How to Maintain and Look After Your Petrol Lawn Mower
The majority of people who have used a petrol lawn mower agree that it’s by far the best way to maintain a neat, tidy and healthy lawn. With considerable more power than the electric and battery-powered alternatives, it’s easy to see why more and more people are selling or giving away their electric mowers, and investing in petrol-powered machines. Petrol lawn mowers are great for big lawns and difficult to navigate areas. Slopes and uneven surfaces are easily passable, and with the increased power you get from the petrol engine, the better and closer the cut will be. Electric and battery-powered machines just can’t compete, but “with great power, comes great responsibility”, like Voltaire, and later, Peter Parker, said. These machines need to be serviced and maintained to keep them at their best.
Petrol lawn mowers are tough, rugged and they get the job done, but they take a pounding doing it. If your machine isn’t serviced and regularly maintained problems are inevitably going to arise. If these problems are ignored, in the long run, you could be looking for a new lawn mower. Keep on top of things, however, and your lawn mower could last you a lifetime. Maintaining and servicing your lawn mower isn’t as scary and daunting as it sounds. You don’t need to take it into a store or spend a fortune consulting with the “experts”. You can take care of it yourself at home, with little or no, mechanical knowhow, by following our tried and tested tips and tricks. This will keep your lawn mower in the best possible condition and ensure that it starts up each time, every time, allowing you to enjoy your pristine lawn and focus on the things that matter.
1. Familiarise Yourself With Your Specific Lawn Mower
To maintain and care for your petrol lawn mower you’re going to need to take the time to familiarise yourself with it, and its inner workings by reading and studying the manual and warranty information. This isn’t something many of us like doing, it can be a bit boring, but if you want to get the best out of your mower, it’s an important step. Furthermore, neglecting the maintenance info in your manual may actually affect your warranty coverage, so be sure to have a thorough read through it, back to front, before undertaking any servicing or tinkering with your petrol mower.
2. Always Use the Correct Fuel (as specified by your manufacturer)
To get the very most out of your mower, you’re going to need to ensure that you’re using the correct fuel, as recommended by the manufacturer. Other fuels and brands will likely work in your mower but to ensure it keeps ticking along and starting up each time, pay attention to their guidelines. Incorrect fuel usage could cause damage to your mower in the long-term.
3. Check Your Fuel Levels
Check your fuel levels each time you’re going to take her out and if she needs a top-up, make sure you use fresh fuel. Fuel stored for longer than three months can become stale, it will still work, but it won’t work as well. It’s just not optimal for your mower or your lawn. Fuel management is essential, and if handled correctly, will add years to the life of your mower.
4. Store your Fuel Correctly
Always keep your fuel in a sealed container and in a cool and dry place. Plastic containers work best, and you should stay away from any metal cans or tins, as these rust over time and will decrease the effectiveness of your fuel and it’s lifespan. The fuel life of new fuel can be extended by up to two or three years by adding a fuel conditioner, but you can’t extend old fuel, please don’t try, it’s a waste of time and money.
5. Drain Your Tank After Every Other Cut
Some experts advise draining your petrol tank after every use. Other’s encourage you to pour it away after every second cut. Either way, it’s good practice to drain your tank regularly and keep fresh fuel flowing and burning through your petrol lawn mower. Old fuel is by far the leading cause of machines misfiring and not starting up correctly.
6. Check the Oil Level Before Each Cut
Just like any petrol-powered car, your lawn mower needs to have the right type of oil (as recommended by your manufacturer), You can check your oil levels by using your lawn mower’s dipstick.
This is an excellent opportunity to check the quality of the oil in the mower. Take this time to check for any signs of debris or discolouration (if it’s charcoal black, it’s gone bad and needs changing). If you see anything amiss, you should drain the oil and replace it with fresh oil before taking her out on another spin.
Draining the oil is a relatively straightforward process. You first need to open up the drain plug and let the oil drain out into a cup or onto any kind of protective surface (to protect your lawn from contamination). Give the mower a good shake, to ensure that every last drop has been drained, and presto, it’s done! If your mower doesn’t have a draining plug, you will need to remove the oil via the filling hole, by gently tilting your mower and pouring it out that way. Again, simple enough and takes very little time.
7. Monitor, Clean and Replace the Air Filter
The air filter is a vital component and keeps your lawn mower’s engine and carburettor safe from dirt, rocks and grass — three things you want to stay on the outside of the mechanics of your machine. If debris does get inside, it will cause havoc. This is an incredibly important part of lawn mower maintenance, which shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s also incredibly simple to take care of yourself. It’s not any more challenging or taxing than cleaning or replacing the filter on your vacuum cleaner.
On average, your air filter will need replacing once a year. They’re cheap to replace and easy to pick up from your local hardware store or garden centre. When replacing the air filter, make sure to give the holder a good clean too and ensure it’s free from any muck or debris before you install the new one.
8. Check and Replace Your Spark Plugs
A fully functioning spark plug will ensure that your engine starts up quickly and correctly each time. It will stop your mower from overheating, misfiring or stalling. In short, it’s super important, and should be replaced every twelve months. Spark plugs are pretty cheap and a doddle to install yourself at home.
You’ll need a socket wrench to remove your spark plugs (check your manual for the exact size), be gentle with it; it should come out without too much force. Next, take your new spark plug and line it up in the exact same position as the old one and tighten. We don’t want to tighten it too much, just enough to ensure that it’s in place and doesn’t wiggle about. If it’s too tight, it could cause issues when starting up the mower, later on.
9. The Nuts and Bolts of it all!
Before each cut, take a few seconds to have a quick once over of your lawn mower. Make sure all of the bolts and screws are still tight and in place and that they haven’t been rattled loose by the last cut. If you find any loose bolts, you will need to tighten them up before your next session. If any bolts or screws are missing, you will need to replace these before cutting your lawn again. Proceeding with anything missing may lead to more damage. It’s just not worth it.
10. Keep Your Blades Sharp
If there is a part of your mower that takes the most beating, it has to be the blades. All that chopping, swiping and grinding up dirt and pebbles takes a toll on the blades after time, and a lawn mower with blunted blades is barely a lawn mower at all.
If your blades have become blunted or dull you’re going to need to remove them from your mower and sharpen them or, if they’ve been on your mower for many years, and are looking pretty banged up, replace them with new ones.
This is usually very simple to do. The majority of petrol mowers have a simple little bolt on the underside, holding them in place that you need to unscrew. Be careful though, even a blunted blade can cut you, so make sure to use heavy-duty gloves and keep away from the pointiest looking bits, as much as possible!
You can sharpen the blades with a file, which you can pick up from your local DIY store or, alternatively, this service is offered at garden centres and lawn mower service centres.
Why not take a look at the following video on How to Sharpen a Lawn Mower Blade
By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to ensure that your lawn mower will be in tip-top condition and give you many happy years of service and a perfectly cut lawn. If any of these steps sound too daunting, you can always take your lawn mower to a service centre, but with a little time and patience, there’s no reason why you can’t learn how to maintain and look after your petrol lawn mower needs and servicing yourself, from the comfort of your home.
Now you know that a petrol lawn mower can easily be maintained, why not take a look at my Top 10 Petrol Lawn Mowers?