Archive for the ‘Maintenance Tips’ Category

It’s Time for Spring Mower Maintenance

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019
Spring mower maintenance is essential for a great mowing season

If spring rains have suddenly made your lawn into a mess, it’s tempting to break out the mower and get it cut. But before you mow for the first time, it’s important to perform spring mower maintenance and do a safety check. Skipping it could mean costly repairs and could cause damage to your lawn.

First, do a visual check for problems, including wear and rust on cables, belts and brakes. Tighten any loose screws and bolts, and be sure that baggers and other add-on accessories are properly attached.  Check that handles on walk-behinds, and ROPS and seats on riding and zero-turn mowers, are in good condition and securely attached.

Next, perform basic spring maintenance. Replace any fluids or fuels left unused from last fall. Gas and fuels that have sat for months can degrade in quality, which makes the mower harder to start. Oil should be replaced, too, since dirt and other contaminants in the oil can cause engine damage. You should also replace filters, as dirty or clogged filters can lead to longer mow times and sluggish performance.

Clean your mower, especially if you didn’t clean it in the fall. Get rid of dirt and clippings inside and out. Use forced air rather than water to do this. A clean cutting deck provides improved air flow and capacity, which means improved performance and results.

Check the mower blades. Replace any that are nicked or cracked, and sharpen dull blades. Then be sure blades are straight and properly balanced. Unbalanced blades will cause ragged, uneven cutting, and knocking or excess vibration can damage your mower deck. Learn more about proper mower blade maintenance.

Finally, check the wheels. Look for permanent flat spots on tires, or worn and cracked tires, and replace these. For mowers with inflatable tires, check pressure and inflate as necessary.

Maintenance requirements vary from mower to mower. While we do our best to design mowers that require little maintenance, the needs of an Exmark walk-behind mower are different than those of an Exmark zero-turn. If you have questions about maintenance or would prefer to have a professional look over your mower, reach out to a service professional at your local Exmark dealer.

How to Perform a Spring Mower Safety Check

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Before you head out to mow for the first time this spring, take the time for a safety check as part of your spring mower maintenance. Beyond making sure your mower is operating properly, some quick checks could help make you and your loved ones safer. Here are seven essential things to check before you head out to mow the grass:

Visually check the machine for signs of damage. This includes wear and rust on cables, belts and brakes, all of which could create safety hazards if they failed while the mower was running. Tighten loose belts, and replace belts with cracks or that show signs of separation.

Make sure parts are securely attached, especially handles on walk behinds, and seats and rollover protection systems (ROPS) on riding mowers. Tighten any loose screws and bolts. Pay attention to baggers and other add-on accessories, and check that they are correctly and securely attached to the mower.

Replace nicked or damaged blades, and check that blades are properly installed and correctly balanced. An unbalanced blade can damage the mower deck; a blade that comes loose during operation could cause significant injury.

Look for cracks, places where the metal is rusting through, and other signs of structural damage to the mower, especially older mowers.

Check that wheels are in good condition and that tires are properly inflated and show no signs of balding, flat spots or other wear. Tighten lug bolts.

Replace all fluids and lubricate the machine, and check for leaking fluids. Clean any accumulated grease or debris, especially from the engine, as this can be a fire hazard.

Start the mower and let it run for a few minutes. Take note of unusual vibration and noises, as these can indicate a problem that needs attention.

Paying attention to the condition of your mower can extend the life of your mower and help keep you safer while operating it. If you’re running short on time, your Exmark dealer may be able to complete a spring tune up and safety check for you. For complete mower safety information, refer to your owner’s manual, or check out our Safety Resources.

Why You Should Aerate and Overseed this Spring

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Many lawn care professionals and homeowners think that fall is the time to aerate and overseed. But there are good reasons for aerating in the spring instead – including if you didn’t do it in the fall. If you’re facing damaged spots, bare patches, or thinning due to foot traffic, consider adding aeration to your spring to-do list.

Spring Aeration

Thorough aeration opens up the roots, allowing them to take in more oxygen, nutrients and water. Aerating in the spring takes advantage of the grass’s natural growth cycle, delivering more nutrients and oxygen when plants may need it most. Aeration is best timed for just before or during high growth, but not before or during high stress periods, like extreme heat or drought. This makes spring, with cool temps and plentiful rain, an ideal time for aerating cool season grasses. (Late spring and early summer is an ideal time for aerating warm season grasses.)

