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Operating a Lawn Mower Safely

6/24/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Best practices to be safe with outdoor p​ower equipment ​


Operating a Lawn Mower Safely


Operating a lawn mower was once a small responsibility. With the boom of the middle class, homeowners across America were cutting their small yards with powerless reel mowers, but in the 70 years since, yards have gotten bigger, time has become more valuable and manufacturers, like AriensCo, have been innovating. With those changing trends, the market shifted to one where families are trading in smaller push mowers for the comfort and efficiency of a zero turn lawn mower. With that transformation, it's important for homeowners to be aware of the best safety practices of operating a zero turn lawn mower.

Operating garden tractors and zero turn lawn mowers is like driving a car. Though all Ariens® equipment incorporates both required and voluntary safety features as directed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO), it is important to be aware how to use the machine safely before stepping into the driver's seat.

There's a lot of work that's done behind the scenes to keep our customers and their families safe. Safety is our priority, and that's why it's important for us to do our best to keep conversations of using outdoor power equipment safely at the forefront of the industry and at top of mind for everyone who uses our equipment. We want to help keep you and your family in the same condition from the time you step into the operator's seat to the time you leave it, and that's why we compiled the following safety highlights below.

Operating your n​​​ew mower safely

Shiny, new Ariens zero turn lawn mowers are exciting and appealing. The first thing our customers want to do is hop on and get cutting, but we'd prefer our customers slow down, take their time and become accustomed to operating that sophisticated piece of machinery.

1.     Read the m​​​anual

Among the instructions and important information included in your operator's manual is safety information. All new Ariens equipment comes with a paper copy of the operator's manual, but if your dealer or the store you purchased from didn't supply you with one, call them and arrange a time to get your manual before starting your engine. Electronic versions of the manuals to all our products are located here.​

2.     Learn how to operate the equipment

Slow and steady wins the race. First, understand the functions of all controls, how to operate them, how to stop in an emergency and the machine's braking and steering characteristics. When ready, take your place in the operator's position, start the unit and operate it at low engine throttle to learn how the unit works.

3.     Follow the rule​s

Only allow well-trained, competent adults over the age of 18 operate lawn mowing equipment and adhere to any state and local laws relating to operating outdoor power equipment.

4. Filling the fuel t​ank

​Lawn mower fuel tanks should always be filled with a portable container and never directly from a pump hose. Portable containers should be filled with the manufacturer's fuel recommendation while placed on the ground, and not when they're in a truck bed or on a trailer. ​


Wearing personal prote​ctive equipment

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, refers to the protective gear you need to wear while working with outdoor power equipment. According to the B71.1 ANSI specifications and the ISO 5395 standards, this includes ear plugs, safety goggles and steel toe boots, at a minimum. Even if you're safely nestled into the seat of an Ariens zero turn lawn mower, clothing choice is a factor.

1.     Gog​​​gles

Glasses aren't the same as safety goggles. To protect your eyes from flying debris, wear goggles that wrap around the top, bottom and sides of your eyes. If you have prescription lenses, look for top, bottom and side shields that can attach to the frames.​

2.     Closed toe footwear

This is best practice, even though operators are spending 99% of their time in the driver's seat. You never know when you need to get off the machine and pick up an obstruction in the yard. Steel toed boots are best.

3.     Hearing pr​otection

Never think a lawnmower mower is quiet enough to go without hearing protection. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), exposure to noises over 85 decibels after an eight-hour period can lead to hearing loss. To put that into perspective, normal conversation happens at around 60 decibels, so it doesn't take much more noise for hearing damage to occur. Don't go without now and regret it later – wear earplugs or earmuffs, whichever is preferred. 

4.     Loose hair and​​ clothing

While moving parts on the mower are covered with guarding, be sure to only operate the mower with long hair tied back, jewelry removed and no loose-fitting clothing.

Cutting grass around childr​​en and pets

Taking pictures of children riding along with mom, dad, grandma or grandpa on the lawnmower may seem harmless and cute, but it's an unsafe practice, and AriensCo strongly advises against it. Children who have been given rides on lawn mowers in the past are more likely to run out to a family member who's cutting the grass so they can have another ride. If the operator isn't expecting that child to be in the mowing area, the child may be unseen and unheard over the noise of the mower by the operator.

1.     Never operate equipme​​nt with children

The operator's position is designed for one person. Riding with children not only leads to the issue outlined above, but a child riding on the lap of an adult is also unsafe. Not to mention, their hearing can be damaged more easily than an adult's hearing.​

2.     Keep children inside

Outdoor power equipment operators have a responsibility to keep children inside while cutting the grass. Not only do children need to be inside, but they need to remain under the watchful eye of a responsible adult to ensure they don't wander outside and into the mowing area where they risk being unseen and unheard.

