A Small Job

This time of year when the leaves have yielded to gravity I have to decide if I need to mow the lawn once more or if it will wait until spring.  This weekend my decision was in the affirmative and I rolled my lawn mower into the garage for its yearly preparation for winter.

Understand that I have had this mower for a little over twenty years which I hope is an indication that I’m doing something right.  As a young boy mowing lawns was one of my first ways to make an income.  I learned that you cannot make any money if your mower doesn’t start and you must take care of it if you wish to make money.  This habit also spilled over into my cars.

I rolled in the Honda mower and blew off the dried grass and dirt before I got to the real work.  I keep two blades so I can swap out a sharp one for a used dull one.  Before I changed out the blade I dumped the fuel from the gas tank.  There was not much in the tank and I caught it in a large metal drain pan.  Then I removed the top part of the engine cover so I could get at the tank itself.

Disconnecting the tank gave me a chance to get any remaining fuel out and clean the filter.  On this Honda there is a small filter that is in the fuel line that attaches to the tank.  That way the debris that normally gets into the tank never sees the carburetor.  I cleaned out the tank and spayed down the outside of the carburetor with cleaner.   The air filter is a combination paper element covered with a foam element.  I cleaned the foam and re-oiled it. 

Then I pulled the plug and drained the crankcase into the large metal pan that the mower sat over.

Since the Honda is an overhead valve engine I also adjusted the valves.  Pulling the spark plug I put a wooden chop stick in the hole and turned the motor over slowly by hand.  That way I could easily tell when I was at top dead center and the valves were fully closed.  The intake was set at .003″ and the exhaust was set at .005″ after a bit of adjustment.

With the spark plug out I sprayed some Mopar Combustion Chamber Cleaner in the hole to disolve the carbon that accumulates on the piston and combustion chamber.  If it had been a Brigs and Straton flat head motor I would have pulled the head and scraped the carbon off by hand.

The valves were adjusted, the combustion chamber cleaned, the air filter prepared, a sharp blade installed, the fuel tank cleaned and re-installed, and the spark plug checked.  I put everything back together and filled the crankcase with Mobil 1.  Especially for winter storage I think it is important to use the best oil. 

Then I put in a quarter of a cup of gasoline into the tank and started the mower up.  I let it warm up and then set the idle and the mixture.  In about three minutes it ran out of gas and was done.  I wheeled it into the storage shed and it will be ready to crank up in the spring after the grass wakes up.

I have performed this routine for twenty years and my reward is a mower that I can continue to use with out issue.  With the cost of a new one at over $400 that makes sense to me.


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One Response to A Small Job

  1. Noel says:

    I, on the other hand, always mean to take good care of lawn mowers and similar tools but typically give them minimal care beyond occasional oil changes.

    On my 25,000 sq. feet of lawn I use a lawn tractor with a Briggs & Stratton 2-cylinder engine. It is on the original plugs at 8 years old. Ditto the snowblower at 7 years old. Both start at the beginning of their new season with no issues. If I remember to do it, I may put in new plugs this year. I put a new set of blades on the tractor once a year. About the most I do is run them dry of fuel before I put them away for the season. But if I don’t there’s always fuel stabilizer in the gas I use for the yard machines. For a push mower–which I need only for a few areas the tractor can’t get into– I buy pretty bare bones inexpensive (or used) ones, run them until they die. They get the same treatment. They might last a little longer if I made the effort to take care of them, but then the one that died in September cost $65, used, at Home Depot four years ago.

    I think this approach, while hardly ideal, fits with the general state of entropy that exists at my house.

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