While it is easy to put off mower maintenance in the winter, procrastination is less of an option once spring rolls around. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of mowers do not receive the tune-up they need each spring to keep them running smoothly, according to an online tips Web site. Granted, the vast majority of those mowers are in the hands of homeowners. But the overall point is valid: Mowers, like any piece of equipment, need to be maintained to perform properly. And that maintenance is even more crucial if you depend on your mower to make you money. So before moving your mower out of the shop, take a few minutes to review some key maintenance tips that will help get your mower in shape for the work ahead. Regular maintenance not only lowers fuel consumption and reduces emission levels, but also increases mower life and reliability. If your mower did not receive a thorough servicing before it was stored for winter, there are several items to check.
If your mower was winterized, you’re already ahead of the game. Before getting started on your spring maintenance, Gilbert Pena, segment strategy manager for John Deere, says it is important to consult the owner’s manual for any questions you might have. Once you’re up to speed, run the fuel out of the gas tank if fuel was not previously treated with fuel stabilizer. Old fuel can gel and clog the carburetor, making it harder to start the engine.
Next, disconnect the spark plug wire. You will need to replace the spark plug later on during the tune-up. Follow the steps below, and your mower will be ready to tackle the mowing season in no time.
Clean off bits of grass and leaves with a blower
Debris can clog the mower and noticeably decrease performance. If the unit was stored in less than ideal conditions, Ed Cole, manager of technical services for Toro, recommends giving it a careful inspection for any damage caused by exposure to the elements.
“Regardless of where the unit was stored, look to see if any unwanted guests, like mice, have taken up housekeeping while the unit sat undisturbed,” Cole says. “Rodents can do an incredible amount of damage.”
One way to keep the mice away is to place mothballs in and around the mower when it will be in storage for long amounts of time.
Change the oil, oil filters and air filters
This is where the operator’s manual comes into play, since there may be specific oil removal techniques to follow. Michael Anderson, Toro’s technical service representative for commercial zero-turn mowers, recommends changing the oil after every 100 hours of use, and possibly more often if the mower was used in adverse or heavily loaded conditions.
Adjust the clutch, if applicable
The clutch is the third most expensive component of a mower, after the engine and hydraulic components. Most clutches can be adjusted by using a feeler gauge and a wrench. For a positive, even engagement, Roy Dust, product specialist for Ferris Industries, recommends checking and adjusting the air gap between the plates. This helps to maximize wear and minimize horsepower loss, he says.
“Not all electric clutches are adjustable, but the majority of commercial equipment uses adjustable clutches,” Dust says.
A properly maintained clutch, according to Ogura Manufacturing, will last three times longer than a non-adjustable or an adjustable clutch that has not been maintained.
Inspect the belts and blades
Notice any obvious wear and replace the belts if neccesary. Sharpen the blades if needed and check the leveling of the deck so the mower gives the best ground cut that it possibly can. Also examine the joints on linkages that are holding up the floating deck on some mowers, as well as linkages on steering mechanisms, Pena says.
Examine tire pressure
Make sure all tires, including caster wheels and gauge wheels, have adequate pressure readings. This will keep the deck from scalping when the mower hits uneven ground.
Check the battery
This is a simple one to forget, but if the unit was stored in an area with relatively warm temperatures or high moisture conditions, Cole recommends charging the battery. Also, look for any buildup on the battery. If the mower was stored in a cool, dry place and charged in the winter, the battery shouldn’t need recharging.
Replace the spark plug
It is crucial to complete this step every season to ensure easy starting of the mower’s engine. First, remove the old spark plug and then check its gap before installing a new one. Some spark plugs are available pre-gapped. Refer to your owner’s manual for specifications.
Verify all fluid levels and inspect for any leaks
Sometimes seals and gaskets that were all right the previous season will “give up the ghost” while in storage, Cole says. Just to be sure, he recommends keeping an eye out for leaks that may develop immediately after the unit is put back into service.
