Zero Turning Radius Mower Maintenance

Richard L. Parish  |  12/18/2004 1:14:55 AM

Zero Turning Radius (zero turning radius) mowers, like all lawnmowers, operate in a dirty environment. They are exposed to dust, dirt, vegetative waste such as clippings and weed seeds, mud, water, sunshine and sometimes rain. Proper and regular maintenance is needed to keep your mower operating at top efficiency and minimize costly repairs and downtime.

Air Filters
Every engine requires abundant clean air. This can be a real challenge for a Zero Turning Radius mower since the engine rides low and at the rear of a machine that tends to kick up lots of dust, chaff and trash if the turf and ground are dry. Frequency of cleaning or replacing your air filter will depend on your operating conditions as well as the type of filtration you have. Some mowers are equipped with optional high capacity air filters and require less service. The more common type of filtration is a pleated paper primary filter surrounded by an oil-impregnated foam prefilter (Figure  1). The prefilter catches much of the dirt and needs service more frequently than the primary filter. Under very dusty conditions, the foam prefilter may need to be changed or cleaned twice a day. If you maintain the prefilter properly, the primary filter may need replacement only after every five to 10 prefilter changes. Be sure to blow off the filter area before servicing filters so you do not introduce dirt into the engine.

Engine Oil
Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. Change it at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer -- and oftener under dusty conditions. Use the oil recommended by the manufacturer, and change the filter with every oil change (Figure 2). Check your oil level at least daily and add oil as needed. Again, be careful not to introduce dirt.

Hydraulic Oil
Hydraulic oil is the lifeblood of your hydrostatic transmissions. Cleanliness is even more important than with engine oil. Check your transmission oil daily and add the correct oil as needed. Be careful not to introduce dirt. Change your oil and filter at the recommended intervals. Be sure to use the recommended weight of oil. If your mower has a hydraulic oil cooler, keep it clean.

Fuel
Some old farm tractors carried a label that said “Buy clean fuel and keep it clean.” That is still good advice. You will probably be buying good, clean fuel, but it is important to keep it clean. You normally gas up your car or truck at a service station under clean conditions, but you probably buy and store fuel for your mower. Store it in a clean and closed container, then be sure not to get any dirt into the fuel or fuel tank when transferring it to the mower. It is easy to dump dirt from the top of a fuel can into the mower fuel tank. It is also important to change fuel filters on the mower regularly (Figure 3).

Lubrication
Most Zero Turning Radius mowers have several grease fittings that need to be greased regularly. Fortunately, the lubrication interval on many Zero Turning Radius mowers has been increased to the point that you may need to grease your mower only once a week – and perhaps less often for some fittings. You should follow your manufacturer’s recommendations regarding frequency and type of grease to use. Don’t neglect the grease fittings in hard-to-get-at places like the deck drive shaft. If it is hard to get at to grease, think how difficult it will be to replace.

Deck Maintenance
Grass clippings are corrosive. They also impede flow if they build up under your deck. A well-designed deck operating in dry grass will not have a problem with buildup under the deck, but if clippings do build up, you will need to clean them out. Blowing the deck out with air is one good way to remove clippings, but the deck still needs to be washed occasionally to remove stubborn buildup. The top of the deck is perhaps more important than the bottom. The top of many decks tends to trap more clippings than the underside and must be cleaned out often to avoid corrosion.

Overall Protection
Zero Turning Radius mowers are not cheap. You have a major investment in your mower; it is wise to keep it inside out of the weather when not in use. Both rain and sunshine will cause deterioration of the mower finish and of many mower components.

If you take care of your Zero Turning Radius mower, it should give you many hours of faithful service.

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