Is this your year to buy a new power lawn mower?
Whether it’s your first mower, or a replacement, this article has some tips to help you when you go shopping for your new mower.
Although your lawn mower a large and sometimes the biggest lawn care investment, it’s worth the cost in the efficient way it will serve you, and the time and the work it will save for you. With care, your new mower will give you years of trouble-free service.
Power mowing came into its own shortly after World War II, and in just those few years, the power equipment field grew tremendously and become intensely competitive along with many more garden power tools.
You probably have noticed the extreme variations in price on mowers. Why does one power mower sell for $125, while another sells for $399 or even more? At this point, we’ll merely say that you’ll get about what you pay for.
When you shop for your mower, you’ll hear so many different sales stories that you’ll probably wonder whose story to believe!
Although there are many power equipment manufacturers, about a dozen produce about 80 per cent of the total equipment output. Some of the so-called manufacturers are actually “assembly shops.” They buy the parts from the mower parts manufacturers and assemble the mower, selling it as best they can.
The major manufacturers pride themselves on the equipment they produce, and the safety, convenience and efficiency they build into their product. Some of these makers maintain extensive research and field testing departments where changes and new ideas are given rigorous tests before they are incorporated into the manufacturers’ equipment.
In order to meet the price competition, most of the major manufacturers have added “specials” under their own brand name to give the price conscious customer a satisfactory mower under a reliable brand name.
What Size and Type?
First of all, determine the size and type of equipment that is most suitable for your lawn. Do you have a small city lot where a small sized mower is adequate? Or do you have a large lot and need a riding mower? If you have other lawn and garden jobs and are an enthusiastic gardener, you’ll want to consider the riding power unit which, with attachments, will do many of your lawn and gardening jobs.
If you like the close cutting ability of the hand mower, consider the reel-type mower, which gives a short, smooth, even cut. Rotary mowers are adjustable to higher cuts, if you prefer the one to three inch cutting heights.
Why Didn’t They Think of This Before?
Since mower accidents do sometimes occur new safety features are regarded as a major contribution to safer power lawn mowing.
Brands are always looking to offer easier maneuverability. It will literally “turn on a dime” to cut closely around trees or other obstacles. Two wheels or all four wheels swivel for easy maneuvering. Several manufacturers offer a handle-mounted lever that combines choke, throttle and ignition in one lever.
Another feature on several mowers overcomes an objection voiced by many owners of rotary power mowers. It’s height adjustment. On older models, and even a few current models, it is necessary to remove the wheels to adjust the cutting height. Now many mowers offer easy cutting height adjustment from one to three inches in inch increments.
Many units now offer discharge chutes through which the cut grass is ejected. This feature will prevent most, if not all, of the objectionable clogging or matting of the grass. This is a very desirable feature, and one you’ll appreciate on your new mower.
What to Buy, Where to Buy It
It’s well worth shopping and comparing to find the mower that will have the features you want, in the size you need to give you efficient, economical service for years to come.
First, we suggest that you buy your mower from an established, reputable dealer, preferably one for whom power mowers are a major line rather than a quick profit sideline. The reputable dealer will guarantee the equipment he sells. He may offer credit terms if you want or need them. He will advise you on the unit that will best suit your needs. (He may even offer a free home trial!) This dealer may also consider your old mower as a trade-in on the new equipment.
Be sure that the mower you buy is backed by at least a 90-day warranty covering manufacturing defects.
Objections Voiced by Consumers
Manufacturers have learned that the following objections are those most frequently voiced by rotary mower owners.
- Decks or housings that break, bend, shatter or rust.
- Troublesome method of changing the height adjustment.
- Engine does not have enough power.
- The mower tears or whips the grass, rather than cutting it off evenly.
- The mower drops clumps of grass on the lawn.
In a field as highly competitive as that of power equipment, power mowers are sold in many outlets. In some of these price is shouted far louder than quality, and the customer who buys on price alone, finds he got no bargain at all! Good mowers are built to give you efficient, economical service for four to seven years, and the better models will often give up to 10 years of good service!
