Spring Outdoor Power Tool Tune Up

Changing Of the 'owers
After a long, cold winter with a ton of snow Spring is finally here. It got off to a slow start but temperatures have finally gotten high enough to work outside without freezing my tail off. It's the perfect time for the changing of the 'owers. Time to tune up and prepare my outdoor power equipment before the green really starts growing and to get my snow blower ready for storage. A few simple tasks once a year will help keep your mower and other equipment running smoothly for years. My lawn mower is getting close to 20 years old and has never needed service neither has my hand me down snow thrower which is over 20 years old.

Over winter I had to buy a new snow thrower, this spring I wound up getting a new lawn mower and I'm going to be using Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil in my outdoor power equipment for the first time.

Safety First

Things that have fast spinning blades aren't things you should take guesses with. Make sure you read and understand the safety precautions in the manuals for all your equipment. They may vary from model to model. Always disconnect the spark plug wire before doing any work on your outdoor power equipment to prevent the engine from accidentally starting. Spinning the blade on your mower can start the engine just like pulling on the starter cord can. Just grab the boot with your hand and pull it out. May be different on some models.

Outdoor Power Equipment Fuel Tips

You can avoid most major small engine problems by using good fuel and storing it properly.

Use Premium Gas

This is one tip I keep hearing from lawn care professionals as well as small engine mechanics. Use the premium unleaded gas from a major gas supplier, unless specified not to by your engine's operator manual. The increased octane isn't the benefit, it's the added detergents. All gas from quality sources contain additives that help keep the engine clean. Higher octane gas has more detergents. This advice seems to work. I've had small engines that were over 20 years old that were still running fine even though other parts of the machine broke and I've never had to use Carb cleaner or service the engines other than the regular maintenance schedule.

Use Fresh Fuel and Fuel Stabilizer

Unlike your car which gets refueled multiple times a month, that red canister in your garage you use to fuel up your mower and trimmer may only get refilled once or twice a season. After about 30 days gas starts to go bad. It not only loses it's ignition potential but it can retain water and develop deposits that can clog up your fuel lines and carburetor and possibly even cause corrosion.

The solution is to use a fuel stabilizer which will protect the fuel for up to 12 months. Fuel stabilizers also help minimize some of the issues with ethanol blended fuels which are becoming harder to avoid. If you can avoid them do so. Especially the E15 (or higher) blended fuels which your equipment manuals probably already tell you to avoid.

Pump out old gas

If you use a good fuel stabilizer it's not necessary to remove the old gas and there are a lot of good reasons to keep gas in the tank related to safety and protecting some of the components from drying out.

I try to pump out the gas when I remember to. It helps me keep the gas fresh. All my gas-powered equipment now use 4-cycle engines that don't require mixing oil with the gas. I pumped the gas out of my snow blower back into my storage tank and it'll get used in my mower and trimmer head. I always add fuel stabilizer whenever I buy new gas so I don't worry about the gas being too old.

My old snow blower had a 2-cycle engine that required a 50:1 gas to oil ratio. The auger broke this past winter and wasn't worth fixing so I bought a new model that doesn't require mixing oil in the gas. I gave my old gas to a relative that has a 2 cycle snow blower. Some of his garden equipment (trimmer, blower) also use a 50:1 mix so we pumped the gas out of his snow blower. That way in the winter fresh gas will be used in the snow thrower that isn't stretching the limits of the stabilizer.

When I was at Home Depot I picked up this Siphon Pump Kit to replace an old bulb type siphon pump that had cracked. The pump has some negative reviews but it's been working well for me so far. Because the pump requires two hands to operate it helps to have someone else around to keep the hoses in their place.

The pump can be used for oil or gas. After using it I rinse it out and spray some Royal Purple Maxfilm High Performance Multipurpose Synthetic Penetrating Spray Lubricant into the pump and pumped it a few times to distribute. This is the first time I've used this lubricant. I have this wheel that makes an annoying squeaking noise and WD-40 hasn't been lasting long enough so I bought a can of Maxfilm to try after reading some great things about Royal Purple's other oils.

