How to Service a Lawn Mower

DIY Lawn Mower Tune Up Guide (how to service your mower and save money)

Let’s face it, nobody has a perfect lawn…except that guy or gal across the street. If you want the best lawn in the neighborhood, you’ll need a well-maintained mower. Pretty much every homeowner with a lawn needs to have a lawnmower, yet this essential machinery is one of the least maintained pieces of consumer equipment. Pair that general lack of maintenance with the fact that mowers take a serious beating during the peak lawn care seasons, and you have a problem waiting to happen.

Whether you’re a new homeowner or just weren’t into taking care of your lawn mower before, if you’re here, you want to know how to service your mower.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson. Research and editing by Senior Editor Samantha Lord, M.A.
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

If you don’t have much experience with machinery, the whole process can seem pretty intimidating.

I get it. Luckily, I’ve put together this DIY lawn mower tune-up guide, so you can service your lawn mower yourself. In this in-depth, updated guide I’ll share all of the hands-on knowledge and expertise I’ve acquired over the past decade plus of working on my own mowers. I’ll also focus on addressing the most common concerns I hear about from readers of my lawn care blog.

First and foremost, you’ve got to get to know your lawn mower. Each mower has its own design and specifications, so take your time carefully reading the product manual. It will give you the most detailed information on the right kind of maintenance to do. If you’ve lost or misplaced it, find your model number and look it up online – it’s probably available and easy to find and download.

Now, let’s begin by taking a look at my annual lawn mower tune-up schedule.

Once we’ve gone over that, I will explain each part of it in detail.

In this article, I’ll explain how to service a lawn mower, covering the routine maintenance you need to know about. 

Annual Lawn Mower Tune-Up Schedule 

Here is my lawn mower tune-up schedule. You can stick to this schedule to make sure that you keep your mower in great shape so it lasts for the long haul. 

Click link to jump to a DIY guide for each lawn mower service task lower in the article.

Mower Maintenance TaskWhen to Complete
Oil ChangeEvery 50 hours of use
I recommend Fall and/or Spring
Spark Plug ReplacementCheck every 25 hours of use
I recommend replacing annually
Air Filter Cleaning or ReplacementCheck every 25 hours of use
I recommend replacing annually
Carburetor CleaningClean once annually
I recommend using a gumout carb cleaning spray at startup before every mow to keep it clean
Gas StabilizationBefore any extended period of mower inactivity
I recommend stabilizing fuel in the fall prior to winter storage, or using ethanol-free gas
Blade SharpeningTwice annually
I recommend starting the spring with sharp blades, and sharpening them again in August
Undercarriage / Deck CleaningRegularly Throughout Growing Season
I recommend cleaning any time you mow wet grass, and after every 3 mows on regular grass

When to Change the Oil in Your Mower 

Change the oil in your mower every fall, just before you put it away for the winter. This is important because the old oil is contaminated by mild acids and other byproducts of combustion. If you leave it in the mower for a long period, it will cause damage (especially to the engine). 

About Mower Oil Changes

At minimum, you should change your mower’s oil once a year. The guideline is that you should change it after every 50 hours of use, so keep that in mind. 

Depending on how often you use your mower and the length of your mowing sessions, you may prefer to change the oil twice a year. As well as changing the oil in the fall just before you put away the mower, you may also need to change it in the spring and/or summer.                  

When to Replace the Spark Plug 

Like changing the oil, you should replace the spark plug in your mower just before you store it for the winter. Of course, you may have also replaced it earlier on in the summer if your mower stopped working. 

Mower Spark Plug

You should check your mower’s spark plug after each 25 hours of use. You will usually have to replace it after this period of use. 

There are clear signs when your spark plug is damaged or worn out and you need to replace it. One of these is when you have trouble starting your mower. 

When to Clean the Air Filter 

You should make sure to clean the foam pre-filter in your mower after each 25 hours of use.

Mower Air Filter

It’s a great idea to do this in the fall before you put away the mower in storage for the winter, as well as when you take it out of storage, and then periodically during the growing season. 