3.     Watch for chil​dren and pets

Parents know that children can disappear and appear in an instant, this includes from around blind corners or other less-visible areas in the yard. Always approach corners and other blind areas slowly with the expectation that children or pets could enter the immediate area of the mower without warning. 

4.     Stop cutting if a chil​​d or pet enters the area

If you become aware that a child or pet enters the mowing area, stop the mower according to the instructions in the operator's manual and take them back inside.

General oper​ating tips

Outdoor power equipment safety is also relevant when the equipment is not in use. Between mowings, lawn mowers are to be parked in a secure area with good ventilation and on a flat, level surface with the parking brake engaged. Always keep the key removed and in a safe place out of reach of personnel who are not qualified to operate the equipment. 

When operating the equipment:

1. Clear the area​​

Before mowing, clear the area of any obstructions like toys and objects that can be damaged or thrown by a mower. Be especially aware of golf balls and other small objects that can hide in tall grass and become projectiles when run over by rotating mower blades, even when a mulching baffle is blocking the discharge chute. 

2. Discharge in appro​​​priate directions

Getting close to personal property, like houses, is unavoidable when cutting grass. When cutting near homes, always cut in a direction where the discharge is aimed away from property like homes, cars and lawn ornaments, as well as people who can be injured from flying discharge material. 

3. Operate in optimal ​​​conditions​

Never operate the equipment when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while feeling ill. Additionally, do not operate in the roadway. If you need to operate close to the road, watch for and yield to nearby traffic. Finally, don't try to beat incoming storms. According to the National Weather Service, lightning and it's billion volts of electricity can strike up to 10 miles away from a rain cloud.
 

4. Be careful on slope​​​​s

According to ANSI, slopes are a major factor related to loss of control and tip-over accidents. Operation on slopes requires extra caution and should be approached slowly, carefully and on slopes of no more than 15 degrees. To minimize the risk of a rollover, always mow up and down slopes, never across, and never mow on a slope that's wet from morning dew, a recent rain shower or irrigation.

 If you start to lose traction while mowing a slope with a zero turn mower, disengage the blades, slowly turn away from your cutting row and proceed slowly down the hill. If you sense a total loss of control on a slope, slowly return the steering levers to the neutral position, engage the parking brake, stop the blades and the engine.

Servicing a lawn ​​m​​ower safely

Lots of Ariens owners are Ariens owners because they like the ability to do maintenance and service work themselves. Our machines are designed so regular maintenance and service like lubrication, air filter replacements, oil changes, and belt replacements can be done by just about anyone who's comfortable attempting the procedure. When tinkering in the garage, always park the unit on a flat level surface, engage the parking brake, remove the key from the ignition, wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool, and complete all procedures according to the instructions in your operator's and engine manuals.

1. Work in well-v​​​entilated areas

Leftover exhaust fumes or gasoline fumes can cause dizziness and can be dangerous if inhaled in excess. Always work in a large, open, ventilated area free of flames or sparks.
 

2. Use jack stan​​​ds

Never, and we mean never trust a hydraulic jack, no matter what specially engineered German manufacturer it's made by or how new it is. Hydraulic jacks can fail, causing the objects they're supporting to fall. If you need to raise part of your unit and don't have a lift, use a hydraulic jack with jack stands and ensure the stands are stable.
 

3. Don't modify the unit

All Ariens zero turn mowers are designed with a safety interlock feature that is not to be disabled. The safety interlock system is an integration of features that need to be in certain conditions for the mower to start and run. For example, to start, the parking brake must be engaged, the PTO switch must be in the off position or the unit will not start. While running, the system senses operator weight on the seat. If the operator exits the seat while the unit is running and without the parking brake engaged, the mower engine will stop.
 

All other factory features of an Ariens zero turn mower like belt guarding, the discharge chute deflector and the engine governor settings are to be left alone.

To see the complete list of safety rules for your equipment, read the safety instructions in the front of the operator's manual supplied with your Ariens equipment. If you didn't receive an operator's manual with your equipment, ask your dealer for a copy of the manual or find it online by clicking here.

How to Grow a Healthy Lawn Without Chemicals

6/10/2019 5:00:00 AM

Natural, organic and sus​tainable approaches to residential lawn care.


​Why lawns ar​e important​

Lawns are natural filters that remove pollutants from the air and account for a 12-million-ton reduction in dust and dirt, as well as carbon dioxide emissions. ​Grass alone captures 5% of the carbon in the atmosphere annually and recycles it back into the soils.

