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How to Prepare Your Lawn Mower for Spring

3/22/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Lawn mower maintenance after winter storage

Warm weather is coming, have you done your lawn mower spring maintenance? If you want your mower to perform reliably and last for years, we recommend you follow these guidelines before you start cutting.

But I store​​d my lawn mower for the winter

Smart move! Though you may have completed some of these procedures before storing your lawn mower, review these reminders so you know your mower is ready for the upcoming season.

Lawn mower en​gine maintenance

Lawn mower engine​ oil changes

Always complete an oil change at the intervals recommended in the engine manual. If you can't remember how many hours you used your lawn mower since its last oil change, stay on the safe side and change it, along with the oil filter. Oil changes are such a minimal investment but extremely important to engine life.​

Click here to read why regular oil changes are important.​

How to change lawn mow​​er engine oil

Easy-to-read and understandable engine oil change details are outlined in the engine manual for your unit.

  1. Stop the unit, wait for hot parts to cool and remove the engine key.
  2. Position a drain pan under the oil drain hose.
  3. Remove the drain plug and allow all oil to drain.
  4. Remove and discard oil filter and install a new filter. When installing a new filter, apply a thin layer of oil onto the oil filter gasket.
  5. Reinstall drain plug and tighten to specification.
  6. Remove cap / dipstick from engine oil fill port.
  7. Fill engine with oil of correct weight / viscosity rating and quantity.
  8. Reinstall cap / dipstick, wait a few seconds and remove. Check the oil quantity and make sure it's within the markings on the dipstick. Ensure cap is secure before attempting to start the engine.

How to change law​​​n mower air filter

Details are listed in the lawn mower engine manual, but all it takes is removing the air filter cover from the engine and removing the air filter. If the engine air filter is soiled or damaged, dispose filter and install a new air filter; if air filter appears clean and in good condition, reinstall the filter. After filter is installed, reinstall air filter cover.

Hydro Gear transaxle ​​​maintenance

This applies only to Ariens IKON XL and APEX® models.

If you don't remember when the transaxle oil was changed, err on the side of caution and do it. Transaxle oil acts as a heat transfer, and after about 400 hours of use, it no longer effectively lubricates. If the mower is new, the transaxle oil will need its first change after the first 75 hours of use.

Changing transaxle oil is easy like changing engine oil, however don't attempt the procedure unless you have the experience and confidence to both change the oil change and purge the transaxles afterwards. When transaxle oil is changed, air pockets get caught in your transaxles, which is why Ariens instructs its owners to purge the transaxles immediately after changing oil.

If uncomfortable with either changing the oil, purging the transaxles or both, schedule transaxle service with your local Ariens dealer.

How to change Hydro Ge​​ar transmission oil

  1. Park the unit on a flat, level surface, wait for hot parts to cool and remove the ignition key.
  2. Place a drain pan under the transaxle being serviced.
  3. Remove the filter guard and filter from the transaxle. Dispose the filter; retain the guard.
  4. Remove the transaxle vent port plug and allow oil to drain.
  5. Wipe filter mounting surface clean and lubricate gasket on filter with clean hydraulic oil.
  6. Reinstall filter and filter guard.
  7. Add manufacturer's recommended oil type and volume to the transaxle oil expansion tank until oil reaches top of vent port.
  8. Reinstall hydraulic oil vent port plug.
  9. Add oil to transaxle oil expansion tanks until fluid level reaches cold fill mark.
  10. Purge hydraulic oil system according to the instructions in the operator's manual for your unit. Remember to check that the oil level in the hydraulic oil expansion tanks is at the cold fill line after purging the transaxles. Add oil, if necessary. 

Sharpening lawn mo​wer blades

Sharp and balanced blades have a better cut quality and they reduce the need to mow the same area twice and waste time. Additionally, mowing with unbalanced blades can cause equipment damage.

Anyone with experience and the right tools can sharpen blades, no sweat. However, Ariens® strongly recommends those without confidence to sharpen blades themselves should either purchase replacement blades or have their blades sharpened by an Ariens servicing dealer.

The mower deck will need to be removed before sharpening the blades.

Remove lawn m​​ower deck

The steps below are an abbreviation of the procedure's detailed instructions in the operator's manual. As always, follow the safety instructions in the manual while completing service.

