It’s been a nice long winters nap since I last mowed.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy mowing.
Sitting on my Dixon ZTR pushing the levers back and forth, sun on my neck and the sound of the Briggs and Stratton engine drowning out anyone who’s trying to talk to me.
The break from mowing has been nice but today it was finally time to mow.
I probably really should have mowed last weekend but 40 mph winds just didn’t make it sound fun at all so I put it off.
Got to love Kansas.
If you’ve never been to the great state of Kansas during one of our weeks of 40 mph winds you’re really missing out on an epic adventure. Call your travel agent right now and book a trip on the next available flight. It truly is a blast. (See what I did there?)
I write a lot about proper small engine maintenance. I write maintenance schedules, tips and tricks and why proper maintenance is important. I spend a lot of time with customers talking them through properly maintaining their lawn equipment.
I’m what we in the business call “An Expert”.
But let me be completely honest, do you think I properly maintain my own equipment?
As the saying goes “the cobblers children are always unshod” or “the mechanics car is always leaking”.
That’s the nice way of saying. I don’t do as I preach.
I leave old fuel in my equipment, like you shouldn’t do.
I leave the battery hooked up all winter, like you shouldn’t do.
I leave old fuel in my gas can then dump it right into my lawn equipment, like you shouldn’t do.
I sharpen the lawn mower blade when the grass is clearly getting beaten to death, like you shouldn’t do.
I rarely change the oil in my lawn equipment, like you shouldn’t do. (Note: Not changing the oil in my engine is more of a science experiment to see how long a Briggs and Stratton engine will go on old oil without blowing up.)
So what do you think happened this year when I went to fire up the old Dixon for the first time this season?
I turned the switch and nothing happened. Not a click, not a chatter, not a hint of life. Nothing.
The terminal wires were all corroded with gunk. So instead of cleaning them with a wire brush like I should have done, I just threw on the battery charger and went and watched a couple episodes of Halt and Catch Fire.
You’ve never heard of Halt and Catch Fire? Well it’s about the start of the personal computer revolution back in the 80’s. Being a super computer nerd who grew up during that time period so of course I totally love the show. It’s a fictional show but it has enough similarities to reality to make it entertaining.
I still remember the day my dad bought our first computer. Sitting in the den unpacking that Commodore 64 was so exciting to this 12 year old boy and I’ve been addicted to computers ever since.
So a couple of episodes later the light on the battery charger read “charged”.
Awesome! (80’s catch phrase)
I removed the battery charger, take the ignition key, put it in the ignition, turn the choke on and let the engine crank. At this point it’s not sounding very good. It sounds sort of like a pack mice had nested deep inside of the Briggs and Stratton engine over the engine and the flywheel is grinding them into mouse soup.
So I take the machine off choke, turn the ignition switch again and boom, pop, she fires up with a cloud of black smoke. She’s not sounding good but at least she’s running.
So with a cloud of black smoke I let the parking brake out, get the hydro gears to turning and pull out of the garage.
For the first few passes she sounds bad. Real bad.
Like she’s choking for her life for just one last breath of fresh air. I’m thinking to myself she’s going to die and I’m never going to get this yard mowed. And as a bonus I’m choking for life in the plume of black smoke she’s pouring out.
If you know anything about ZTR mowers you know they’re heavy and they are a real pain in the butt to push without engine power. I just know she’s going to die at the furthest part of my yard away from the garage. Which of course means I’ll have to push her up the giant hill to get her into the garage. But she doesn’t die.
In fact she starts to mellow out and I proceed to cut the entire lawn with no problem.
So what’s the point of all the maintenance I recommend? What’s the point of tuning up your equipment at the start of each season?
I was lucky this year. In fact I was really lucky this year.
You see, last year when mowing season rolled around I was not so lucky.
I ended up having to take the old Dixon to our shop and due to a lack of time on my part my ZTR spent about two weeks waiting for one of the small engine mechanics to get time to work on it. When it was all said and done I was the new owner of an air filter, fuel filter, oil, oil filter, lawn mower blades and a battery.
While the Dixon was at the shop I had to push mow the lawn with the old Lawn-Boy. I got some much needed exercise but man mowing my big ass lawn with the giant hill with a push mower really sucks. I wasn’t all smiley and happy like this guy.
If I had just done regular maintenance I never would have had those problems.
At some point this poor Dixon is going to leave parts of it’s engine all over my yard to teach me a really big lesson about small engine maintenance, but today was not that day. Today I was lucky.
Do yourself a favor and maintain your equipment properly. Don’t do as I do, do what’s right for your equipment.
Disclaimer: I often refer to my guns, computers, equipment and vehicles in the female form. I am not a sexist and mean no harm in doing so.
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