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

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Prepare your Mower for Winter

11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM


This week (and perhaps several other weeks in November) we have a guest blogger in the Do It Yourself department. The following was written by Nevin Hawlman, a homesteader in Pennsylvania. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. –Mother

This is the time of year when most people winterize their lawn mower — by putting it in the shed and forgetting about it. A few of us drain all the gasoline and run it until it stops to prevent varnish deposits from clogging the carburetor. We might even drain the oil while it is hot, and fill it with new oil. 

Here's an additional tip: Remove the spark plug and squirt a teaspoon of motor oil into the hole, pull the starter rope and replace the plug. This lubricates the piston and rings during storage. You should also remove the blade(s) and sharpen or replace them. And clean or replace the air filter. To prolong the battery's life (if it has a battery),  move the battery to a warm place during winter.

How many of us mouse-proof the mower to prevent those miserable mice from making a potentially dangerous nest of flammable materials under the engine shroud, right next to the hot exhaust pipe? A mouse nest can overheat and ruin your engine by blocking air from the air-cooling passages. Their excrement can also corrode metal parts and wires,
and they love to chew on the insulation.

A plastic garbage bag very securely wrapped around your mower engine and cables may stop mischievous mice. I've heard that a scattering of used cat litter may be a deterrent. I'm sure the cat would be! 

The greatest danger is from parking your hot mower in a shed and having it catch fire. If the gas tank catches fire, the danger escalates. So, if you see bits and pieces of leaves, feathers, cloth, insulation, snake skins, plastic, etc., sticking out from under the shroud of your mower engine, then it may be time to pop the shroud and check for hazardous debris.

If you got this far, you may want to go a little further; the amount of spark reaching the spark plug can be affected by rust on the flywheel magnets, indicated by the blue arrow in the photo. Insufficient spark causes hard starting and inefficient operation. A very fine emery cloth will brighten the magnets.

Washing your mower engine causes this rust, so it is best to clean the engine with compressed air and a rag. In addition, you may want to protect it from water over-spray with a garbage bag when you wash grass from under the mower deck. Running the engine for several minutes after washing it will force air through the shroud and dry the flywheel.

The white arrow in the photo points to the safety brake pad, which has left its mark around the flywheel. This may be caused by sand on the brake pad. It can easily be removed with a wire brush, after removing the brake assembly bolt (shown by the white arrow in the photo).

The blue 'M' indicates the magneto, which produces the spark for the spark plug. It's necessary to have it as close to the flywheel as possible without touching when the assemblies flex in mowing uneven terrain. The black arrow indicates one of two bolts to loosen very slightly as you adjust this clearance according to your owner's manual.

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