When to Replace the Air Filter 

With many mowers, you will need to replace their paper air filters at least once per season. If you live and mow somewhere that tends to be very dusty, you will probably need to clean and replace your filters more often. 

Check the manual that came with your mower for specific information on when and how often you should replace the filter.

When to Clean the Carburetor 

Do carburetor cleaning in the fall just before you put your mower into storage for the winter, and at least twice over the late spring and summer if you aren’t using gumout deposit cleaning spray regularly.

Mower Carburetor

You should clean your mower’s carburetor a minimum of once each year. I recommend using a carburetor cleaner spray / gumout starter fluid spray every time you mow. 

When to Stabilize the Fuel 

You should add stabilizer to the fuel in your mower in the fall, just before you put it in storage. This will stop the fuel from going bad, and it can remain effective for as long as 24 months. 

Mower Fuel Stabilization

You should always add stabilizer to the fuel in your mower when you’re about to put it in storage for 30 days or longer. An alternative is to use ethanol-free fuel, something I do with my mower and detail in this article if you’d like to learn more.

When to Sharpen the Blades 

It’s best to sharpen your mower blades (or get them sharpened by a professional) twice a year. You could do this in early spring and late summer/early fall. 

Mower Blades

There are certain circumstances that may mean that you need to sharpen the blades more often. For example, if you accidentally run your mower over rocks or other objects, that will probably lead to the blade getting damaged and dull. 

When to Clean the Undercarriage

You should clean the undercarriage of your lawn mower periodically over the entire growing season. So, all spring, summer, and into the fall when you’re mowing, you should sometimes clean the undercarriage. 

Mower Deck / Undercarriage

A time when you need to clean your mower’s undercarriage is if you ever mow wet grass.

That is because wet grass sticks to your mower and can cause problems if it is left there. 

Factors that Impact Your Lawn Mower Maintenance Needs 

Of course, your mower’s exact maintenance requirements will be affected by certain factors. I’ll talk about them below. 

  • The Size of Your Mower – If you have a typical push mower, you can probably do most or even all of the tune-ups and maintenance yourself. However, if you have a large riding mower, you will need the help of a technician for certain tasks. 
  • How Often You Use the Mower –Like with any other piece of machinery or equipment, how often you use your mower plays a part in how often you will need to do tune-ups. In the growing season of the spring and summer, you will probably need to mow your lawn once a week. If you use your mower more often than that, you might have to do more maintenance. 
  • The Size and Condition of Your Property – Of course, the size of your property plays a major part in the length of each mowing session, and therefore the wear and tear on the machine. So, if you have an exceptionally large property, you should be more fastidious about mower maintenance and probably step up the frequency with which you do most of the tasks we’ve talked about. 

The Elements of Lawn Mower Servicing 

Let’s talk about each of the elements of our lawn mower tune-up schedule in detail. You’ll notice that I give each task a DIY difficulty rating from 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest and 5 the most difficult. 

Mower Maintenance TaskDIY Difficulty Rating
[1 = Easiest, 5 = Most Difficult]
Oil Change2
Spark Plug Replacement2
Air Filter Cleaning or Replacement1
Carburetor Cleaning4
Gas Stabilization1
Blade Sharpening3
Undercarriage / Deck Cleaning1

Oil Change 

Lawn Chick’s DIY Difficulty Rating for changing the oil in your mower: 2 out of 5

Mower Oil Change Guide

The oil in your lawn mower is essential for it to work optimally. At minimum, you should change the oil in your mower once a year. This isn’t a problem for most homeowners, as it’s easy and inexpensive to do. 

How to Do an Oil Change 

Every mower has its own specifications and requirements, so check the manual that came with it before you proceed with any kind of maintenance (including the right way to perform an oil change). 

