Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance - Gilford Hardware & Outdoor Power Equipment

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

Spring has sprung and you walk to your garage to pull out a trusty piece of Outdoor Power Equipment to do some quick landscaping. You prime it, and start pulling the recoil starter. It doesn't start. We've all been there!  In this Article we will go over everything that you need to know about the most common ways to Keep your outdoor power equipment in good shape to keep it running at peak performance.

Quality Outdoor Power Equipment can be expensive. It doesn't matter if you purchased the least expensive piece of power equipment or a $19,000 Scag Turf-Tiger, you want it to start up and work!  Proper Maintenance of your equipment is a crucial step for keeping your Outdoor Power Equipment running smoothly and efficiently for a long time. 

Outdoor Power Equipment: Keep It Squeaky Clean!

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

The first thing you should do is clean your Outdoor Power Equipment. Why? Well as we all know Outdoor Power Equipment is built to get DIRTY! Cleaning your outdoor power tools on a regular basis will keep them free of the dust and debris that can cause breakdowns and other problems. It can also help your equipment last longer, saving you money on maintenance and new purchases.. Cleaning your Outdoor Power Equipment will also help you get a better look at every nook-and-cranny of the equipment to see if there is anything damaged, cracked, broken or stuck that could affect it's overall performance. 

How to Properly Clean your Outdoor Power Equipment

Cleaning Outdoor Power Equipment is easy, all you will need is some microfiber cloths, a scrubber brush stiff & soft and common mild dish-soap or a degreaser. 

1.) Stop the engine and let the machine cool down before cleaning it.

2.) Use a brush with stiff bristles scrubber brush or a scraper to get any dirt, grass clippings, or other debris off of the equipment.

3.) Take out your trusty garden hose and turn on the water. Give the Outdoor Power Equipment a thorough wash, while being careful not to get water into any electrical parts. This will wash off all a majority of the debris, dust and dirt. 

4.) Next, It's time to get rid of those pesky dirty areas: Use a soft-bristled brush and a mild soap, like dish soap or degreaser to scrub any spots that are still dirty. 

5.) Fire the garden hose back up and give the Equipment a nice gentle shower. Get rid of all excess dirt, grime, clippings, soap or degreaser.

6.) Let air dry or use a microfiber cloth to dry off equipment. 

Protip: A pressure washer can do wonders for cleaning outdoor power equipment. If you have a lot of outdoor power equipment consider investing in a quality pressure washer. Pressure Washers are also great for cleaning mower decks because they have enough power to help peel away the caked up grass clippings which can accumulate.

Checkin' and Replacin' the Oil

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

Oil is responsible for lubricating the engines moving parts which reduces the friction and prevents damage. Running a piece of power equipment without or with very low levels of oil can be a very dangerous endeavor and cause long term issues and or complete failure. As the owner of an Outdoor Power Equipment store I can't tell you how many pieces of Outdoor Power Equipment that we have seen run without oil, It happens often!  I've seen $1,200 Honda Lawn Mowers become paper weights due to people forgetting to check the oil!  (and no, that isn't covered under warranty so be very careful!) 

Checking the Oil levels in Outdoor Power Equipment is Easy! 

1.)  Pull the dipstick out of the oil filler tube, clean it with a cloth, put it back in the tube, and then pull it out again.

2.) On the dipstick, the oil level should be between the "full" and "add" marks. If the oil level is low.. consult your owners manual to find out the proper type and amount of oil required. 

3.) Pour the oil in & re-check the dipstick for proper levels. 

Check and or Change the Oil Filter

If you had to change the oil, or add more oil it's always a good idea to change the oil filter as well. Oil will circulate through the engine as it's running, it can pick up debris, dirt, plastic and metal particles from the interior of the engine which can cause damage and reduce the effectiveness and performance. An Oil filter is made to filter and trap these contaminants and debris from the engine oil, and prevent them from damaging the engine. 

The best way to change the oil filter is by reading your owners manual and contacting a local parts dealer to find a replacement. They are generally plug-and-play so with a little bit of technical knowledge and elbow grease you can easily change the filter yourself. 

Air Filter: Hey, You Sold me a Snow Blower without an Air Filter!

Small engines, like the ones in lawn mowers, chainsaws, and other outdoor power tools, need a steady flow of clean air to mix with the fuel and help it combust Over time, dirt and other particles can get stuck in the air filter, cutting off the flow of air to the engine and reducing its power. A dirty or clogged air filter can also let dirt and other particles into the engine, which can damage engine parts and shorten the life of the machine.