  1. Park the unit on a flat, level surface and remove the ignition key.
  2. Remove the left belt cover.
  3. Remove the PTO idler spring from the anchor bolt to release belt tension, if necessary. On Ariens IKON X and IKON XL models, simply pull the belt out of the deck pulley.
  4. Remove the PTO belt from around the deck pulleys and the clutch pulley.
  5. Raise deck to its highest position.
  6. On Ariens APEX models only, loosen front jam nut on eye bolts to reduce deck lift assist spring tension and remove lift assist springs.
  7. Place wood blocks under each side of deck.
  8. Place deck in lowest position so deck rests on blocks.
  9. Remove hardware retaining deck lift links to deck lift brackets.
  10. Move deck lift links away from deck lift brackets.
  11. Slide deck out from under unit.

How to remove lawn mow​​​er blades

Follow the safety instructions in the manual before starting a service procedure because the blades are sharp and can cut if not handled carefully.

  1. Rotate the deck so its underside is exposed.
  2. Position a wood block between baffle and blade to prevent blade from rotating.
  3. With either a breaker bar or an impact gun, remove hardware retaining blades.

Inspect the blades for wear, cracks and damage. If the blade is worn too far, is cracked or damaged, dispose it. Blades that are dull but in good shape otherwise can be sharpened, but only to a certain point as instructed in the operator's manual. The maximum amount of material that can be removed from a lawn mower blade cutting edge over the life of that blade is 1/2 inch.

Why lawn mower b​lade balance is important

Whether the blades have just been sharpened or not, they should be checked for balance before each season. To check blade balance, slide the blade onto a screwdriver and position it horizontally. If the blade moves, it will need more material filed away from the heavy end of the blade. After the blades pass the balance test, they can be reinstalled. Ensure the blade is reinstalled with the sharp edge positioned away from the top of the mower deck.

Clean mower d​eck

Mower decks packed with grass clippings, dirt and debris can damage your mower, affect cut quality and hurt your lawn. Grass, dirt and debris holds moisture that corrodes bare metal on the spindles and mower blades, damaging them and requiring you to spend money on replacements. Additionally, grass-packed cutting decks can breed fungi and bacteria that can spread across your lawn and hurt it.​

Grass buildup around the discharge area can also affect the aerodynamics under the mowing deck. You're used to an even quality of cut, but as debris builds up under the deck, it affects the aerodynamic lift that's needed to give your lawn a good looking cut. Additionally, grass that accumulates around the deck's discharge area reduces the ability for grass clippings to discharge evenly and can leave you with clumps, instead.

Che​ck mower belts

While the deck is removed, inspect the mower belts for cracks, signs of wear or damage. If mower belts or wheel drive belt show signs of wear upon visual inspection, replace them according to the procedure in the operator's manual. Don't leave these to chance, because a busted belt while mowing could leave you stranded in the middle of your yard and interrupt your weekend schedule.

Greasing a lawn mo​​wer

Lack of lubrication can wear critical components like bearings. Aside from applying a thin layer of oil to all pivot points and pin connections on the mower, there are typically only two or three lubrication points on a Ariens mower.

  • Caster fork bearings (if fitting present on caster fork hub)
  • Caster wheel hubs (if fitting present on caster wheel hub)
  • Seat

If equipped with grease fittings on the caster fork hubs or caster wheels, pump grease into each fitting until grease squeezes beyond the bearing seals. Wipe away the excess grease.

If seat adjustment slots are visible on the bottom of the seat, apply a small amount of grease to the seat adjustment tracks and move the seat back and forth to spread grease along the tracks. All lubrication points for your mower can be found in the operator's manual.

Charging lawn mower b​atteries

Mowers with discharged batteries don't start. If the lawn mower battery was connected to a battery tender or trickle charger during storage, it should be in good shape. If the battery was left unattended, charge it to the voltage specified in the manual, but don't "fast charge" the battery.

Clean batte​​ry terminals

Corrosion is more likely to form on the positive battery terminal where the red wire is connected to, but corrosion on any terminal should be cleaned. Disconnect the battery cables (disconnect the black wire first), brush away corrosion with a wire brush, coat the terminals with petroleum jelly and reconnect the battery cables (reconnect the red wire first) with the original hardware.

Zero turn m​ower adjustments

A zero turn mower is most comfortable and operates most effectively when adjustments are checked and returned to specification. Make comfort adjustments to the seat and steering levers for the operator that will be using the machine. Check the following items according to the directions in the operator's manual for your unit:

  • Parking brake
  • Tire pressures
  • Deck level and pitch

Zero turn lawn​ mower parts

Replacement and maintenance parts like belts, blades, lubricants and oils, can be sourced from your local Ariens dealer or online at For those who aren't yet comfortable completing service maintenance on their own can schedule service with an experienced Ariens dealer for help. The value in an Ariens dealer is that they know exactly what a mower needs to perform at its best throughout the season.​