DIY Lawn Mower Maintenance Guide

man repairing a lawn mower

Welcome to our DIY Lawn Mower Maintenance Guide, where we’ll educate you on keeping your trusty mower working smoothly for as long as possible. Whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or new to the maintenance world, this guide will lead you through the basics and help you unlock your mower’s ultimate potential. So, let’s learn how to keep your lawn mower in its best condition with some good old-fashioned TLC.

Pre-Maintenance Preparation

Prepare thoroughly before beginning a proper maintenance process on your lawn mower because it helps you save time and frustration. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re ready:

  • Clear Workspace: Set up a clutter-free, well-lit environment to work comfortably around your mower.
  • Consult the Owner’s Manual: Review manufacturer guidelines for maintenance methods and schedules by pulling out the manual. It helps you familiarize yourself with your lawn mower’s specifications and recommendations.
  • Collect Tools and Materials: Gather all of the necessary tools and supplies, including:
    • Heavy-duty work gloves
    • Safety glasses or goggles
    • Wrench
    • Small engine oil 
    • New spark plug
    • New air filter
    • Clean cloth and mild soap for cleaning
  • Cool Down the Machine: Allow your mower to cool down before beginning maintenance to minimize burns and allow for an accurate inspection of all its parts.
  • Disconnect Power Source: To avoid accidental starts while you’re working on your mower, disconnect it from its power source before you get to work. For gas mowers, that means disconnecting the spark plug wire. For electric mowers, unplug the mower or remove the battery. 

Remember: Lawn mowers, especially gas lawn mowers, are powerful machines that can be dangerous if misused. So put on your safety glasses and gloves, and ensure you’re working in a well-ventilated place to avoid breathing in fumes. Also, never work on a mower that is still hot or running.

Lawn Mower Maintenance Regimen

Follow the mower maintenance regimen described here to keep your mower in tip-top shape for as many years as possible. The better you are at taking care of your lawn mower, the longer it will serve you. 

Inspect and Replace the Spark Plug 

Photo Credit: Aleksandr Kichigin / Canva Pro / License

The spark plug performs an important role for gas mowers: igniting the fuel and powering your mower. Your mower can’t even start if the spark plug isn’t providing the required electricity. So, it’s vital to keep the spark plug clean and replace it when it gets old or damaged. Usually, your spark plug needs to be changed every 25-50 hours of operation or once a season.

Examine your spark plug by removing it with a socket wrench after disconnecting the spark plug wire. If it is covered with carbon deposits or is worn out, it is time to replace it. However, you may be able to get away with cleaning it and putting it back. Visit our guide on How to Change Spark Plugs on a Lawn Mower for step-by-step instructions.

Change the Oil When Needed

Consider oil to be your mower engine’s lifeblood: It lubricates, cools, and keeps things operating smoothly. Change the oil at least every 25 hours of use or once a season. As with spark plugs, this step applies only to gas mowers.

To change the oil, locate the oil drain plug under the mower. Place an oil pan beneath, remove the plug, and drain the old oil completely. Replace the plug, then add the recommended type and amount of oil as per the manufacturer’s manual. Don’t forget to dispose of the old oil properly. 

Check out our complete guide, How to Change the Oil in a Lawn Mower, for a more in-depth look at this essential task.

Clean and Replace the Air Filter

Photo Credit: JJ Gouin / Canva Pro / License

In gas mowers, the air filter prevents dirt and debris from entering the engine, so keeping it clean is essential. A clean filter ensures the engine has a precise combination of air and fuel for smooth combustion.

When it’s time for a filter clean-up, give it a soft tap and use mild soap and water to wash the filter gently. If it’s clogged or damaged, replace it with a new one. Learn how to tell when your mower’s air filter needs a full replacement vs. a cleaning in our guide, How to Clean and Change a Lawn Mower Air Filter.

Sharpen and Balance the Mower Blades

Imagine a pair of scissors – when sharp, they slice through paper effortlessly. Lawn mower blades work similarly. Sharp blades cut grass cleanly, leaving your lawn neat and healthy. On the other hand, dull blades use extra fuel and damage the grass blades instead of cutting them, exposing your lawn to disease and stress.

Therefore, you should sharpen your lawn mower’s blades after every 25 hours of use for optimal performance. But just sharpening the blades is not enough. You should also evenly balance the blades because unbalanced blades cause stress on the mower’s engine and result in uneven cuts. 

To sharpen the mower blades, remove them using a wrench. Place the blade in a vise and file the edges down to the original angle. To maintain proper weight distribution, use a blade balancer. When the mower blade or blades are sharp and balanced, reattach them carefully.

Clean the Mower Deck

Photo Credit: Aigars Reinholds / Canva Pro / License

When you mow your lawn, grass clippings, dirt, and debris get trapped underneath the mower. Over time, this buildup can hinder airflow and cause clumps of wet, decaying grass to stick. This affects your mower’s overall performance and promotes rust. You should clean the mower deck after every mow or at least twice each mowing season to prevent such issues.

Begin by removing the spark plug to prevent the engine from starting accidentally. Then, carefully turn the mower on its side, ensuring the air filter and carburetor face up to keep oil and fuel from pouring into them. Use a sturdy brush, scraper, blower, or a specialist mower cleaning tool to remove the built-up debris gently. For more detailed advice, refer to our complete step-by-step cleaning guide, How to Clean the Underside of a Lawn Mower.

