Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lawn Mower Maintenance Part 1

Okay, so today I am embarking on new territory for the Redheaded Princess.The Great Outdoors. C'mon, being domestic doesn't only include the house! So today I'm going to show you how to maintaing your Lawn Mower. We are going to learn how to remove the spark plug and how to remove the mower blade as well as how to sharpen it. Yes, this is for real. No kidding. But first, let me tell you how and why I learned how to do this..
About 3 years ago, my husband and I purchased a fixer upper....wait... did I say fixer upper? I meant to say DUMP with a capital D! But despite the dumpiness we both had a vision for what it could be and we made it beautiful..yes, we love it now. It's a little small for our family of 5 with only two bedrooms so we are in the process of trying to sell, however we still love it...okay... I am getting off on a tangent, let's focus...the point is, when we purchased the house, we also purchased a lawn mower. Nothing fancy, just a basic lawn mower from Sears. We lived in apartments before, so we never really had to take care of the lawn. The most I ever did with a mower in my life was mow my lawn when I was a teenager for a couple years till we moved to a house with no grass. At that time, my dad took care of those things. SO, needless to say, DH and I knew nothing about lawn mowers, how to fix them, maintain them, nothing. (Well, actually, I could put in gas and oil and start it, but that doesn't count) So a couple weeks ago, I decided to mow the lawn because it was looking rough. An eye sore to the neighborhood in my opinion and DH had been so busy that he'd been pretty tired in the evenings to mow. I thought I'd do a good deed and surprise him. Well, after I got 4 rows done, I turned it off because my middle princess came outside asked me a question and I couldn't hear above the noise. And wouldn't you know it? I went to start it, and the durn thing wouldn't turn back on! Seriously? What the heck?? So after fighting with it, filling it up with gas, priming the pump and probably flooding the engine, and cranking it for dear life. I went inside. Twenty minutes later...back outside, priming it, cranking it, nearly hurting myself, &^%$ stupid mower!...back inside...another twenty minutes later REPEAT again...finally after kicking the dumb thing I stomped back in the house mad as heck and called DH to yell at him for who knows why (Not a smart idea...but that's another topic LOL) I was so mad at myself...WHY don't I know how to fix it??! Seriously?! I can do ANYthing! (no I don't have an ego;-)) ....Well.... apparently I can't do everything!...So I looked it up online, and found out about maintenance, but that meant buying a spark plug, oil, etc..and I didn't even know where the spark plug was! Fast forward to that night, my DH called a maintenance guy about getting it fixed, and the bottom price just to look at it? 80 bucks. Ugh. Well, if we're gonna do that we might as well go buy a new one, right? We really didn't want to do that either. I mentioned about the maintenance kit, but the guy DH had talked to said it could be the carburetor....sigh...Continue to 4 or 5 days after my 4 rows of mowing and imagine my lawn now. Not pretty. So finally after some nagging (sorry, I'm a wife, I think it's my job?) my DH walked outside to head to the Home Depot to purchase a new mower when he saw our neighbor was home next door about to mow his own lawn. (DH had checked before, but the neighbors are hardly home.) Thank goodness he was there because he came over, brought his mower and inserted his spark plug into ours...and wouldn't you know it?! It cranked right up! PTL! So DH, with a sly grin looked over at me where I was sitting on the porch because he knew I had the "told you so" look on my face. Priceless...LOL... So then I knew we could fix it ourselves. Thank goodness!!
That night, I happened to go to my in-law's to drop off a piece of my carrot cake and I decided to ask my father in law to tell me how to maintain a lawn mower. (He's one of the most frugal people I know and kinda handy) He told me how and now I'm going to show you! I will have a couple different posts, because I haven't done everything yet, plus it'll be better to break it up anyway... So after the most long-winded story ever, here's your tutorial...Ta dah!!! LOL...

So here is my lawn mower. Nothing fancy, just a basic mower. (It's a Briggs and Stratton if that matters) Also, here are the tools I used. A few different pliers, a wrench, a screw driver and a file. I had all of them on hand except the file. The file I purchased in the Home Depot in the hand tools section. It was near the wrenches/socket wrenches. There are lots of different files but this one actually had a picture of a lawn mower on the package.

So the first thing you do is locate the spark plug. Here's mine. You want to disconnect the black part (I know, real technical right?) from the spark plug. Just tug hard :).

After that's done, take a pair of pliers OR a wrench (I couldn't find the right size) and carefully remove the spark plug. Apparently you can use a socket wrench with a special spark plug adapter. We don't have one, but maybe one day... 

After the spark plug is removed, put it some place safe and turn the mower on its side. Next we're going to remove the blade. 

Using a wrench, remove the bolt. This one was pretty rusty and since I have very little upper body strength I enlisted my legs/feet. I used one foot to brace the blade so it wouldn't spin as I turned the bolt and then I hit the wrench with my other heel until it loosened up. A friend of mine told me though that if you spray any bolt that is tough to loosen with WD-40, leave it alone and come back when it dries, the bolt will come right off! I'll have to try it one day. 

Here's my blade, bolt and washer...put the bolt/washer someplace safe.

Now's the fun part...I looked this part up on ehow and you are supposed to sharpen in the direction it was factory made. First you need to brace it. I sat on the edge of my porch and held it down with one foot. If you have a vice, then use that. This part takes a little elbow grease. Be patient. You can do this! Just file it down trying to keep it even and coming to a point on the edge. Carefully touch the blade edge to feel the sharpness as you go along.

Mine was in pretty bad shape with lots of nicks. (Like I said, we had it 3 years and didn't do anything to it)You can shave this down just try to keep the edge sharp. This part took some practice and I'm sure the more you do it the better you get. 

After you have filed the blade to your liking, then hold it up using a screw driver. We are making sure the blade is balanced. Notice the first picture, it's way off balance. So the side that is the heaviest needs more work. So get back at it. :) The second one is what it looked like after I was finished. I checked it two or three times till it was finally right. The whole filing process was about ten minutes or so.  

Now back to the mower. It should be still on its side. So, while you're down there, take a stick or a block and clean off the grass that is stuck under the mower. This should be done every couple weeks during mowing season to keep your mower blade free of debris and working more efficiently. 

Next, replace the blade and bolt. Don't forget the washer! Then insert the spark plug, tightening by hand at first then using a wrench or pliers.

Finally, replace the black thing ;-) until it clicks.

Now your'e done! SOO much better than forking over 80+ bucks, right? I think the total cost of the spark plug and file was less than $10..so awesome! So with just a little effort, you can maintain your own mower. My father in law told me that he had a used mower that lasted him 33 years! Just give your things a little TLC and it will save you time and money. We live in a generation where people just throw things out when they don't work, and I think it's mostly because they don't know how to fix them and rather than pay maintenance fees, it makes more sense to just get a new one. Not anymore! You can do it yourself! If a 'Princess' can do it, so can YOU!

When we are done with the mower this season, I will show you how to winterize the mower which will include cleaning the air filter and changing the oil. Hope you tune in! I would love to hear any tips you may for me or if you have or any questions.


  1. So that was totally awesome! You rock! I felt empowered when I figured out how to fix my toilet, when DH was out of town. You just put me to shame. I do think I have the same ego complex that you have. We CAN do anything! Haha!

  2. Please, never use your feet this way to remove a blade!
    One slip and you'll have a deep gash, or worse! Best to use 2 short pieces of 2x4 (wood) to brace the blade in place so it can't move. Be safe!


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