Tractors and Riding Mowers - Spring Tune-Up and Maintenance

Have you ever wanted to repair your own mower or just wanted to understand more about the mechanics of your equipment and communicate better with your service team?

Extra bonus ____ points to consider the next time you purchase a new piece of equipment.    Note:  Rog, what is the reason for the line between bonus and points? 

Now you can perform your own Quality Assurance (QA) inspection on repair returns to insure you are getting what you pay for.  You will be surprised how much simpler repairs go when you know what questions to ask.

The following 15 step program will allow you to know what to repair and walk you through the “HOW TO” of making those repairs yourself before damage occurs from a worn or broken part turns a simple repair into a catastrophic repair.

This program eliminates those long waits in the spring time to get your equipment repaired.  That can mean real cash in your pocket by investing in a few minutes to learn how to maintain your equipment to the same level as the professionals.

1:  Visually inspect for broken, or damaged or worn components.  Inflate all four tires air pressure per the operator’s manual suggested tire pressure.

2:  For units equipped with gauge wheels on the deck - Check the wheels for wear, damage, or loose mounting hardware.  Replace or repair as needed.

3:  Grease or lubricate all lubrication points.  Most tractors and riders have a lubrication guide in the operator’s manual that will help you locate those points on your specific machine.

4:  Drain the engine oil.  Refill with recommended viscosity and type oil for your machine to the proper level.
(Avoid the common mistake of overfilling when performing an oil change.)
NOTE:  Most retailers that sell power equipment have the correct type of oil for your equipment.  If you are not sure what oil to purchase it is safe to stay with a known engine brand oil. ?

5:  Deck removal - On most modern equipment this process is easier than it may seem. This is also one of those secrets the pro’s don’t want you to know because it makes the next three inspections or repair steps so much easier.
(Follow procedures located in the operator’s manual)

6:  Examine the mower drive belt for cracks or damage.
NOTE: If wear or cracks are observed, replacement before breakage or failure occurs is very important.  This will avoid serious damage to the idler pulleys, belt tensioners and mounting hardware.  Many times Preventative Maintenance (P/M) in this area will not only save you lots of money in consequential repairs or damage, it will also save you from ongoing failures from damage which will occur if the belt was allowed to fail and then repair the damage.  The alignment of the belt tensioners and idlers is very critical (P/M)  P/M will insure the original factory alignment is maintained.

7:  Examine the transmission drive belt or with ZTR riding mowers the pump transaxles drive belt.

8:  Inspect and replace or sharpen and balance the blades.
(Did you know that maintaining a sharp blade can save up to 33% on the required amount of water to maintain your lawn?)
It will also remove those brown tips caused by cutting with a dull blade thereby improving the health of your lawn. A properly sharpened blade will also save on fuel consumption since it requires less horsepower to do the same job.
ATTN recommends the use of a blade holder and a torque wrench for the correct removal and installation of the blades.  These items are available at your local OPE retailer.
NOTE:  If you don’t have a grinder capable of sharpening your own blades, then it may be more convenient to take your blades to a local sharpening shop for sharpening and balancing services.  You may want to consider purchasing an extra set of blades.  This will allow exchange with sharpened blades without a special trip to the service facility.

Re-install the deck per the operator’s manual instruction for your specific unit.    Note: Rog, do you want to have them inspect the spindles and/or pulleys?

9:  Check the battery terminals for corrosion, damage or loose connections.
NOTE: Corrosion could indicate the start of battery problems.  One option is remove the battery and take it to your local auto parts store. They will be able to load test your battery and tell you if there are cells in the battery that are starting to fail and whether replacement is necessary.

This area of battery maintenance is also a critical area for (P/M) P/M.  Most tractors and riding mowers are equipped with an electric clutch and solenoids operated by the electrical system.  Allowing a battery to continue to operate with lower than normal voltage can cause higher amperage requirements during operation which can lead to electric clutch failure.  If not detected and corrected this will cost twice as much as a battery replacement and the battery will still require replacement after the other consequential repairs are made.

