Now is the time to have turf maintenance equipment checked thoroughly so that everything is ready for the spring season
March 31, 2023 By Justin Parrott
Spring is almost upon us, meaning it’s time to dust off the equipment that’s been in storage over the winter and get it ready for what is always the busiest time of year.
Ensuring your machines are prepared before the grass starts growing can prevent any unforeseen downtime for your operation and provide peace of mind, knowing your equipment is functioning at optimal performance for the lush spring grass that awaits.
Seasoned operators understand that time is as strong a currency as any, which is why the late stage of winter, when the snow begins to melt away, is always a great time for a thorough equipment check-up to make certain it is in proper working condition. This is the period where operators should complete any repairs or maintenance they were unable to finish in the fall.
Getting the equipment ready
Routine maintenance is key, though it can be overwhelming if it’s your first time or if you need to prepare multiple machines for the spring. It can be helpful to develop a quick checklist outlining the core elements to check on each machine before beginning your work.
A good first step is to check for any existing fluid leaks pooling on the floor where your machine is stored. If a leak is, in fact, present, it’s best to address it before beginning any other work.
When looking inside the machine, keep in mind that cold weather can be harsh on batteries, especially if left outside in the elements. A few options to consider are either placing the battery on a trickle charger or getting a health check on the battery from your local dealer so that the machine can start up reliably for the season ahead.
Starting the season with fresh fluids is essential to proper starting and running. Fuel sitting for a long time will begin degrading and will spoil, causing havoc on your carburetor or fuel injection system. The shelf life for some fuels can even be as little as three months depending on the ethanol content. Fuel stabilizer will help combat the fuel breakdown if mixed before storage but will not help “cure” bad fuel. If the fuel smells sour or is darker in colour, chances are it has gone bad and should be drained and replaced with fresh fuel before the first start-up. A good rule is to always drain the fuel at the end of each season before you put the machine in storage.
Before you get your mower rolling, another important step is changing the oil. Dirty oil can damage your engine, shorten the engine’s life, and cause future maintenance problems. It’s recommended that you change your oil after every 100 hours of mower usage or once a year, whichever comes first.
Turning attention to the exterior of the machine, pneumatic tires tend to lose pressure after some time, so checking tire pressures and ensuring the tires have a solid tread with minimal cracks will help you will track straight and mow evenly.
It’s also good practice to check that your spindles, wheels and mower deck lift system are moving freely and smoothly. While machine designs may vary, the owner’s manual for your equipment will outline the greasing points and greasing intervals. I’d also recommend completing a quick check on machine switches to make sure they are all working properly.
Not having your mower in optimal shape may lead to poor cut quality and can even reduce the speed you can cut at, costing you valuable time. If you didn’t do so in the fall, ensuring the underside of your deck is clean and blades are sharpened will maximize your productivity.
Overall, it’s ideal if your machine is cleaned and looking fresh for the spring. Consider using a brush or rag to wipe down your mower to remove any excess debris – such as leaves or grass clippings – off the deck and out of crevices where there could potentially be build-up, such as near the engine or on the wheels. For the deck, try waxing it so you can prevent buildup of grass and dirt.
The right machine for your operation
The months leading up to spring may also be a good time to consider what kind of machine is best for your maintenance operation. While mowers come in many shapes and sizes, sit- and stand-on zero-turn mowers are the most popular for commercial and residential operators. They typically have quick mowing speeds, are nimble and are highly customizable with different attachments, such as mulch kits or grass catchers. Zero-turn mowers are available in compact low-cost homeowner grade and can expand into commercial-grade, high-horsepower machines, or anywhere in between.
For large acreage mowing, front-mount mowers are sometimes preferred by operators from a comfort point of view, since they get less neck strain by having the mower ahead of the machine and not behind. Front-mount mowers can also mow in areas conventional mid-mount mower machines cannot; they can get under fences, benches and shrubs more easily, which reduces the amount of trimming required afterwards.
Commercial walk-behind mowers remain a popular option amongst landscapers and can either be self-propelled or pushed manually. These types of machines tend to differ from the traditional residential mowers that many are accustomed to as they are built with heavy duty transmissions, commercial-grade engines and thick fabricated decks – which is to say, these machines are built to last.
In terms of trends, stand-on zero-turn mowers are quickly becoming the machine of choice, as their compact frame allows them to mow more closely to obstacles, reducing the amount of trimming needed. The quick access to the zero-turn mowers operator station is also a bonus for operators who are often on and off the machine. In terms of storage, the compact size of zero-turn mowers means that you can fit more machines in a designated space, such as a trailer or garage.
Proper pre-season maintenance will put you and your machine in the best position possible to succeed at the jobs that lie ahead, meaning any time you invest in proper equipment care early on should pay immediate dividends to your operation. Meet with your local dealer if you have questions about your machine.
Justin Parrott is the turf and RTV product manager for Kubota Canada.
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