolutly!

Thanks Mag

The comments to this entry are closed.

FUN

  • Get ToolGirl's Newsletter
  • Watch ToolGirl's videos

FIND MAG ON...

  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
ToolGirl

Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie