It appears that winter might actually be on the decline here in Kittitas county, I think it might even have stopped snowing on Snoqualmie Pass, but I am not holding my breath. The good news, at least in the valley, is that the trees are blooming, the grass is growing and the wind is blowing. Of course, if you are like me all three of these are also bad news since the trees need to be trimmed, the grass needs to be cut and the wind....well it's the wind what else can I say?
Now that everything is picking up in the yard department most of us are starting to get serious about using the lawn mower, trimmers, etc. Maybe you were even lucky enough to have all of your equipment start right up and go after the long winter. But, have you thought about doing maintenance? Most people realize that they need oil, but do you know that your oil needs to be changed at least once a year? Some other things to look at on your equipment are things like spark plugs, air filters and belts. Like oil, these are things that many people understand (at least on some level) need attention. But have you given any thought to the cooling system on your mower or trimmer? Now, before you shrug it off and decide that your mower or trimmer doesn't have a cooling system, read a little more. Most lawn equipment is air cooled, which means it doesn't have a radiator. But believe it or not there is still a cooling system. If you look at your engine you will see little fins. These fins are designed to dissipate heat from the engine so it doesn't get too hot. The problem is, if the cooling fins get covered in grease and oil, and/or dirt and grass gets caught between the shrouds it's like wrapping yourself in a wool blanket on a 100 degree day and sitting next to a wood fire. I only know one person who thinks that's not a bad idea.
Unlike your car or truck, you can't really tell that your engine is running hot until you have a problem. Overheating an air cooled engine can cause performance problems, oil breaking down prematurely and then engine failure, valves sticking in their guides, etc. To avoid major problems there are a few things you can do. The first step is make sure your engine is clean. The easiest way to clean your engine is by using a pressure washer and some engine cleaner. Just remember don't get water in the carburetor or spray directly into the exhaust and be careful not to get too crazy with the wand. If you don't have a pressure washer even a garden hose and some degreaser will work, but you may need to do a little scrubbing with a brush. If you have had an oil leak (and they are very common) that hasn't been addressed the oil may be baked on to engine, in which case you will need to do some scraping. Also, you should pull your shrouds and clean all the grass and accumulated debris that get caught in there over time. Once you have washed your machine you should start it right away and let it run for a few minutes. If you did get water in the engine and you don't start it to dry it out then you will have bigger problems. Don't worry if it doesn't start right away, but make sure you take the time to get it started. If you have a riding mower it's important to clean the accumulated debris off the top of the mower deck and make sure that your mandrels are not completely caked with "stuff". Mandrels often have cooling fins as well and it is important to keep them clean so the bearings don't over heat. You should also clean the underside of your mower deck and remove all the old clumps of grass and whatever else is stuck under there. Too much debris can lead to premature belt failure and uneven cutting.
Believe it or not, with a little maintenance your outdoor power equipment will give you dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of trouble free performance. Unfortunately, yard equipment is often seen as the redheaded middle step-child and is neglected to the point of failure and then blamed for being a pile of junk. So before you need to go spend $1500 on a new mower, take a look at what you have. It's hard to believe, but other than the outward appearance there is very little difference between a brand new machine and one that is 10 years old. As always, if any of this makes you want to gag just thinking about it, or if you simply have no idea how to do it, give us a call.