Summer Mower Tune-Up

Exmark Lawnmower

Is your mower not performing as well as it should? Even if you give it a full service when you pulled it out of storage, your mower may be due for some work to keep it going through the rest of the season. Here are some repairs that are easy to miss, but can make a big difference in how your equipment performs.

Before You Begin

The exhaust on your mower can stay hot long after the engine has stopped. Letting the engine cool for at least 20 minutes before working around the engine will keep you from getting burned. It’s also a good idea to disconnect the spark plugs will ensure the engine can’t start while you’re making repairs.

Clean the Deck

We covered blade sharpening in a recent article, but it’s only part of what your mower needs for good cutting performance. As layers of grass and dirt build up in the mowing chamber, there’s less vacuum to pull grass toward the blades, leading to an uneven finish and poor mulching performance.

Today, most riding mowers and a few walk-behind models have a built-in washout port. This directs water from a garden hose into openings on the underside of the deck that blast away grass buildup. This works the best if used shortly after mowing before the grass has had a chance to dry. If your mower doesn’t have a washout port, wipe out the deck with a moist rag. Heavy build-up can be removed using a wire brush or a putty knife. Never use a pressure washer on the deck, as this can force water into the engine on walk-behind mowers and into the spindles on riding mowers.

Clean the Air Filter

A dirty filter can seriously hamper engine performance. Paper elements can be cleaned by tapping them against a hard object to loosen any surface dirt, or they can be blown out with compressed air using a tip that limits air pressure to 30 psi. Using high-pressure air or tools that make direct contact with the filter medium can push dirt into the pores, clogging it up.

Check your engine’s owner’s manual on how to properly clean foam air filters. All filters can be cleaned by washing them in water and a mild detergent, but what you need to do after that will vary depending on the manufacturer and model. Honda’s filters should be saturated with clean engine oil, then squeezed out. Some Briggs & Stratton filters should be oiled, while others must be kept dry. Some older mowers and even a few current Subaru engines use an oil bath that needs to be topped up with fresh oil whenever the filter is cleaned.

Wipe out the air box before reinstalling the filter. If your engine has a cyclonic filtration box, be sure to clean the vanes of the intake thoroughly.

Grease and Lubricate

Adding grease to spindles, bearings and other components keeps them moving freely while flushing out old, dirty grease that can wear down metal components. Before you reach for your grease gun, clean out any gunk that has collected on the Zerk fitting. This keeps dirt from being pushed into the bearing and reduces backpressure that can blow out the seals in the gun. For most applications, any high-quality waterproof grease will work fine.

If the cables aren’t moving freely, check for kinks. It’s common for housings to get pinched between the joints on folding mower handles. Lubricate sticky cables with silicone spray, cable lube or non-detergent oil. This keeps them sliding freely and it forms a protective barrier that prevents rust.

Inspecting the Belts

Belts are used on riding mowers to transfer power from the engine to the deck and in self-propelled mowers to transfer power from the engine shaft and the transmission, located under the deck. If the belt is fraying or cracked, or it has stretched to the point that the idler pulley no longer engages, it’s due for a replacement.

Everything You Need for Your Mower

From small push mowers to commercial ZTRs, if it’s a lawn mower, Shank’s Lawn Equipment has the parts and service you need to keep mowing. We’re a certified dealer for most major mower brands including Wright, Exmark, Dixon, Scag, Troy-Bilt, and Murray as well as engine manufacturers including Briggs & Stratton, Honda, Kawasaki, Kohler, Subaru, and Tecumseh. Our shop is at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. To get here from I-81, take Exit 10. We also ship parts and accessories across the United States and Canada. To order, visit www.shankslawn.com.

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