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Fall Maintenance for Push Mowers

Push Mower.

At the end of the grass-cutting season, take time to get your push mower ready for storage. Some post-season maintenance will give you a head start next year and prolong the life of your mowing machine.


Before Maintenance

Maintenance may differ depending on your mower model. There are some general steps below, but read the documentation that came with your mower before beginning work and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, maintenance and safety.

Perform the maintenance in a well-ventilated area. Before you begin, spread a drop cloth over the work area. You'll be changing the oil, so you may want to run the mower for a minute to get the oil warm. Run the mower outdoors and be sure it is off of the drop cloth. Letting the mower run will make draining the oil easier, but be careful of hot surfaces on the engine and muffler and be careful of oil that may still be hot. Turn the mower off and move it back onto the drop cloth.

Before performing any maintenance, cleaning or inspections on you mower, turn it off and make sure all blades and moving parts have come to a stop. On a gasoline-powered mower, unplug the spark plug wire as instructed in the manual. Disconnect an electric mower from its power supply or remove the safety key (if equipped). Follow any pre-maintenance procedures the manufacturer specifies.

Many of the maintenance steps below require you have the mower tilted on its side. Before doing this, you need to take steps to prevent any fuel from spilling. Different manufacturers have different methods for preventing spills, such as running the mower until the tank is dry or placing a piece of heavy plastic under the fuel cap to cover the fuel inlet. Follow the instructions for your mower.

Tilt the mower according to the manufacturer's instructions. You don't want oil to get into the upper part of the engine and cause problems with starting. Typically you want to tilt the mower so that the dipstick side is down and the air cleaner side is facing upward. Also, don't tilt the mower more than 90 degrees in any direction or leave it tilted over for any length of time.

Do not run a mower indoors or in an area that does not have proper ventilation.


Clean the Mower

You should clean off any dirt, grass clippings or other debris before putting your mower away. Remember to never use a shop vacuum near gasoline.


Step 1

With the mower off and all moving parts stopped, disconnect the spark plug wire or power supply or remove the safety key as described above. Follow any pre-maintenance procedures the manufacturer specifies.


Step 2

Clean the engine and deck with a brush or cloth.


Step 3

If you have a grass catcher, brush off debris and check it for damage.


Cleanout Fixture

Some mowers have a fixture that allows you to connect a garden hose to the deck and wash out the underside. Follow the instructions for use and make sure you keep water out of the electrical system, muffler, carburetor and air filter. Don't use a hose to clean your mower unless it's recommended by the mower manufacturer.

Do not use water to clean an electric mower.


Drain the Old Oil

If you have a gasoline-powered mower, change your engine oil. Start by draining the old oil into a used-oil container. You'll add the new oil once the mower is back on its wheels.


Step 1

With the mower off and all moving parts stopped, make sure the spark plug wire or power source is disconnected or the safety key is removed as described above. Follow any pre-maintenance procedures the manufacturer specifies.


Step 2

Follow the directions above for preventing fuel spills when you tilt the mower on its side.


Step 3

Brush away any dirt and debris from the oil fill inlet.


Step 4

Remove the oil cap and place it on a clean surface.


Step 5

Tilt the mower on its side, so the side with the oil fill inlet is closest to the ground. Keep the air filter facing upward. Let the oil drain from the inlet into the used-oil container, rocking the mower to get the old oil out of the engine.

Contact your local recycling center for oil disposal instructions and dispose of the oil properly.

Step 6

Clean up any spills.


Drain Plug

Some mowers have an oil drain plug located at the bottom of the engine. If you use the drain plug to remove the oil, be sure to clean any dirt and debris from around the drain area before removing the plug. After draining the oil in this manner, replace the drain plug before moving on to the next steps.

As an alternative to tilting the mower on its side, you can use a siphon pump to remove the old oil from the engine.


Take Care of the Mower Blade

You may need to replace or sharpen your mower blade after a season of cutting. Your manual may also instruct you to check the balance of the blade as part of maintenance. The mower should be on its side as described above.

When handling the blade, wrap it in a heavy cloth or wear work gloves.

Step 1

With the mower off and all moving parts stopped, make sure the spark plug wire or power source is disconnected or the safety key is removed as described above. Follow any pre-maintenance procedures the manufacturer specifies.


Step 2

Attach a blade removal tool to the mower to keep the blade from turning as you remove it. As an alternative, you can place a wood block between the mower housing and the blade to hold the blade in place.


Step 3

Remove the blade, the attachment hardware and debris shield (if equipped) as directed in your manual.


Step 4

While you have the blade off, clean and scrape underneath the deck to remove accumulated grass clippings.


Step 5

Inspect the blade and associated parts. Swap any damaged parts with approved replacements.


Step 6

Some manufacturers recommend that you do not sharpen the blade. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your blade. If your blade can be sharpened, you can have a professional do it for you or you can purchase a sharpener and balancer to do it yourself:

  • Sharpen the cutting edges equally, according to the instructions in your mower documentation and the sharpener kit.
  • Make sure the blade is balanced. Check the balance, making adjustments as needed.
Wear eye protection and work gloves when sharpening a mower blade.

Step 7

If you need to install a new blade, use only a manufacturer-approved replacement. Note your mower make and model number and take this information with you when shopping for a new blade.


Step 8

Install the blade and associated parts according to the instructions for your mower, making sure you place and align them properly.


Step 9

Tighten the blade bolt to the torque your manual specifies.


Step 10

Remove the blade-removal tool or wood block.


Step 11

Tilt the mower back so that it rests on its wheels.


Step 12

If you covered the fuel inlet with a piece of plastic, remove the plastic.



Add New Oil

With the mower back on its wheels, you can add new engine oil.


Step 1

With the mower off and all moving parts stopped, make sure the spark plug wire or power source is disconnected or the safety key is removed as described above. Follow any pre-maintenance procedures the manufacturer specifies.


Step 2

Add the proper engine oil, following the mower or engine manufacturer's instructions and checking the level periodically.

Do not add too much oil.

Step 3

When the oil level is correct, replace and tighten the oil cap.


Step 4

Clean up any spills.



Other Mower Maintenance

There are some other common maintenance procedures that your manual may recommend at the end of the season. If you have other maintenance to perform, make sure the mower is off and all moving parts have stopped. Make sure the spark plug wire or power source is disconnected or the safety key is removed as described above. Follow any pre-maintenance procedures the manufacturer specifies. Other maintenance may include:

  • Cleaning or replacing the air filter
  • Cleaning or replacing the spark plug.
  • Lubricating the mower.
  • Making sure all of the fasteners on the mower are tight.
  • Inspecting the mower for any damage or wear that needs attention.
  • Making sure the drive area is clean and clear of debris (self-propelled mowers).


Store the Mower

After finishing your end-of-season maintenance, store your mower so it will be ready when you need it again. Follow the instructions for your specific mower. Here are some general procedures:

  • Prepare the fuel system on a gasoline-powered mower for storage. Manufacturers may instruct you to run the fuel system dry or to store the mower with the tank full of fuel mixed with a fuel stabilizer. Follow the instructions for your mower and engine.
  • If your mower is equipped with a battery, follow the instructions in your manual for battery care.
  • Let the mower cool before storing.
  • Store your mower away from children in an area that's clean, dry and not near fertilizer and other corrosive material.
  • If you cover your mower, use a cover that will not hold in moisture. Do not cover the mower if the engine and exhaust areas are warm.
With the mower clean and ready for storage, you may want to touch up any areas where the paint is chipped.