Safety Basics to Prep Power Yard Equipment for Spring
It's springtime! Time to get outside and do yard work. Here are 10 tips to keep your outdoor power equipment running safely and smoothly.
The snow is gone; spring is here. But before you fire up your outdoor power equipment after a long winter, here’s what you need to do.
Inspect Your Equipment
This should be your first step. Check for loose belts and broken parts. If your outdoor power equipment has tires or brakes, examine these for wear. Top off tire pressure and replace or adjust belts. If you’re not comfortable doing this work yourself, take it to a small engine repair shop for servicing. Better safe than sorry.
A cracked fuel line is one of the most common issues with outdoor power equipment taken out of storage. If your equipment cuts out and lacks power after the engine is running and warmed up, chances are you’ve got a cracked fuel line.
Clean Your Tools
If you didn’t clean your equipment in the fall before putting it away, it’s important to do now, as dirt and oil can build up over time. Regular cleaning will add efficiency and extend the lifespan of your tools. A leaf blower or compressed air hose and nozzle are great tools to remove dead grass and leaves from a lawn tractor or mower.
Review Owner’s Manual
If you’re an experienced homeowner who’s used the same tools for years, this tip probably isn’t necessary. But if you’re new to yard work, owner’s manuals are your best friend. They’ll teach you the best safety practices and procedures for your specific machines. Not to worry if you’ve lost your manual; it’s probably available online.
Check and Replace Spark Plugs, if Needed
Spark plugs should be changed once every season or two, and spring is a great time to do it. Old, misfiring spark plugs allow excessive gas into the exhaust system, reducing efficiency and increasing emissions. Remove the old plug with a socket wrench and replace with a new one. Don’t tighten spark plugs too much or you may strip the threads in the cylinder head. If this happens, threads can be re-established at a repair shop without taking the engine apart.
Before proceeding with this tip, it’s important you understand the different types of outdoor power equipment engines: two-stroke and four-stroke. Two strokes are common on smaller machines, and oil changes aren’t necessary because their fuel contains oil. On a four-stroke, oil rests in the engine crankcase and needs to be changed at least once per season.
If you’re unsure about your machine’s engine type, refer to the owner’s manual. With four-stroke equipment, remove the drain plug and empty the old oil into a pan. Refill with the oil type recommended by the manufacturer and dispose of old oil properly. Auto garages will often accept used oil, along with some municipal recycling facilities. Never pour old oil on the ground.
Lawn-mower blades get dull when they hit rocks, branches and other debris. Replacing or sharpening blades will leave your lawn looking better and help your mower last longer. If your blades are particularly beaten up, don’t bother sharpening them. New ones are relatively inexpensive, easy to install by an experienced person and offer top performance. Always drain the fuel, disconnect the spark plug wire and make sure the ignition switch is OFF before changing mower blades.
Drain Old Fuel
This is another tip best followed in the fall. But if you forgot to drain fuel from your equipment then, now is a good time. Gas loses potency after several months of storage, and attempting to burn old stuff can leave your machines running inefficiently or not starting at all. If there’s only a little old gas in the tank, dilute it by topping it off with new fuel. It’s not wise to burn an entire tank of old fuel unless it has been treated with a gasoline preservative.
It’s easy to spill when refueling one of your power tools, and gasoline on a hot engine is dangerous. If your machine’s tank isn’t big enough to accept the gas can nozzle, use a wide-mouth funnel. If spills happen, wait at least 15 minutes before restarting. This allows the gas a chance to evaporate. Never refuel a hot engine. Always let it cool for at least five minutes before refueling.
Wearing proper safety gear is probably the simplest but most important tip on this list. Make sure to put on solid footwear and long pants to protect against flying debris. Ear and eye protection are also a must. A screened face shield on a helmet is one of the best protections while using a string trimmer or brush cutter. The ventilation is great around your face and screened face shields provide superior protection. Keep bystanders (especially kids) at least 50 feet away when using any kind of trimmer, brush cutter or mower.
Use Equipment Responsibly
Bad things can happen when you use a tool for a job it wasn’t designed for. Make sure you’re being responsible with your equipment and only use it for intended tasks. If you’re unsure of your machine’s range of functions, refer to the owner’s manual.