Troubleshooting Common Lawn Mower Problems

How to easily fix everyday lawnmower problems.

You put off mowing the lawn until Saturday. Instead of golfing you pull the mower out of the garage. It's hotter than blue blazes. You give the starter rope a pull and absolutely nothing happens. After about six more pulls you give up, go into the air conditioned house and turn on the golf channel. You'll fix the mower tomorrow and the lawn can grow knee high as far as you care.

Mowers are like any machine. They break down and need work on occasion. What follows is an essay on some of those frequent problems and how to fix them. Let's go back to that starter rope. Once in a while the rope breaks making it impossible to start the mower. If that happens grab a screwdriver and remove the housing on the machine that contains the rope. Once the housing is removed, remove what is left of the rope. The rope usually encircles a metal or plastic spool. Just cut the rope off the spool. Take a new piece of rope and attach it to the spool. Almost all starter ropes attach to the spool by tying the rope end to a fastener or hole in the spool. You can get the right length for the new rope by laying the new rope along side the old rope and cutting the new rope to match the old rope's length. Take the handle off the old rope and attach it to the new rope. Reattach the spool housing. Give the new rope a pull and listen to the engine roar.

If you have pulled the starter rope a few times and nothing happens, then you have some things to check out. First, check the obvious. Is there gas in the tank? If so, move onto to something else. Is the fuel filter clean so fuel can get to the engine? The fuel filter is often located in or next to the fuel tank where the fuel line enters the tank. You may have to remove the fuel line to get at the filter. This usually requires only a pair of pliers or a small wrench. Try cleaning the fuel filter with a water or air hose. If the filter still looks dirty, any hardware store will sell a generic fuel filter that is more than likely to fit your machine as most mower machines are alike.

Likewise there may be a small air filter on your mower. These are located near the exhaust. They are often placed in some type of container. Simply remove the container's top. You may need a screwdriver for this. Then remove the filter, clean it with the hose and reinsert it. If the hose does not clean it well, visit your hardware for a replacement.

Now move on to the sparkplug. Over time the sparkplug becomes fouled with dirt which makes it difficult for the plug to spark. The plug is usually in plain sight. First remove the rubber hose and attachment that covers the end of the sparkplug. You may need a wrench to gently remove the plug. Turn it counter clockwise. Then check the end of the plug. If it looks very dirty you may try to clean it with a wire brush. Often that does not work and you need a new spark plug. Again, visit your local hardware, buy a new spark plug, and put the new one in the plug's hole. Be careful replacing the plug. They can be over-tightened, breaking the plug. Once the plug is firmly replaced reattach the rubber hose attachment and give the starter rope a pull.

Still does not start? Then let's move on the carburetor. The carburetor can be gummed up with old gasoline. This usually happens if you use a very poor grade of gas or if you leave the mower over the winter still full of gas. The gasoline tends to crystallize and gum up the carburetion. It's best to drain the tank of all the gas before you store it for the winter. If the carburetor is gummed up and things move slowly, then take a carburetor cleaner (again found at the hardware store), clean out the carburetor and try to start the mower again.



If it is still not starting, you may have to check the mixture of gas and air provided by the carburetor. This is done by turning screws found on the carburetor. If the machine does run, but runs roughly, just keep turning the screw one way or the other until the machine runs smoothly. If the machine won't start at all and you have tried all the ideas above, then look for the manual that came when you bought the mower. They often describe the exact location of the carburetor screw for fine tuning. If all this carburetor work fails then throw the mower into the car and deliver it to your local mower repair shop.

If it is summer they will be busy and it may take a couple of weeks to get your machine back. The good news you won't have to mow the lawn. The bad news is that by the time you get the mower back the grass may be so tall that your dog disappears in it when she goes out for her daily constitutional.

There are a few other things that could go wrong with your mower. One thing that often happens is that with wear and tear the blade often goes dull. A dull blade means poor cutting. Blade removal is not too difficult. Remove the spark plug to make certain that engine can't accidentally start. This is an important safety step. Then turn the mower over. Be careful here too because the gas may leak out of the tank.

With the mower is on its back, stick a block of wood (shim) between the end of the blade and the blade housing. You want the blade to be immobile. Immobility will make it easier to remove the blade. Now that the blade is immobile grab your wrench and loosen the nut that holds the blade to the mower. Turn counterclockwise. Once it is removed you can try to sharpen the blade yourself. Use a heavy file built for metal work. If you have a power grinder put that to use on the blade. If neither of these is possible look in a business directory for "╦ťblade sharpening' and take your blade to them.

Once the blade is sharp again replace it on the mower. When you replace the blade make very, very certain it is securely attached. You do not want the blade flying off while mowing. Severe injury can happen to you and others.

Another common problem is the tires. They can become loose, especially if you have a rough lawn. Check their security. If a wheel falls off while mowing, the blade can dig itself into the earth and cause all sorts of flying debris as well as be very dangerous for anyone nearby. If the tires are loose simply use your wrench to tighten the nut in the tire's center so that the tire is securely fastened to the axle.

All things are fixed. You have no excuse now. Get out there and mow that lawn!

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