Maintaining your riding mower is essential for extending its lifespan and ensuring top performance that you expect. With the right tools and a bit of time, you can complete most of these tasks yourself, saving money on professional servicing.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you maintain your riding mower, from changing the oil to performing maintenance on other mechanical parts such as the transmission and the blades. User comments on our website have requested a guide like this for a while, so here it is!
This guide applies to almost all lawn tractors, including ones from John Deere, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna and more.
Before starting these maintenance tasks, ensure that you have all the necessary tools on hand. These include:
- Leaf blower
- Drain receptacle
- Wrench set
- Oil filter wrench
- Lubricant (Spray lithium grease or high-quality bearing grease)
- Air pressure gauge
- Spark plug gap gauge
- Torque wrench
Part One: Changing Your Lawn Tractor’s Oil
As someone who’s spent many summers tending to my own garden, I’ve learned that oil changes in lawn tractors are a non-negotiable task.
Putting my science hat on, I’ve seen how oil, a brilliant friction-fighter, keeps those engine parts running smoothly. But, over time, this oil breaks down, becoming a murky pool of contaminants. Instead of protecting the engine, it starts to do the opposite, threatening the lawn tractor’s health.
On the other hand, as an amateur mechanic, I’ve often rolled up my sleeves to peer into the heart of my tractor’s engine. I’ve learned that oil is more than just a lubricant – it’s a cleaner, a coolant, and even a sealer between pistons and cylinder walls. But, old oil loses these superpowers. The result? A sluggish tractor, thirstier for fuel, and at risk of damage.
Below are the 6 steps needed to change the oil in your lawn tractor’s engine. This process should take approximately 30 minutes to an hour.
Step 1: Prepare Your Riding Mower For Maintenance
Begin your maintenance after a mowing session, or when your lawn tractor’s engine is warm (every mechanic knows this, but users sometimes forget as evidenced by some Youtube comments). Then Use your leaf blower to remove any dust and grass clippings from your mower, ensuring a cleaner workspace for your maintenance tasks.
Step 2: Gather Your Tools and Reference Your Manual
Before starting, locate your owner’s manual. This document outlines the required oil weight, oil quantity, and type of oil filter for your specific lawnmower model. It also stipulates when to service your mower—for example, it may recommend a service after every 50 hours of usage.
Step 3: Drain the Oil
Locate your engine’s drain outlet, remove the drain cover, and carefully position a drain receptacle underneath to catch the draining oil. Let the oil drain completely. This process may take quite some time considering the viscosity of the oil, so it’s the perfect opportunity to conduct the following checks.
Step 4: Conduct Other Necessary Checks
Check your mower’s air filter while the oil drains. If the filter is dirty, either clean it using soap and water or replace it if it’s worn. Similarly, inspect the fuel filter for foreign particles—replace if necessary. Your spark plug also needs attention. Ensure its gap matches the specifications in your owner’s manual and check the condition of the electrode. If the spark plug is in good condition, apply some anti-seize compound on its threads as a precaution before reinstalling.
Step 5: Change the Oil Filter
Once all the oil has been drained, use your oil filter wrench to replace the oil filter. Be sure to catch the filter oil with some cardboard and a can. Prior to fitting the new filter, grease it to prevent pinching.
Step 6: Refill the Oil
With the new filter installed and the drain plug cap in place, it’s time to refill the engine with oil. However, once you’ve filled the oil tank, if the oil seems overfilled, don’t worry. Simply let your mower run for a bit to help the oil circulate and fill the oil filter, then recheck your oil levels.
Part Two: Inspection and general maintenance
In the second installment of lawn mower maintenance, we shift the focus to inspecting key components and removing any harmful particles.
Step 1: Lubricate All Pivot Points
Key points like the pedal arm and the pivoting front suspension arm should be lubricated using spray lithium grease or other high-quality lubricants, based on the manufacturer’s advice.
Step 2: Check the Transmission Fluid
Regardless of what the manual says about your mower’s transmission being non-serviceable, replace the oil every 150 hours of usage. This may require a bit more effort, such as unbolting the mower, separating the transmission, and draining the oil, but it’s well worth it.
Step 3: Check and Correct Tire Pressures
The owner’s manual or tire sidewall will guide you on the correct tire pressure. Checking tire pressures regularly is crucial, as incorrect tire pressures can affect your mower’s efficiency and handling.
Step 4: Lubricate joints and shafts
Following the oil change, consult your manual for grease points that need lubricating. Also, ensure that your lawn mower’s steering pinion has sufficient lubrication. Additionally, use a voltmeter to confirm that the battery voltage is above 12.6 volts. Finally, check the headlights to ensure they are functioning correctly.
Step 4: Conduct General Inspections
Conduct a thorough inspection to ensure everything is in order after servicing your riding mower. Look for loose or chafed wires, corroded battery terminals, and examine the solenoid and starter bolts for overheating signs.
In conclusion, regular and efficient maintenance is key to prolonging your riding mower’s lifespan. With a bit of effort and these detailed steps, you can keep your lawnmower operating at its peak for years to come!
Part Three: Sharpening the Blades
Keeping a sharp blade is integral to the function of your lawn tractor. A dull blade tears at the grass instead of cutting it cleanly. This not only affects the look of your lawn, but also promotes disease and pests.
Step 1: Safety First
Before starting, ensure that the spark plug is disconnected to prevent accidental starting. Use protective gloves and glasses to protect your hands and eyes from flying debris.
Step 2: Remove the Blades
To properly sharpen the mower’s blades, you’ll need to remove them. To do this, firmly secure the blade with a block of wood to keep it from turning, and then use a wrench to loosen and remove the nut holding the blade in place.
Step 3: Sharpen the Blade
Using a vice to hold them steady, sharpen the blades with a file or a bench grinder, following the original bevel of the blade. Aim to achieve an edge sharp enough to cut paper cleanly, but not razor sharp, as this can lead to chipping.
Step 4: Balance and Reinstall
After sharpening, ensure the blade is balanced by hanging it on a nail through the hole in the center. If it tilts to one side, lightly file the heavy side until it balances evenly. Carefully reinstall the sharpened and balanced blade, making sure that the lift wing (the turned up part of the blade) is facing toward the deck and not towards the ground.
Part Four: Cleaning the Deck and Replacing the Belts
Maintaining a clean mower deck and replacing worn out belts is another crucial aspect of lawn tractor maintenance, which can improve cutting quality and prevent premature belt failure.
Step 1: Clean the Deck
Scrape off any compacted grass clippings from the mower deck with a plastic scraper. Rinse the deck with a hose before taking the appropriate safety precautions and using a pressure washer to remove entrenched dirt.
Step 2: Inspect and Replace the Belts
Inspect both the drive belt and the mower deck belt for wear and tear. If necessary, replace the drive belt—which propels the lawnmower—and the deck belt—which powers the cutting blades—according to your manufacturer’s specification in the owner’s manual.
Regularly maintaining your lawn tractor – including changing the oil, sharpening the blade, cleaning the deck, and replacing worn belts – will not only extend its lifespan but also maintain its optimal performance, making your lawn mowing and gardening tasks more enjoyable!