Don’t start out your spring lawn care with aeration, though. Mow two or three times to be sure the grass is growing fast enough to take advantage of increased air exchange in the root zone. This will also give you a better idea of how healthy your lawn is and whether you should overseed after aerating.

One caveat to spring aeration: Grass is not the only plant taking advantage of spring growth cycles. Weeds are, too, and aerating can bring buried seeds to the surface of your lawn, where they germinate and increase weed competition. Fertilizing and using a pre-emergent weed killer can reduce the potential for weeds after aeration. If you’ll be overseeding thin and bare areas, skip the weed killer, as this will prevent your grass seeds from germinating.

Spring Overseeding

Overseeding after aeration will provide fresh growth, and give it a fuller, thicker appearance. Overseed when there’s abundant rain and sunshine; you’ll also want to be past the last frost date, as frost will kill tender young roots. Overseeding can set your lawn up for success later in the season, as a thick, healthy lawn will be better able to withstand summer stresses.

How Often Should I Aerate My Lawn?

Experts recommend aerating and overseeding at least once per year. For lawns with heavily compacted soil or a high clay content, aerating twice a year may be best.

Equipment

If you’re a lawn care professional, you may need to add equipment to your fleet in order to accomplish these tasks. Exmark aerators come in a variety of styles and sizes (from the 21” walk behind to the 24” and 30” stand-on models), offering high maneuverability and efficiency. For overseeding, we offer both a ride-on spreader-sprayer with lean-to-steer technology, and a commercial slicer seeder that verticuts, dethatches and seeds in one pass. Like all Exmark equipment, our turf management products are designed to be intuitive, long-lasting, and deliver unmatched efficiency.

Getting Lawn Care Equipment Ready for the Mowing Season

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

As you gear up for the start of spring mowing, it’s important to check all of your equipment to ensure everything is running properly after sitting idle over the winter. If you or your staff do the maintenance on your operation’s fleet in house, here are the most common tune-up steps to make before heading out to mow.

Check the Tires

Make sure that sitting all winter didn’t make your tires uneven, especially if machines were sitting on cold cement in an unheated garage. After inflating to the proper tire pressure, visually check tires to make sure you don’t have flat areas or other spots that don’t look right. Also check the deck to make sure it’s level, as warped tires may cause an uneven deck. Replace any badly worn or warped tires.

Tune-up the Engine

Maintenance now can help prevent downtime during the busy part of the season, so give the engine a thorough tune-up. If you didn’t replace your spark plugs and batteries before storing the machines for the winter, do so now. Replace engine oil, change air and oil filters, check the contact points, and lubricate wheel bearings and other moving parts. Tighten fasteners and make sure that belts are in good condition, without cracks or other visible signs of wear.

It’s important to start the year with fresh oil and fuel, as gasoline and other petroleum products can cause problems if they’ve been stored for more than a month. Dispose of any hazardous waste in accordance with local regulations, and wear appropriate gloves and gear.

Clean the Machine

You cleaned the machine in the fall before storing it, but take the time to blow away dust and any other debris from your equipment. Dust and dirt can build up over the months your equipment sat idle, and if rodents or birds sheltered for the winter in your storage area, you may have other messes to clean up.

Blade Maintenance

Make sure blades are sharp and in good repair. Look for nicks or uneven wear, as this can reduce cut quality. After sharpening or replacing worn blades, be sure your blades are balanced. Vibration from an unbalanced blade moving at high speeds can put undue stress on the deck, leading to cracking.

Be sure to check your mower manuals for any model specific maintenance tasks, and review your maintenance logs from last year to make sure all tasks were completed.  If you’re not sure, check out the maintenance schedules for all Exmark mowers.

Finally, before loading up the trailers and sending your equipment out with a crew, it’s a good idea to test each mower. A quick pass will help you ensure that everything is running as it should.

Keeping Up with Mower Maintenance

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Like many maintenance tasks, keeping your lawn mower in good repair is all about preventative maintenance. Tackling concerns and issues as they arise can work for a short period of time, but if you want to get the most out of your equipment—and save time doing it—it’s best to start a regular mower maintenance routine.

And now is the time to start. As spring turns to summer, you should build maintenance time into your schedule. By stopping mechanical issues before they arise and staying on top of your checklist, you can put your focus where it belongs: on creating that perfect green lawn.

Mower Maintenance Tasks

Every lawn mower is a little different and will have different needs, which is why you should always start by checking your owner’s manual. This guide will give you general guidelines about when to perform tasks and how to safely access your mower’s engine and blades.

