Landscape professionals who properly care for their machines can potentially save hundreds of dollars and increase productivity, said Paul Jurgens, director of customer service for Exmark. “Time and time again, I see people who were trying to pinch pennies on maintenance or cheap parts end up having to buy a replacement engine for their mower,” said Jurgens. “Most of the time, it can be avoided.”
Spring Service Schedule
Landscape professionals who properly care for their machines can potentially save hundreds of dollars and increase productivity, said Paul Jurgens, director of customer service for Exmark.
“Time and time again, I see people who were trying to pinch pennies on maintenance or cheap parts end up having to buy a replacement engine for their mower,” said Jurgens. “Most of the time, it can be avoided.”
According to Jurgens, landscape professionals should clean their units as often as possible, but minimize the use of water. Water and detergents can lead to corrosion problems.
“Pressure washers will clean the equipment, but they also put water and detergents into places that can be very detrimental,” Jurgens said. “For example, if water sits on a bearing seal or an electrical connection, it can do more harm than good.”
Jurgens recommends using compressed air or blowers as much as possible. If water is used to clean the mower, users need to grease and lubricate the unit afterward.
When lubricating, use oil recommended by the engine manufacturer. Many engine manufacturers recommend a certain weight of oil, and it may depend on the time of year. This can make a big difference in oil consumption, as well as in the proper lubrication of the engine.
“A lot of people think using less expensive grease or non-name brand oil is a good way to save a few bucks,” said Jurgens. “But they shouldn’t take that chance. If Kohler has formulated oil for a Kohler engine, use it — especially during the warranty period. Using original equipment manufacturer parts could pay dividends if you have a problem with your mower.”
In addition, most engine manufacturers do not recommend the use of synthetic oils. The proper petroleum-based oil lubricates the engine adequately.
According to Jurgens, do not store oxygenated fuels for more than 30 days. Oxygenated fuels — fuels containing alcohol blends or methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) — have a shelf life of 30 days. Lawnmower owners should mark the date on their gas cans when filling up.
“People used to fill up a 500-gallon barrel in December because gas prices were low,” said Jurgens. “But today, almost all fuel has an oxygen agent in it. If you’re not getting pure unleaded fuel, it will start to separate if it sits on a shelf long enough.”
In addition, fuel should be checked to ensure that it does not contain over the maximum 10-percent alcohol or 15-percent MTBE. Inexpensive testers are available.
Users should sharpen blades and replace any damaged blades every eight to 10 hours of use. A dull blade increases the load on the belts, bearings and engine. An unbalanced blade can cause vibrations and stress to the cutting deck.
“The purpose of the mower is to cut grass, and the whole process starts with the blade,” Jurgens said. “A mower with dull blades has to work harder, and it’s forced to shred grass, rather than cut through grass.”
Blade-balancing tools are inexpensive and readily available. Also, keep an extra set of sharp, balanced blades on hand.
Exmark recommends the following additional tips for spring mower maintenance:
* Installing a spring
An easy tool to remove or install a spring is an old starter rope. Simply take the old rope, and make a loop at the handle. Attach it to one side of the spring, and slip the rope over the other end. Use the rope to stretch the spring, and attach it to the other anchor point.
* Removing old engine oil
You may want to look at some of the oil evacuation systems that are on the market. Many dealers use these types of devices. They’re a lot like vacuum cleaners. You stick the hose down the dipstick tube, and suck the old oil out. Remember to change the filter!
* Fixing a flat
Flats can be a problem. Some tire sealant may work great. Be careful about how much weight this adds to the wheel. Do not use a sealant that makes the tire hard. Keep in mind that the tire is your shock absorber on the unit. You may put excessive load on the frame and drive system.
* Storing foam precleaners
Keep extra oil-treated foam precleaners for the engine in a resealable bag. The precleaner filters out most of the dirt and is reusable and inexpensive when compared to the price of the paper air cleaner element.
* Greasing the pivot points
Remove the tension from the spring-tensioned pivot points when greasing them. This will allow the grease to be more evenly distributed.
* Preventing corrosion
Corrosion is inevitable — that’s why you grease and lubricate your machine. Don’t forget about the electrical connections. At least once a year, clean and repack the electrical connections with dielectric grease. Your dealer and many auto parts stores carry this type of grease for the electrical connections.
* Maintaining idler pulleys
To add a little life to your idler pulleys, try using a little spray lubricant on the seals. Over time, water and sunlight can cause the seals to harden, shrink, or crack. When this happens, the seal no longer protects the bearing and a failure will soon happen. The lubricant will help to keep the seal soft and resistant to the weathering that can occur.
* Adjusting a new belt
Make sure to frequently check the adjustment on a new belt. Check the belt three times in the first 24 hours of use, and adjust it if necessary. During this time, the belt is fitting into the pulleys. If the belt is allowed to loosen as it fits in, you may spin/burn the belt, which drastically reduces belt life.
* Checking belt tension
A simple belt-tension gauge is a ruler and a fish scale. Simply hook the fish scale around the belt, and pull. Use the ruler to measure the distance. On some belts, we recommend a 1/2-inch deflection with 10 pounds of pressure. This means it would take a force of 10 pounds to move the belt a 1/2-inch. Be sure to consult the operator’s manual for the belt you’re adjusting.
* Using fuel stabilizers
As the season draws to an end, put a little fuel stabilizer in your gas. This will help protect the fuel when it’s slow, and ensure that the stabilized fuel gets into the carburetor.