Tech Tip - July 2008

Carter Automotive
107 West 11th Street
Coffeyville, KS 67337
Phone: (800) 225-4813 (620) 251-4700
FAX: (620) 251-2215

Easy maintenance of your mower deck!

Lawn mowers have been seeing a lot of use this season. We are close to 20" over the average total of rain for the year, so it may seem like you are mowing non-stop!

The last thing you want when there is finally a break in the weather and it is dry enough to mow, is for your mower to not be up to the task.

The last tech tip focused on small engine maintenance. This one will focus on keeping the mower deck itself in top condition.

Sharpen: Nothing affects performance like dull blades. Dull blades bog down easily in heavy grass. Dull blades take more horsepower to turn. Dull blades rip the grass instead of cutting it cleanly which contributes to browning and provides an opening for fungus to attack the turf. Dull blades leave uncut grass requiring you to mow over spots already covered. Dull blades do not mulch as effectively and do not provide as much lift for bagging. Blades are dulled not only by rocks and sticks which can leave large gouges in the metal, but also just by cutting through lots of grass. The edge eventually wears away. Keep a sharp edge on your blades throughout the season and you will be well on your way to successful mowing. Excessively worn blades should be replaced. Blade bolts should always be of the proper grade and torqued to the proper tightening recommendation. Replace any blade that is cracked or damaged to prevent accidents. If you have more than one cutting blade on your deck, it's also a good idea to rotate into different spindles on the deck so they will wear more evenly. A blade balancer is also a good investment to make sure you are sharpening them evenly and they won't vibrate.

Lubricate: Grease is essential in blade spindle bearings. Some modern mower decks have sealed bearings which cannot be lubed, but many still have grease fittings. Be sure to grease every 10 hours of operation or so. If you have a gear box on the mower deck, it should be checked regularly and topped off with the manufacturer's recommended lube. Be especially watchful for slow leaks which can get onto the mower belt and drastically shorten it's life. You will also want to grease the pivot points of the deck suspension to make it easier to raise and lower as you mow around and over obstacles.

Belt: Inspect belts for dry rot, proper tension and wear marks from dragging. Often a stick or other object will become lodged on the mower deck where it can touch the belt. This will quickly wear away the rubber belt material and eventually it will snap or fail.

Weld: Mower decks are subject to stress cracking from hitting obstacles or from vibration at the suspension points (brackets). Check the front of the deck and the brackets for cracks and have them welded. Decks with cracks are less structurally strong, cannot "suck" the grass up straight for good cutting and can provide an uneven cut.

Level: Decks should be level left to right and slightly higher in the front than in the back (1/4 - 1/2"). To level, first place the mower on an even surface like a concrete floor. Make sure the tires are all inflated equally. Then, use the leveling adjustments on the deck and a ruler or tape measure to level the deck.

Clean: Clean decks run cooler and do not clog as easily as dirty decks. Clean the debris out from around the belts and pulleys. You may have to remove a plastic guard to do this. A shop vac, compressed air or a leaf blower works well to dislodge grass, dirt and leaves. Remember to wear safety glasses. A putty knife can be useful to remove any crusted on grass clippings from the under side of the deck. A light coating of oil sprayed on the under side once it is clean, can help keep wet grass from sticking to the sheet metal and hurting performance. If you have a hose adaptor fitting, it can be useful to clean the under side of the deck after each use. Remember, weed seeds can collect on the mower and be transferred to weed free areas. Cleaning the mower deck after each use helps to minimize the spread of noxious weeds.

Paint: Finally, paint any scratches or rusty or welded spots to keep the metal from oxidizing.

We hope these reminders will help you to keep your mower decks running at their peak performance and providing reliable service. If you are unsure about how to do something, the friendly service team at Carter Automotive will be glad to help. Carters stocks a full line of belts, greases, lubricants, bearings, and blades and can sharpen blades.

It's no fun to have a weekend of yard work planned only to find out the equipment you need won't perform on Saturday morning when you get ready to get productive. Don't spend the day working on your equipment, do a little preventive maintenance and spend the day out in the fresh air improving your property for the enjoyment of your whole family!

Print me and take me to one of the 6 Carter Automotive locations in SE Kansas. Our friendly and knowledgeable counter staff will help you find the perfect parts for your application at the right price.