Additionally, lawns work the same way carpets do in a home by reducing ambient noise, muffling the sound from traffic and other noise pollution. Grasses and their roots control soil erosion, and of course, lawns make a great place for families to enjoy together and for kids to play.​

Reaping the rewards from a lawn all starts with building a healthy one.​

What i​​s an eco-friendly lawn care program?

Eco-friendly lawn care programs are environmental approaches to caring for your lawn while being conscientious for the ecosystems beyond your yard. The goal of an eco-friendly lawn care program is to create a healthy and sustainable environment for your grass, plants and family to grow without the use of conventional herbicides, pesticides, as well as unsustainable lawn care practices.

Building an all natural lawn

Why consider having a​​n eco-friendly lawn?

Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and many other store-bought lawncare products can do wonders for the look of your lawn, but their warning labels will show there is some risk associated with their use. Pesticides can affect more living organisms than they target, herbicides can impact helpful insects like bees, and water-soluble nitrogen fertilizers can runoff into the waters we drink and recreate in.​

Continue reading to learn about natural and sustainable ways that you can care for your lawn.​

Natural and organic lawn​ care ​​​practices

 

Strengthen yo​ur grass​ roots                                                                                                          

Like all plants, the health of your lawn starts at its roots, which is why it's extremely important to nourish and care for the roots. The easiest way to tell the health of your roots is by looking at the soil and its pH level, or its measure of acidity or alkalinity. Different plants prefer soils with varying pH levels, which is why it's important to learn where your grass stands. For example, dandelions prefer a pH level of 7.5, which is mostly neutral. Most grass thrives with a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0, which is in the slightly acidic to neutral range.

Testing your lawn's pH level can be done on your own with a testing kit from a gardening store. Test your soil by taking three to five soil samples from about four to six inches below the soil surface in different areas of your lawn. Remove the grass so you're left with nothing but soil. Mix the dirt together and spread around on a disposable surface so it can dry out over a 24-hour period and test according to the instructions of your kit.

If the soil is too acidic (pH 0 – 6), add organic options like wood ash to your soil. It may take several applications over a few years to take effect, but it will put your roots on a track to becoming healthier.​

If the soil is too basic (pH 8 – 14), add sphagnum peat to your lawn. Just be aware that it may require some tilling to fully incorporate the sphagnum peat into the soil and for it to take effect. Another option is to add fine mulch and compost to your lawn.

How to grow a lush, green lawn

Natural ways to fertilize your lawn

Fertilizer alternatives for your lawn

Grass itself contains rich nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. When grass is mulched into tiny clippings, microorganisms living on the soil bed break down the mulch and release those nutrients back into the soil – feeding your lawn. Additionally, creating a habitable ecosystem for those useful microorganisms enhances the ability for a lawn to fight off lawn disease and mold.

Mulching will require a mulch kit to cut your grass clippings into fine, highly decomposable grass clippings. Read more about mulching in a blog we published earlier this year.

Aside from mulched grass, natural compost can return nutrients back into your landscape and help thicken your grass and fill in brown spots. Remember to apply lightly because you don't want to completely cover your lawn and choke your grass.​

How to use less water o​n your lawn

The EPA estimates that lawn irrigation accounts for anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of water consumption during the summer in the U.S. When responsible irrigation practices are overlooked, overwatering can occur, drowning grass roots, inviting weeds and promoting lawn fungus growth.

A general rule of thumb is to water deeply, less often and during a cool time of day. When watering, the moisture needs to access the roots to be effective. That means you should remove excess layers of thatch, which is dead grass buildup on the top of the soil bed, before watering. Too much thatch will prevent water from reaching the roots.

Water during the cooler parts of the day like at night or early in the morning. Watering at noon on a hot summer day will not only evaporate water coming from your sprinklers, but it encourages fungal growth and shallow root systems, which can make a lawn more susceptible to disease. Watering at cooler parts of the day gives water a chance to soak into the roots, meaning less water is used and a lower water bill.

Inspect your sprinkler system. Ensure the sprinkler heads aren't clogged or broken and that they're pointed in an effective direction. According to the EPA, even very small leaks can waste 6,300 gallons of water per month.

Don't water when it's not needed. If your area receives enough rainfall, turn off the automatic timer on your irrigation system. Also consider collecting rainwater in barrels at the base of your gutters and recycling that water for irrigation. Learn how much water your grass needs by reading a blog post we published earlier this year.​

Finally, cut your grass at a taller height. Taller grasses promote longer roots, and longer roots can thrive with less watering.

