How to Tune-Up and Maintain Your Lawn Mower

posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 in How To

How to Tune-Up and Maintain Your Lawn Mower

A well-maintained mower is just as important as a well-maintained lawn. Just like you can’t skip a treatment or skimp on the water, you can’t neglect your mower care and still expect beautiful, manicured turf.

Routine maintenance can also prevent costly repairs, maximize performance, and extend the life of your lawn mower. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can knock out your mower maintenance in minutes.

Tuning Up a Lawn Mower

Every lawn tractor and riding lawn mower needs a tune-up at least once a year. It’s an easy task that’ll take you 30 minutes or less. To make things even easier, TriGreen Equipment has Home Maintenance Kits for every model of John Deere Zero-Turn Mower, riding lawn mower, and lawn tractor.

Visit your local TriGreen dealership or order the kit you need online to get the lawn mower parts you need to complete the four simple steps in an annual tune-up.

1. Change the oil and oil filter.

A John Deere Home Maintenance Kit comes with two quarts of the oil your specific machine needs and a new oil filter — almost everything you need to get the job done. You’ll still need a Strap-Top Oil Filter Wrench, drain pan, and maybe a few other things around the garage to get the job done.

Follow these six steps to change the oil and oil filter on your lawn mower.

2. Install a new air filter.

Every kit also comes with a new air filter. Before you change it out, make sure the engine is cold and the air intake screen is clear of debris. Remove the cover and screws to take out the old air filter and precleaner. Then, place the new precleaner over the new lawn mower air filter. Slide it into place and secure it with the screws and under the air filter cover.

Not every lawn mower needs an air precleaner, so your Home Maintenance Kit may not include that part.

3. Replace the fuel filter.

There’s one last filter you have to replace — the fuel filter. Because of the fumes, you want to be in a well-ventilated area for this one. So open up the doors to your garage or shed if you’re working inside.

There’s an arrow on the old fuel filter that shows the direction of the gas flow on your machine. Double-check that the arrow on the new filter points in the same direction. Use pliers to move the hose clamps away from the old fuel filter. Pull off both hoses, starting with the gas side, and quickly attach them to the new fuel filter — again, gas tank side first. Put the hose clamps back in place.

Start up your mower and run the engine for a bit to check for leaks. Inspect the fuel lines for wear and cracks, too, just in case they’re ready for replacement.

4. Swap out the spark plugs.

Finally, change the spark plugs so your engine fires up when you need it. All you need is a socket wrench, spark plug gap gauge, and the replacement lawn mower spark plugs from your kit.

Pull out the plug wires and loosen the spark plugs with the wrench. The spark plug gauge will help you set the right gap on the new plugs, as outlined in your lawn mower’s operator manual. Install and tighten the new spark plugs and attach the plug wires. Start up the mower again to make sure they fire.

Sharpening the Mower Blades

Your mower is now a finely-tuned machine again, but there’s one more thing to check out: the blades. Sharp blades keep your lawn looking sharp. Dull blades make the grass look ragged and damage the lawn.

Sharp blades also reduce the wear and tear on your lawn mower because they cut more easily and require less horsepower to mow. Blade sharpening is not part of a lawn mower tune-up, so you won’t find any supplies or replacement blades in a Home Maintenance Kit. But it’s still an important step at the start of spring.

You might want to keep a set of replacement lawn mower blades handy, so you can install new, sharp ones instantly and save the blade sharpening for another day. Whether you choose to get the job done now or save it for later, this guide will show you how to sharpen lawn mower blades.

Cleaning Your Lawn Mower

While you’re under the deck of the lawn mower, get all the gunk out of there. Built-up debris can corrode your machine and it might be a maintenance task you overlooked if you didn’t winterize your mower. Even if you did, you should clean your lawn mower at least twice a year.

Use a pressure washer or a garden hose to blast away any dirt and grass clippings that are caked on. Do the same for everything above deck, too. Scrub any stubborn buildup using a brush, soap, and warm water. Then, give everything a good rinse.

Sometimes debris is hidden from view, like under the belt guard on top of the mower deck. All the moving parts underneath the guard suck up soil, grass, and yard waste and trap it there. You can blow it clean with compressed air or even a leaf blower. Remove the belt guards to blow away any debris that may damage the belts or pulleys. Use a flathead screwdriver to get at debris caked on under the pulleys and scrape it off.

Basic Lawn Mower Maintenance Schedule

Most years, all you need to do is tune up your mower, give it a good cleaning, and keep the blades in prime cutting condition. But every machine requires routine maintenance at regular service intervals.

This preventive maintenance is crucial. You need to keep an eye on your lawn mower’s hour meter and complete these service tasks as the hours add up.

After the Break-In Period

All new lawn care equipment has a break-in period, the time where real-world applications take the newness out of your machine and maybe knock a few things loose. For new lawn mowers, there are two times you need do complete break-in maintenance:

  • After eight hours – It may seem early, but you need to change the engine oil and oil filter, just as you would in an annual tune-up. You should also check the wheel hardware and tighten anything that’s loose.
  • After 50 hours – Depending on the size of your property and your lawn care schedule, it may take you a while to hit the 50-hundred hour mark. When you do, change the transmission oil and filter and check the rear wheel bolt torque.

Every 50 Hours

After the full 50-hour break-in period and every 50 hours after that, you need to lubricate the deck components, which may include: 

  • Front axle pivot and axle spindles
  • Mower spindles, pivot points, and lift pedal
  • Idler arm pivot
  • Rear U-Joints

If you don’t break 50 hours in a mowing season, add lubrication to your annual maintenance to-do list.

Every 100 Hours

A lawn mower tune-up is needed annually at a minimum. If your machine gets a lot of use, it needs a tune-up every 100 hours. The same goes for blade sharpening and cleaning. You also must check the tension on the mower and driving belts, check the tire pressure, and clean the engine cooling fins.

Every 200 Hours

It might take several years for your lawn mower to hit the 200-hour milestone. When it does, it’s time to change the transmission oil and filter again. It’s also a good time to bring your lawn mower in for service. The valve clearance must be checked and adjusted, and it’s recommended that you see your nearest TriGreen Equipment dealer for this service.

This is more or less all the maintenance your lawn mower needs every year and at every hour milestone. But your mower may require more or less care. 

Each John Deere riding lawn mower, lawn tractor, and Zero-Turn Mower has its own service interval schedule that can differ by model. Always check the operator manual to make sure you’re staying on top of your lawn mower maintenance checklist. Or have our service experts stay on top of it for you with an Encore Performance Program.

  1. lawn mowers
  2. lawn tractors
  3. riding lawn mowers