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I thought of titling this post “Help… My Mower Won’t Start” but I’m going to go glass half full rather than half empty.

As I write this on February 23rd, the weather is gorgeous. The temperature today is supposed to be 75 degrees! It makes me want to move my desk outdoors. It definitely has given me the itch to get outdoors in the evening and work on cleaning up the flower beds and yard. If only the pollen wasn’t something we had to deal with here in Atlanta. It looks like it is going to be a rough year for it.

Have you gotten outside yet? Have you cut your grass yet? How did your gas powered equipment do as you tried to wake it for the first time since last fall? I hope that you took some preventative measures to properly winterize your equipment. If you did, you’re probably in good shape. Unfortunately, most folks finished their final cut of the yard last fall and rolled their mower directly to the shed or roof overhang. They parked it in storage for three months without considering the true effect that old fuel, colder climates and environmental elements could cause to their equipment.

Was that you?

Here’s what you need to be looking at before you pull the rope handle the first time:

General Inspection

Inspect all surfaces. Check out the deck, belts, blades and all bolts and fasteners. Check out the tires and wheels. While we probably have the largest stocking parts rooms in the state of Georgia, and while we can typically special order parts and receive them in a matter of days, if you don’t want to wait for parts to be ordered, don’t delay.   Our parts guys have a lot of experience in this industry and want to help you get in and get out.

Fuel

If you have fuel in containers older than 30 days… get rid of it! Do not use it. Chances are that you have had separation between the fuel and ethanol, and there may have been moisture/water introduced to the container. While there are products that claim to allow this gasoline to be passed through the machine with no effects, it is best to get rid of it and not use it.

Any fuel that remains in your equipment needs to be evaluated. We have testing kits that you can use to determine the condition of the fuel. It may be better to have an experienced mechanic to remove the fuel from tanks and lines. Tubes, seals and other parts may need to be replaced if they are damaged.

Oil

Do you have any idea when you last changed the oil in your mower? You should see the color and viscosity that our mechanics see sometimes. Oil drain plugs on most equipment are easy to locate. Remove the plug and catch the old oil in a container. Replace the plug and refill the engine with the manufacturer recommended oil type and quantity. By the way, we’ll recycle any old oil that you have, even if we don’t drain it for you.

Spark Plug

Consider replacing the plug with a new one. Before you put the new one in, add a couple drops of engine oil into the hole, and then replace the plug. Crank the engine a couple times to move the oil into the cylinder.

Air Filter

Air filters come in different shapes, sizes and types. Paper filters need to be replaced and some foam filters can be cleaned and replaced. Either way, take a look at it. The engine and equipment will run much better with clean filters. This is one of those maintenance tasks that you need to be prepared to do during the cutting season, too. With the pollen and dirt that we have in the metro Atlanta area, this is especially true. Most homeowners should do this once a month.

Fuel and Oil Filter

Larger commercial machines have fuel filters. Be sure to look at your manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning/changing fuel filters. As mentioned above and many times before, today’s fuels make it necessary to develop a wellness hygiene about the fuel that we’re using and bad fuel filters can cause your equipment to run poorly if not monitored.

Blades

Starting off the spring with a well-sharpened blade can actually help the health of your lawn. In fact, you may want to consider buying new blades and having the old ones sharpened so that you already have spares ready when you need them. Most folks should sharpen their lawnmower blades 2 or 3 times a season. Landscapers need to do it even more frequently.

Before you buy any blade off the internet or a magazine/catalog, make sure you understand what you’re buying. Some blades are substantially thinner and actually have a shorter cutting edge. They can’t be sharpened as often as better blades and they can be easily damaged beyond sharpen/repair on rocks, roots or stumps. Check out the blade the manufacturer recommends. OEM isn’t absolutely necessary on this, but make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

Surface Cleaning

If you didn’t take the time to clean your equipment before storing it, there is likely dirt, oil and grass stuck to various places. Use some soap, water and a little elbow grease and get the equipment clean. It doesn’t seem like much, but a cleaner machine will run better and be more effective. The worst area is going to be the underside of your cutting deck. Debris buildup here will only get worse if you don’t take some time to clean it.

Lubrication

Proper lubrication will ensure that your equipment will work better and last longer. Be sure to oil any wheel bearings and other moving parts when possible.

From a do it yourself standpoint, most of this maintenance can be done in a few hours and with minimal effort and cost. If you would prefer to have someone else do it for you, our service departments are more than willing to assist get your equipment back in proper working shape for the 2012 spring/summer cutting season. We get busy very quickly, so be sure to contact us soon to check availability and schedule an appointment.