Here are the basic steps of doing an oil change in lawn mowers: 

  1. Drain all of the gasoline from your lawn mower (this is optional, but some people recommend it). 
  2. Disconnect the spark plug wire (good safety practice). 
  3. Check to see if your lawn mower has an oil drain plug. Some lawn mowers, especially larger ones and riding mowers, will have an oil drain plug. Smaller walk-behind mowers generally don’t have one of these plugs. If your lawn mower has an oil drain plug, pull the plug and drain the oil into a pan or container,  like you would with a car. If your lawn mower doesn’t have an oil drain plug, tip your mower on its side, being sure to keep the carburetor on the raised side, and drain all of the oil out of the mower. In a push mower, this is usually done right through the hole where the dipstick is where you add oil. This type of mower is almost always built with the carb on the other side. 
  4. After you’ve drained out the old oil, tilt your mower upright
  5. Add the new, clean oil using a funnel
  6. Put the fill plug back into the mower’s crankcase, screwing it securely in place. 

Important Safety Considerations 

You need to disconnect the spark plug wire before you do your oil change. This will protect you from any potential danger. 

Tools/Materials Required 

  • A catch pan into which you’ll drain the old oil 
  • Old cardboard to soak up any oil that falls outside of the pan 
  • New oil that is the appropriate type to use in your mower (check the mower manual) 
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Socket wrench
  • Funnel 

My Tip for Success 

You should change the oil before you put your mower into storage, but you also need to change it after every 50 hours or so of use. 

You can check the oil in your mower by checking the dipstick and seeing the color of the oil. If the oil is a dark amber color and looks clean, it doesn’t need to be changed before you mow. 

An exception to this is if the oil is at a low level. If that happens, you need to add some oil to get it to the correct level. If the oil looks dirty, however, you need to drain it and put in new oil. 

Spark Plug Replacement

Lawn Chick gives changing your mower’s spark plug a DIY Difficulty Rating of 2 out of 5 

Mower Spark Plug Replacement Guide

You should change the spark plug in your mower once or twice annually. How often you need to do this depends on how often you use your mower and how long each mowing session is. 

Most experts recommend that you change your mower spark plug every 25 to 30 hours of use. After that period of use, you should check your spark plug to see if it needs replacement. 

Of course, you may also need to change your spark plug if your mower won’t start. In fact, a bad or worn out spark plug is one of the most common causes of a mower not starting

How to Change Your Mower’s Spark Plug 

Here is how to change your lawn mower spark plug, step by step. 

  1. Unplug the spark plug wire. 
  2. Remove the old spark plug with a spark plug wrench or socket. You probably don’t have a socket long enough for this task in your current set, so make sure to buy a new one. Check your mower’s manual for information on what size to buy. 
  3. Put the new plug in the socket, making sure that you don’t tighten it down too much. If you overtighten the spark plug, your lawn mower might not start. It’s best to make the plug just beyond finger tight. 

Important Safety Considerations 

Carefully read and follow the precautions that the lawn mower manufacturer lists in the product manual. Remember to unplug the spark plug wire before you try to take out and replace the spark plug. 

Wait a while after turning off the mower before you try to replace the spark plug. It’s crucial that it be completely cooled down, so that you don’t burn yourself. 

Tools/Materials Required 

  • Spark plug socket wrench 
  • A gap tool
  • Spark plug gauge 

My Tip for Success

If you don’t have a spark plug socket wrench, you may be able to use a box-end wrench to remove the current spark plug from your mower (if the size is able to fit over the spark plug). 

Air Filter Cleaning 

Lawn Chick gives air filter cleaning or replacement a DIY Difficulty Rating of 1 out of 5 

How to Clean or Replace Your Mower's Air Filter

It’s important to clean your mower’s air filter on a regular basis. Remember that the filter picks up a lot of dirt and dust, especially if you live in a dry, dusty climate or your lawn has bare spots. A dirty air filter will put more stress on your mower and waste gas. 

It’s really important to make sure that your mower is able to access clean air during operation. That is why a well-maintained air filter is essential. 

How to Clean Your Mower’s Air Filter 

It’s easy to clean your mower’s air filter. You need to follow the instructions that came with your lawn mower about how to get this job done. 

If you have a paper filter, cleaning is easy. In most cases, the right way to clean a mower filter is simply to hit the filter against a flat surface. This will dislodge any dirt. 

