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Prep lawn equipment before use in the spring
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Before preparing the yard for spring's arrival, homeowners should make sure their lawn-care equipment is safe and up to the challenge.
Herb Willcutt, safety specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said homeowners can handle most lawn and garden equipment maintenance if they take a little time to study the operators' manual and know the basics of simple 2- and 4-cycle engines.
“Consult the operator's manual for troubleshooting, and proper servicing and regular maintenance schedules,” Willcutt said.
When bringing equipment out of winter storage, start by checking all oil reservoirs for proper levels. Fill the fuel tank with clean, properly mixed fuel for 2-cycle engines, and clean gasoline or diesel for other engines.
Donny Sanders, president of Martin Truck and Tractor in Columbus, urged homeowners to change the oil in their equipment before even starting the engine. Check the air pressure in tires, and check the air filter.
“My personal recommendation is to change the filter every year in a lawn mower because it's in a very dusty environment,” Sanders said.
If the equipment has a hydraulic system, check and probably change this system's filter. If the equipment has a battery, check the fluid levels in the battery, refilling with clean, distilled water if necessary. Willcutt said to make sure battery cable connections are corrosion-free, and clean these with a wire brush and a mixture of water and baking soda if they are not.
“If the engine will turn with the starter, start the engine. If not, test the battery further by charging it for a period of time with a portable charger or by boosting it with an automobile battery,” Willcutt said. “Once the engine starts, operate it for a few minutes before stopping it and again checking all fluid levels.”
Engines that do not turn when cranked may need professional servicing.
Sharpen cutting blades on all pieces of equipment before their first use in the spring. Make sure they are firmly reattached with the proper bolts and hardware. On lawnmowers, check that the discharge chute is in place and directs grass clippings and debris down into the ground rather than allowing them to be thrown out the side.
Check any belts for wear, including nicks or tears. Remove the shields around them and clear any debris. Replace worn belts, adjust tension as needed, and lubricate spindle bearings according to instructions in the operator's manual.
“Replace shields and guards and inspect to be sure they are in place and functioning properly,” Willcutt said. “Belt guards not only prevent fingers and other body parts from being injured, but they also keep debris from collecting around the belts, which can prematurely wear them and could cause a fire when the belt rubs dry material.”
Do all service work with safety in mind. Remove the spark plug wire before working on a mower, and use blocks to support equipment that has been raised up for work.
Proper maintenance in the spring and any time the equipment is in use will prolong its life.
“The need to replace equipment is dependent on the type of use the unit receives and its care and maintenance,” Willcutt said. “Many 40-year-old lawnmowers still perform satisfactorily. These units most likely received good maintenance and care by their owners.