Maintaining a Push Mower Part II
Part 1 of this series discussed the engine and mower deck of 'push' mowers. I am going to continue with the Mower Deck Drive System. Many good mowers are tossed away because the propulsion (drive) system is no longer functioning. It's not that difficult to maintain your mower's drive system. It takes some reading of the owner's manual and a few hand tools. Again, the idea is that you spent good money when you purchased your mower - now spend some money maintaining it.
Each push mower is different and reading the owner's manual will detail the exact procedure for maintaining your drive system. Normally, there is a belt that goes from the pulley of the engine to a pulley at the front of the mower. I have also seen an external chain going to the rear of the mower. You may own a single speed mower or a variable speed mower. Either way, the idea is to find out how the drive system propels the mower. Usually, there is a drive belt and a pulley system. Adjusting the belt or replacing the belt usually solves the problem. However, I have seen where grass clippings have clogged up the drive system and require some cleaning. Also, take a look at the drive wheels. Is the tread worn? The drive wheels can wear out and replacement is the only choice. Lubrication is a key factor in the drive system. Lubricate the cables and other moving metallic parts as required. Do not lubricate the drive belts, pulleys, and other required friction parts. Cleaning is also crucial. Removing grass clippings from the drive system allows the unit to operate without overcoming the extra force needed to get around the grass clippings.
Finally, the last area to discuss is the attachments for the push mower. A majority of the push mowers usually have a grass clipping bagger as the major attachment. You may have a side bagger (slowly becoming uncommon) or a rear discharge bagger (very common) for your push mower. The bag could be made from several different types of materials. It could be a polyester (plastic) type cloth that prevents mildew and rot. It could also be made from a cotton-type material - like a vacuum bag. Either way, the bag should be maintained after each use. Do not let grass accumulate in the bag. It will begin to decay and wreak havoc on the mower. Empty the bag after each use.
Sometimes the bag needs to be washed down. Depending on the model, there might be holes in the bag to allow air to escape while gathering the grass clippings. These holes might be large or very tiny. The accumulation of dirt and dust will clog these holes and prevent air to escape. The grass clippings will not be whisked into the bag effectively because of air pressure caused by a dirty bag. There are various attaching points with a bagger. Lubricating hinges and clasps will allow easier installation and removal of the bagger system.
A rope can start most push mowers. However, technology is allowing different choices for starting a push mower. I have been small battery packs installed on mower decks that will start the engines. Normally, a small battery charger is plugged into the wall outlet and the battery is charged that way. I am also seeing the larger 'battery-free' 120 VAC (volt(s) alternating current) starting systems that are used on snow throwers. You hook up the starting cord from your wall outlet to the mower engine. You push a button and the starting motor gets the engine running.
The idea of the attachment is the battery or 120VAC method. Both of them require maintenance. Batteries need to be charged and the terminals need to be cleaned. The battery cables need to free from abrasion. The connection points to the starter also require being free from corrosion. The starters require cleanliness around the engagement area (the teeth/ring gear). Inspection of the starters should include that they are tightly mounted with no loose connections. The cable for the battery charger or the 120VAC starter should be inspected. They should not be frayed. There should be no exposed wiring outside of the insulation.
The mulching attachment is usually the mulching blade and the devices that block the grass clippings from leaving the mower deck. Blade maintenance has been discussed previously. The devices that block grass clippings haven't. Depending on the style of the mower, you may have devices installed on the mower deck that use switches to ensure safe operation. For example, you may have a deck blocker installed that has a safety switch. When the deck blocker is removed, the switch will kill the operation of the engine. You can either reinstall the blocker or another safety guard that will close the switch and allow the engine to operate.
The ideas of safety devices on a simple mower have been long in coming. The old mowers of yesterday didn't have the safety devices that we now have. The rope starters were close to the mower deck - so you could cut off your toes. There was no operator attendance bar - so you could cut off your toes or fingers. There was no rear protective mat - so you could cut off your toes. There was no engine/blade brake system - so you could cut off your toes or fingers. There were no safety switches - so you could cut off your toes or fingers. Every one of your safety devices should be checked for proper operation. Normally, a lawn mower engine (and blade) should come to a complete stop in less than 3 seconds when the operator attendance bar is released. Rope starters are longer and now place the operator behind the mower deck and out of the way of the grass clipping discharge chute.
Granted, if you have an older mower that has none of the safety devices in place - be careful using it. You may want to consider purchasing a newer mower just for the safety/protection devices. You can always 'restore' your older mower as an antique or novelty item. If anyone else operates your older mower, please instruct them on the dangers and the lack of safety devices.
As always, read your owner's manual for the proper maintenance and lubrication schedules. Your owner's manual also lists all the appropriate warnings and dangers associated with your equipment. Be safe and have fun.