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Maintenance tips to keep your walk-behind mowers in top shape

June 15, 2022 -  By
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Experts believe that walk-behind mowers will continue to find their place in turf care, even with advancing technology in the coming years. (Photo: John Deere)

Experts believe that walk-behind mowers will continue to find their place in turf care, even with advancing technology in the coming years. (Photo: John Deere)

Even with the onset of automation and popularity of ride-on models, walk-behind mowers continue to occupy an important space among landscape professionals. Here, industry experts share thoughts with LM on proper maintenance and tips for keeping walk-behind equipment running smoothly throughout the year.

Brian Aldinger, product manager for commercial walk-behind mowers and wide-area mowers at John Deere, says not to underestimate the benefits of simply looking at the operator’s manual.

“Maintenance on the commercial walk-behind mower is very similar to the ZTrak (zero turn mower) and QuikTrak (stand-on mower),” he says. “The operator’s manual is a great resource to use for the recommended maintenance on machines. There are recommended service intervals according to engine hour intervals. Also, the operator’s manual contains a list of items to check and inspect before and after each use.”

A common misconception is that walk-behind mowers require less maintenance compared to other models, says Lenny Mangnall, product manager for Exmark.

Industry experts say maintenance components not to overlook with walk-behind mowers include regular oil changes and air filter cleanings. (Photo: Exmark)

Industry experts say maintenance components not to overlook with walk-behind mowers include regular oil changes and air filter cleanings. (Photo: Exmark)

“(Maintenance) is overlooked in many instances and sometimes (walk-behind mowers) are looked at as lesser equipment,” he says. “The feeling is that someone doesn’t have to be as vigilant in service and maintenance as they would on a (riding mower), and that’s just not true. The opposite may be true. When you look at engine placement, typically, the engine is much closer to the cutting deck and those operations in a walk-behind. It’s likely going to catch more debris, more dust and maybe run a bit hotter in some situations.”

Mangnall also cites regular oil changes and air filter cleaning as maintenance components that pros cannot overlook.

“When you get down in the 21- and 30-inch models, not all of them have engine oil filters,” he says. “Guys get into the mindset of, ‘when it burns oil, I’ll add oil.’ You can’t discount service and maintenance because it’s a walk-behind. You just can’t.

“A lot of times, (neglectful maintenance) occurs subconsciously,” Mangnall continues. “I don’t think people are consciously thinking, ‘I don’t have to maintain that.’ There can also be cost factors. You have a $1,700 21-inch mower. You have a $6,000 to $8,000 walk-behind and a $10,000-plus rider. So, maybe because of cost, you subconsciously lose thought of maintaining certain equipment.”

Climate specific needs, tech advancement

Across various climates and terrain, Mangnall says maintenance remains largely the same outside of service intervals. He says this is similar to automobiles. Algorithms in today’s vehicles look at how hard the vehicle runs and what conditions the vehicle operates in.

“The exact same thing holds true with turf equipment,” he says. “In the springtime, when you’re mowing heavier grass, you have to sharpen your blades more.”

Both Mangnall and Aldinger say walk-behind mowers will continue to find their place in turf care circles, even with advancing technology giving users more options.

“We see tech growing across the industry as a whole,” says Aldinger. “Having a robust technology solution is definitely an area on which John Deere is focused. As we look out five to 10 years, we’re excited about what the future holds and the potential of what we can bring to market to help our professional landscapers operate more efficiently.”

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