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Early Spring Lawn Care Tips

3/27/2019 5:00:00 AM


By: Katie Kuchta, Lawnstarter,

​How to make your yard grow full and green after winter

Lush green grass

Your lawn is an entertainment space

It takes a little more than a fresh cut with your lawn tractor or zero turn lawn mower to thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere your landscape can offer. Spring is a time of rejuvenation and new life, but it won't get there without a little help after the long, harsh winter. Winter leaves lawn weathered, in health and in looks, so it's time to give it some post-winter care so it can be enjoyed throughout the warm months.​

Putting in a little work now and being attentive to details will reward you with a lush green lawn you can be proud of. Your lifestyle enjoys hosting backyard cookouts, bonfires and other social gatherings, and you'll want a presentable lawn when company visits.

1. How to prevent law​n disease and brown spots

Leaving snow in clumps can leave long-term lawn damage.

The story of this winter was record snowfalls across North America. From Quebec to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the snow piled high, and with colder temperatures that lasted through winter, it's taking longer than normal to melt. As the snow melts and can be managed better, rake it, even if the thought seems silly. Snow that sits on a lawn for too long can form snow mold.​

If left undisturbed, the moisture harbored by melting snow can form a fungus known as snow mold and result in a lawn disease that affects most types of grass, leaving behind large brown patches of dead grass. As the snow starts melting, use a sturdy rake to spread the remaining snow across the lawn evenly so it melts faster and prevents mold from forming in pockets of melting snow. Additionally, thorough raking helps clear away thatch buildup on lawn soils.​

2. Treating co​mpacted soils after winter

Heavy snow that sits on lawns for long periods of time compacts the soil and leaves your lawn in sad shape. Rejuvenate it with aeration.

If you live in an area that receives little to light amounts of snow, you don't need to worry as much about compacted soils after winter. However, if your lawn sees a lot of foot traffic, snow clearing machinery, or just a lot snow, it's now compressed more than it was going into winter. Compressed soil is less able to absorb water, absorb nutrients and exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen with the atmosphere, leaving it less healthy and vibrant.

To help relieve compacted soils, improve its air exchange and water and nutrient absorption, lawns can be aerated. Aeration is usually done by a machine that pulls cores from the soil to decompress the soil and allow water, nutrients and air to reach the roots. As a result, homeowners are left with healthier roots that grow better and stronger.

Though experts typically recommend waiting until fall for lawn aeration, it's ok to aerate in the spring for lawns that are severely compacted. After an initial aeration, keep an eye out for moss buildup. This is an indication that it's time to aerate again.​

3. Adding lawn nutrients after winter

Nutrition-deficient lawns don't grow well and won't have a bright green, look. After winter, fertilizer application may be necessary to fully bring back that lush appearance.

Spreading lawn fertilizer with a quality spreader

Grass needs a relatively neutral pH (measurement on an acid-to-base scale) for it to grow healthy, but this varies depending on grass type. If you're not sure where your soil is on this scale, testing can be done by a local cooperative extension office. If the results show nutritional deficiencies, or has more of a basic pH, apply fertilizer. If a soil is too acidic, lime can be applied to a lawn to balance it and bring it closer to that neutral pH.

When adding fertilizer or lime to lawns, use a high-quality spreader for even distribution in the application.

Early spring is a good time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to combat a high volume of weed growth. Besides being unsightly, weeds can take over and affect grass growth, but applying an herbicide now will help prevent that interference and allow more grass growth. Many fertilizers come blended with pre-emergent herbicides, so to help the efficiency of your dollar, check to see which fertilizer brands and types offer two-in-one.

4. Planting new grass in bare spots

There's no rule against planting more grass. Sometimes the route to a thicker lawn is by adding more grass seed.

Sometimes bare sports are hard to avoid. As stated earlier, they can be a result of fungus, disease and soil compaction, but sometimes they're a result of other variables like pet droppings. Some patches may be a result of grass that has simply died off. Till those spots and apply grass seed and nitrogen fertilizer combination. Don't be afraid to overseed, either. ​

5. Get ready to mow

Time your first mow with the growth of your grass. It's especially important to wait to mow until grass reaches a certain height, otherwise you open the potential for lawn problems.

