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General Riding Lawn Mower Maintenance

Length of Clip:  5:29

Depending on your model, the instructions below for lawn mower maintenance might vary slightly. If during your tune-up you find any safety features missing or broken, immediately take your riding mower to an Authorized Service Center or call to schedule a pick-up. For instructions on specific repairs mentioned in this video, check out our how-to library. As you work, always observe the safety rules called out in your operator's manual, and pay attention to riding lawn mower parts that need to be replaced. Not all lawn mower maintenance tasks will need to be performed at the same time, so pay attention to the schedule in your owner's manual for each individual repair.

Step 1: Position your mower for a safe tune-up

Roll your riding mower onto a flat level surface and disconnect the spark plug wire(s) typically located under the hood or behind the seat. 

Step 2: Examine the spark plug to see if you need to order a replacement

The spark plug(s) should be replaced every 100 hours or prior to storing your riding lawn mower in the fall.  Damaged or worn plugs can increase carbon build-up while decreasing fuel efficiency and power output.  Pay special attention to the numbers on the old plug. Make sure you buy a replacement plug with the same numbers.  Using a spark plug with the wrong specifications can be fatal to your engine. When you need lawn mower replacement parts, use our Part Finder to order the correct ones online.


Step 3: Change the oil during regular riding lawn mower maintenance

Your engine's oil should be changed every 50 hours and prior to fall storage.  Heat and friction cause the oil to break down over time reducing its ability to lubricate moving parts and removes worn particles from the engine.  If left unchecked, these particles could cause premature engine wear.  You should also change the oil filter as it captures the worn particles and dirt from your engine's lubrication system, which build up each season.  To drain the oil, use whatever method works best for you. Many riding mowers have a plug that can be emptied with the use of a plastic drain sleeve, but the easiest way is to use the Arnold Siphon Pump.



Step 4: Fill the oil to the proper level


Refer to your operator's manual for the type and amount of oil needed to refill. Do not overfill; it can be as harmful as under-filling.


Step 5: Examine and replace the air filter if necessary

The air filter should be checked every 25 hours and replaced after every 100 hours of use and prior to storage in the fall.  Dispose of the dirty air filter and install a new air filter.  If your mower is equipped with a pre-filter, you can clean it with liquid detergent and water, then thoroughly dry.  Never operate your mower without a proper fitting filter.  Dirt or grass can then accumulate in the engine, robbing it of power and causing abnormal fuel use. To find the right model for your riding lawn mower, use our Part Finder.


Step 6: Treat the fuel in your riding mower with stabilizer

The most common problem people experience with their mowers is difficulty starting the engine. This problem is often caused by bad fuel.  With today's emissions standards, small, air-cooled engines cannot tolerate untreated fuel that has been sitting in a gas can for over 30 days, or fuel with more than 10% ethanol.  To prevent these problems, add a fuel stabilizer to your gas can every time you refill it.  Fuel stabilizers help to keep fuel combustibility levels up to specifications.  Untreated fuel can become difficult to burn in small engines in as little as 30 days.


Step 7: Sharpen or replace lawn mower blades with new riding mower parts

Mowing with dull or worn lawn mower blades is harmful to your lawn.  They tear, rather than cut, the blades of grass, making the grass susceptible to disease and browning.  Check to see if your lawn mower blades need to be sharpened throughout the season. If the blade is chipped, bent, or damaged, install a replacement lawn mower blade. Running a mower with a bent blade can cause excess vibration and unsafe operating conditions.


Step 8: Inspect your lawn mower belts

Remove the belt guards and check the lawn mower belts. If they are worn or damaged - replace them.  Refer to your owner's manual for the correct part number.  Remember to only use genuine factory lawn mower belts. They are designed specifically for your mower's pulley system and torque needs.  Non-original lawn mower belts may look similar, but they set in the pulley properly and may stretch, causing premature wear and replacement. Most riders also use belts to drive their transmissions. Loss of movement or sporadic movement could be signs of transmission belt wear or damage. These lawn mower belts can be challenging to service, so they are best maintained and replaced by a dealer.


Step 9: Clean out the discharge chute and look for signs of damage


Check the discharge chute for damage. If this or any other safety feature is not functioning properly, immediately take your riding mower to an authorized service center. At this time, it's also a good opportunity to clean any debris build-up.  A putty knife works well for this.

Step 10: Examine the bagger attachment on your riding mower

If your riding lawn mower is equipped with a bagger attachment, check all the chutes and bags for holes, damage, or tears.  Any of these could lead to an unsafe operating condition.

Step 11: Don't forget to look at the tires

Check your front and back tires and deck wheels for excessive wear or damage.  Replace if necessary.

Step 12: Clean up after lawn mower maintenance

Once all of the riding lawn mower parts have been replaced, check to make sure all the fasteners are tight.  Wipe up any fuel or oil spilled during the repair, and reconnect the spark plug wire. At this point you have thoroughly tuned up your mower and it's ready for safe, efficient operation.



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