Check the instructions that came with your mower about how to take out the filter and put it back in again. 

Foam air filters require a bit more work to clean. After taking off the air filter cover and taking out the filters, wash them with water and soap. 

Then, use clean water to rinse them. Gently squeeze the foam filters to remove as much water as you can, and then leave them to dry completely before re-installing them. 

Important Safety Considerations 

Depending on how dirty your mower air filter may be, you could be concerned about breathing in any of the dirt that comes out of it during cleaning. If so, you can wear a dust mask. 

If you have foam filters and wash them, make sure they are fully dry before you attempt to put them back in the mower. 

Tools/Materials Required to Clean the Air Filter in Your Lawn Mower 

If you have a paper filter, you won’t need any extra tools or materials to clean it. You just need to knock it against a flat surface and shake out the dirt. Often, it’s easier (and better) to just buy a new one – they’re about $8 and available at every local hardware and box store.

However, foam filters need to be washed with soap and water. 

My Tip for Success 

When you go to clean the air filter, check it for damage. If you notice any damage, you need to replace it. 

Air Filter Replacement 

You should replace the filter in your mower annually. You should clean it regularly during the course of the year. 

It’s a good idea to have a couple of new air filters on hand at all times.  

How to Replace Your Mower’s Air Filter

Different mowers have their own instructions for how to replace their air filters. Refer to the product manual that came with your machine to find out the steps to follow. 

It is usually simple and easy to change the air filter on a typical walk-behind mower. In many cases, you won’t even need tools. 

  1. Pop off the filter case cover with your fingers. 
  2. Insert the new air filter, pressing it in. 
  3. Put the case cover back on. 
  4. Check the instructions that are included in your mower’s manual again, making sure that you have done everything necessary. 

Important Safety Considerations 

You need to keep your safety top of mind when you do anything with your lawn mower, and that includes changing the air filter. So, make sure that you read and follow the instructions for changing the filter that are included in the manual that came with your mower. 

Tools/Materials Required 

The tools and materials you need for changing the air filter on your mower will depend on the type of mower you have. If you have a push-behind mower that doesn’t need tools to change the filter, you won’t need any tools. 

With many other mowers, however, you might need items such as pliers, Philips screwdriver, and/or a flat head screwdriver. 

Of course, no matter what kind of mower you have, you will need a new filter to install. Make sure it is the right type for your mower brand and model. 

My Tip for Success

Different mowers require specific replacement filters, so make sure you have the right one. Don’t waste your time (and money) purchasing the wrong filter and trying to do filter replacement the wrong way. Know your mower.

Carburetor Cleaning

Lawn Chick gives cleaning your mower’s carburetor a DIY Difficulty Rating of 4 out of 5

Mower Carburetor Cleaning

It’s important to keep your mower’s carburetor clean so that it keeps running efficiently and doesn’t get clogged up. 

Carburetors accumulate deposits that can lead to them getting clogged up to the point where fuel and air cannot circulate. This is disastrous for your mower. That is why it is so important to keep the carburetor clean. 

How to Clean Your Mower’s Carburetor

As I mentioned before, different mower models have their own instructions for how to do carburetor cleaning. 

Make sure that you check the manual that came with your mower before you proceed with this task. However, there are certain basic steps that are usually involved. I’ll go over them below. 