Lubricate the necessary moving parts
Consult your owner’s manual before this step to see which parts need special attention, such as blade spindles. Most will advise greasing the cables, linkages and wheel areas with a lubricant. Different climates and conditions demand various types of lubricants, Dust says.
“Some applications are best served with a dry type of graphite, but generally quality lithium and silicone type sprays and grease are your best bet,” Dust says.
Before lubricating an area, make sure it is clean and dry to avoid contamination. Wipe off any access lubricant so dirt isn’t attracted to the area.
According to Dust, water dispersal or rust busting products should not be used as a lubricant. “These types of products are for freeing up a stiff or frozen component, but once it is working again it should be lubricated with the proper grease or oil that is recommended.”
Scan safety, electrical and mechanical devices
Pena says giving the mower’s safety and electric switches a once-over helps to determine whether they are frayed or rubbing against something, which could be hazardous. Also, checking the mechanical devices, such as the mower’s roll-bar system (if applicable), ensures that everything is in proper working order.
“If you do these things now, you are going to eliminate any downtime later on,” Pena says.
For additional maintenance tips, please review Total Landscape Care’s November 2006 article on winterizing mowers.
Z Master Z300 Series combines accessibility and efficiency
Toro’s Z300 Series sub-compact riders, part of the Z Master commercial zero-turn line, provide contractors with property accessibility and mowing efficiency. The Z300 machines are small enough to fit through standard 36- and 42-inch gates, yet large enough to deliver more productivity gains than a walk-behind mower. Tackle demanding conditions with a 19-horsepower Kawasaki V-twin engine, which powers the 34- and 40-inch cutting decks offered on the Z334 and Z340. A cast iron spindle housing with a 93/8-inch base absorbs impact loads and distributes them across the deck shell crafted of 7-gauge steel. Clippings are dispersed through the rubber discharge chute, which allows close trimming without damage to the chute or landscape structures. Semi-pneumatic flat-free caster tires that help minimize downtime by eliminating flats are also included.
Rear wheel motor settings adjust to keep proper weight balance
Wright Manufacturing’s new mid-mount, zero-turning radius commercial mower can be powered by a 21-, 23- or 25-horsepower engine that is nearly three times lower than most mid-mounts with a choice of 48-, 52- or 61-inch deck width. The hydro drive pulley is mounted on the bottom of the engine driveshaft, which allows the hydro pumps to be mounted six times lower than most mid-mounts. Move the rear wheel motors front and back through three different settings to keep the proper weight balance with collection systems.
New models utilize four-wheel suspension system
For its 2007 lineup, Ferris is introducing two new IS 2000Z models. A 26-horsepower liquid-cooled Kawasaki engine is standard on one, and the other features a 30-horsepower Briggs and Stratton Vanguard Big Block. The line utilizes Ferris’ four-wheel suspension system for comfort, increased speed, enhanced productivity, extended mower life and consistency of cut. All models are available with either a 52- or 61-inch mower deck made from 10-gauge steel and offer overlap welded corners, double top decks and double reinforced side skirts. Options include ergonomic control panels with integrated cup holder and storage compartment, turf-friendly 22-inch drive tires and 13-inch front casters.
Customize with a wide range of options
Dixon’s new line of Kodiak ZTR mowers offers commercial construction and performance packed into a compact frame capable of tackling tough jobs. With six models to choose from, Kawasaki, Honda, Kohler and Briggs and Stratton engine selections offering 20 to 26 horsepower, and a choice of 52- or 60-inch cutting decks, the Kodiak series provides a wide range of options. Features include the Dixon Tunnel Force cutting deck with durable steel construction, oversized cast iron blade hubs for durability and Fusion blades to ensure longer intervals between sharpening.
Maneuver easily in tight areas
Small enough to handle working in and around tight spaces, Ventrac’s 3100 and 3200 compact tractors feature a 28-inch radius for easy maneuverability. The 3100 comes equipped with a 21-horsepower V-Twin Briggs and Stratton air-cooled engine, while the 3200 is equipped with a 23.6-horsepower Vanguard liquid-cooled diesel engine. These units offer all-wheel drive, power steering, hydrostatic drive and articulating/oscillating frames. An adjustable weight transfer system and tilt steering is standard on the Ventrac 3200 and optional for the 3100. Other optional features include knobby tires, 12-volt power supply switch control, suspension seat, roll bar and tractor cab.
