There is no doubt that your Lawn mower is rugged and battle-tested. Keep it that way by giving it regular maintenance so that it works at its best. In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to achieve this. This includes how to clean it and change its oil, as well as how to sharpen and balance its blades. When you’re done, your mower will be in perfect condition.

First gather all the tools and items you need.

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1. Gather what you need

Gather your tools and equipment first. You will need a power drill, safety goggles, work gloves and a blade sharpening kit. The kit should come with a ceramic blade sharpener and balancer. Expect to pay around $11 for the kit at your local hardware store. You will also need a torque wrench (or a socket wrench in a pinch) and a block of wood. Also remember to have a rubber mallet handy.

Other items and supplies include a plastic catch pan, engine oil and a container for used oil. Often a large piece of cardboard is useful as well as an old rag or rag. Also be aware that this guide deals with push or self-propelled mowers, not riding mowers. While some of the tips here apply to riding mowers, that’s a whole different animal.

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Remove dirt, debris and old grass clippings from the blade area.

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2. Clean it up

To clean it, first start with a cold engine. If your mower has a fuel valve, turn it off. If you can, disconnect the spark plug as well. Then use a leaf blower to remove any old dirt and large debris. Now gently lay the mower on its side with the tank cap up. Also try to get rid of any debris on the underside of the mower.

You could get away with using a garden hose to clean your lawn mower. The safest way, with the least risk of damage, is cleaning by hand.

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I know a lot of people prefer to hose down their mower with a garden hose. I admit, I did. However, doing this is risky. If water gets into the wiring, air filter, or motor, you could really do some damage. Hand washing with a damp cloth is a drag, but also your safest bet.

Some lawn mowers, such as this Toro Personal Pace model, have a “Washout Port” feature. It is basically a garden hose connection above the circular blade cover. This allows you to pump water into the blade assembly while running the engine. This action is designed to remove dirt and grass clippings.


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3. Sharpen and balance your blades

With the mower still off to the side, grab your socket wrench and block of wood. Place the block securely inside the blade. This is to keep the blades from spinning while you loosen their bolts. Remove the blade mounting bolt(s). A typical mower will have a blade like the Craftsman 37700 I’ve been servicing for this guide (one mounting bolt). Some, like my Honda HRR216VKA, have two blades, one upper and one lower (two mounting bolts). Each blade must have at least two cutting edges.

To sharpen them, secure them in a bench vise. Now attach the blade sharpener to the end of your power drill. Be sure to wear protective eyewear and work gloves. Use the sharpener carefully to sharpen the edges of your blades. Go slow at first to get a feel for the best angle to meet the blade and sharpener.

After sharpening both sides of the blade, place it on the kit’s cone-shaped balancer. If one side dips under the other, keep sharpening until the blade is level. Put the sharp blades back on the trimmer and snap them back into place. If you have a torque wrench, it’s a good idea to use it here. Often you need to tighten the blade mounting bolt(s) to a specific tightness level.

Usually measured in foot-pounds, your instruction manual should list these specifications. For example, my Honda requires between 36 and 43 foot-pounds of torque.

Run the lawn mower engine for a few minutes to allow its oil to flow freely.

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4. Change the oil

Then you will change the oil. To reduce the viscosity of the oil and make it move freely, run the engine for a few minutes. Now stop the engine and roll the mower on a piece of cardboard or drop cloth. Shut off the fuel line (if your mower has one) and unhook the spark plug as before. Find the oil filler tube and remove its cap. Often the cap also serves as a dipstick.

Drain the old oil from your lawn mower into a drip tray.

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Place a drip pan or other container on the side of the mower with the filling. Carefully tilt the mower so the oil drains and into the pan. Dispose of used oil in an appropriate disposal container.

Add fresh oil to the lawn mower using the filler tube. A funnel like this is sometimes useful too.

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Now slowly pour fresh oil into the trimmer. For the specific type of oil you need, consult your instruction manual. Be sure to add only the amount required by your particular model. Remember to let the mower sit undisturbed for a few minutes so that the oil settles properly inside the engine.

Pour the old oil into a special disposal container.

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5. Get out and mow

Now that you’ve done all of that, your mower should be ready to take on the season right away. It should also run smoother and safer. Even better, you just saved the $200 to $300 fee that it usually costs, at least in my part of the country, to have your lawn mower professionally serviced. So go ahead and get out. This tall grass needs to be cut.

Want to make watering your lawn easier? Here is CNET’s guide to creating your own automated lawn sprinkler system.