Having reliable mowers at the peak of the season is mandatory, which means that you and your crews have to ensure everything possible is done between jobs to keep these machines in tip-top shape.
Total Landscape Care talked with Brad Unruh, director of new product development with Hustler Turf Equipment, about his most recommended tips for enhancing mower longevity and the long term benefits of implementing them.
According to Unruh, the lifespan of a mower varies from user to user, and factors such as application, maintenance, cleaning and storage techniques can greatly affect how long they last.
“Any mower, if you put it in the intended application, is going to last,” says Unruh. “I will say that the way we build our mowers and the way we design, manufacture, create and engineer our mowers is done to promote longevity.”
When mowers are properly cared for, Unruh says he’s seen some that have lasted anywhere from five to 15 years, without sacrificing cut quality or overall productivity.
To ensure you’re caring for your mower properly, Unruh recommends reading through your mower’s manual before using it. While it’s true you may be more than familiar with mowers, he says each model and brand will vary slightly, and taking time to familiarize yourself with the specifics of your machine could keep you from causing it harm later on.
Regardless of how much you spend on a mower, Unruh says it’s an investment nonetheless, so be sure to treat it like one. According to Unruh, the more you take care of your mower, the longer it will typically last.
Routine cleaning and maintenance
To keep breakdowns from occurring, Unruh says routine cleaning and maintenance is a must, especially if your mowers are seeing a lot of action.
Before hitting the jobsite, Unruh says to check that the mower’s engine is running appropriately, as well as that you are using the right type of fuel in the tank. He says to check that the batteries, belts, bearings, hoses, hydro systems and spindles are all in working order, and pay close attention to the sounds the mowers make when they are started up.
Another aspect he says is often overlooked is a mower’s tire pressure, and he says to make sure they are all consistent with what your manual recommends.
“Definitely follow those recommendations because when you start to get into an application, if the tire pressures are all off, it can affect your cut quality,” says Unruh.
While it can be tedious, Unruh recommends taking time to clean mowers off after each use, as this allows you to get the best cut quality possible on each job and it helps you pinpoint maintenance issues before they cause downtime delays.
Since grass retains moisture, Unruh says when that grass passes underneath the mower, it can hang around and start to rust and corrode the metal. He especially recommends paying close attention to the underside of the mower deck after each mow to help keep grass from building up.
“If you can keep that underside clean, that definitely helps with multiple things, not only with the care but also with the performance of the deck and keeping your blade sharp,” says Unruh.
Unruh adds that dull blades are also tough on grass because they are basically carrying the grass rather than cleanly cutting it. If you’ve ever noticed white tips on the grass, Unruh says that means the lawn was more than likely cut with a dull blade.
“If you get down and look at those grass blades, you can see ridges in the tops, and that’s because of a dull blade,” says Unruh. “It’s going to pull more, and instead of a nice clean cut, it’s more of a tear. That’s really tough on grass, and it definitely is not what the grass wants.”
Periodically throughout the mowing season, Unruh recommends making sure you pull those blades off, deep clean them and sharpen the edges. He says you can also check with your local dealer to see if there are any other specific tips/tricks that are applicable to your specific region of the country.
Unruh says the ideal storage location for a mower is an enclosed space that will keep out the elements, as well as somewhere that won’t allow moisture to collect on the machine.
Anything indoors is preferable over outdoors, he says, but in a pinch, mowers can be stored outside if they are properly and completely covered.
Unruh says if mowers are left outside and uncovered, not only will the sun wreak havoc on the mower’s paint job, but serious damage can happen to rubber and plastic parts. He adds that being exposed outside also allows moisture to settle on the machine, causing rust to collect and corrosion to start. All of these things, he says, lead to the quick downgrading of the unit.
Even though it’s a ways away, Unruh says to keep winter storage options in the back of your mind. Depending on your location, the severity of the winter will vary, but regardless of how cold it actually gets, Unruh says to check the fuel in the tank and the batteries of your mowers.
When prepping mowers for winter storage, Unruh says to thoroughly clean the mower from top to bottom. While performing this extensive cleaning session, be sure to also check the mower’s maintenance points to see if any harm has happened since the last completed job. He adds that it’s also important to check for any leaks before storing it.
Whether it’s before you put the mower away for the winter or before starting it up again in the spring, Unruh also recommends getting the mower in front of a dealer for an inspection.
“Our dealers have service technicians that are experts in that machine, and they can make sure that everything’s working well, that you’re going to be happy and satisfied and that you don’t have any problems right out the gate when you start for the for that season,” says Unruh.