Everybody knows what a lawnmower is. A very large percentage of the adult population is now using, or at some time in the past has used this device. If you live in a town or a crowded subdivision, images of a small metal shell with a single cylinder engine and one blade that you follow along behind while holding a handle come to mind. On the other hand, if you have always lived in a house on a bit of property then you are thinking about a machine with a steering wheel, four tires and more than one blade spinning beneath it. Whichever type of lawnmower people use, it is surprising how much time they spend with it without truly understanding its needs.
The Outdoor Power Equipment industry as a whole has been very slow to adopt the new electronics-driven technologies. Aluminum and plastics have definitely made their entrance into designs, but computers and some of the fancy devices we have come to expect in all new cars are not prevalent yet. I grew up in a time and place where everyone was taught to check engine oil and fluids in any engine before starting. We also learned to grease all moving parts on a regular schedule to keep things functioning smoothly. These days cars have extended service intervals and self-diagnostics to help take the drudgery out of maintenance, but maintenance still is needed.
It seems, in my experience, that people have become accustomed to driving along with a phone to their ear and a favorite list of tunes playing on an mp3 player knowing that the car will go “ding” and flash a light when it needs attention. Unfortunately, the brain of a lawnmower is not so evolved. The only sound it knows to make when maintenance is needed usually starts with a squeal, or maybe a loud snap and, more often than not, ends in silence followed by a large amount of money changing hands.
If you want your lawn mowing equipment to also be your friend, then you need to be nice to it. Always check oil levelsbefore starting. There are a multitude of costly repairs that can be prevented if the oil is at the proper level before the engine begins to work. An improper oil level also could be a sign of a problem with the engine that needs to be corrected for proper performance. A little grease also goes a long way toward ensuring proper function. Fresh, clean oil is also important. Air cooled engines, like those used in most lawnmowers, run at hotter temperatures than liquid cooled car engines. This heat causes the oil to break down and lose its lubricating properties. These engines can ingest dirt, from the environment in which they run, that will find its way into the crankcase. Changing the oil, and filter on those equipped with one, gets it out of the engine so that it can’t cause damage.
Dirt is your equipments’ worst enemy. The next time you mow, look yourself over. I’m willing to bet you will see grass clippings clinging to your clothes and skin. Look closer. See the dust? Or, if you are sweaty, mud. If there is some on you it’s a safe bet it also covers your engines air filter. Since the air filter is designed to catch that sort of stuff, it will continue to build up. Eventually your engine will begin to have difficulty breathing, this can effect performance. If neglected, it can also lead to your engines demise.
I find that very few people read owners manuals anymore. If they did, and found their machines recommended grease schedule, they would hopefully understand why the blade bearings failed after mowing the lawn for 3 years without any maintenance. Most manufacturers recommend greasing them after 8-10 hours of use. Not too many years ago we had people who over-greased their blade bearings causing problems. In recent years people seem to have forgotten what grease is. More and more we see people fire up their machines week after week and hurry through the chore of mowing without giving any thought to maintenance, so they can move on to more fun things. After continuing this cycle for months on end they then want to blame a manufacturing defect when something fails. Manufacturing defects and lack of maintenance are two totally different failures that can easily be recognized by any properly trained and experienced small engine technician. There are a lot of people in the world who think they can work on this equipment.
Proper Equipment Maintenance.