  1. Turn off your mower, let it cool down, and then clean the outside. Turn off the machine and give it time to cool down. Then, clean the outside area of your mower’s engine. It’s important to do your carburetor cleaning in a well-lit place and that you keep everything organized. You don’t want to risk losing any small parts. 
  2. Take out the air filter. You will need to take out the air filter so that you can access your mower’s carburetor. In most mowers, the filter is right above the carburetor. 
  3. Take out the carburetor. Make sure that you wear a thick pair of gloves for this step. Remove the carburetor from your mower. This is necessary so that you can clean all the pieces inside the component. Use a carburetor cleaner spray to clean the carburetor’s exterior and throat. To remove the carburetor, you will need a socket set or nut driver. You will need one of those tools to take out the bolts that keep the carburetor secured to the mower’s engine. You will need to have a bowl or bucket ready to catch fuel that will come out when you detach the fuel lines from the carburetor housing’s “nipples” using needle-nose pliers. At this point, you will have disconnected the carburetor. After that, take it off its mounting studs. Be gentle, so you don’t end up damaging the main gasket (which is placed between the engine and carburetor). 
  4. Put the carburetor in a bucket. This will make sure that any fuel that comes from it won’t create a mess. 
  5. Take the carburetor apart. Remember to look carefully at your carburetor before you take it apart, so you can remember where everything goes. I recommend taking photos at every stage of the process, so you can easily swipe back through as you re-assemble it later.
  6. Use a carburetor cleaner. If you’re using a spray carburetor cleaner, you can directly spray it on the parts of the carburetor, as well as the carburetor housing. Make sure to follow the instructions that come on the cleaner can about how to use it correctly. Liquid carburetor cleaners need to be used differently. Follow the instructions that come on the cleaner packaging and put the liquid into a bucket. Then put the carburetor parts in and let them soak. Once you’ve let the parts soak for the time specified by the cleaner manufacturer, it’s time to rinse them off. After that, you can allow them to air dry or if you’re in a hurry, you can use compressed air to dry them. 
  7. Put the carburetor back together. Once the carburetor housing and parts are completely dry, you can put the carburetor back together. 
  8. Re-attach the carburetor to the mower. After you have put the carburetor back together and have made sure that you have done so correctly, you can mount it back onto the lawn mower. Get the throttle and choke linkage cables reattached.

Once those things are done, get the fuel lines reinstalled and then fasten the carburetor’s bolts. After that, put the air filter back into the mower. 

Tools/Materials Required to Clean the Carburetor

  • Gloves
  • Carburetor cleaner (spray or liquid)
  • Bucket
  • Socket set or nut driver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Water
  • Compressed air 

My Tip for Success

Take pictures of your carburetor before you take it apart. That way, if you have trouble remembering how it goes together when it comes to time to reassemble it, you can refer to those images. 

Gas Stabilization 

Lawn Chick gives gas stabilization a DIY Difficulty Rating of 1 out of 5

How to Stabilize Mower Fuel

You need to add stabilizer to fuel if you’re putting your mower in storage for 30 days or longer. That is why it’s an essential part of mower winterizing. 

It’s important to add stabilizer to the fuel in your mower just before you put it in storage for the winter. This will stop the fuel from going bad, and it can remain effective for as long as 24 months. 

How to Stabilize the Gas In Your Mower 

Here are the steps to follow to stabilize the gas in your mower before putting the machine in storage for the winter. 

  1. Put a fuel stabilizer in the gas tank of your mower. 
  2. Let the mower run a bit. This will allow the stabilizer to make its way through your mower’s system. 
  3. Turn off the mower and leave it to cool. 
  4. Once the engine has completely cooled down, drain excess gas using a siphon pump. Direct it into a can. Make sure that the gas tank is still about 90% full. 
  5. Start up the mower again, and let it continue running. Let it stop on its own. Keep repeating this process until the engine won’t start anymore. Make sure there is nothing in the fuel lines. 

Tools/Materials Required 

  • Fuel stabilizer 
  • Siphon hose 
  • Bucket
  • Gloves 

My Tip for Success

Run the mower for between 5 and 10 minutes after you add the stabilizer. This will make sure that it gets to the cylinder, all through the fuel lines, and the carburetor. 

Mower Blade Sharpening 

Lawn Chick gives Mower Blade Sharpening a DIY Difficulty Rating of 3 out of 5

Mower Blade Sharpening Guide

If your mower’s blades aren’t as sharp as they should be, they won’t cut your grass evenly and can even cause damage to your lawn. That is because dull blades tear at the grass instead of cleanly cutting it. 

