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Make mower upkeep a priority this summer season

Summer is not the time of year to skimp on mower maintenance

June 6, 2023  By Justin Parrott

Summer is an exciting time of year for many. With warmer months, greener grass and longer days, landscaping crews are out in full force keeping greenspaces maintained and looking their best. But, to ensure lawn equipment is functioning at its fullest potential, it is important that landscaping professionals prioritize proper mower maintenance and preparation. 

Conducting comprehensive equipment maintenance during the fall and winter months is a common practice in the commercial landscape world. However, many landscape professionals often fall short on essential maintenance routines during the summer when business is at its peak. Making sure equipment is running properly from day to day can be the difference between losses and profits.

Here are a few tips turf professionals can start doing today to keep their machines running all summer long:

Startup maintenance
Starting off on the right foot can be made simple by taking time leading up to the season to review the equipment and perform maintenance before the busy season starts. Giving each mower a thorough check over should limit breakdowns in the future and get any kinks worked out from the winter. 

Even the highest quality mowers benefit from regular maintenance and proper care which can include the following: 

Start the year with good fuel
Good fuel is essential to the proper starting and running of a mower. Gasoline tends to degrade after a couple of months, whereas diesel can be prone to water contamination which could lead to bacteria growth. For both gasoline and diesel engines, it’s important to store them with a full tank of fresh fuel to prevent water condensation which occurs from outdoor temperature changes. For gasoline engines, using low ethanol gasoline and adding fuel stabilizer before storage will extend its useful life and ensure a smooth start in the spring. 

Change the oil
If you didn’t change the engine oil before storage, you’ll want to do so before the first mow of the season. Dirty oil can damage your engine, shorten the engine’s life, and cause future maintenance problems. Most manufacturers recommend changing your oil and filter between 100 and 200 hours of mower usage or once a year, whichever comes first. 

When changing your oil, be sure to allow the engine to cool down, as the oil inside will be hot and could cause burns. It’s best to follow the owner’s manual for your specific machine for oil change intervals and safety precautions.

Sharpen mower blades
Mower blades, especially at the commercial level, can become dull over time and with use, impacting your results and causing a delay in efficiency. A dull mower blade only tears the grass instead of giving it a nice clean cut which can negatively affect the lawn’s health. Dull mower blades can slow down your crew’s productivity and hurt your bottom line. Blade sharpening intervals can vary on conditions, impacts and hour usage – it’s good practice to check the mower blade condition every day and sharpen as needed. Sharp blades will help deliver the clean, professional-looking cut that customers are looking for. 

Daily maintenance checks
Whether you’re a solo operation or a fleet manager, making sure the critical elements of your equipment are functioning properly will lead to less time and money spent on repairs. Make time each day during the busy months to do a circle check, looking for proper fluid levels, correct tire pressure, ensuring radiator screens are not clogged, inspecting all belts for failure points, and verifying that all switches are working properly to ensure your equipment works as hard as you do and won’t need a day off in shop.

Train employees
For employers, hold a session with all new and pre-existing employees to make sure they know how to operate, understand the machine warning lights, and perform simple inspections on all equipment. Let both new and returning employees know how your company operates and what the expectations are when it comes to handling equipment. Keeping a logbook in the truck or trailer can help ensure daily check points are being followed and machine defects noted. The more knowledge employees have on what to look out for, the sooner potential equipment problems can be addressed.

Spares at the ready
Time spent dealing with a breakdown or waiting for parts greatly impacts profit and efficiency. Therefore, keeping a handful of spare parts available either in employee vehicles or at your commercial garage will limit downtime for minor or common issues. It is also recommended that everyone knows how to perform basic maintenance on the mowers in your fleet. Having commonly needed parts, such as blades, belts, and filters, when you need them means less time at the dealer, or time waiting for parts to arrive. 

Keep it clean
Ensuring mowers are kept in good condition will ultimately increase their longevity and lifespan. Therefore, daily cleaning makes a difference in the long run. This includes blowing or washing off the underside of mowers, emptying baggage compartments and the removal of any dust or buildup on other areas of the mower. Grass, twigs and leaves clumped up in the mower or engine compartment can greatly impact its performance and accelerate wear if not dealt with properly. Keeping your machine clean will protect your investment and give a professional look while out on the jobsite.

One brand, less problems
If you’re beginning to grow your business and are considering expanding your fleet, take the time to meet with your local dealers and see what services beyond the sale of the machine they can offer you. Finding a dealer that not only sells a good product but also stands behind it can give you confidence that any issues will be solved quickly, reducing your downtime. Building a relationship with a dealer and brand you trust can be advantageous for multi-unit discounts at purchase and parts commonality between mowers, reducing the part stocking needed. You will also find it helpful and more efficient to have similar models within your fleet when it comes to maintenance and employee training. Each manufacturer will design their equipment with different operating and maintenance access points, so when you become accustomed to one machine, it will find it helpful and more efficient to have similar models within the fleet.

Success all season long
Lawn care season is an exciting and busy time that doesn’t need to be bogged down with the stress of breakdowns or time spent in the shop. Ensuring your fleet is properly prepared is a simple task that with a bit of time and dedication can save money and improve the outlook of your business in the long run. Commercial landscaping is demanding, creating increased wear and tear on mowers, therefore upkeep and maintenance ensures projects go smoothly and that minimal damage happens to the mower, prolonging their lifespan.  

Daily checks, keeping parts on hand and ensuring your employees are properly trained are preventative tasks that ensure your fleet and business is successful throughout the summer. In addition to frequent maintenance checks and proper care, it is wise to invest in mowers which fit your company’s needs for size, productivity and durability. Your knowledgeable local dealer can help guide you towards a suitable machine that fits your needs. 

Justin Parrott is Kubota Canada’s turf and RTV product manager.

This article is part of the Equipment Week.

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