Maintaining your lawn mower can also help maintain the health of your grass. • A sharp mower blade, part of routine maintenance, is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn, say the turf experts at Texas A&M University. Dull blades leave a ragged top, which turns brown and makes the lawn look tired. More important, "ragged tops are prime points of entry for many fungal pathogens and small turf insects," A&M says. • Shops that sell mowers also service them. If you're not handy, getting them to do it could be a big relief. Dallas Morning News
A clean mower is a happy mower
With the proper tools and the time, you can do routine maintenance yourself. Here are tips from DIY Network, Texas A&M and About.com:
1. Drain the gas tank, and run the engine until it stops.
2. Disconnect the spark plug wire so there is no chance of the mower starting.
3. Remove the oil drain plug, and drain the oil into a drip pan.
4. Replace the plug securely.
5. With the mower on its side and using a putty knife, scrape matted grass from the underside of the mower's deck, which is the housing for the blade. Use a hose sprayer to blast off remaining grass and dirt. If that doesn't get it all, use a brush and soap and water.
6. Hold the mower blade with a rag or towel and, using a socket wrench, unscrew the mounting knob of the blade.
7. Sharpen the blade (see far right), or have a lawn mower shop do it.
8. Turn the mower upright.
9. Clean or replace the air filter.
10. Find the spark plug, which will probably need to be removed with the barrel of your socket wrench.
11. With a wire brush, clean off carbon deposits. Or, replace with a new plug.
12. Screw in and tighten the spark plug.
13. Fill the oil compartment with 30-weight oil (unless your owner's manual recommends another kind).
14. Reconnect the spark plug wire.
15. Lubricate all moving parts, including wheels. Tighten engine mounting bolts and any other nuts or screws.
16. Gas and go.
Other words of advice
• When you turn the mower on its side, turn it so that the air-filter side of the machine is up. Otherwise, oil drains out of the filter and the mower won't start.
• If your machine's engine runs roughly, you may need an expert to adjust it.
• Dispose of the used oil and filter properly.
Sharpening a mower blade
• A grinding wheel is handy, but you can use a file. Be sure to use safety glasses.
• Make smooth, quick swipes across the grinding wheel or with the file. Try to keep the original angle of the blade.
• Dip the blade in cold water every few swipes so the steel doesn't get too soft.
• After grinding, test for balance. Place the center hole of the blade on your fingertip or on a screwdriver. If it balances, great; if not, the heavier side needs more work. If you're satisfied with the sharpness, leave the angle alone. It's best to grind a little steel off the back or a corner of the blade to balance it.
• Carefully file off any burrs left by the grinder.
• Oil the bolt hole on the blade and reattach.