However, power equipment is in oversupply to some extent. It is being produced faster than it is used up. Some manufacturers sell shoddy merchandise that is built for price appeal, but a few others must sell good equipment at distress prices, and are forced out of this highly competitive field.
Shop first for quality, and then for price. A quality product is always your best and most economical buy in the long run. Good service, spread over several years will represent a greater saving than does the false economy of a cheap price paid for shoddy equipment.
Which Mower for You?
The reel type and the rotary blade mowers will both do a good job of mowing, but each has its particular advantages.
The rotary power mower:
- Cuts grass and weed stalks no matter how tall. If you let the mowing go for a while, the rotary will still cut the grass and weeds quickly.
- Trims close to trees, walks and shrubs.
- Some rotaries will cut to within 1/2-inch of the obstacles.
- Can be adjusted to cut higher than the reel type.
- Most models are less expensive to buy than reel type mowers.
- Easier to handle on most lawns, especially around obstacles.
- The blade is easier to sharpen.
- Mulches clippings for a healthier lawn, and eliminates raking.
- Sticks, stones, and small objects carelessly left on the lawn will not stall the mower. These objects will often dull the blade.
The reel type mower is preferred by estate gardeners and greenskeepers, as well as home owners who want the golf-green lodk for their lawns.
Advantages of the reel type mower include:
- Smooth cut. The reel shears grass cleanly and evenly.
- All power reel mowers are self-propelled, while only the more expensive rotaries are self-propelled. The reel mowers are easier to operate on grades and hills.
- Cutting height can be adjusted to less than 1/2-inch.
- Can be operated with a grass catcher to catch clippings.
- Considered generally safer to operate than the rotary blade mower.
Electric mowers comprise a small percentage of the power mower sales. They cannot be operated over a large area because of the cord length limit. Care must also be taken to avoid cutting the power line. Wet grass and an electric short circuit can present a hazard.
However, electric mowers are very quiet to operate. One model is even equipped with headlight for mowing after dark!
Other advantages of the electric mower are the low purchase cost: low maintenance, the light weight and the fact that it is clean to operate.
How Big an Engine?
Your mower must have enough power to drive the blade without stalling. For a 21-inch mower, a 6-7 HP engine is adequate. The size of the engine required will depend somewhat on your lawn. If it’s heavy grass, you’ll need more power. For easy to cut grass such as rye or bluegrass, less power is required.
Points to Consider
Most of the following suggestions pertain to rotary blade power mowers, since these represent over 60 per cent of the sales. Here are some features to look for in your new mower.
1. Decks or housings. Aluminum alloy decks are excellent since they will not shatter or rust. Steel decks will sometimes bend, or rust. The replacement cost of a shattered deck can be discouraging.
Top models on most lines have unbreakable decks or housings. Ask your dealer about the features before you buy. Some mowers are guaranteed in writing against breakable decks. If the mower you buy does not have an unbreakable deck. avoid giving it rough or careless jarring.
2. Wheels. Steel wheels are most durable and are found on most well built power mowers. A few of the low priced mowers have plastic wheels which are much more subject to breakage. Remember too. that larger wheels make a mower handle easier, especially on uneven ground. Seven or eight inch steel wheels are best. Some economy models have six-inch wheels.
Most reputable manufacturers offer nylon bearings in the wheels but ball bearings are also satisfactory. Remember that the wheels should be oiled at least every other season.
Place a drop or two of oil on both sides of the wheel.
3. Grass Chutes. When the grass is wet or heavy, it tends to mat or clump. The mower without a grass chute will ball the grass and leave the lawn untidy. Many power mowers are equipped with grass chutes, and it’s debatable whether side or rear discharge chutes are most effective.
However, most well known brands have side discharge chutes. The chute should also be self-cleaning, so the grass will not collect in the corners. A smooth, rounded underside will stay clean longer. It is best with any mower to avoid cutting grass when it is wet, and it should not be allowed to grow so heavy it is difficult to cut.
However, under these circumstances, a discharge chute is most desirable to help keep the mower clean and the lawn tidy.