How to kill weeds

Natural weed killers you can make at home

Natural weed killers you can make at home

If you'd rather not use conventional herbicides, try these natural options:

1.     Vinegar

Acetic acid, or vinegar, has been proven to be an effective and eco-friendly weed killer. Vinegar works by drawing moisture from the weeds and dehydrating them. Using vinegar to kill weeds can be a quick and effective method, but it may require multiple treatments because the solution will not work its way into the root system. To create a stronger solution, add dish soap and salt. Dish soap helps the mixture bind to weeds and its leaves and the salt will pull additional moisture from them.

2.     Essential oils

Essential oils work like the vinegar and soap solution. Oils such as clove, orange, peppermint and pine can be used for small weeding.

  • Clove damages the cellular structures in vegetation
  • Orange will help intensify the effect of the sun's ultraviolet rays and burn the weed's leaves
  • Pine and Peppermint can help hinder the germination abilities of vegetation

Mix a few drops of these oils into your vinegar / soap / salt solution and monitor your results to see which work best with the weeds in your yard.

3.     Corn gluten

Corn gluten is available as a powder and can be applied to a lawn twice a year. It works by preventing the growth of new dandelions and will even add nitrogen to the soil, fertilizing your lawn. Corn gluten is a safe alternative, but will not be effective on mature weeds.

4.     Hand weeding

Hand weeding is an effective way to get rid of annual weeds and can also help control perennial weeds before they establish a large root system. The largest benefit to hand weeding is the cost – it's free. Although hand weeding is time consuming and requires manual labor, it's one of the most effective eco-friendly options toward a weed-free yard.​

5.     Cutting at an appropriate height

Mowing your lawn too short, or scalping, stresses lawns. By keeping your lawn taller, you not only avoid scalping it, but you discourage weed growth. The extra length of the grass blades helps shade the soil, prevent weed germination, encourage deeper and stronger root growth and absorb rainfall more effectively.

Keeping bugs out of y​​our lawn

Natural ways to kill bugs

Natural ways to kill bugs

Mosquitos love moisture, and their gangs congregate anywhere near standing water and in areas with tall grass. Help keep mosquitos out with effective drainage in low spots in your yard, keeping any fixture, lawn ornament or tool free of standing water, and by mowing frequently. Also, light a few citronella candles when you want to spend time outside – mosquitoes hate them.

Anthills invading your yard? Coating an anthill with baking soda and dousing in white vinegar will destroy it. If ants are still getting into entertainment areas around your yard, the Farmer's Almanac suggests mixing four ounces of water, two tablespoons of vodka, 15 drops of peppermint oil and five drops of cinnamon oil in a spray bottle and applying to patios, picnic tables swing sets and more. If you want to get aggressive with your ant problem, leave out equal parts of Borax (toxic) and powdered sugar in an ant-accessible container. If you're lucky, they'll take it back to the colony and share with their friends.

Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) is a nationwide epidemic. If you're one of many individuals who don't like spiders, make your own natural, industrial-use, outdoor repellent by combining one package of chewing tobacco with one gallon of boiling water. Allow the tobacco to soak until the water cools and strain the mixture into a container. Put one cup of the tobacco juice and one-half cup of mint dish soap into a hose sprayer and spray around your yard. This mixture will also repel other bugs and mosquitos, so if you hate them all, this is the solution for you.​

Additionally, you can plant mint, lemon grass, eucalyptus, lemon balm and lavender around your yard to deter spiders from entering.

How to Change Lawn Mower Hydro Belts

5/15/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Check your transaxle belts often and replace as necessary

What's a transaxle belt?

Transaxle drive belts, hydro belts, transmission belts, hydrostatic belts, and pump belts are varying terminology for the same belt that powers the transaxles of a zero turn lawn mower. Without getting too far into the technical weeds, transaxles are the motors that operate the drive wheels of a zero turn lawn mower. When the steering levers are pushed forward on a zero turn lawn mower, the shafts on the transaxles turn the wheels forward. It's as simple as that.​

The Hydro-Gear® transaxles on an Ariens® zero turn lawn mower are not directly driven by the lawn mower engine itself, but by a belt. The transaxle drive belt is routed through an engine pulley, idler pulleys and the pulleys on the top of the transaxles. When the engine is running, the belt is turned by the engine pulley and the belt then turns the transaxle pulleys, supplying power to the transaxles and allowing them to drive the wheels when the steering levers are moved by the operator.

What happens whe​​n a transaxle belt breaks?

