Fun with Lawnmowers

I’ve been undergoing some major home improvements for the last year and a huge part of that includes yard and lawn work. In that time I have become overly acquainted with my lawnmower. No, I haven’t lost a fight with my lawnmower. At least not in the sense that I’m missing any fingers.

I won’t make this post an essay, but here are a few pointers, things I’ve learned, and pitfalls to avoid if you find yourself taking on homeowner responsibilities.

Don’t Pour Too Much Oil

If you pour too much oil into your car, it’ll simply overflow and leave a nice black puddle on your drive way and you’ll immediately know you messed up. Lawnmowers in all their wisdom were not designed this way. With a 2-stroke lawnmower it is possible to pour in too much oil and not know it.

What will happen is your lawn mower will run just fine, but spit out a huge cloud of black smoke until it burns through all the excess oil. Then my – er, your annoying neighbors will call the fire department.


Check your manual for the right amount of oil to use. If your borrowing a friends mower like I was, start with about 6 oz and continue to replace the oil as you use it up.

But if you do over pour…

If you over pour, the obvious solution is to drain out the excess oil. Easier said that done. Most lawnmowers’ oil pans do not have drain plugs on the bottom. do not turn the lawnmower upside down. This will get oil in components of the engine or carburetor and the mower will not run properly if it runs at all.

Instead, siphon the oil out. Elevate the lawnmower. If you don’t have a table or work bench, just use a few paint cans or two tool boxes like I did.

Old gasoline in the tank

If you mow your lawn frequently and cycle through gasoline on a regular basis then you can probably skip this section.

In my case, I ripped out all my old grass, did some home renovation, and about a year later started a new lawn, so I didn’t need to mow for a while. In that time the gasoline leftover in my lawnmower’s tank started to degrade.

When I attempted to mow my lawn the other morning the mower would start up like a champ, run for a few sections, and then die. What the hell, indeed. Carburetor issues aside, your gas is probably old and needs to be replaced.

Luckily draining your gasoline isn’t a pain in the ass. If your mower doesn’t have an actual drain plug, it probably has an exposed gas line. Just unplug one end and drain it in to another container. This old gasoline is bad for your mower, but probably won’t hurt if you pour it into your car’s gas tank, according to Briggs and Stratton.

Old gasoline in the fuel line

Congratulations, you just drained all the stale gasoline and put in some nice, new good stuff. Pull that cord and …. Same old. Your mower starts up, roars for a second, then dies again. What’s the deal Andrew?

You still have still got stale gas in your fuel lines.

You know that little red button on the bottom of your lawn mower that’s fun to push? That’s called your primer and it manually introduces more fuel into your carburetor. You need to flush that old fuel out of your lines. Only problem is your mower won’t stay on long enough to accomplish this.


Here’s what you need to do. As soon as you pull the cord on your mower and it starts roaring, hit the priming button every time your engine starts to sputter. This will keep the engine going. What you’re doing is forcing the gas out of your fuel line and into the engine. LISTEN. Every so often give the primer a rest, and see if the engine is able to run on its own. After 30-60 seconds, you will have burned through all the old gas in your lines, and you should be good to go.

Spark Plugs

Changing spark plugs on your lawnmower is much easier than doing it on your car, and cheaper, as most mowers only have one or two. If your mower is running but doesn’t sound too healthy or the exhaust smells horrible, you probably need to clean, re-gap, or replace your spark plugs.

Sometimes fuel deposits and oil can gunk up your spark plugs and they simply need to be cleaned so they can make a good spark.

If you examine the spark plug and it appears to be clean, make sure it’s actually sparking. Again, refer to Briggs and Stratton.

Lastly, you may simply need to re-gap your spark plugs. This happens on cars too. Check your manual for the proper ‘gappage’ as I call it. You’ll need a gap gauge to properly do this. They cost $5 at the auto shop.

Clear your lawn

Clear your lawn of anything that might get flicked up by the lawnmower, such as rocks, golf balls, Legos, etc. These things can cause some serious damage to people, pets, cars, or windows. In fact, just to be safe, might I recommend parking your car in the garage or a couple doors down for the next hour?

It also wouldn’t be very much fun if your dog got to the lawn before you did. Make sure to scour the lawn with a shovel and bucket, or you’ll find yourself in a shitty situation.

Alright, that’s it for now. Have fun and get mowin’!

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