Money-saving mower tune-ups

With just a few bucks' worth of parts and a couple of hours' work, you can keep your lawn mower running like new. CAUTION: Always disconnect the spark plug wire from the spark plug before reaching under your mower.

Money-saving mower tune-ups

Add fresh gas at the start of the season

Fuel system problems top the list of lawn mower malfunctions. Many of these, like gunked-up carburetors, are often caused by gasoline that's been left in the mower too long. Although fall is the best time to take preventive measures, you can at least get off to a good start in the spring by replacing the old gas in your tank with fresh gas.

  • Gasoline is highly flammable.
  • Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area away from sparks and flame.
  • Wipe up spills immediately and store gas in approved sealed containers.
  • To dispose of the old gas, call your local hazardous waste disposal site for instructions.
  • Most mowers have a mesh screen over the outlet at the bottom of the tank.
  • If you can see the screen through the filler hole, use an old turkey baster to suck up dirt and debris that may be covering it.

Change your oil regularly

Changing the oil in your lawn mower only takes about 15 minutes. That's time and money well-spent considering that changing oil at the recommended intervals will greatly extend the life of the engine.

  • Most engine manufacturers recommend an oil change at least every 25 hours of operation or every three months.
  • Older mowers have a fill plug close to the mower deck.
  • Fill this type until oil reaches the threads of the refill hole.
  • Two-cycle engines that use a gas/oil mix for fuel don't have an oil reservoir on the engine and don't require oil changes.
  • Before you drain the old oil, run the mower a few minutes to warm the oil and stir up sediment.
  • Then disconnect the spark plug, drain the old oil and add new (check your owner's manual).
  • Remember to check the oil level occasionally between oil changes, setting the mower on a level surface.
  • Top it off as needed. Don't overfill.
  • Check your manual for instructions to see whether the dipstick should be fully screwed in or just set in when you're checking the level.
  • If you accidentally add too much oil, follow the correct procedure to drain some out.

Don't suffocate your mower—change the air filter

Air filters are cheap and easy to replace. Dirty air filters choke the engine, causing it to run poorly and lose power.

  • If your lawn is dry and dusty, check the filter after every few mowings.
  • Otherwise, check it a couple of times during the season.
  • Replace it when it starts to get plugged with dirt and debris.
  • One common test is to shine a flashlight through the filter. If you can't see the light through the filter, replace it with a new one.

Add pep with a new spark plug

Often a new spark plug will make a big improvement in the way your engine starts and runs.

  • Spark plugs are so cheap (less than five dollars) and so easy to install that it's good insurance just to replace your plug every spring.
  • Check your owner's manual for the correct spark plug, or take the old plug with you to the store to match it up.
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