A lawn mower can’t perform at its best and keep your grass in good condition without well-sharpened blades. Don’t underestimate how fast your mower’s blades can get dull, especially if they ever come into contact with hard, blunt objects on your lawn, such as sticks, roots, and rocks. 

Many homeowners prefer getting a professional to sharpen their mower blades for them. If you’re not handy and don’t feel comfortable trying to do this task yourself, I recommend going to the pros. 

If you want to try sharpening your blade yourself, you will have to be careful and make sure you know what you’re doing. Carefully read the instructions that came with your mower for more information. 

Metal files and angle grinders are some of the tools that people use to sharpen their mower blades, but if you attempt this, make sure you do it correctly and safely. Doing it incorrectly and without the proper precautions can be dangerous and could damage your blades. 

LawnChick gives mower blade sharpening a DIY Difficulty Rating of 3 for most average mowers. However, you have to know how to do this safely and shouldn’t take any chances. If you have any doubts, get help from a pro. 

How to Sharpen Your Mower’s Blades 

In many cases, the best idea is getting a professional to sharpen the blades on your mower. However, if you have a simple walk-behind mower and want to do the blade sharpening yourself, you can certainly do so. 

If you want to sharpen your mower blades yourself and you’ve never done it before, make sure that you know the right way of getting it done and stay safe as you proceed. For obvious reasons, blade sharpening is a lot riskier than most of the other mower maintenance tasks I’ve gone over here. Make sure you wear thick, protective gloves and safety glasses at all times. 

Here are the steps involved in sharpening the blades of many walk-behind lawn mowers. 

  1. Disconnect your mower’s power source. If you have a gas mower, disconnect its spark plug wire. If you have an electric mower, disconnect its power source (whether that’s a power cord, or batteries). 
  2. Put on your protective safety glasses and gloves. 
  3. Drain all the gas from the mower’s gas tanks. This is important to prevent spills. 
  4. Position your mower on its side. Ensure that its carburetor and air filter are facing upwards. 
  5. Use a grease pencil or permanent marker to put a mark on the bottom of the blade. This is important because it will help you re-install the blade the right way after you sharpen it. 
  6. You need to identify the nut that secures the blade to your mower’s drive shaft. Once you find it, use a wrench or a ratchet or socket to loosen that nut. Take out that nut. If you can’t because there is rust or the components are stuck, put on a penetrating oil. Let it soak for several hours, and then try again. This is the step that requires extreme care and caution to avoid injury.
  7. Once you have the blade loose, continue handling it carefully. Use a microfiber cloth or a rag to clean it off (making sure you wear thick, protective gloves throughout the process, of course). 
  8. Secure the mower blade by clamping it into a vise. Alternatively, you could secure it on a worktable. 
  9. Sharpen the blade using a metal file. If you want to sharpen it by machine, use an angle grinder, bench grinder, or blade sharpener. 

Important Safety Considerations 

You must protect yourself and stay safe during the blade sharpening process. Remember to protect your eyes and hands. 

You must wear safety glasses with side protection and thick work gloves for the entire process of removing your mower blade, sharpening it, and re-installing it. You need to make sure that you don’t end up with a serious injury. 

Tools/Materials Required 

  • Safety glasses with protective sides 
  • Thick work gloves
  • Metal file or machine sharpening equipment, such as an angle grinder, bench grinder, or blade sharpener. 
  • Wrench or a racket or socket to loosen the nut
  • Microfiber cloth or rag 

My Tip for Success

Remember that you need to replace your mower blade on a regular basis. In most cases, you should replace mower blades once a year. 

Undercarriage Cleaning 

Lawn Chick gives Cleaning your Mower Undercarriage a DIY Difficulty Rating of 1 out of 5

How to Clean Your Mower Deck and Undercarriage

Many homeowners make the mistake of neglecting their mower’s undercarriage. This is a significant error, as this part of the machine needs cleaning to keep your mower running as its best. 

If you ever mow wet grass, you’re likely to end up with grass caked on the underside of your mower and clogging up the discharge chute. 

Plus, if you leave wet grass on the undercarriage, your mower could end up with rust on the deck and blades. 

