Prepare the lawn mower for winter lay-off – and starting again in spring
WITH autumn bringing to an end the grass cutting season, it’s almost time to prepare your mower for any winter laydown or service.
Some end-of-season maintenance can be carried out with basic knowledge, however some blades require specialist grinding machinery to get the best from your mower and lawn.
If using an electric mower it is important to use an RCD safety plug at all times. If you are using a petrol driven engine it will require regular maintenance throughout the season.
Make sure you disconnect the spark plug lead from the spark plug before any maintenance is done. Check all drive/clutch cables are in good working order and any cables are either adjusted and lubricated or replaced as required.
Pull out the starter rope from the starter and check for any fraying, this could possibly be repaired during the winter giving you less downtime during the cutting season. Regular maintenance of spark plugs should be carried out at every 15 to 20 hours of use by removing the spark plug and cleaning the plug with a wire brush if required.
An indication as to how well your engine is running is the condition of the spark plug. A light grey coloured electrode suggests a good running engine, black coloured centre of the spark plug (electrode) indicates there is possibly an issue with the engine.
Possible causes of this are blocked air filter, choke sticking on or old or improper oil, which, if rectified, would improve the overall starting and fuel economy of the mower. A spare spark plug is also a good idea and some oil to top up, usually SAE30 grade oil, but always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines.
When the last cut is complete you should switch off the fuel tap on the tank and let the engine run until it uses the fuel in the carburettor and fuel line. The fuel can go stale within six to 10 weeks of sitting idle, causing blockages in your carburettor, thus making it difficult to start next season. One of the most common problems of lawn mower engines not starting at the start of the season is stale fuel.
Rotary mower blades should be checked for wear and tear. This type of blade can be filed to sharpen the blade, however if there is metal fatigue or broken parts then it is best to replace the blade with a new one. Cylinder mowers are a little more intricate in the sharpening process.
Correct setting of the cylinder to bottom blade of a cylinder machine is important not only for a good cut but the life of the blade and performance of the lawn mower engine. If the cylinder is set too tight to the bottom blade it means the engine has to do more work and can over-heat. In electric cylinder mowers this can lead quickly to a burnout of the electric motor.
Cylinders are better sharpened by a mower specialist but you can also back-lap the cylinder blades. All moving parts should be lubricated to avoid them seizing over the winter.
Careful storage over the winter in the shed or garage is best done by keeping the mower on a few sheets of cardboard to stop any dampness.