Reinstall the battery connecting the RED wire to the positive (+) battery terminal and the BLACK wire to the negative (--) terminal.

10:  One of the most common service issues in tractors and riding mowers that have not been used for several months is stale or contaminated fuel.  Any fuel that is over thirty days old should be drained and replaced with fresh fuel.  Condensation can develop resulting in contaminated fuel containing water and is a very common cause of fuel failure.  Even when the fuel has been stabilized for storage, stabilized fuel can cause engine problems. This is due to low octane ratings where the stabilized fuel has lost its original octane rating level, resulting in an incomplete burn of the fuel during the engine combustion process.  The results are low power, engine overheating and carbon buildup in the combustion chamber and spark plug.
NOTE:  Questionable fuel should be drained into a container and like used oil taken to a proper disposal station.  (Most auto parts centers have a waste disposal container for used oil and fuel recycle)

11:  Most tractors and riders are equipped with a replaceable in line fuel filter.  At the beginning of the season, replace this filter even if contaminants aren’t visible floating in your filter.  The restrictions can be trapped in the filter element and replacement is necessary for optimum performance and fuel flow to the carburetor.

12:  Remove the pre-filter and main stage filter if your unit is equipped with a dual stage air filtration system.  Replace both elements or if your unit is equipped with a single stage air filter, replace the filter element in accordance with the filter care instructions for your type of filter.
Caution:  Some machines are equipped with foam pre-filters and a paper main cartridge filter.  Usually this type of filtration should remain dry without filter lubrication. However there are other foam filter applications that require filter oil to be applied to the foam for adequate filtration performance.  It is important that replacement filters be serviced in accordance to the operator’s manual instruction for filter care on your specific machine.

13:  Refill your fuel tank with clean, fresh fuel and recheck your oil fill level.

14:   Starting the engine.  With most tractors and riding mowers it is necessary to disengage the PTO or mower blades engagement lever before attempting to start the machine.  In order to test the functionality of this safety feature,  now would be a good time to test your safety system by attempting to start the unit with the PTO on or the blade lever engaged.  With the clutch brake pedal depressed the starter should not work until the blade PTO or engagement lever is returned to the off position.  If your tractor functions in this manner you have just verified two important safety functions of your machine are working properly.
(The clutch brake depression  function and the safety interlock for the blades are necessary for correct starting of your machine.)   Note: Rog, I think this is what you mean to say?
The next step is testing the operator presence switch or seat switch.  Have your tractor or mower running,  the forward or reverse selection in neutral and the blades engaged or PTO on - now rise up off the seat.  The machine should shut off immediately as you leave the seat.  This function will insure machine shut down should the operator leave the seat while operating or mowing.

Some tractors are equipped with an ROS system (Reverse off switch).  Normally most tractors will shut off as soon as the reverse selection is made and the blades are engaged.
A machine equipped with the ROS selection on the ignition switch will allow the operator to select a position on the switch where reverse can be used while the blades are engaged when the selector is manually set in this position.
This safety function can also be tested by attempting to reverse the tractor while the blades are engaged and the ignition switch is set in the normal run position.  When reverse is attempted in this position and the blades engaged the engine should shut off immediately.  When the selector is set on the ROS position the engine should continue to run when reverse selection is used and all the blades are engaged.

NOTE:  If any of the functions in section 14 fail to perform as described in the operator’s manual for that specific machine, this machine should be inspected and repaired by a certified technician.

15:  Cutting operation and quality of cut check list.
: Blades sharp, balanced and straight.
: Tire pressure set equal on all four wheels to Mfg. specification.
: Engine RPM fast position running smooth, with blade engagement power.
: Gauge wheels properly set equal on both sides.
: Ground speed set according to blade speed.
(Note: too fast ground speed will cause poor quality of cut)


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