Hits and misses of DIY projects, both big and small.

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Lawn Mower Tuneup

7/18/2007 12:00:00 AM


You're probably already taking steps to reduce the non-renewable energy that you use to maintain your lawn. (Click here for more ideas about that.) But if you're still using a gas-powered push mower, take some time to tune it so that it runs as efficiently as possible. Here are some things that you can do quickly and easily.

Change or clean the air filter. If your mower has a paper filter this is an extremely easy procedure — take out the old one and put in the new one. If your mower has a sponge/foam filter, buy a new filter, soak up some new motor oil with it and remove excess oil by pressing the filter between clean rags. Unless you are able to get pre-oiled filters for your mower, it's essential that you add oil to the sponge filter; the oil makes it catch smaller particles of dust.

You can also clean an old sponge filter (not a paper one), but if you consider all the factors (time, cleaning fluid, precautions), buying a new filter is probably the best option.

Replace or clean the spark plug. On most power mowers, the spark plug is easily accessible and can be quickly removed with a socket wrench after slipping the cable off the end of the spark plug. You can clean up the old plug with a bit of sandpaper or a small steel brush, but if it's been in use for two years, or if you use the mower heavily, it's probably time for a new one.

Setting the gap in the spark plug to manufacturer's specs is the most important aspect of this process, whether you're cleaning the old spark plug or using a new one. Gap tools have either metal blades or wires of a specific thickness. Choose the blade (or wire) of the specified thickness. It should slide snuggly into the spark plug gap without sticking. If it doesn't fit, pry open the gap with dull knife or screwdriver. If the gap is too wide, gently tap the end of the spark plug on a hard surface to narrow the gap.

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