Be sure to disconnect the spark plug before touching anything on the mower.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- All winter your lawnmower waited, waxed -- ready to be fired up this spring. Wait -- you don't wax your lawnmower?
Tim Lowery does, so we asked him how to prepare the mower, even if we didn't do the proper fall maintenance. Wait -- what fall maintenance?
We'll try not to make this too painful:
UIf you didn't drain the fuel last fall, do it now. Lowery says AES Lawnparts in Olathe, Kan., where he works, recommends putting the leftover gas in your vehicle's tank. Better there then in your neighbor's yard.
UIf you do nothing else, change the oil and replace the air filter. "If you neglect those two things, you're asking for trouble," Lowery says. You can clean the air filter with soap and water for foam filters or compressed air for element filters. Jim Platt, owner of Northland Feed in Kansas City, recommends cleaning the air filter every three to four mowings if your yard is dusty.
UReplace the spark plug(s). Make sure the threads don't cross when installing the new one. Lowery says: "Take your time. You don't want to force it or you'll blow the plug out."
USharp blades equal healthy grass and a spiffy yard. A couple of options to sharpen blades: by hand or machine. Platt says if the blade isn't too dull, you can use a file or grinding stone. Then hang the blade on something. If one end falls lower than the other, you need to balance the blade.
Taking the blade to a store for a machine balance and sharpening should cost less than $10. Most places charge extra to remove the blade from the mower. Remember to disconnect the spark plug before touching anything on the mower, but especially before removing the blade.
UCharge the battery. You should have stored it in a warm place during the winter. OK, no more nagging.
UInspect the bolts, chains and belts on the mower. The belts should not be checkered or cracked. The chains might need lubrication. Make sure the wheels and handles are tight.
UUsing either a putty knife or water, clean the dried dirt, grass and other gunk under the deck that you should have cleaned last fall. (OK, last time.) If you use water, Platt recommends running the mower for a minute afterward to dry off the engine.
For "the Tim Allen types" who prefer a pressure washer, Lowery says to note the model numbers from the stickers on the engine and mower. Pressure washers can blow those stickers completely off. If you lose the sticker, you'll have trouble finding replacement parts.
UFinally, lubricate. Look in the owner's manual to find the grease zerks, if the mower has them. The areas in need of oil might be obvious because of the surrounding black stains. Check the steering area and where the blades attach.
Or, you could save yourself time and take the mower to a shop for spring cleaning ($50 to $80, not including parts).
But Tim Allen would not approve.