How to get the best results
There are 2 types of mulching lawnmowers
- Dedicated Mulch only lawnmowers
- Combination Mulch and Catch lawn mowers.
Dedicated mulch only lawnmowers will give the best results. They have a unique chassis and blade design that compliment each other to give a mown lawn finish, similar in appearance to a catcher caught lawn. Dedicated mulch only mowers are expensive.
The most common mulching mower is the COMBINATION, Mulch and Catch lawnmower. Very much cheaper than the dedicated mulch only mowers, they have a chassis design the same as a catcher only lawn mower, and are fitted with blades the same or similar to a catcher lawn mower. To facilitate mulching an extra set of blades are fitted ( 4 flail blades) and a removable MULCH PLUG* is supplied. A combination catch and mulch lawnmower will never give as good a finish as a dedicated mulch only mower due to the shape of the chassis and design of the blades. However the mown lawn finish will be approx 90%, of a 100% mulch only finish.
MULCHING works best when:
- The grass is dry
- Only the top 1/3 is cut
- The grass is kept short
- The grass is mown regularly.
Designed to fill the void created by the grass chute and to keep the grass up close to the cutting blade tips. Traps the grass within the mower chassis, not allowing it to escape until cut up into small pieces.
Several weeks ago I supplied and fitted a new cutting deck to a rider mower. Any one who has been through this exercise before will know it is not a cheap one. To my dismay I have been informed that before the mower was even used it was stolen. Theives used the owners trailer to remove it, along with other easily transportable goods.
Hence I thought a timely reminder wouldn't go astray - take a pen and paper and head out to the garage or shed. Grab the rider, push mower, chainsaw, trimmer etc and write down brand, model and serial number and any identifiable features. This information is typically under the seat on a ride on lawnmower. Store the information in a safe place.
My bet is I could easily count on one hand the number of you who have kept records of serial numbers from your machines before. Luckily I had written down all this information for the ride on in question. The cutting deck had to be imported and I couldn't afford to have the wrong one turn up.
On a more pleasant note. I am pleased to be able to supply to you, very reasonably priced lawn mowers, Blower/vac, hedge trimmers, line trimmers, chainsaws etc, of excellent quality, manufactured predominatly in China, Taiwan and South Africa. Most products carry a 2year domestic use warranty.
I know mowers tend to be "out of sight, out of mind", but servicing over the winter period certainly beats the queues when spring rolls around. So if I can be of assistance to you, please feel free to call me. Remember "Don't kick it, I'll fix it" and that's all small engines, not just lawnmowers.
Environmental Tip: When filling small engine fuel tanks, use a pourer or funnel and don't over fill. Did you know that every 4 1/2 litres of spilled or evaporated petrol puts as many Hydrocarbons in the atmosphere as driving 12,000 kilometers.
I often get asked what really is the best ride on lawn mower. Generally speaking, it's like most things- the more you spend the better you get. As I repair all ride on lawnmowers I get to see the various features and faults, but to me, for the average budget conscious life-styler, no particular rider stands out above all the rest. No doubt various retailers will strongly disagree with me. Instead I will give you some points to consider so you can make up your own mind.
- The price.
- How comfortable is the driving position, you could be mowing for one or two hours?
- Can you easily replace broken belts, or do you need special tools?
- Are spare parts readily available, from most mower shops, or can you only get them from one supplier?
- How easy is it to remove the cutting deck (i.e. to attend to blades or belts) and how strongly constructed is the deck?
- What type of blades are fitted (i.e. mulching, throwing, flat or a combination)? If you are going to be discharging the grass out the deck side chute get throwing blades fitted. Combination mulching / throwing blades clog easier than throwing only blades.
- How frequent are the recommended service intervals? Normally if the motor doesn't have an oil filter it needs servicing twice as often as one that does.
- How good is the back up service?
- Look at the engine power in relation to the cutting deck size. Larger engines with smaller decks will work better.
- Locking diffs or one piece solid rear axles can be useful in wet or sloping applications.
- Hydrostatic or manual transmission? Hydrostatic transmissions make forward / reverse direction changes easy and quick, however overall top speed tends to be slower than manual transmissions.
The above points, while no means complete should at least get you thinking about what you really need in a ride on, to suit both you and your lifestyle block. It is much like buying a car, what appeals to a Holden V8 buyer probably won't suit a Toyota Echo buyer. Different cars for different applications, it is the same for ride on mowers. I hope the above has been helpful to you and remember "Don't kick it, I'll fix it", and that's all small engines.
During the winter period I find a large portion of call-outs are related to fuel quality and water in the fuel. In 29 years of servicing small engines, I could count on less than four fingers, the number of customers I have encountered with both water in their mower fuel tank and a plastic fuel can. That’s got to be a great recommendation for the use of plastic fuel cans. How many of you have used fuel from a steel can, and then unintentionally left the can outside over night? If it is a metal can with the lid screwed on, and it rains, water will enter the can. Water is drawn up the thread inside the screw lid, when the air inside the container contracts during the cooler nights of winter.
Chainsaws, shredders / mulchers, water blasters and rotary hoes tend to be machines that are used and then stored for long periods. I can’t stress enough, the importance of using fresh fuel in this type of machine. In order to make starting easier and more reliable consider adding a fuel stabilising product to your machines petrol, to keep it fresh and ensure good fuel quality over a long period. Petrol does not have an indefinite shelf life. It goes off, or stale, depending on how well it has been stored. As a general rule, don’t use petrol older than three months, and store in an air tight container placed in a cool, dry place. Do not put fresh petrol in a plastic container that has previously held stale fuel. The fresh petrol will go off very quickly. So if a machine was running ok last time it was used and now it’s hard to start, won’t start, or runs rough, consider your fuel quality.