Check and Drain the Gas 

Draining gas from a lawn mower is a season-end chore to keep the fuel system healthy. It is essential for preventing fuel deterioration and carburetor clogging during prolonged storage periods – particularly during winter. Draining the gas from the engine is the most important step in winterizing a gas lawn mower

Generally, you should drain the gas after 30 days of not operating the mower. A fuel stabilizer can help prolong the life of the fuel and prevent it from deteriorating, but even with a stabilizer, it’s still advisable to drain the gas if the mower will be stored for an extended period.

Draining the gas is pretty simple and easy, especially if you have access to a siphon pump. Follow our detailed guide on How to Drain Gas From a Lawn Mower to complete the process correctly and safely – with or without a siphon.

Check Tire Pressure

Like your automobile tires, the tires on your lawn mower require the proper amount of air pressure for the best performance. Balanced tire pressure ensures even weight distribution across the mower, resulting in a consistent cut. On the other hand, low tire pressure can lead to uneven cutting heights, scalping, and an overall less polished look for your lawn.

Use a tire pressure gauge to check the tire pressure and compare it to the manufacturer’s suggestions in your mower’s manual. Inflate the tires to the proper level if the pressure is too low. If it’s too high, release air from the tires until it’s right. 

Maintain and Charge Batteries

Photo Credit: ronstik / Canva Pro / License

While battery-powered lawn mowers take a lot less maintenance than gas mowers, it’s still a good idea to check on your batteries every once in a while. A well-maintained lawn mower battery guarantees that your mower starts consistently and reliably. 

First, examine the battery terminals for signs of rust or corrosion. If you find any, carefully clean off the rust with a wire brush and a mixture of baking soda and water. This prevents poor electrical connections.

If your mower has a traditional lead-acid battery, ensure the water levels in each cell are appropriate. If they’re low, use distilled water to raise them back to normal.

Now, let’s talk charging. Remove the replaceable battery from your mower and set it in a well-ventilated area before charging. Use a battery charger compatible with your battery type and connect it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Lubricate the Moving Parts

Pivot points, wheel axles, and other joints or moving parts on your lawn mower require sufficient lubrication to lower friction and run smoothly. 

Begin by consulting your mower’s owner’s manual to locate the parts that require oil. Choose the proper lubrication for each component – typically a multi-purpose oil or grease, as the manual specifies. Pay close attention to the mower’s blade spindle and drive system components. 

Always apply a generous amount of lubrication to the designated parts. Move the components back and forth a few times to ensure the lubricant is uniformly distributed.

Tips for Off-Season Lawn Mower Storage 

When the mowing season ends, proper storage ensures your mower is ready to roar to life next spring. Follow these maintenance tips to keep your mower in top shape during its downtime:

  • Clean Thoroughly: Clean your mower thoroughly to eliminate grass, dirt, and debris before storing it. This prevents corrosion and allows for a fresh start the following season.
  • Empty the Fuel: Stale fuel can clog the carburetor, causing it to fail to start. To prevent degradation, run the mower until the gasoline tank is empty or add a fuel stabilizer.
  • Change the Oil: Fresh engine oil prevents moisture buildup and protects engine components during storage.
  • Remove the Spark Plug: Disconnect the spark plug wire before you tuck your lawn mower into its corner of the garage to prevent accidental starting.
  • Store Indoors: To protect your mower, store it in a dry, covered spot – your garage or shed will do nicely. 
  • Elevate the Mower: Place a wooden block under the mower to prevent tire damage when storing it on a concrete floor.
  • Cover It Up: Use a cover or tarp to protect your mower from dust and moisture.

FAQ About Lawn Mower Maintenance

How often should I perform lawn mower maintenance?

The frequency of maintenance is determined by usage and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Generally, basic maintenance procedures such as cleaning, oil changes, and spark plug checks should be performed at the beginning and end of the mowing season. 

Can I use any type of engine oil on my lawn mower?

No, it really matters to use the engine oil the manufacturer recommends. Consult your owner’s manual to determine what type of oil is best for your mower’s engine.

How can I tell if my spark plug needs to be replaced?

If your mower has difficulty starting, misfires, or performs poorly, it could be due to a faulty spark plug. Remove it and inspect it for wear or carbon accumulation. If in doubt, just change it. A new spark plug costs less than $10. 

Can I use water to clean my mower?

You can clean your mower with water and mild soap, but you have to be careful, especially near the engine and electrical components. To remove dirt and debris without risk, use a wire brush or compressed air.

Or Find a Lawn Care Pro Instead!

Regular lawn mower maintenance is absolutely essential if you want your mower to last more than a few years – especially if you have a gas mower. Just like you take care of your car’s engine, your mower’s engine needs attention throughout the mowing season. 

But, as you can tell from this guide, proper mower maintenance takes a lot of time and effort. Isn’t there another way? Yes, in fact, there is! That’s where LawnStarter comes in. LawnStarter can connect you with licensed, insured, and background-checked lawn care professionals in your area so you never have to think about mowing the lawn or maintaining a mower again.

Main Photo Credit: Aleksandr Kichigin / Canva Pro / License

Taha Javed

Taha Javed

Taha Javed is a blog writer with a green thumb, sharing her expertise in lawn care and maintenance. With a knack for nurturing nature, she blends her love for writing with a passion for vibrant lawns, offering readers expert advice to transform their outdoor spaces into green havens.