On the first warm Saturday of the spring, the local neighborhood mower shop is overrun with homeowners whose neglected lawnmowers won't start. Giving some love to yours now will help you avoid this frustration and get your money's worth from your machine -- Every extra year you can get from a mower is money in your pocket.
With your manual handy for reference, start by draining the gas tank. Gasoline goes stale when it sits for months, making it hard to burn. If you have any gas left over in your gas can, pour it into your car and start with fresh gas in the spring.
This is also a good time to change the oil, so drain off the old, gunky stuff. Before you refill with fresh oil, however, take this opportunity to clean out the cutting chamber.
Put on heavy gloves, then turn the mower over. The blade of most mowers is secured by a single bolt. Take a reference photo with your camera phone, then remove this bolt (but don't hold onto the sharp edge of the blade!) the mounting bracket, and the blade. A local hardware or mower shop can put a fresh edge on the blade for you in a few minutes, and your mower will cut easier and cleaner as a result.
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While the blade is off, use a scraper to remove built-up accumulations on the walls of the cutting chamber.
Once the chamber is clean, replace the blade (again making sure to keep your hands away from the sharp edge) and replace the bracket and snug the bolt down securely. Lightly coat the exposed clean metal of the blade edge with grease to keep it from rusting. Check that the wheels turn freely, and grease the axles, if needed.
Turn the mower upright. This is a good time to replace the old spark plug, making sure to check the gap and adjust as necessary. The spark plug wire should clip onto the plug securely, metal to metal. Also locate the air filter, and clean or replace it.
Check all the nuts and bolts on your mower, making sure each is secure. Then add new oil. If you have a pull-start mower, slowly pull back on the cord a couple of times to lubricate the internal mechanism. Store the mower flat on the floor in a dry location.
In the spring, while your neighbors are standing in line at the lawnmower shop waiting to drop $50 or $100 on a tune-up, you'll be cutting elegant patterns in your own little bit of heaven.