Don't wait too long to start mowing again. There's no magic date to start cutting the grass, but it's best to wait for the grass to reach a certain height. This varies depending on grass type, but the right height for cutting is usually around 2.5 inches. Cutting grass when it's too short increases its susceptibility to disease, but waiting too long to mow can stunt grass growth because the taller blades will shade the shorter blades and prevent them from accessing sunlight.

Ariens IKON X cutting height selector

While you're waiting to mow, prepare your riding lawn mower for the next season. This means completing maintenance like oil changes, belt changes, sharpening blades, etc. if they weren't completed at the end of the last season. Those looking for a new riding lawn mower should do so as early as possible to take advantage of early season deals at and to get the models they want before dealership inventory is depleted.

Keep in mind these spring lawn care tips encompass throughout the entire season and to complete as many of these items as possible before summer. It's much easier and cheaper maintaining a lawn than having to replace one. For lawn mower replacement and maintenance parts and maintenance help, visit a local Ariens residential lawn mower dealer or check the inventory at the Ariens online parts store.

Katie Johnson is a gardening and landscape writer for LawnStarter Lawn Care. When she's not tending to her organic vegetable garden, she can be found exploring nature by bike or boat.​

How to Prepare Your Lawn Mower for Spring, 2019

3/22/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Lawn mower maintenance after winter storage

Ariens APEX® zero turn riding lawn mower

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


Sharpening dull lawn mower 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.

Remove Ariens lawn mower deck.

  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 parts.ariens.com. 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.​

How to Store Your Snow Blower for Summer, 2019

3/14/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Why today's emission standards make treating fuel more critical than ever before.

Storing a snow blower in 2019 is much different than it was in 1970. Today, ethanol-blended fuels and efficiency standards for outdoor power equipment require snow blower owners to be extra attentive to their machines at the end of the season. If these critical steps aren't completed correctly or skipped, it's quite possible your snow blower won't even start next season, leaving you with a shovel, frustration and a repair bill.

Stabilizing snow​​ blower g​asoline

Snow blower engine won​​'t st​​​art

That's a common Google search entry and it's a common issue with outdoor power equipment today. A snow blower that won't start is the biggest source of frustration when the big storm hits, and usually, it's because of nothing more than a clogged fuel line.

Due to today's efficiency mandates from the U.S. Government, small engines are required to use less fuel. Because of that standard, carburetor jets, which are used to cont​​rol fuel flow in a fuel system, are much smaller than they used to be. If fuel can't pass through the tiny hole in a carburetor pilot jet (see photo), the fuel flow is stopped and the engine won't run. All it takes is the smallest obstruction to ruin a Saturday night snowfall.

Snow blower carburetor jet

Why gasoline is so sen​sitive

Gasoline today is a lot different than it was in 1970. In fact, it's not even gasoline, it's a blend of fuel. Today, most regular, unleaded gasoline is an E10 blend, meaning it contains up to ten percent ethanol. Though E10 blended fuels are technically acceptable for use in a snow blower, use of 100 percent gasoline in a small engine is best. Even the lowest ethanol content can damage a small engine.

Ethanol problems in​​ small engines

Ethanol fuels can lead to engine damage and increase the possibility a snow blower engine won't start.

Ethanol is problematic in small engines for numerous reasons and storing a small engine with ethanol-blended fuel in the tanks is especially risky. Why? Because ethanol dissolves old gum and varnish deposits in the fuel system and tank. Once dissolved, those small particles can enter the engine's fuel lines and clog the tiny hole in the carburetor jet. To help reduce the possibility of ethanol-related problems in a snow blower engine, add Ariens ethanol fuel treatment to the fuel tank.

Non ethanol gas near me

To avoid ethanol-related problems in your snow blower engine, we suggest using 100 percent gasoline, especially leading up to storage. Type the heading of this paragraph into a Google search to find pumps with 100 percent gasoline.

Why you should stabilize snow blower ga​soline

Using fuel stabilizer in your snow blower engine will help prevent gasoline from deteriorating, turning to a gel and clogging the fuel system.

All fuels, both ethanol-based blends and 100 percent gasoline, oxidize and break down. Gasoline and gasoline blends can deteriorate in as little as two weeks and leave a gel and a varnish in the fuel system, and clog it. To help prevent gasoline from breaking down in the fuel tank, Ariens recommends adding a quality fuel stabilizer to fresh gasoline. Treating fresh gasoline (less than two weeks old) preserves the fuel during storage and prevents it from breaking down and clogging the fuel system. Just be aware, fuel stabilizer only keeps fresh fuel fresh; old fuel cannot be rejuvenated with fuel stabilizer.