How difficult it is to clean your undercarriage depends on what kind of mower you have. Do you have a smaller, push mower? If so, this is an easy task that I give a DIY difficulty rating of 1. 

However, the situation is completely different if you have a larger, riding mower. In that case, I wouldn’t even recommend trying to get this done yourself. Get some help from the professionals. 

How to Clean Your Mower’s Undercarriage 

If you have a regular push mower, you can clean its undercarriage yourself. Here are the steps involved. 

  1. Unplug the spark plug wire.
  2. Tip the mower on its side. 
  3. Use a wire brush to scrape the grass clippings and dirt off the undercarriage. Be careful that you don’t end up scratching the painted finish, as that could lead to rusting. 
  4. After you’ve scraped off most of the buildup, spray the undercarriage off with a hose. This will get rid of any remaining debris. 
  5. Let the undercarriage of your mower dry. 

Important Safety Considerations 

If you have a riding mower, you cannot clean the undercarriage yourself. You will need to get help from the professionals. 

If you’re unsure whether or not it is safe to clean the undercarriage of your specific mower, check the user manual that came with the machine. 

Tools/Materials Required 

  • Hose and water 
  • Wire brush

My Tip for Success 

Clean your undercarriage on a regular basis, especially if you sometimes mow the lawn when there is morning dew or moisture from rain on it. That way, you will avoid ending up with thick buildup that is more difficult to remove. 

Store Your Mower the Right Way 

As well as doing regular mower maintenance, it is also important to store your machine so that it is protected from the elements. 

Taking good care of your lawn mower doesn’t stop when the mowing season ends. You need to keep your mower protected all year round. 

When storing your lawn mower for long periods of time (such as during the winter), make sure to drain the gasoline first. If you leave old gasoline sitting in your lawn mower, you may find the machine won’t start when mowing season comes around. 

It’s also a good idea to buy gas that is ethanol-free. While it’s more expensive, you can let this type of gasoline stay in your mower all year without having to worry about it going bad. For me, it’s worth the extra money (at least early in the spring and late in the fall). 

If you’ve forgotten to remove the gas from your mower before storing it and then it won’t start when you need to use it, you will need to drain the bad gas. 

How to Drain Bad Gas From Your Mower 

Here are the steps to follow to drain bad gas from your mower. 

  • Read your lawn mower owner’s manual and look for information on how to get inside your mower’s fuel tank to clean it out. Make sure you follow those instructions. 
  • Remove the gas from your gas tank. Siphon all of the old gas into a container. 
  • Once all of the old gas has been removed, put new gas into your mower. 
  • Make sure your mower’s spark plug is installed correctly. Verify that it hasn’t come loose, and be certain that the spark plug wire is all the way in. 
  • Start slow as you start your lawn mower. If you notice a strong smell of gas, you have probably flooded your carburetor. 

Why is Lawn Mower Maintenance Important? 

All of this sounds like a lot of work, so maybe you’re wondering why it’s so important to maintain and tune-up your lawn mower. Well, I can assure you that the time you spend tuning up your lawn mower is a necessary investment. 

DIY Mower Tune Up

If you don’t maintain your mower, you will find that it won’t perform as well as it should. Also, it is unlikely to last as long as it would have otherwise. Not doing the right lawn mower maintenance can also lead to a damaged lawn. 

Anyone Can DIY Their Mower Tune-Ups

As I’ve demonstrated here, anyone can learn how to service a lawn mower themselves, and most mower maintenance tasks are pretty easy to DIY with the right tools and guidance.

Use the guide and annual lawn mower tune-up schedule I’ve provided here to guide you in keeping your mower in top-notch condition, and if you feel intimidated or overwhelmed by any of the projects on this list, there’s absolutely no shame in hiring a pro at a local small engine repair shop to service your lawn mower for you.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.


Additional Resources
  • The 10 Steps of Lawn Mower Maintenance by Marcus Garner, Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities Extension (link)
  • Mowers and Mowing Safety by Sam Bauer, Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension (link)


Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

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