From there, you can follow a steadier schedule that includes:

  • Checking the oil level (recommended every 5 hours of operation)
  • Cleaning the battery terminals (recommended every 10 hours of operation)
  • Replacing/Cleaning the air filter (recommended every 25 hours of operation or seasonally)
  • Lubricating axles, rims, and other connectivity points (recommended every 25 hours and prior to storing)
  • Sharpening/Replacing mower blades (recommended every 25 hours or seasonally)
  • Changing the oil (recommended every 50 hours of operation or seasonally)
  • Changing the oil filter (recommended every 100 hours of operation or seasonally)
  • Replacing the spark plug (recommended every 100 hours of operation or seasonally)

This list covers basic engine and mower maintenance. You’ll also want to include tasks like:

  • Clearing the undercarriage
  • Checking brake safety
  • Checking cooling/brake/hydraulic fluids
  • Adjusting blade height
  • Checking tire pressure
  • Lubricating grease fittings

Mower Maintenance for Businesses or Homeowners

If you run a mowing or landscaping business, it’s a good idea to build a daily/weekly checklist for each machine. Require employees to update it as each task is completed and before they head out. This way, you can ensure that the maintenance tasks are being performed in accordance with the mower guidelines.

Homeowners won’t need a daily checklist, but it’s a good idea to track mower hours so you’ll know when maintenance tasks should be performed. You can opt to keep a log of how many hours your mower has been in use, or you can perform these tasks in much the same way you maintain your car or other small engines.

Maintaining and Replacing Exmark Mower Blades

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Just about every lawn mower maintenance guide in existence outlines the importance of regular care for your mower blades. Not only will a freshly sharpened blade cut the grass faster (and with less damage to the leaf), but good blade care means your machine will operate smoothly and more safely.

But what, exactly, does good blade maintenance mean? When it comes to purchasing replacements and sharpening the blades, how should you begin?

Balancing and Sharpening Mower Blades

Balancing your mower blades is a must when you want a level cut regardless of how sloped or challenging the terrain you’re driving over. Just as a car’s tires can become unbalanced over time, so can mower blades. You can usually tell when this is happening by a heavy buildup of grass on one side of the blade but not the other. Excessive vibration as you mow can also indicate your blades need to be balanced.

Exmark mower blades

Only Original Exmark blades deliver the Exmark’s signature cut quality.

Sharpening your mower blades should be done anywhere between 8 and 25 hours of mower use. Personal mowers need sharpening only once or twice a season, but professional mowing companies will need to work this in much more often (weekly or bi-weekly). A mower’s blades need to be sharpened when you get a rough cut that leaves the edges of the grass uneven and jagged.

Cleaning the blades after each use provides you with an opportunity to examine blade edges for nicks, dents, dings, and other signs of damage.

The Right Mower Blades

We recommend OEM replacement blades for a number of reasons. By relying on the parts we manufacture, you can be sure that you’re getting a blade that fits your Exmark mower exactly. Exmark prides itself on a high level of craftsmanship using top-quality materials, which is something you aren’t always guaranteed when buying generic.

Other reasons for choosing OEM blades include Exmark Support Services. Our team is available to help with troubleshooting, installation questions, and other issues related to mower maintenance. If you’re working with a blade we aren’t familiar with, we may not be able to help you keep things running smoothly. Additionally, any damage to your mower caused by generic blades may no longer fall under warranty. For peace of mind, always replace manufacturer parts with OEM options.

How to Winterize and Store Your Mower

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Proper winter storage for your lawn mower is essential if you want to protect your investment over the long-term. Any period of inactivity can be bad for mechanical equipment—add in the effects of cold weather on machinery, and you can see why you should take the time to properly maintain and store your mower.

Whether you have a single push mower, a riding mower, or an entire fleet of zero-turn mowers, here are the basic steps you should follow.

Fully Clean Your Mower

Winterize Lawn Mower

Cleaning your mower is important before storing. Keeping the mower clean from accumulated debris helps prevent moisture which can cause rust.

If you perform only one task in your winterizing prep, let it be a full cleanup of your equipment. Any debris left on the exterior or interior can result in moisture, which can cause rust or a freezing/thawing cycle that is bad for metal. Take any normal steps you would to clean your equipment, including spraying the deck out, removing blades, scraping out clumps of grass, and other wipe-down steps. At the end, your machine should be free of any grass, clippings or dirt.

