Self Service Your Lawn Mower and Save Money

Around where I live the small engine retail and service stores charge $75 an hour to work on lawn mowers and ride-on tractors. Most people can do the necessary basic service themselves and keep their mower running smoothly for years.

We all do it, we get to the end of the grass cutting season, shove the mower or tractor to the back of the shed and forget about it till next Spring. Don’t do that this year, it will cost you money and time to get it back in working order.

What you’ll need: Digital camera, SAE30 oil, wire brush, spray can of black enamel paint, heavy duty gloves, container for used oil, replacement spark plug, (just in case), face mask and cleaning rags.

Drain the fuel tank and let the engine burn the last of it from the carburetor and fuel lines. The fuel in the tanks will partially evaporate over winter leaving a residue, particularly fuels blended with ethanol which will leave a gooey mess, that’s a real pain to clean out especially from the fine jets in the carburetor.

Before doing any further work on your machine, disconnect the spark plug lead. Although electrical interlocks should prevent the engine accidentally starting it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Drain out the old engine oil. For most lawn mowers the drain plug is underneath in the mower deck. For others and lawn tractors the drain plug is at the base of, and on the side of the engine. Be sure to collect the oil in a container to dispose of correctly later, don’t let the oil drain onto the ground.  Replace the oil drain plug. Leave the dipstick out to remind you there is no oil in the engine.

Clean dirt and grass off the mower, a small amount of debris in the engine will cause it to seize. Clean dirt from the engine cooling fins, you may have a cover to remove to do this. If this is the first time you are doing your own maintenance, have a digital camera handy to take photos as you work to ensure parts go back correctly. Take as many pictures as you need, use the zoom for close-ups, so as you put things back in place you won’t waste any time figuring things out. Don’t rely on your memory it will let you down!

Clean the deck, for lawn mowers tip the machine on its side, carburetor side up. Use a block of wood to wedge the blade so that it cannot move. Put on a pair of heavy duty garden gloves before removing the blade. Clean debris from the underside of the deck, wire brush and spray with black enamel paint from an auto parts dealer, always use a mask for this job. Painting the underside of the deck will prolong its life. Have a professional sharpen and balance the blade before replacing it. Then turn your mower upright.

Take out the spark plug, wire brush it clean and check the gap, 0.30″ for most. If it’s worn replace it with new. Take the plug to a dealer to ensure you get the correct replacement. Clean and replace carburetor air filter. Fill the engine with SAE30 oil, check manual for quantity required making sure not to over fill, then use the dipstick to check the level, let stand for a few minutes then re-check.  Wipe the dipstick to avoid an incorrect reading.

Check the condition of the starter pull cord. If damaged or frayed take the mower to a service dealer for a replacement pull cord. Replacing the cord can be difficult especially if the recoil spring is taken out of its housing and it’s not a task for a beginner. Lubricate the cables and if it’s self-propelled check the belts for wear and damage and replace if needed.

Wipe the machine down and store ready for next Spring and you’ve just saved yourself $100 or more.

MONETIZING TIPS: Offer this simple end or beginning of season service to family, friends, neighbors, church members and seniors clubs. Make up a poster on your PC with eye catching photos from the web. If you have a vehicle to transport machines so much the better. You only need a space in your garage or garden shed and a few simple tools to get started on a nice money-making business. Your camera can be a big help by ensuring you can see exactly how things came apart until you feel confident.

Need more info on cameras?

Brian Wenham