How to Know When You Need a New Lawn Mower

A carbon-coated spark plug can make for hard starting, and so can old gas or a plugged carburetor. All are easy to fix.

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I had a friend who used to pick up “broken” lawn mowers from the curb on trash day. He must have rescued half a dozen mowers and most of the time the needed repairs were minor. How minor? Like changing-a-spark-plug minor. A carbon-coated spark plug can make for hard starting, and so can old gas or a plugged carburetor. All are easy to fix. The same with replacing broken cables, belts or pull cords—all do-able by the average DIYer.

Other times, a lawn mower has more serious problems, like a bent shaft from hitting a rock, a cracked body from being dropped, or internal engine problems. That’s when you have to ask yourself if it’s worth fixing. Whether to spring for a repair depends on a few things. How old is the mower? If it’s more than a decade old, it might be time to think about buying a new lawn mower. Mowers have become more efficient over the years, so there are benefits to buying new. Another consideration is how expensive was your mower to begin with? If it’s one of those $149 get-you-in-the-door specials, any repair over $75 is going to be foolish.

Riding mowers, of course, are a different story. Because they have a much higher price point—in the thousands of dollars—repairs costing several hundred dollars are often worth it. But if your riding mower’s engine is shot, then it might pay to get a new riding lawn mower rather than sinking any more money into the old one. Follow these lawn tractor maintenance tips to keep it humming along smoothly.

Sometimes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so experts recommend a few things: change the air filter and spark plug annually, keep the cutting blade sharp, and change the oil after 25 hours of use (about one mowing season). Also, add a fuel stabilizer at the end of the mowing season to keep gas from going bad and causing issues with starting.

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Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.