How to Bring Your Lawn Mower Back to Life

Lawn Mower

Life is like a…

Don’t you hate it when you hear sentimental people say “Life is like a garden” or “Life is like a river” or “Life is like a lawnmower.” Now that I’ve probably irritated you with one more “Life is like a…” here is why I’m saying that.

Like many others in the Watauga area this weekend, you may have some high hopes (to match your high lawn) of firing up the old lawnmower and cutting the grass. If you did what you were supposed to last fall, then it will start on the first or second pull.

What??? You mean you have to do something in the fall to make this easy? As in life, even in the autumn of our lives, if we take care of ourselves, it’s easier to get going the next day (or season).

What you should have done last fall

Congratulations to those that pressure washed the outside and underside of the mower, or at least scraped all the grass off with a wire brush to minimize rusting. Two attaboys if you changed the oil (while it was still warm), and changed the spark plug. And you win the golden ring if you filled it with fresh gas mixed with fuel stabilizer and ran it for ten minutes to let the fresh fuel get where it needed to for the next six months.

What if your mower won’t start?

And now for the other 99% and I’m not talking financial status. If you go out to your mower, and it won’t start but it was running in the fall when you exercised a dereliction of your mower duties, it is more than likely bad gas, stale gas or I hate to say it, the gas is turning into varnish in the innermost recesses of the carburetor. Think cholesterol.

There is one sure fire way to determine if fuel is not getting to the carburetor. Take your handy dandy spark plug socket and a ratchet wrench; remove the spark plug and poor about a thimble or half ounce of fresh gas in the spark plug hole. Put the plug back in, attach the wire, and PULL. If it starts, runs for several seconds and dies, you have successfully trouble shot your mower.

The only way to resolve this minor issue is clean out the carb with carburetor cleaner. All you need is a socket set, carb cleaner and know how. There are videos on YouTube that show you how. I know…isn’t this just what you wanted to hear. Or you can pay someone to do it.

When you’re ready for a new mower

If you are fed up with the mower, DON’T THROW IT AWAY. It may have a second life in the hands of the right person (or student.) This is “Donate an organ” for mechanics. I know a local teacher (ME) that teaches his students about this stuff and loves donated mowers.

If you buy a new one, buy from someone that has on site service. Avoid big box stores with no maintenance shop but claim they can service the warranty by shipping it off for a few months. Buy quality.

My advice if you buy new?

  • Read the manual.
  • The most important maintenance step is to add oil and gas.
  • If you get a chance and want to save yourself hours of frustration when buying a simple replacement part, write down the model number of the mower. If you can, record the engine number too. I’ve seen guys in Farmer’s Hardware with a part in their hand, crying and begging for the clerk to try to find a look alike replacement. With their best bedside manner, they say “Sorry, we need the model number.” I on the other hand not only have the model number. I walk in with the manual and parts list that I’ve downloaded from the manufacturer’s website, thus saving them the time and trouble of looking it up. That’s why they love me there.

Just like in real life, if you treat your mower kindly, with regular maintenance, you can expect a long satisfying grass cutting career, not from cradle to grave but more like from the garage to the dump. I could go on forever on this topic but space is limited so I’ll stop. Besides, you might need the time to clean a carburetor or go shopping.

I’m curious, whose job is it in your family to mow the grass?