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Adjust your lawn mower in 4 steps before the summer



Chris Monroe / CNET

Your lawn mower is designed to take a beating. But even these robust machines need periodic maintenance to function as well as possible. So before the heat comes up and the grass starts to grow quickly, prepare your mower. We'll show you everything you need to know. That includes how to clean it, change the oil, sharpen and balance the blades. When you are done, your mower will be in top condition.

First, collect all the tools and items you need.


Chris Monroe / CNET

1
. Collect what you need

First collect your tools and equipment. You will need a drill, eye protection, work gloves and a knife sharpening set. The kit must be supplied with a ceramic knife sharpener and a balancer. Expect to pay about $ 9 for the kit at your local hardware store. You also need a torque wrench (or a socket wrench in a pinch) and a wooden block. Also consider having a rubber mallet on hand.

Other items and supplies include a plastic drip tray, engine oil, and a waste oil container. Often a large piece of cardboard is also useful as an old cloth or cloth. Also know that this guide is about push mowers or self-propelled mowers, not ride-on mowers. While some advice applies here, they are a different animal.

Remove dirt, debris, and old cut grass from the blade area.


Chris Monroe / CNET

2. Clean it

To clean it, first start with a cool engine. If your mower has a fuel valve, turn it off. If possible, also disconnect the spark plug. Then use a blower to blow away old debris and large debris. Now carefully lay the mower on its side with the fuel cap facing up. Also try to remove any debris from the bottom of the mower.

You may be able to get away with a garden hose to clean your lawn mower. The safest way, with the least risk of damage, is by hand.


Chris Monroe / CNET

I know that many people prefer to hose their mowers with a garden hose. I admit, I did it. Yet that is risky. If water gets into the wiring, air filter, or engine, you can really do some damage. Washing hands with a damp cloth is a rut, but also your safest bet.

Some lawn mowers, such as the Craftsman 37705, have a "deck wash" function. It is essentially a garden hose fitting on top of the round blade cover. This allows you to pump water into the blade assembly while the engine is running. This action is designed to flush out dirt and grass clippings.


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3. Sharpen and balance the blades

Grasp the mower and log while the mower is still on its side. Place the block properly in the knife. This is to prevent the blades from rotating while loosening their bolts. Remove the blade mounting bolt / bolts. A typical mower has one blade like the Craftsman 37700 I maintained for this guide (one mounting bolt). Some, like my Honda HRR216VKA, have two blades, one top and one bottom (two mounting bolts). Each blade must have at least two cutting edges.

To sharpen them, fix them in a table screw. Now attach the knife sharpener to the end of your drill. Wear eye protection and work gloves. Use the sharpener carefully to sharpen the cutting edges of your knives. First, go slowly to get the feel of the best angle to meet the blade and sharpener.

After sharpening both sides of the blade, place it on the kit's conical balancer. If one side drops below the other, continue to sharpen it until the blade is straight. Place the sharpened blades back in the mower and reattach them. If you have a torque wrench, it is a good idea to use it here. You often need to tighten the blade fixing bolt or bolts to a certain level of firmness.

Usually measured in pound feet, your instruction manual should list these specifications. For example, my Honda requires between 36 and 43 lb-ft of torque.

Run the lawnmower engine for a few minutes to let the oil flow freely.


Chris Monroe / CNET

4. Change the oil

Then replace the oil. Run the engine for a few minutes to decrease the oil viscosity and allow it to move freely. Now switch off the engine and roll the mower on a piece of cardboard or drop a cloth. Close the fuel line (if your mower has one) and disconnect the spark plug as before. Locate the oil filler tube and remove the cap. Often the cap also functions as a dipstick.

Drain the old oil from your lawn mower into a drip tray.


Chris Monroe / CNET

Place a drip tray or other tray on the side of the mower with the fill opening. Gently tilt the mower so that the oil drains into the pan. Discard the waste oil in a suitable waste container.

Add the fresh oil to the lawn mower using the filler tube. A funnel like this also comes in handy sometimes.


Chris Monroe / CNET

Now slowly pour fresh oil into the mower. Consult the instruction manual for the specific type of oil you need. Make sure to add only as much as your specific model needs. Do not forget to leave the mower undisturbed for a few minutes to allow the oil to enter the engine.

Pour the old oil into a special waste container.


Chris Monroe / CNET

5. Get out there and mow

Now that you've done all that, your mower should be ready to get the season going. It should also run smoother and safer. In fact, you've just saved the $ 200 to $ 300 fee it typically costs, at least on my neck of the woods, to have your lawn mower serviced professionally. So go ahead and get out there. That tall grass has to be cut.

Do you want to water your lawn more easily? Here is CNET's guide to making your own automated irrigation system .


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