Tuning and troubleshooting your lawn mower

Your mower is the workhorse of your garden tool arsenal. Make sure you tune it at least once a year, more often if you use it frequently. A tuned engine lasts longer, increases fuel economy by up to a third, reduces repair costs and decreases emissions by up to half. Here's what you can do to tune your mower.

Tuning and troubleshooting your lawn mower
  • First, you'll need to change the oil. Run your mower's engine for a few minutes to warm up the oil so it'll drain better. Then, stop the engine, remove the drain plug and empty the old oil. Once the old oil has drained out, put the drain plug back into place and fill the mower with new oil.
  • Next, take a look at the air filter. A dirty air filter will disrupt the fuel/air ratio in your mower. This means that your mower will burn more fuel and emit exhaust fumes that are extremely noxious. If your mower has a paper filter, simply remove and replace the filter (making sure that the new filter's pleats face out). If your mower has a sponge filter, wash it clean with gasoline or kerosene and then put it back into your mower.
  • The other thing you'll want to do when tuning up your mower is remove the old spark plug. Use a spark-plug wrench or deep socket for this job. Once the old spark plug's out, remove any carbon that might've built up between the insulator nose and the outer shell. To install your new spark plug, hand-turn it until the threads catch. Then ratchet the new plug down until it stops. And, to finish it off, give it another quarter turn. Tightening your spark plug any more than this could break your plug or make removing it very difficult.

Troubleshooting other problems

Some problems with your mower might come up even if you tune it every year. Here are some solutions to a few common problems:

Your mower is difficult to start

If you're having a hard time starting your mower there are three possible causes:

  1. Your mower's ignition might be faulty. If you think this is the problem, try spraying your ignition with a multi-purpose lubricant or a similar water-repellent aerosol.
  2. Your mower might have a damaged spark plug lead. If you can see that the lead of the spark plug in your mower is damaged, then you'll just need to replace it.
  3. Your mower's spark plug might be dirty. Try cleaning your mower's spark plug. Or, remove the spark plug and clear out any carbon that's lodged between the insulator nose and outer shell before reinstalling your spark plug.

Your mower is emitting black smoke

  • If your mower is emitting black smoke, it's a sure sign that there's a problem with your air filter.
  • If your mower has a paper filter, then replace it.
  • If your mower uses a sponge filter, then wash it out with gasoline or kerosene and then put it back into place.

Your mower is vibrating

  • An unbalanced blade is usually the cause of unusual vibrations in a rotary mower.
  • To rebalance the blade, you should sharpen it.
  • Or, you might have to replace your mower's blade entirely.
  • In either case it's important that you fix your unbalanced blade as soon as possible to keep your mower's fixings from loosening and wearing out the bearings.

Now that you know a little more about how to tune and troubleshoot your lawn mower, you're sure to help keep your garden arsenal's workhorse running efficiently and effectively for longer.

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