4. Engines and Mufflers. The sizes of the engines are covered elsewhere in this article. One objection to some rotary mowers is the noise they make in operation. The engine exhaust makes the most noise, but sometimes the blades scream or the housings rattle. A good muffler will at least partially quiet the exhaust noise.
Small mufflers on some engines are actually little more than open ends of exhaust pipes. A few quality built mowers have large mufflers and are quite effective. Other manufacturers say that when the exhaust is under the housing, the exhaust noise is partially silenced by the housing itself.
Summing Up Buying
Be as selective of the mower dealer as you are in picking the brand. A reputable dealer will gladly offer dependable suggestions to help you get the right size and type of mower for your needs.
Lawn Mower Maintenance
This is a mechanized garden age the garden tractor, power mower, chain saw, weed-eater, backpack blower, water pump and stand-by generator are all taken as a matter of course. Yet, where would most of them be without the one-cylinder, air-cooled gasoline engine? Many gardeners and homeowners would be deprived of much of their pleasure were it not for this useful source of power.
But, gasoline engines can be frustrating and temperamental at times. Actually, they are not as bad as we sometimes think, but something always seems to “go wrong” just when we want the engine to be at its best.
There are a few simple things which the engine owner can do to prevent many frustrating moments when it fails.
First, when you bought your tractor or mower you received a manual with instructions for the care and maintenance of the engine. If this was lost or misplaced, it would be worth your while to write the manufacturer and get another or jump online and see if they have a downloadable manual in PDF format. Study this manual and follow it.
Regular care of the engine will certainly insure longer life for the engine and reduce repair bills. Here are a few things which should be put on the chore list:
- Keep the engine clean. Be sure to remove any foreign objects from the cooling fins as soon as they lodge there.
- Use only fresh, clean gasoline. If yours is a two-cycle engine, mix gasoline and oil precisely according to manufacturer’s directions. Use separate can for mixing and shake well before pouring fuel in tank.
- For safety’s sake, don’t pour fuel while engine is running or while you if you smoke. Also remove machine from lawn area or garden before filling.
- Check oil in crankcase of four-cycle engine. When working under dusty conditions, change oil more often – every very little is required.
- Check and clean air filter, especially if working under dusty conditions.
- Be careful when cranking.
Even with the best regular and seasonal care, operation difficulties are bound to develop. A good policy is to look for simple exterior troubles first; they are more likely to occur than complex, internal troubles. Any major repairs or rebuilding should be turned over to a competent service man. There are some simple things that can be done, though, which may solve the problem.
Failure or difficulty in starting can be caused by the following:
- No fuel in tank
- Open vent in gas cap
- Safety features stopping ignition
- Dirt in fuel line
- Improper fuel mixture (two-cycle)
- Spark plug cracked or fouled
- Throttle stuck closed
- Choke open or closed
- Breaker points worn or out of adjustment
- Magneto wet
- Poor insulation on wires
- Too much air in air cleaner
- Carburetor needle valve or float valve
Missing or skipping of engines could be caused by the following:
- Fouled or cracked spark plug
- Wrong spark gap
- Valves warped or burned
- Weak spark
- Poor compression
Overheating of engine could be caused by the following:
- Lack of oil
- Dirty engine
- Excessive friction
- Load too heavy
- Racing engine
Most people are not familiar with the operations or functions of the carburetor on the two-cycle engine. It is only necessary for the operator to know which adjustment controls the high speed operation of the engine, and which valve controls low-speed operation. These two valves are usually pointed out in the operator’s instruction booklet.
All engines are tested at the factory and operate satisfactorily when shipped. However, it may be possible that the purchaser may use the engine at a higher altitude than where the engine was manufactured, necessitating some adjustment. When used in a higher altitude, it is possible that the carburetor adjustment would have to be turned to increase the richness of the mixture.
Also, when the engine is used in cool weather – early spring or late fall – it will be necessary to increase the richness of the fuel mixture because the engine has been operated during better weather at the normal setting.
As a general precaution with all engines, loose screws, nuts or other fastenings should be checked and re-tightened as necessary. This includes the mounting screws which hold the engine to the mower or tractor. It is important that these be secured at all times or serious damage may result to the engine.