By Donna Dolinar, Wyandotte County Extension Master Gardener since 2006
Like other cutting tools, the blades in riding mowers can lose sharpness due to friction and rust. Dull mowing blades do more harm to the lawn than good – the resulting ragged edges of the grass can brown.
Replacement also brings other benefits:
- Avoiding overaccumulation of grass clippings under the deck
- Reducing energy usage as cutting is done quicker
- Prevents tire ruts caused by running over the same spot again and again because of poor cutting performance
If you want to change the blades without removing the deck, first see if they only need sharpening rather than a complete replacement. If you remove the blades from their fittings, only work on one at a time and replace it carefully. It is very easy to put the blade in upside down.
- Select the right place – You will need a space large enough to maneuver and have all the tools you need handy (be sure to keep children and pets away). It should also be well lighted and ventilated. The space should be level to avoid any rolling or falling.
- Read – Review the owner’s manual. If you have any questions, contact the manufacturer.
- Tools – Before you start, be sure you have all the tools you need and each is the right tool and size for the project. It is frustrating and time consuming to be in the middle of a project and find you need to go to the hardware store.
- Park – Park the mower in the place you have selected. Set the parking brake. Turn off the engine and be sure it is very cool before you begin. Place a sturdy block behind the tires and another one in front of the tires.
Obviously, you will need a jack to raise and lower the mower. Be sure the jack is rated to handle more than the weight of the mower. Otherwise, the jack will release prematurely or buckle and you will have quite a mess. As you assemble all the items you will need to be successful, be sure to include jack stands. These are supports designed to hold the mower up while you work on it. It is best to use actual stands rather than jury rig something.
Traditional Riding Mower
- Base – Before placing your jack stands, look at the surface you are working on. You will probably need something sturdy to hold the jacks and stands in place to avoid slippage and accidents. A piece of plywood works very well. Just be sure you have a piece large enough for the whole area under the mower.
- Jack – Position the jack and raise the mower. When it is high enough to accommodate your jack stands, place the stands under each side of the axle. Be sure the stands are centered and secure. You don’t want any slippage. When they are in place, lock them down. Carefully lower the jack so that your machine is resting only on the jack stands. Don’t put that jack away because you will need it again.
Zero Turn Mower
- Raise the deck – To work on a zero turn, you need to get the deck as high as possible.
- Jack – When the deck is raised to its maximum, place the jack in the exact middle of the now raised deck.
- Raise – Now you can use the jack to get the front of the mower up. A good rule of thumb is about two feet from the ground. Insert jack stands so that each one is under one side of the deck. Be sure they are secure before you lower the jack so that the mower is now on the stands and not the jack. Keep the jack handy because you will need it to reverse the process when you are done.
Never tackle a project like this alone. Always have someone with you in case of an accident.
If you have never tried something like this before, contact a local shop that handles similar maintenance and ask if you can watch while they lift and lower a riding mower. Sometimes it takes a visual. Obviously, the shop owner will encourage you to bring the mower in for them to work on it, but some fix-it guys are happy to share knowledge and help where they can.
After you have completed your maintenance work, including cleaning the underside of any accumulated grass, reinsert the jack (unless you left it there) and raise the jack to the point that it again reaches the mower. When secure, remove the jack stands and slowly and carefully lower the mower to the ground.
Put away all your tools and supplies and be ready to mow.