Large gas cap opening shortens refueling time
Landscaper Pro’s commercial-grade walk-behind mower is belt driven with a 15-horsepower Kohler engine and a 36-inch deck composed of 7-gauge steel. The mower is equipped with a five-speed Peerless transmission, dual V-belts on drive wheels that reduce slippage in wet grass and a 5-gallon fuel tank with a 3-inch gas cap opening to shorten refueling time. A 48-inch deck gear-driven walk-behind mower is also available.
Large cutting deck improves cut quality
As Dixie Chopper’s first mower in the King Arthur series, the Xcaliber 3374 was designed with speed, quality and reliability in mind. A 33-horsepower Generac engine powers the mower. The new 74-inch cutting deck with enhanced overlap improves cut quality, and is also the widest deck in the zero-turn lawn mower industry. The motorcycle-style front tire provides a better ride and a new taller rear tire supplies additional ground clearance. The deck lift height control has been shifted to the right foot for increased comfort, while the new adjustable deck rollers have been added. All operator controls are within easy reach, including a redesigned operator-controlled discharge chute and a 12-volt accessory plug for your cell phone or MP3 player.
Wide wheel stance increases stability
Yazoo/Kees Mid-Max Series of zero-turn riders now includes the new ZMKH61252. Engineered and manufactured with the commercial user in mind, the new model includes 11.2-gallon fuel capacity, dampened steering controls and a state-of-the-art hydraulic system. The ZMKH61252’s rugged, full-floating cutting deck is constructed of 10-gauge steel with reinforced 7-gauge side skirts. Reinforcement plates add strength to the spindle area, while baffles improve performance and reduce blow out. The heavy-duty blade spindles feature tapered roller bearing construction that can be greased for longer life. All Mid-Max mowers have a low center of gravity and wide wheel stance for increased stability and smooth performance.
Pumps-in-reservoir design transmits more engine power
A pumps-in-reservoir design transmits more engine power to the mowing deck on Grasshopper’s compact FrontMount 600 series mowers with in-line drive systems. Commercial-grade 16-horsepower Briggs and Stratton Vanguard, or 20-horsepower Kohler Command Pro horizontal crankshaft, V-twin, gasoline engines are available. Front-mounted 44-, 48- and 52-inch DuraMax decks raise vertically for space saving transport or storage, and underside access. The PowerFold/Electric Height Adjustment option is available on the 48- and 52-inch DuraMax decks. Get rid of debris through the side, convert to optional Down Discharge mulching, or use the PowerVac collection with the same DuraMac deck.
Aerator uses force of mower to penetrate lawn
The JRCO Hooker soft plug aerator offers zero-turn maneuverability and tine rotors that utilize the force of the mower to make holes 1/2-inch wide by 11/4 inches long and up to 3 inches deep. The 38-inch-wide Hooker aerator punctures up to six holes per square foot, pulling loose plugs of soil and eliminating the messy hard cores from accumulating on the lawn. The lifting action of the tines prevents soil compaction common to hollow tine aerators and allows filtration of air and water into the lawn. Aerate one and a half acres per hour at 5 mph.
Obtain a safe, close cut with a variety of cutting widths
Bunton’s zero-turn 2000 Series Ride On mower models allow operators to achieve a safe, close cut on undulating terrain. Models include 26- or 33-horsepower with optional cutting width of 52-, 61- or 72-inch designs on the heavy-duty floating cutting deck. The deck is constructed of 10-gauge steel with 7- gauge skirts. Adjust the cutting height from 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches. The series also offers anti-scalp rollers, as well as duel fuel tanks with 12-gallon capacity for all day operation. New features include a full suspension seat, a removable floor for easy cleaning of grass and debris, a cup holder and cell phone charging inlet.