Change The Oil

Next step is to change the oil. I try to change the oil in all my equipment at the same time because it saves me time and effort. The snow blower gets fresh oil for storage and the lawn mower and trimmer head get fresh oil for the season.

Some people recommend completely draining the oil before storage but I haven't had any issues with keeping the oil in the machine (fresh or used.) I never really know the last time I'm going to use my mower at the end of the season so it just kind of sits there until I need it again.

After draining the oil from the mower and screwing the drain plug back in is a good time to scrape and brush away any caked on dirt and debris from the underside of the mower deck.

I have a new mower this season and I was looking into synthetic oils because they generally offer better wear resistance and cooling which are important for air-cooled engines like those found in lawn mowers and trimmers. They also hold up better over time. I've seen one too many times that "they don't make things like they used to" and I want to do whatever I can to keep my new mower and snow thrower running as long as I can. The engines on my previous snow blower and mower are at least 20 years old and still run great.

One synthetic oil caught my attention was Royal Purple API-Licensed SAE 10W-30 High Performance Synthetic Motor Oil because of it had more reviews than any other synthetic motor oil on Amazon and the reviews were all very favorable. Doing some other research led me to believe it would be a good choice so I ordered a quart for my new mower and trimmer.

After doing a little more research and contacting Royal Purple directly I was advised that their Royal Purple HPS Street 10W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil with Synerlec would give me better wear protection. The API-Licensed oils have to meet stringent requirements from the American Petroleum Institute so as to not violate new vehicle warranties. The HPS oil is not API licensed which allows Royal Purple to formulate the oil to achieve the performance they want.

Royal Purple agreed to send me some review samples of their HPS oil for my mower and snow blower as well as a quart of Royal Purple High Performance Engine Break-in Oil which I'll use for the first 5 hours of my new lawn mower's life. The Break-In Oil is a conventional mineral oil with some additives specifically meant for the break-in period of engines. Synthetic oils offer too much wear protection to allow the piston rings to properly mate themselves to the cylinders.

I'll post more of my thoughts on Royal Purple's oils after I get to use them more. I gave the RP API licensed oil to a relative to use in his mower while I await the HPS and Break-In oil from Royal Purple. It's too soon to tell but after filling the mower with the Royal Purple 10w-30 the engine started up on the first pull and seemed to run very smooth. This was the first time the mower was started since last season and the spark plug hadn't been changed yet. It normally takes a few pulls to start this engine when it first comes out of storage.

Check Spark Plug and Other Filters

I've gone more than a season with the same spark plug in the past by removing them and cleaning the tips with emery cloth but spark plugs aren't that expensive and it's faster to just install a new one every season. Oregon and NGK spark plugs seemed to do a little better as far as life and starting but if the plugs are changed every year any spark plug that is recommended by the engine manufacturer should be fine.

Air filters are very important to change regularly on lawn equipment because so much dust is kicked up when using them. Most tend to have a replaceable paper filter as well as a washable foam pre-filter. They keep dirt that could damage the engine out while allowing air, which is important for combustion, coming in.

Some engines may also have fuel filters. Manuals recommend replacing them every year but I've been able to get away with changing them less often because I use good quality gas with detergents and the fuel stabilizers also help keep the gas clean.

Clean and Lube

With all the fluids, filters and spark plugs changed the final step is to give a quick cleaning to all the machines.

Dirt that accumulates on engines will reduce the cooling capacity and may contaminate the engine when you're adding fuel or oil. Other dirt may prematurely wear away the protective finish on other pats of the equipment causing it to rust.

Going over every thing with a stiff nylon brush to loosen dirt then a quick wiping with a damp microfiber cloth is all that's necessary and doesn't take much time.

A quick squirt of oil on all other moving parts like wheels, levers, folding handles, etc. keeps them moving freely and squeak free. This year I'm using the Royal Purple Maxfilm Spray Lubricant I purchased for the first time. So far it seems good but I'm more interested in how long it will last.

Now when this cold goes away again I'm ready for the gardening season.
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