How to stabilize gasoli​ne

Add fuel stabilizer to snow blower gasoline.

  1. Add the correct amount of fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank, according to the instructions on the fuel stabilizer bottle or packet.
  2. Start the engine and let it run for at least five minutes to ensure the stabilized fuel reaches the fuel lines and carburetor.
  3. Close the fuel valve and allow the engine to stop on its own. This process, which is called running the fuel system "dry," burns almost all the fuel from the fuel lines and carburetor.
  4. Keep the fuel valve closed, switch the engine key to the off position and remove the key.

Snow blower gasoline older than two weeks should not be stabilized before summer storage. Instead, it's recommended to completely drain that fuel tank, then run the engine until all fuel that was in the fuel lines and carburetor is used and the engine stops on its own. Detailed instructions can be found in the snow blower operator's manual.

Lubricating your s​​now blower

Grease the axle sha​​​fts

If you forget to do it, the wheel could be permanently stuck to the axle.

Because of all the moisture and ice-melting agents like salt that contact a snow blower, corrosion and rust can build up between the wheel hubs and the axles. If the axles aren't periodically cleaned and lubricated, they could rust together. If a wheel is permanently fused to its axle, accessing the hardware to remove the bottom cover on the unit will be a very inefficient and unpleasant experience.

Remove each wheel from the axle. If rust is present on the axles, remove it with sandpaper, wipe clean and coat with a thin to medium layer of grease. Also, clean and lubricate the axle ends where the snap clips are secured to. If neglected, the snap clips can also rust to the axle and prevent wheel removal.

Lubricate snow blower tractor ​​components

Lubricate snow blower tractor gears.

Just this last season, a friend of an AriensCo marketing manager asked him why the shift lever on his Ariens snow blower wouldn't move. The answer was because the components in the tractor weren't lubricated and rusted together.

No snow blower tractor is water tight – moisture will get into the frame. Preserve the mobility of those critical moving parts inside the frame with regular lubrication. Though that part of the machine may seem intimidating, accessing those components is extremely easy. Simply remove the bottom cover from the snow blower and perform the following procedures as directed in the operator's manual:

  • Apply grease to the hex shaft so the friction disc can slide along it easily.
  • Apply grease to the gears
  • Apply a thin layer of oil to the chain and wipe clean
  • Pump grease into the pinion shaft (grease fitting located outside frame)

Lubricate snow blower a​​ugers

Grease snow blower auger shafts.

Bust an auger? Throw a shear bolt? Want to not damage the auger gearcase if you hit a rock? If you said yes to any of those, the augers will need to be lubricated so they can spin freely on the auger shafts.

Applying grease to the augers is easy. Remove the shear bolts from each auger, pump grease into the grease fittings on the auger shaft and manually turn the auger by hand to spread grease along the auger shafts. When complete, reinstall the shear bolts and torque to the specification listed in the operator's manual. Click here to buy Ariens grease online.

Other snow blower​​ storage care

Snow blower engine oi​l change

Snow blower engines won't necessarily need storage maintenance, however, if it's time for an oil change, do it now so you don't have to later. Snow blower engines are easy to maintain because they don't have an air filter or oil filter. Change the oil and that's it. Learn how in our quick video.

Snow blower belt replacement

Does a snow blower need a new belt after one season? Maybe. If they appear worn, then it's time to change them. Not necessary for storage, but once again, it's best to be prepared for next season. Learn how in our quick video.​

Snow blower friction disc replacement

As with belts, just make sure it's not worn and it's ready to go for next season. Learn how in our quick video.​

Snow blower hard​​ware

Ensure no hardware is loose or missing. To replace missing hardware, consult our parts manuals to find replacement part numbers. Replacements can be ordered at parts.ariens.com.

How to wash a snow bl​ower

All it needs is low-pressure water and a mild soap solution to wash away all dirt and salt.​

Snow blo​​wer parts

For replacement parts like lubricants and oils, visit your nearest Ariens dealer or get the parts shipped directly to your door from parts.ariens.com.

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