Regular Maintenance

The next step in your mower winterizing plan is to change the oil, the spark plugs, and/or the air filters. These types of activities should be a part of your regular maintenance plan anyway, so always schedule one after your final run. You should also either empty out the fuel system or add a fuel stabilizer designed for winter storage. For more comprehensive maintenance care, you can also lubricate all points of friction.

Once these updates have been made, we suggest you run the mower’s engine for a few minutes. This will allow you to ensure that everything has been changed properly and get the new fuel and additives into the mower’s system.

Prep the Battery

You have the option of either re-charging the battery throughout the winter months or removing it and storing it in a cool, dry place. Some people prefer to check on their equipment every month or so, firing it up so that it doesn’t sit too long in a garage or other storage area. In this instance, it’s okay to leave the battery in (although you should fully charge it first.) Others prefer to put their equipment away and forget about it until spring. Decide which approach is right for you.

Don’t Forget the Tires

If your mower has pneumatic tires, you should park on a surface that’s not cold concrete (a piece of cardboard over the surface will often do the trick). You should also rotate the tires throughout the winter season so they don’t bear too much pressure on one side.

Store the Mower

The final step in winterizing your equipment is to find a place to store it. A garage or other covered facility is best, as this will keep the cold out and ensure that no moisture gets in your equipment. A cover is ideal, as this will add extra protection against the elements. Keep the mower away from any appliance that can cause a spark. It’s also best to store your equipment away from fertilizer or any other corrosive materials, which eat away at the metal when airborne.

Lawn Mower Mistakes to Avoid

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Exmark lawn care

When you make the investment in a quality mower, regular maintenance and upkeep is a must. Therefore, it is important to avoid situations that can damage your equipment, cause wear and tear, or even increase your chances of an injury. Take better care of your lawn—and your equipment—by staying away from these common lawn mower mistakes.

 

Buying More/Less Mower Than You Need: If your yard is smaller in size or covered with many things to mow around, chances are a larger zero-turn mower might not be the right machine for the job. At the same time, a yard that’s half an acre or more could take you hours to trim with a push mower. Always match the lawn mower you use to your specific needs. Considerations like the size of your lawn, the grade of any slopes, the type of terrain and obstacles, like trees, will all play a role.

Low Oil Levels: Just like a car, low oil levels can damage your lawn mower’s engine. To avoid overheating and keep everything lubricated properly, check your mower’s oil level each time you go out.

Low Tire Pressure: If you’re noticing an uneven deck, your problem might be as simple as low tire pressure on one or all of your tires. Low pressure can cause an uneven cut and affect your ability to steer or have proper traction, so always make sure the pressure matches mower guidelines before heading out.

Clogged Decks: The common mower advice to clean out your equipment after every use exists for a reason. Mowers work best and are safest when their blades and undercarriage are clean. After you mow, and once the mower is turned off, remove any dirt, grass, weeds, or other debris, and be sure to give the equipment plenty of time to dry before you put it away.

Dull Blades: Lawn mower blades aren’t meant to last forever. Over time and with excessive use, they will grow dull and less effective overall, which can cause tearing of the grass and make the turf more susceptible to disease. If you aren’t equipped to sharpen mower blades yourself, take them to your authorized dealer for sharpening or replacement.

Not Checking for Rocks and Other Debris: Even fairly small rocks and other debris in the yard can bend or chip your mower blades, leading to dull blades and uneven cutting. More importantly, not removing these items from the lawn before mowing can cause serious injury to others or property damage. Be careful with known rocky areas in your lawn, and trim around rocks that are too big to move before mowing.

Ignoring the Air Filter: When you’re performing regular lawn mower maintenance, make sure you check the air filter. To avoid clogs, wash the filter after each use and replace it once or twice a year.

Cutting a Wet Lawn: Clumps caused by wet clippings can clog the machine, and the water-soaked grass might be more slippery than you think. Even if you’re on a tight mowing schedule, it’s safer to wait until conditions improve.

Bad Storage: A lawn mower isn’t like a car, in that it’s not ideal to leave it parked outside and exposed to the elements. Covered storage is a must when the mower isn’t in use, even if it’s just for a few days at a time; however, you will want to make sure the mower is cooled down before putting it away. You should also consider storage where rodents and other pests can get in.

