It’s Lawnmower Season!
When we were kids gardening was a weekly task that included, weed pulling, pruning (shrubs, hedges and trees), thinning bedding, flowers and overgrowths of all kinds, not to mention, turning soil, fertilizing and watering. Our yard was a massive assortment of concrete patios, walks and slabs heavily spotted with a potpourri of grand planting beds, containing an entire gamut of foliage – from the tinniest flowers to an ancient and enormous peach tree. Oh those sweet peaches. All that and our parents didn’t own a lawnmower. Of course not, there were no lawns.
Now that we have our own homes lawns are a big part of our landscape. Maybe that’s because we didn’t have them as youngsters.
Which reminds us. It’s getting to be that time of year again. Time to pull out the old lawnmower and get it ready for the warm months ahead. Yep, that’s right it’s time again for that never-ending battle to get all your power products “up and running”.
By the way, although this article is about how to properly get your lawnmower operational, just about all of the tips we offer apply to most gas operated garden tools and equipment.
When it comes to lawnmowers and other gasoline-powered devices there are two major elements that must be closely monitored: Gasoline and the spark plug. Gasoline can do more damage than good if left in the engine during long storage periods. A glaze can build up in the carburetor clogging it and preventing it from operating efficiently. Various additives are available that will “deglaze” the internal parts of a gas engine which, has fallen prey to this condition. A carburetor is less likely to “gunk up” if the mower is put away with an EMPTY fuel tank. Yep, you should empty the carburetor too! It’s easy. All you have to do is remove the fuel line and let the gas drain from the tank into your fuel container. Replace the line and start the engine. The fuel will be drawn into the engine and burned. The fuel tank and carburetor will be empty and safe and gunk won’t build up during storage.
Safety tip: Never leave a fuel can sitting around filled with gas during the off-season. And never keep gasoline for more than 30 days. After four or five weeks it begins to loose its potency. No, don’t pour it out. That’s even worse. Instead, use it in your car – duhhahh!
If you didn’t think to drain your mower at the end of last season you can use a deglazing fluid that will clean internal parts and make it easier to start the engine. What ever you do don’t try using an additive with old fuel. If you made the mistake of not draining your mower last year be sure to do it before using it this season. Keep in mind that a deglazing fluid is not the same as engine starting fluid. If you feel the need you can use both, but be sure that the inside of your engine is thoroughly clean for a problem-free season of operation.
Fuel tip: If you have a choice use a plastic fuel container instead of one made of metal. Metal containers will eventually rust and the particles can be easily transported into the motor via the fuel – talk about a damaged motor!
Fresh gas and an additive are both important, but so is the spark plug. It should be replaced or removed and cleaned before your first start-up each season. An arc of electricity is sent from the tip of the sparkplug to an adjacent ground connected to the body of the sparkplug. The best arc occurs when the contacts are clean and the distance between them is properly set. An “ignition” file (a tiny file) can be used to clean the contacts. The manufacturer of the lawnmower normally specifies the preset distance between the tip and the ground. The distance changes as the plug wares. A gauge to measure the distance is available for a buck or two. Remember, if you aren’t very handy you can always purchase a new plug.
All internal combustion engines must have air to properly operate. To prevent damage to the motor air intakes have dust filters. The good thing is that the filter lets the air through, but not the dust. The bad thing is that the filter eventually gets clogged with enough dirt so that air can’t pass. When this happens no air (or a reduced amount) is provided to the engine and combustion can’t take place. If your engine is running rough you should check your air filter. Often, soapy water is all that is needed. However, be sure to read your owner’s manual to be sure how to properly clean your air filter.
What ever you do, don’t begin using your lawnmower this year unless you first change the oil. Fresh oil and the correct amount is an absolute must.
Finally, be absolutely sure that the blade is sharp and that all parts (including the underside of the mower deck) are clean and free of grass and debris. Have a safe and happy mowing season. And, good luck
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