There are a number of good reasons for getting your mowing machinery regularly serviced. The number one reason is so that it will always start, each and every time those chores need to be done.There's nothing more frustrating than pulling and pulling on the starter cord and spending more time trying to start that piece of machinery than actually using it.
Another good reason which we don't normally consider is air pollution. Your average side valve lawn mower engine will pump out as much pollutants during one hour as a car does over 10 hours. Or think of it as equivalent to standing behind 10 cars breathing fumes, for one hour of mowing. It sounds shocking doesn't it. Keep your machinery serviced and tuned for practical, environmental, and health reasons. As a side note, when it comes to walk behind lawnmowers, I recall reading somewhere that most carbon pollutants don't actually come out of the engine it's self. Most carbon pollutants evaporate into the atmosphere from fuel spilled while filling the fuel tank. I thought that was quite interesting.
One question I often get asked about is washing of push type mowers. If you own an aluminum bodied mower I feel that there is little to be gained by washing after mowing. For a steel bodied mower there may be some gains in extending it's life expectancy, but only if the mower is allowed to dry fully before being put away. Even aluminum bodied mowers should be allowed to dry. I have had to replace some very rusty, i.e. holed, blade cutting bars and discs, caused by washing and then putting the mower straight in the shed to dry out over the following week. Frequent water blasting can be very detrimental, with the water getting into bushes, bearings and even carburetors.
While talking about water, check your ride on mower battery water level and inspect for any white or green corrosion on the wire terminals. To remove the corrosion, pour boiling water over the terminal. You'll be surprised how this corrosion can reduce your batteries performance. and also reduce the engines ability to recharge the battery. Once dry, apply a liberal coating of grease to the terminals. This will stop any further corrosion.
For those of you with line trimmers, blowers or chainsaws lying around the shed, next time you find the machine won't start, nearly starts, or runs slow, check for a Mason Bee mud plug in the exhaust outlet. Small things make the big difference when it comes to small 2 stroke motors not starting.
If the exhaust is blocked just dig the mason bee mud nest out with a screw driver.
'The Good Oil'
This one concerns ride on mowers and it only takes a few minutes to do. Spray a good quality (i.e. one that dries real thick) chain lube on the hinge points of the mowing deck linkages. Chain lube is good because it penetrates easily and then dries like grease. Use it on the pedal hinge points and chain drives as well. It is best applied after water blasting and drying the mower. This makes it easier to see what you are doing and gets rid of the dirt so the oil can penetrate better. Afterwards your rider will have that just serviced feel where everything works smoother and quieter. How often should you do this? as often as you like. Be sure not to get the oil on the drive belts.
Ever wondered what might be hiding under the engine covers. You would be surprised just how much grass can collect inside an engine that hasn't been serviced regularly.
Lawnmower engines are air cooled. Air is drawn in from the top of the motor and blown across the aluminium cooling fins by the flywheel. Obviously air can not cool an engine if it can not flow across it due to trapped grass debri.
How can you tell if your mower engine is running hot? Have a close look at the cylinder head bolt heads and the spark plug. If they are all rusty with a very slight blueish tinge, then you can bet on having a HOT engine. A motor that is running hot will burn all the shiny zinc coating off the spark plug and bolt heads allowing them to rust. The lack of air flow will also mean that the engine speed governor won't work well, causing the motor to over rev.
Continuing to use your lawnmower will cause damage in three ways.
- Over revving leading to a broken con rod.
- Piston ring damage causing high oil consumption and possible seizure.
- High wear on valves and guides.
So while you may think your mower is going well, all may not be well at all, hidden under the engine covers. Remember small air cooled mower engines need a service every 25 hours of use.
It is estimated that only 1 in 3 batteries sold today live to see their 5th birthday. The most common failure (80%) is from plate sulfation. This build up occurs when the battery is so deeply discharged that molecules in the electrolyte begin to coat the batteries lead plates. Before long the coating is so thick that the battery dies. There are several common causes of plate sulfation.
- Fluid or electrolyte level too low- Battery plates exposed to air will immediately sulphate
- Sitting too long between charges. As little as 24 hours in extreme hot weather or several days in cooler temperatures.
- Some engines have a constant drain or parasitic load, eg a clock. As energy is depleted, sulfation occurs.
- Undercharging of the battery. Charging a battery to 85% of capacity will allow a chemical reaction where the 15% of electrolyte not fully reactivated will allow sulfation to occur.
- High temperatures of 38c plus (such as locking your mower in a closed shed during summer) increases the internal battery discharge. A new fully charged battery left standing at 38c for 30 days would most likely not start an engine.
- Cold weather. A deeply discharged battery can freeze solid in sub zero temperatures.
If you have a volt meter here's a handy reference chart which will give you a good idea about the state of your battery. Simply read off the output voltage of your battery when not under load. occurs.
OPEN CIRCUT VOLTAGE
STATE OF CHARGE IN %
11.89v or less
This year during our wet autumn period I got a little tired of my ride on lawnmower spinning a rear wheel in the wet or getting stuck in mud. You have probably experienced problems with drive or traction caused by weight transfer when you get on a bit of a slope yourselves. I decided to try filling the rear tires with water, to add more weight to the driving wheels. What I found was it does certainly help with traction, so much so that the steering is not the best as the ride on lawnmower tends to want to push straight ahead instead of turning. Easy solution, fill the front tires with water as well. So would I reccommend filling your ride on lawnmower tyres with water for added traction? Yes,with one reservation. The increase in driving traction and steering is very noticable, however on the down side, the lawnmower now weighs half a tonne. Should you get stuck you won't be able to easily lift the lawnmower out.