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How to service zero-turn mowers

October 12, 2020 -  By
Person servicing mower (Photo: Froio Lawn & Landscape)

Know your mow Operators can help tip off mechanics on when a mower needs maintenance. (Photo: Froio Lawn & Landscape)

When it comes to servicing a zero-turn mower, Nick Froio, owner of Froio’s Lawn & Landscape in West Chester, Pa., says zero-turns are similar in many ways to other mowers, but to keep them running, there are a few things mechanics and operators should keep in mind.

Froio, Paul Shrigley, shop manager for Quality Yard and Home Maintenance in Pataskala, Ohio, and Nick Miller, a mechanic at Schlabach’s Engine Repair in Millersburg, Ohio, offer some tips and tricks to keep zero-turns at their best.

Keep a close eye

Froio recommends changing the oil every 100 to 150 hours of operation, changing transmission fluid every 500 hours and checking tire pressure once a month.

“Bad (tire) pressure can give a funky cut from being off balance,” Froio says, whose company, Froio’s Lawn & Landscape, provides lawn maintenance and care, hardscape, tree care, irrigation and masonry for a primarily residential clientele. The company also does commercial snow and ice removal.

Shrigley says operators and mechanics should also inspect mower belts for cracking or wear.

“It’s pretty easy to inspect your belts, and it’s a lot easier to pop one on in the morning in the shop than in somebody’s front yard on a 90-degree day,” he says.

Shrigley and his team in Quality Yard and Home Maintenance’s shop check the company’s fleet of Exmark zero-turns for belt issues and replace blades weekly. Quality Yard and Home Maintenance provides lawn care, maintenance and landscaping, snow and ice removal, home maintenance and pest control for primarily residential clients.

Froio also recommends mechanics regularly check the forward- and back-motion hand controls of the zero-turn mower to ensure they are tight.

Sign on piece of equipment (Photo: Quality Yard and Home Maintenance)

Take care Signs on equipment is one way to encourage crews to handle it with care. (Photo: Quality Yard and Home Maintenance)

“They start to get loose as you use them,” he says. “If they get too loose, you can start driving in circles.”

Also, check gauge wheels or antiscalping wheels in the back of the mower every day as they can easily bend or break, and replace when necessary. Froio also suggests mechanics check for blown fuses and inspect seat switches to ensure they’re plugged in and not bypassed. They also should check power takeoff switches and change wires to ensure they aren’t cut or corroded.

What operators need to know

Keeping mowers clean helps keep zero-turns out of the shop, Miller adds. Schlabach’s Engine Repair services Hustler, Husqvarna, Walker Mowers and a few other brands.

“Wet grass creates conditions for rust to start forming, and debris caked on an engine traps heat and doesn’t allow for proper cooling,” Miller says.

Miller suggests using a leaf blower or air compressor to clean off the motor and deck after each use.

Froio suggests operators also keep a daily inspection checklist of crucial zero-turn checkpoints: oil, gas and fluid levels, belts and blades.

Operators should remember common sense items like not running the mower over rocks because the rocks can bend up blades, Shrigley says.

And, avoid wearing loose clothing while running a zero-turn mower, and take care when touching parts of the mower, Froio adds.

“Make sure the blades are disengaged before putting hands under it while running,” he says. “Don’t put your hand under the motor while running — it gets hot.”

Take care

Shrigley says he’s fortunate that some crew members have been running zero-turns for a long time and their experience helps him in the shop.

“We’ve got a couple that are so in tune with machines,” he says, noting they’ll tell him if a cut is off or if they hear a funny noise when the mower is running.

Shrigley encourages operators to look after their mowers. His company puts stickers that say “This equipment pays your salary … take care of it!” on its equipment to reinforce the point.

Christina Herrick

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