Guide to Lawn Mower Safety and Maintenance

Before using a new lawn mower, it’s important to understand the basics of proper operation and maintenance. Doing so will keep everyone safe and help you get the most out of your investment.

Are Lawn Mowers Safe to Use?

Since millions of people use lawn mowers, it’s easy to have a false sense of security about them. Yes, lawn mowers are safe when you use and maintain them properly. However, gas-powered walk-behind mowers, which are the most common models, do present some hazards. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than 60,000 people are treated in emergency rooms every year after being injured while mowing the lawn. That why we recommend that you refresh your memory about important lawn mower safety protocols before starting yours up for the year.

Are Lawn Mowers Safe for Kids?

Since they are powerful machines used by adults, lawn mowers attract the interest of many kids. Given the significant safety hazards posed by these machines, however, children under 12 should not be permitted to operate them. Children under 16 should not be allowed to operate riding lawn mowers. Even when they are old enough, parents should ensure that kids follow all safety protocols while mowing the lawn.

Lawn Mower Safety Tips

Stay safe while whipping your yard into shape with the following lawn mower safety tips:

  • Read the owner’s manual for the lawn mower you will use, including operating instructions and safety tips.
  • Never allow children under 12 to operate any lawn mower. Children under 16 should not be permitted to use riding lawn mowers.
  • Only mow the lawn during the day, and make sure the grass is dry.
  • Wear protective gear to avoid mishaps while mowing the lawn, including fitted clothes, long pants, sturdy shoes, and gloves.
  • Shield yourself from flying debris and loud noises with protective eyewear and earplugs.
  • Before starting, walk through the yard removing sticks, pine cones, rocks, and other debris that could turn into hazardous projectiles while you mow.
  • Also, before mowing, make sure that there are no children or pets in the area.
  • Never disable any safety features on your lawn mower.
  • Do not operate a lawn mower while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications with warning labels about operating heavy machinery.
  • Always shut off the lawn mower before doing things like adjusting the mower height, removing the grass catcher, clearing the grass chute, or performing other repairs.
  • Never allow passengers on riding lawn mowers.
  • Take extra care when operating a lawn mower on hills and inclines. When using a push mower, mow across the incline for optimal safety.
  • Allow the engine to cool completely before adding more fuel. You can avoid this issue by checking the fuel and topping it off before getting started.
  • Always turn off the engine on a riding lawn mower before getting off.
  • Never insert your hands or feet into the mower to clear grass and other debris even if it is turned off. Instead, use a broom handle or stick.
  • Never lift a lawn mower from the bottom.
  • Always turn off the lawn mower before crossing sidewalks and driveways.
  • While operating a lawn mower, always keep your gaze 3 to 4 feet ahead of you.
  • Keep all four wheels of the mower down at all times; never tilt it.
  • Do not pull the lawn mower toward you. Instead, if you miss a spot, go back and mow it again.
  • Stay clear of the hot engine; the muffler can get as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

When Should I Take My Lawn Mower for Maintenance?

Ideally, you should tune up your lawn mower after every 25 hours of use or every three months, whichever comes first.

Most types of lawn mower maintenance are easy enough for the average owner to handle. However, some prefer leaving the work to the professionals. Many companies offer lawn mower maintenance packages that take the guesswork out of keeping your lawn mower in tip-top shape.

Here’s a maintenance to-do list for performing a tune-up of your lawn mower:

  • Change the engine oil – Push mowers have 15 to 18 ounces of oil capacity. Change the oil every 50 hours or annually, whichever comes first. Riding mowers have a capacity of 48 to 64 ounces. Change the oil every 100 hours or annually, whichever comes first. Always follow instructions from the owner’s manual, including recommended oil type, when changing the oil. You can dispose of old oil at local municipal recycling centers and many auto shops.
  • Change the spark plug – Swap out the spark plug on your mower to ensure that it keeps starting quickly.
  • Replace or clean the air filter – Follow instructions from your owner’s manual to replace or clean the air filter.
  • Clean the undercarriage – With the mower off and spark plugs removed, place it on its side. Use a brush to clear away caked-on old grass and other debris. Spray down the area with a hose, and allow it to dry.
  • Add fuel stabilizer – It’s important to use fresh gasoline when mowing the lawn. Gas can start going bad within 30 days, so consider adding a fuel stabilizer to the tank to prolong its life and protect the engine.
  • Check fasteners and wheels – Look over all fasteners and wheels, tightening hardware as needed to keep everything in good shape.
  • Fog the engine – If you won’t be using the mower for an extended period, for instance, over the winter, drain all the gas and spray fogging oil into the carburetors and cylinders to protect them. Otherwise, lubricants in the engine will drain away, and water in the air can cause corrosion and other damage.
  • Sharpen the blade – Dull blades can tear grass, leaving it susceptible to infection and damage from insects and the sun. If your mower has reel blades, it’s best to let professionals sharpen them. If it has a rotary blade, you may be able to sharpen it yourself using a grindstone, file, or bench grinder. Hold the blade at a 45-degree angle while sharpening it, and use goggles, gloves, and other safety equipment.

How Often Should I Replace My Lawn Mower Blade?

During regular tune-ups, examine your lawn mower blade. If there are cracks or other damage, sharpening it more won’t help; replace it instead. Otherwise, plan on replacing your lawn mower blade about once a year. It may last longer if you are conscientious about sharpening it regularly, so keep up with its routine maintenance to get as much use out of the blade as possible.

A Great Lawn Starts With a Well-Maintained Lawn Mower

To keep your yard looking terrific throughout the year, you should mow it regularly. Since mowing the lawn is a fact of life, it pays to take steps to keep your machine in good working order. Whether you take it to a repair shop or do the work yourself, regular tune-ups will let you squeeze as much use out of your lawn mower as possible, giving you the best bang for your buck. Knowing how to use it safely and effectively will prevent injuries and produce better results. True Value has everything you need to make the most of your lawn mower, so find a store near you to get started today.