Belt wear is unavoidable. Depending on the frequency and degree of use, belts eventually wear out until they're pushed to the point where they break. When a transaxle drive belt breaks, the drive wheels of the lawn mower stop turning, leaving the lawnmower stranded wherever it sits, even if it's in the middle of your yard.

Imagine this scenario: You're nearly finished with your lawn and have just a few rows left to cut. You're deep in the back 40 enjoying the sunshine of a perfect day. You're looking forward to spending the rest of your weekend with the family and a few friends you're hosting for a backyard cookout in just a few hours, when suddenly and unexpectedly, the transaxle drive belt on your mower breaks. The signs of wear were there, but you didn't remember to check the belt before cutting, and consequently, you're now stranded with a mower that needs to either be towed from your yard or repaired in your yard. Your sense of calm has quickly turned into frustration, rage and disdain for the lawn mower manufacturer (that's us).

Don't let this happen to you. Check your belt regularly for these signs of wear:

1.     The belt has sidewall damage

Mower belt edges should be smooth and even throughout the entire length of the belt. If even a small portion of the belt is worn, it's at risk of breaking and should be replaced.

2.     The belt has a glazed or burned sidewall.

Look at the belt edge that contacts the pulleys. If it appears shiny, glazed or burned, it will need to be replaced.

3.     The belt is cracked.

If the belt appears brittle and is deteriorating to the point that it has cracks, even shallow cracks, it's at high risk of breaking and needs to be replaced.​

How to repl​​ace a hydro belt

If it's been a while on the same hydro belt or your belt is showing signs of wear, replace it. There's no way getting around the need for this belt to be replaced, so we recommend either learning how to replace the belt yourself or scheduling the service to be completed by a nearby Ariens dealer. If you prefer to do it yourself, follow our easy-to-understand instructions and pictures below.

If you're doing the work yourself, park the unit on a flat, level surface, stop the engine, remove the key and wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool before starting service. Additionally, reread all the safety information in the operator's manual for your unit and follow along with the procedure as outlined in the manual.​

Hydro belt removal:

1.     Remove the left belt cover from t​he deck and gently pull the PTO belt out of the left spindle pulley.Remove left mower belt cover.

2.     Disengage the PTO belt from the clutch.

Remove PTO belt from clutch. 

3.     With a pliers, hold the hooked end of the tensioner bolt located under the gas tank while loosening the nut on the other end of the bolt. Loosen the nut as much as possible without removing the nut from the bolt.Loosen hydro idler tensioner.

​4.     Remove the heat shield from the rear of the mower.

Remove heat shield 

5.     Remove the two self-tapping screws securing the clutch stop bracket to the transaxle brace above it and remove the clutch stop bracket from the clutch stop.Remove clutch stop bracket

6.     With a small flathead screwdriver, gently pry the wire harness clasp away from the wire harness port on the clutch and disconnect the wire harness from the clutch.Disconnect clutch wire harness

7.     For your reference, take a picture of the transaxle drive belt routing.​Take picture of belt routing for your reference

8.     Remove the transaxle drive belt from all pulleys and remove from the unit.Remove transaxle drive belt

Hydro ​​belt installation:

1.     Install the transaxle drive ​​belt and route around the engine pulley, transaxle pulleys and idler pulleys as shown in the belt routing diagram in the operator's manual.Reinstall transaxle drive belt

2.     Reinstall the clutch stop bracket onto the clutch stop and secure to the transaxle brace. For best results, secure the bracket to the brace from behind the unit with your fingers. Tighten as much as finger tightening allows, then use a socket wrench to secure.

Reinstall clutch stop bracket 

3.     Reconnect the wire harness to the clutch.Reconnect wire harness to clutch

4.     Ensure the idler spring is still hooked around the tensioner bolt.Reconnect spring hook

5.     With a pliers, hold the hooked end of the tensioner bolt while tightening the nut on the other end of the bolt. Tighten the nut completely.Tighten hydro idler tensioner

6.     Ensure the transaxle drive belt has tension and is aligned in all pulleys.Ensure transaxle belt has tension

​7.     Gently pull the PTO belt into the left spindle pulley.Reinstall belt into pulley

8.     Reinstall the PTO belt into the clutch pulley.Reinstall belt into clutch pulley

9.     Ensure the PTO belt has tension and is aligned in all pulleys.Ensure belt has tension

10.  Reinstall the belt cover to the deck.​Reinstall belt cover

11.  Reinstall the h​​​eat shield.Reinstall heat shield

To find replacement transaxle drive belts for your mower, visit your nearest Ariens dealer or find them at parts.ariens.com.​​

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