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Mower upkeep during the summer is critical for maintaining healthy turf

Proper maintenance of mowers in the summer goes a long way

July 8, 2024  By Steven Benedict


Routine maintenance in the summer may have to be done more frequently due to heat and increased usage.Photo: KIOTI

As we transition to the summer season, landscape contractors, municipal ground managers, and groundskeepers are resetting after a busy spring. However, work isn’t slowing down as summer arrives and, for owners and operators, it’s important to refresh yourself with machine maintenance best practices before the second half of the mowing season. 

One of the key factors in maintaining lawn health is ensuring your mower is operating at peak performance. Due to the warmer climate in the summer, performing the proper maintenance on your zero-turn radius (ZTR) becomes more important for the health of your property, the lifespan of your machine, and your safety.

Whether you’re mowing lawns or maintaining a golf course, proper maintenance is key. The following tips will help maintain the health of your ZTR this summer.

Become familiar with your ZTR maintenance schedule and how to perform tasks
Much like a car, routine maintenance is essential to keeping your ZTR running, even in challenging conditions. Becoming familiar with your ZTR is important for maximizing your machine’s efficiency, minimizing downtime, and ensuring safe operation. Every operator should start by reading the owner’s manual. Not only does the owner’s manual include operation instructions, but it also features a maintenance schedule for the specific machine, along with proper instructions. 

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Routine maintenance is important in the summer when it may have to be done more often because of the heat and increased usage. The manual will often include directions for engine maintenance, lubrication, deck maintenance, tire maintenance, battery maintenance, and safety inspections.

Owners should also lean on their dealer for support. The dealership where you purchased your mower staffs those who will be able to assist with maintenance work or allow you to purchase the proper materials to perform maintenance yourself. The dealers will know what is best for your specific mower and can provide best practices that can save you time and ensure your ZTR is operating at peak performance.

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Don’t overlook these summer factors
In the summer, operators need to carefully monitor their ZTR for issues. Continued usage combined with hot and dry climates lead to more dust and debris, which can cause various parts like filters and bearings to experience more wear and tear. These parts may need to be replaced or serviced more often to maintain optimal performance. 

The combination of high temperatures and debris can cause a mower’s engine to overheat, leading to mechanical issues and reduced performance. If not addressed properly, this can cause permanent damage. A dirty air filter can also affect the performance of a ZTR because it will cause limited airflow to the mower’s engine.

In hot weather, fuel in the mower’s tank can evaporate more quickly, leading to issues such as vapor lock or fuel degradation. Use high-quality fuel and fuel stabilizers, and store the mower in a shaded, well-ventilated area. This will help to minimize fuel evaporation, maintain fuel quality, and preserve engine performance.

Examine your tires before every use to ensure there are no punctures. In the summer the ground can become hard and dry, and it is easier for tires to be punctured by rocks or debris. It is also key to regularly monitor tire pressure to ensure proper inflation. 

Soaring temperatures can also dry out the machine belts, leading to cracking and splitting. Like other parts of ZTRs, belts need to be inspected more frequently. Heat also affects the flexibility of belts, causing slipping. All these issues can impact the mower’s operation. To avoid these problems, monitor the mower belt regularly and replace it when there are signs that the belt is failing or about to break.

During the summer, dry ground can cause the mower blades to dull faster. Dull blades can leave strands of grass uncut, resulting in streaks or an uneven lawn appearance. Sharpen or change mower blades after every 25-30 hours of use. Additionally, wash the blades after every use. Dry clumps of grass built up around the blades can speed up the degradation of blades.

Clean your machine
Cleaning your machine is key to the health and performance of the mower. After every use, clean the machine to help decrease the chance of operational issues and to ensure safety and performance. Spotting issues on a clean mower is easier because you can see every part of the machine.

After every use, hose down your machine including the undercarriage. If the mower deck is packed with grass clippings, it can accelerate aging of the mower or affect cut quality, potentially damaging the lawn. This is more likely to happen in the summer since dry grass is more likely to kick up in the air and accumulate around the engine and across the mower deck. 

In dry climates, grass, dust, and debris can build up around different parts of the mower. Dry grass is flammable, so it is not ideal to have it build up around parts of the mower that generate heat when the mower is being used. Debris buildup can also cause engine failure and affect other moving parts of your machine. It is important to inspect and clean and replace, if necessary, the engine’s air filter regularly.

Always practise mower safety
Operators should always think about safety when operating and performing maintenance on their machines. Like other heavy equipment, there are hazards to consider.

It is important to look over your mower before each use to address any visible issues promptly. Always use the proper jack stands and wheel clocks to prevent accidents or damage to the mower. Additionally, make sure you are doing maintenance on level ground to prevent the ZTR from tipping over.

Never try to perform maintenance on your machine while it is on. Before beginning work, make sure the blades are disengaged. Mower blades and other moving parts like belts and pulleys can cause serious injuries if handled improperly.

If you need to perform maintenance after using your ZTR, allow the mower to cool down first. The engine and other parts of the mower can get extremely hot during operation. Letting the mower cool down is the best way to avoid burns. 

Something that operators overlook when choosing equipment is operator fatigue. Long days in the summer heat can lead to an operator becoming tired, which can be a safety hazard. 


Steven Benedict is product line manager (turf) for KIOTI Tractor.

This article is part of the Equipment Week.

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