Gas mowers are like little, simple automobiles, and the things you learn here could even be the first steps in learning how to take care of your own car. Some of the basics are similar.
Before doing anything else, remove the spark plug caps and unscrew the plug(s). This will prevent the mower from having any chance of starting accidentally while you’re tinkering with a belt or blade. Be sure to cover the open sparkplug hole(s) with lint-free cloth rags to prevent cylinder-damaging debris from dropping in. If plugs are worn, just replace ’em — they’re pretty cheap. Use an anti-seize compound on the threads so that you can replace them later without pulling a muscle or ruining the threads in the cylinder head. You might even keep a couple of spares on hand. Buy plugs that are pre-gapped for your engine — your owner’s manual will indicate the appropriate gap.
If you didn’t drain your gas last fall before putting the mower away for the winter, do that now — stale gas makes a mower hard to start and difficult to keep running.
If the mower has a separate oil reservoir (and you didn’t change the oil in the fall), drain it and replace it with fresh. Check the owner’s manual, but most four-stroke engines take 30-weight oil. Check the oil and gas before running the mower each time. Note that old two-stroke engines will require mixing the oil and gas before putting it in the gas tank because they don’t have a separate oil reservoir.
Most mowers are air-cooled, so take the time to clean the gunk out from between the heat sink fins — you can use a dowel, stick, screwdriver, compressed air, etc. — and it will increase the life of your engine; too much heat causes extra wear and tear.
Take out the air filter and give it a going over every 25 hours or so of mowing — if it’s ragged or really dirty, replace it, otherwise clean it by tapping it on something to get the worst of the dust out and then stick it back in place. Make sure the housing and cover are clean before closing everything up. Often, wiping them with a damp (not wet) rag will handle this.
If you have a self-propelled model, it might be a good idea to take a moment to look at the belt and replace it if it’s cracked or worn.
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