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Hard-working lawn mowers need extra care this year

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: August 1, 2013

Higher than usual rainfall has kept our lawns green and growing this summer, making lawn mowers work overtime.

Since our mowers aren't getting their usual midsummer rest, they need more TLC than usual, the contributors to Ohio State University's Buckeye Yard & Garden Line remind us.

Following are the maintenance tasks they recommend. CAUTION: Before you work on your mower, be sure to disconnect the spark plug to prevent the mower from starting accidentally.

  • Check the oil. If it's black or looks like it has debris in it, replace it. Use oil designed for small engines.
  • Inspect the air filter. Replace it when it looks dirty.
  • Change the spark plug. Usually you need to do this only once a year, but if the mower is hard to start, it may need a new spark plug.
  • Clean out the undercarriage. A buildup of grass clippings makes the mower run less efficiently, clogs discharge chutes, reduces mulching action and promotes deterioration of the mower deck. Use a wire brush or putty knife to loosen grass clippings and dirt, and spray away any remaining debris with a hose.
  • Sharpen the blade(s). A dull blade tears grass instead of cutting it cleanly, causing the grass to dry out and turn brown. After a blade is removed from the mower, it can be sharpened with a metal file, using a vise to hold the blade. Or take the blade to a mower repair shop to have it sharpened for a small fee. If the blade is badly damaged, replace it.
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