You should also keep up with mower maintenance schedules and follow the safety instructions for your mower. Most accidents occur because of shortcuts or a failure to properly secure the equipment before you use it. It might take a few extra minutes to get everything running in tip-top shape, but the quality of your lawn and your safety will be well worth it.

Proper Mowing Key to a Healthy Lawn

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Exmark Pioneer S-Series

Experts say many turfgrass problems can be tracked back to improper mowing.

Many gardeners spend considerable time and money to produce a healthy, attractive lawn. Fertilizers are applied to promote root and shoot growth and produce a dark green lawn. When necessary, herbicides are used to control crabgrass and broadleaf weeds. While fertilization and weed control are important aspects of lawn maintenance, proper mowing is another vital key. In fact, many turfgrass problems can be traced back to improper mowing.

The Importance of Cut Height

Mowing height and frequency are the most important aspects of mowing. Bluegrass lawns should be maintained at 2 to 2 1/2 inches in the spring and fall months. Raise the mower blade to a height of 3 inches during summer. Mowing frequency is based on the growth rate of the turfgrass.

The 1/3 Rule

As a general rule, never remove more than 1/3 of the total leaf surface at any one mowing. For example, to maintain a lawn at 2 inches, the grass should be mowed when it reaches a height of 3 inches. In the spring it may be necessary to mow every 4 to 5 days, possibly only once every 1 to 2 weeks in summer, with more frequent mowing again in the fall. Irrigation and fertilization practices, and weather conditions dictate mowing frequency.

Mowing Tall Grass

Mowing grass that is much too tall is hard on the mower and, more importantly, is harmful to the grass. It weakens the turfgrass allowing weeds to move into the lawn. It may take several weeks for the grass to recover from a severe mowing. Another problem would be the large amounts of “hay” or clippings. Excessive amounts of clippings are unsightly, tend to smother the turfgrass and create an environment that favors disease development. Grass clippings should be bagged or raked and removed when mowing grass that has grown too tall.

Grass that has gotten extremely tall should be mowed as soon as possible. Raise the mower blade as high as possible, mow, and remove the grass clippings. Gradually reduce the height of the grass in later mowings until the lawn is being mowed at the proper height. When the lawn is mowed properly, the grass clippings do not have to be removed. The small clippings will simply filter down into the turf and decompose quickly, returning essential plant nutrients to the soil. Lawn clippings do not significantly contribute to thatch development.

Because mowers can cause serious injuries to the operator and others, follow safety precautions when mowing the lawn.

  • Dress appropriately: wear sturdy shoes and long pants.
  • Remove all debris including branches, stones, and toys from the lawn before mowing.
  • Keep children and pets at a safe distance to protect them flying debris.
  • Keep hands and feet away from the blade when the mower is running.
  • Never leave the mower running unattended (newer models automatically shut off).

Proper, careful mowing will help protect the health of the turf and the operator.

Written by Don Janssen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Educator and reposted with permission.

You can find other yard and garden articles and resources on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website.

Measuring Mower Productivity

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Exmark Pioneer S-Series zero-turn riding mower

Exmark engineers its machines to deliver a better finished quality of cut in less time. Win-win.

The productivity of your mowers and lawn care equipment matters, perhaps more than you think.

Whether you’re a landscape maintenance professional, or an acreage owner looking to spend less time mowing and more time enjoying your lawn, speed and efficiency make a big difference when it comes time to getting big jobs done quickly.

Of course, speed isn’t the only factor to judge when it comes time to select a new mower. Qualities such as cut quality, durability, ergonomics, comfort and dealer support, among others, are important as well. But any business owner will tell it to you straight — time is money, and by choosing your tools wisely, you can save a lot of both with the right mower(s).

How to Determine Mower Productivity

Exmark mower productivity chart

Click the photo to visit the mower & equipment productivity resources at Exmark.com.

While there are a lot of variables that can impact the productivity of a mower or piece of lawn care equipment, it’s fairly easy to determine the potential of a machine if you know the cutting/application width and the speed at which it’s designed to run.

At Exmark.com, you can find productivity charts for mowers and turf management equipment that can be useful for determining a machine’s potential, or the gains you can expect from a new mower or piece of equipment.

You’ll find Exmark publishes productivity numbers at two efficiency levels: 100-percent; and 80-percent. That’s because, while 100-percent efficiency numbers may look impressive on paper, in the real world, most landscape professionals operate at closer to 80-percent efficiency. You can’t mow at full speed all the time, and the 80-percent figure more accurately reflects that everyday reality.

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