11 Tips to Get Your Lawn Mower Spring-Ready and Keep It Running All Season

Deane Biermeier
Written by Deane Biermeier
Updated February 24, 2022
A gardener mows the lawn with a mower
Photo: ArtistGNDphotography / E+ / Getty Images

Remove your lawn mower from your ‘fix-it’ list this season

Hot take: Your lawn mower may be your most important lawn care tool. We ask a lot from our lawn mowers and most of the time they do their job without complaining too much. However, lawn mowers need some TLC to keep them running well during the warm-weather months.

Getting your lawn mower ready for spring is a good opportunity to show your machine the love it needs. Check out these 10 tips for getting your walk-behind lawn mower spring-ready, and, if lawn care isn’t on your list of favorite summer activities, a lawn care professional near you can help.

1. Practice Spark Plug Safety

As with any power tool, safety comes first. Before working on your lawn mower this spring, or any time, remove the spark plug, or at least disconnect the plug wire from it before starting any work. This simple step will help you avoid potential safety risks.

2. Drain Last Year’s Fuel

Gasoline has a short shelf-life. Fuel can deteriorate beyond a usable state after as little as a month of sitting idle. Drain any old fuel in the mower’s tank by siphoning or pumping it out. On some machines, it’s possible to disconnect the gas line to drain the fuel.

If you used a fuel storage stabilizer before putting your mower away for the winter, you may want to temporarily store the gas in a fuel-approved container and put it back in later. Don’t refill the gas tank until you’ve completed the rest of the following preparation steps and you’re ready to mow.

3. Clean Your Mower From Top to Bottom

Cleaning under the deck of your lawn mower is essential for the machine’s efficiency. If your lawn mower won’t start, give it a good clean before anything else. To clean it, tip the mower on its side and spray the underside of the deck to loosen the debris. A garden hose with a powerful spray nozzle works well. Use caution to avoid getting water into the spark plug hole. Using a pressure washer isn’t necessary or recommended. For the final cleaning step, remove any remaining stuck-on debris with a stiff brush or wire brush.

4. Sharpen the Blades

Sharp mower blades are crucial for achieving an evenly trimmed lawn. Start by removing the blade from the lawn mower. Using a bench grinder or hand-held grinder, knock down any large nicks on the leading edge of the blade. Finish by smoothing the length of the cutting portion of the blade.

5. Assess the Drive Belt

You probably won’t need to replace the drive belt on your self-propelled lawn mower every year, but it’s a good idea to adjust its tension and inspect it for damage or excessive wear.

A drive belt should last an average of three years, but if you spot damage or excessive wear before then, now’s the time to replace it. It may be a sign that your mower needs to visit a lawn mower repair shop to find out what caused the condition prematurely.

6. Clean or Replace Your Air Filter

A clean air filter is the key to a smooth-running mower engine. You can clean a foam air filter by removing it and using liquid dish soap and water. Rinse the filter with hot water, but ensure it’s not scorching.

Paper air filters are typically thrown away and replaced after its use. In a pinch, though, an air compressor and air nozzle can blow much of the dust from a paper filter, which is enough for short-term use until you can replace it.

7. Change the Oil

Filling oil in engine on a lawn mower
Photo: tony740607 / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Like any combustion engine, your mower’s engine oil needs to be drained and replaced regularly to avoid internal damage. Changing the oil once in the springtime is usually enough for most mowers.

If you have a very large lawn that takes several hours to mow, change the oil in the spring, and after every 50 hours of use. If your mower has an oil filter, you should change it during each oil change, too.

8. Replace the Fuel Filter

If your lawnmower features a fuel filter, it’s usually located on the fuel line between the gas tank and the carburetor. Inspect your fuel filter every spring and replace it if it appears dirty or clogged. Otherwise, replace it after every 200 hours of use, or every 3 to 5 years.

9. Lubricate the Wheels and Control Cables

The wheels and control cables on your lawn-mower come in contact with dust, dirt, and debris that can stop them from working as they should. To return your mower to tip-top shape, lubricate the wheels by removing them and applying all-purpose grease to where the wheel spins on the axle. Lubricate the wheels’ bearings if they’re so equipped, and then reinstall the wheels.

Lubricate any control cables by spraying penetrating oil at the top and bottom where the cable runs through its sheath. Operate the appropriate lever to work the cable back and forth several times.

10. Inspect the Spark Plug

Check your mower’s spark plug each spring by removing and inspecting it. You may choose to clean it and check the gap between the electrodes if your mower is starting and running well. However, replacing the spark plug each year will prevent it from causing problems at an unexpected time.

11. Keep Track of Your Replacement Parts

If you’ve misplaced your mower’s user manual, it’s helpful to write down the part numbers of all the replacement parts you’ve used, if you haven’t already done so, and keep them in a safe place for reference next spring.

Your lawn mower is now ready for a full summer of carefree mowing. You can reattach the plug wire to the spark plug, refill the gas tank, and trim your lawn to perfection.