Wow – where did winter go? I can believe how fast it passed. Spring has definitely sprung here in Murfreesboro. This warm wet weather has the trees budding out and the grass growing for sure! Time to get the old lawn mower out, right? Not so fast. Before you start your lawnmower, you need to think about what you can do before you cut that first blade of grass. For most of you, that time has already passed!

First thing to test is the quality of your fuel. If your mower has been sitting for some time, the fuel may have gone bad. I recommend running the engine at the end of the season until all of the fuel is completely gone, but with the price of fuel today, not too many people do that. Does the fuel smell like varnish? If so, don’t run it! Properly drain and dispose of this fuel and get fresh fuel to replace it. Most fuel today contains ethanol, which reduces the shelf life of fuel today dramatically. I don’t want to go into a debate about the pros and cons of ethanol, but from my experience it can be detrimental to equipment that we come in contact here at the store. I will say that there are fuel additive products sold today that do combat the effects of ethanol in small engines and I do recommend using these products, especially for equipment that is used infrequently.

For your mower, check underneath the deck to see how sharp the blade is. It doesn’t need to be razor sharp – it just needs a good edge to efficiently cut the grass. If it is worn, take the blade off and sharpen it with a grinder. Many local mower shops will do this for you for a small fee. At the same time, check to see if any old grass is clogged under the deck. Use a scraper to clean under the deck and remove any grass from the top of the deck by hand or with a blower. You can use a hose pipe to do this, but I do recommend running the mower with the deck on for several minutes to heat the bearings up. Why do I recommend this? Water is the enemy for any metal surfaces. Heating these bearings will burn off any water that might accumulate around these surfaces and prevent rust in the bearings, thus prolonging the life and preventing future bearing failures.

On that same subject, now is a good time to grease all bearings if they require it. Your owner’s manual is a good place to start to identify all grease points. Many mowers today have sealed bearings which are not intended to need additional greasing.

Check the air filter to see if it needs to be replaced. If it is clogged and full of debris, replace it. Clean air is crucial to the engine. Think of it this way – it takes almost 10,000 gallons of air to burn 1 gallon of fuel. Just as important is having good fuel. I recommend replacing the fuel filter every year as a precaution.

Checks levels all fluids on the mower, such as engine oil and hydrostatic transmission fluid and add if needed per the owner’s manual. A good routine to get into is to change your engine oil at least once per year. I recommend every 50 to 70 hours, but for most homeowners this equates to once per year.

Check all belts that are on the machine for any abnormal wear or pieces missing and replace if necessary. It is a good idea to keep a spare belt handy with you just in case. The last thing you want to do is to go scrounging to find a replacement belt on a Saturday afternoon with the yard halfway cut!

Following the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual will prolong the life of your mowing equipment and will ensure your equipment continues to operate as intended.

If you do not have time, or if you are not comfortable with maintaining your equipment, find a good reputable lawn mower shop to work with. They will be able to perform all of the proper maintenance, plus give you advice on what to look for throughout the season.

Next time we’ll discuss different mulch products and techniques you can use around your home.