Tuning Up Your Lawn Mower Engine
One of us made his way into the work world at the ripe old age of nine tending gardens for an Aunt. Mowing four large plots of turf with a gas-powered, push-behind rotary mower was a once weekly chore. If the power mower didn’t work, we were forced to cut the grass with an old style push reel mower that took at least twice the time and four times the effort. Consequently, we learned early on the importance of keeping our lawn mower engine – and other power equipment – in tip-top shape.
An engine tune-up can save you big bucks in lots of ways. A well-tuned engine burns fuel more efficiently, which equates to lower fuel costs, more horsepower and greatly reduced emissions. And, when an engine runs properly it lasts longer.
Always best to follow manufacturer’s instructions for safety, care, and maintenance, but the following tips keep lawn mower engines running safely and efficiently. Always disconnect the spark plug wire from the spark plug before attempting any maintenance task to avoid injury from an accidental start.
- Check the oil level before every use. Make sure it is filled to the mark on the dipstick and don’t overfill. Experts say that you should change oil after every 50 hours of operation. We think it’s a good habit to drain and replace the oil in your engine at the beginning of every season. Tipping the mower on its side to remove old, dirty oil can make a huge mess. An easier way is by using an Oil Removal Kit by Briggs & Stratton. The kit contains a siphon pump, a universal adapter, a sealable oil bottle and a clear hose. Run the engine for about five minutes to warm the oil. Allow the oil to settle for several minutes and insert one end of the clear hose into the oil filler, making sure that the hose is all the way into the sump. Next, pump the handle on the siphon to start the flow of oil. You’ll know when you’ve removed all of the oil when the hose is clear. Remove the hose; seal the cap on the oil bottle and dispose of the used oil as you would other potentially hazardous materials. Several locations have oil recycling programs available, including Briggs & Stratton dealers.
Complete the process by refilling the sump with the type and quantity of oil recommended by the manufacturer. Before running the engine, check the oil level with the dipstick once it has had time to settle.
- Clean or change your air filter at least every three months or after 25 hours of use. If mowing in a dusty environment, consider changing your air filter more frequently. Keep in mind that cleaning your air filter can be helpful, but there is no acceptable substitution for replacement.
- Use fresh gas and keep it in a well-sealed can. Over time, gas can go stale, which will cause the engine to operate poorly. Fresh fuel will offer the best performance and efficiency.
- Periodically inspect the blade for wear or damage and have it professionally sharpened at least once a year. Check to make sure that the blade is balanced.
- Replace or clean the spark plug after every 100 hours of use. Again, if you don’t use your mower for 100 hours in a season you may want to replace the plug after each year of use anyway.
- Clean the blade housing and mower undercarriage. Build up can occur inside the blade housing. Wet grass sticks to itself like glue. A slow blade can result when grass build up occurs in the blade housing.
- Spray an all-purpose lubricant into the blade housing and mower undercarriage to prevent mud and grass build up and to reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do.
- The engine must always be clean and free of all debris –including mud. Lawnmower engines are air-cooled and can only cool when the engine parts can get adequate air.