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Gardeners Prep Your Engines

By Paul Rodman (paulgrowNovember 27, 2007

Picture this scenario, the first nice spring day arrives. You’re going to get a head start on your yard work. The garden will be tilled and the grass cut before the day is done. You go to the garage and give the mower a pull, nothing! You pull again, nothing; again you give the cord a jerk, not even a sputter. @#$%&&%^ you scream, “Daddy, Mom says you shouldn’t use that kind of language”, says your son or daughter watching intently near by. This scene could have been avoided if you had taken a little time before putting your power equipment away in the fall

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Today’s yard and garden power equipment will give you years of dependable service if properly cared for. By taking a little time in the fall before storing it away for the winter you’ll be ready to go in the spring.


A brief explanation of some basic termalogy before we begin. Yarden equiotment is classified in 2 ways. Either 2 or 4 stroke or 2 or 4 cycle. For the home yardener, the terms are interchangeable. 2 stroke or 2 cycle means that the lubricating oil is mixed in with the gasoline. 4 cycle or 4 stroke indicates that there is a crankcase or separate reservoir for the lubricating oil.

Whether is be 2 or 4 cycle there is a few basic tasks that should be performed before storing for a long period of time.

Before each use check fuel and engine oil levels. Make sure all safety equipment and guards are working properly. Make sure you wear appropriate eye and hearing protection.

Safety Note: Before performing any work or inspections on power equipment make sure the spark plug wire is disconnected.

Fuel: You can either drain the tank or run the engine until all of the fuel is drained from the system. With the high prices of fuel today some folks opt to add a fuel stabilizer. This is a substance that prevents the fuel from deteriorating and clogging the fuel line and carburetor.

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Spark Plugs I replace all of the plugs on my equipment on an annual basis. The cost of a spark plug is low and the performance and dependability are worth it. Consult your manual for proper gap settings.

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4 Cycle Engine Oil: This is a good time to drain the crankcase and add new oil. Consult your owner’s manual for the correct oil.

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Chain Saws Follow the fuel instructions above. Top off the chain oil reservoir. Remove the chain and have sharpened or replaced. Inspect the chain bar for wear and replace if needed. Give it a through cleaning to remove any built up saw dust.

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Lawnmowers Again follow fuel and oil instructions. Turn the mower on its side and give the under side a good hosing to remove built up grass clippings. Inspect the blade for sharpness and nicks. Check to see if the blade is bent. Remove the blade and have it sharpened and balanced. An out of balance blade will cause excess vibration and can be dangerous. Replace if necessary.

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Roto Tillers Clean off caked on soil. Removed any tangled vines, string and roots from the tines. Check the oil in the gear box. Add if necessary per instruction manual. Check linkage if appropriate and adjust if needed.

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Blowers Inspect the screen over the air intake and clean. Check all screws for tightness. Make sure all nozzles are tight and fit together snugly.

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Before preforming and maintance or work on your power equipment consult your owners manual.
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Paul’s Garden Tip

If you’re like me I always have a hard time measuring 2 cycle oil when adding to the gas can. The measurements on the bottle are often hard to read. I have found that an old baby bottle works well for this task. They are marked in ounces and are easy to read. I keep several in the garage, they are also great for measuring weed killer and other liquids, they can be found for a dime or quarter at garage sales
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  About Paul Rodman  
Paul RodmanPaul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program. Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic web site. He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years. He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan. His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.

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