The secret to making your lawn mower run like new

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It’s time to get your lawn mower ready for spring. The secret to making it run like new is proper maintenance.

Here’s how to tune-up your lawn mower like a pro:

Engine tune-up kit
Engine tune-up kit

1.    Purchase a tune-up kit. A tune-up kit ensures you’re using the correct maintenance parts for your particular model’s engine as recommended by the lawn mower manufacturer. Find the kit for your engine: 

(Editor’s note: Check out RepairClinic’s The Great Spring Tune-up Kit Sale. All kits are on sale through May 31, 2014.)

2.    Install a clean air filter. The air filter has the important job of preventing dirt, dust and debris from entering the carburetor and engine. It should be cleaned or changed every 25 hours or once per mowing season. Pleated, paper air filters must be replaced. Foam air filters can be cleaned with hot water and a small amount of detergent and then left to air dry before being saturated with engine oil and reinstalled.

3.    Use a clean fuel filter. Fuel filters should be replaced; they cannot be cleaned. Read your owner’s manual for the proper way to install a fuel filter, as it varies by model.

4.    Check and replace the oil. Engine oil should be replaced every 25 hours of use or at least once per season. Check this frequently (approximately every eight hours of use). The oil should be golden or amber in color. As it ages, it darkens. It’s best to check your mower owner’s manual for the recommended way to handle oil replacement. Most small engine repair shops and auto parts stores have a free recycling program for used oil.

5.    Replace the spark plug. A spark plug should be replaced at least one per season. Over time, a spark plug’s performance will degrade due to carbon build-up and a weakened electrode. This dramatically increases emissions, reduces engine performance and requires the engine to use more fuel. Spark plugs are easy to replace and they are pre-gapped. It’s important to use only the engine manufacturer’s recommended spark plug, as using an alternative model can be damaging.

6.    Check the blade. A sharp blade is important to a proper cut. Dull blades tear the grass, rather than cut cleanly. Regularly check mower blades for dullness and damage. A blade should be sharpened every season and replaced every one to three years, depending on usage. If bends, dents and other damage to the blade are found, it should be replaced right away. Such damage can cause dangerous accidents in operation. Always use the manufacturer’s recommended blade. A universal blade is not recommended, due to safety issues.

Related information: Overview about lawn mower blade types

7.    Check tire pressure. Periodically, use a tire pressure gauge to ensure consistent tire pressure. Tires with varying pressure will result in uneven or poor cutting.

8.    Clean the undercarriage. After every use, use a hose to remove grass clippings and debris build up in the undercarriage. Be sure to turn off the mower and disconnect the spark plug first.

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