Checking the air filter to see if it looks dirty or clogged is an easy visual inspection. If the air filter is dirty, but doesn't look clogged or caked with dirt or debris, cleaning out the air filter with a garden hose to remove the debris and replacing it can work. If you know for a fact that you have been using the piece of equipment often and the air filter shows signs of holes, caked on debris, clogs, discoloration, then you should change it.  

The best way to change the Air filter is to look at the owner's manual and talk to a local small engine mechanic or Outdoor Power Equipment dealer about getting a new one. Most of them are plug-and-play, so if you know a little bit about how they work and put in a little effort, you can change the filter yourself.

Fuel: The Most Important Part

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

Ethanol: The Small Engine Killer 

Ethanol is a type of alcohol which is added to fuel to reduce emissions. Unfortunately Ethanol can do damage to a piece of outdoor power equipment. This is because ethanol can dissolve types of rubber and plastics which causes damage to gaskets, fuel lines, and other components. If Ethanol is left in the piece of equipment for a long time it can cause a buildup of deposits. This will reduce it's performance and increase the risk of engine damage.

Don't Worry! There's a Fix!

There are a couple ways to prevent or greatly reduce the amount of havoc which Ethanol can cause on a small engine. The first is purchasing an ethanol free fuel. There are a handful of companies which produce fuels which are specifically formulated for small engines (2-stroke, 4-stroke)  Typically the 2-Stroke formulas already have the oil mixed into the gas letting you easily pour-and-go. The four stroke mixes are usually just straight ethanol free fuel, meaning you will still have to mix it with oil before pouring it into your equipment. 

Adding a fuel stabilizer is always a good idea, this helps stabilize the fuel so it doesn't break down as fast. When putting away Outdoor Power Equipment for the winter or for a long time, it's best to run them until the fuel runs out and then drain the fuel tank.

Check The Hardware

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

Now that your Outdoor Power Equipment is squeeky clean and you've checked the oil, air filter, spark plug and fuel now it's time to do a final check of the hardware. Inspect the piece of equipment for stray, loose, missing or broken parts. Outdoor Power Equipment tends to vibrate while running which can cause parts to become lose after use. Check for loose nuts and fasteners, broken or bent parts, or anything that might seem "off" 

If it's something simple like replacing a bolt or a common part you should be able to do it yourself. If it's something more complex the best action is to contact a local dealer or small engine mechanic who can help you find and fix the issue. 

Replace The Consumables

Many pieces of Outdoor Power Equipment have heads, lines, blades, belt and chains which might need to be replaced. Depending on what type of piece of equipment you are trying to maintain, the best course of action is to find an OEM replacement part. This will ensure that the head, blade, line, belt, or chain will work properly with your equipment.

The Reason you want to get an OEM part and not a generic part for your equipment is simple: the equipment was built and engineered specifically to use that part. Using generic non-name brand chains, heads, lines, belts can have an affect on the performance. There are good brands out there which make quality replacement parts which aren't OEM like Oregon and a handful of others but overall it's a better choice in the long run to find an OEM replacement. 

Lubrication: Keep Em' Greased Up

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Power Equipment Maintenance

Outdoor power equipment needs to be properly lubricated for it to work well and last for a long time. Lubrication helps to reduce wear and tear by reducing friction between moving parts. Without proper lubrication, the parts of outdoor power equipment can wear out quickly, shortening the equipment's life and making repairs more expensive. Proper lubrication can protect against rust and corrosion and reduce wear and tear. This is especially important for equipment that is used outside and is exposed to the elements.

Different types of grease, oil, or spray lubricants are needed for different parts of outdoor power equipment. A couple examples would be grease for bearings, bar oil for a chainsaw or lubricant for hedge trimmer blades. It's important to use the right type and amount of lubricant because too much or too little can also damage the equipment. Find out how to lubricate your equipment the right way by reading the owner's manual.

Keep Your Outdoor Power Equipment Properly Maintained

In conclusion, your outdoor power equipment needs to be well taken care of to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. By using the tips and tricks in this ultimate guide, you can make sure your Outdoor Power Equipment is in great shape and ready to do any job outside. Regular maintenance, like cleaning and greasing and checking the oil, air filter, and hardware, is the best way to make your outdoor power equipment last longer and avoid expensive repairs. Don't let a broken piece of Outdoor Power Equipment ruin your landscaping plans. Instead, take care of your Equipment and get landscaping!

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The Gilford Hardware and Outdoor Power Equipment blog posts exclusively reflect the views of Gilford Hardware and Outdoor Power Equipment and do not necessarily reflect those of the device manufacturers. Please be aware that product availability, specifications, and suggested uses are subject to change. For the most recent details, always refer to the manufacturer's website and product manual.