Lawnmower

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A Testament to Preventive Maintenance

When I bought my house in 1989, the lawnmower I owned at the time had no frills at all. It had certainly seen better days, although it still ran pretty well. But when fall rolled around, I found myself looking at all the mowers on clearance at a big-box store, and my wife convinced me to invest in a new one. Even though I knew I could keep my old one running longer if I continued to maintain it, I bit the bullet and bought a new self-propelled model.

My new lawnmower hit the turf in early 1990 and ran faithfully for the next quarter-century. Early in my career I did an article on mowers, and one of the engineers at the company I visited gave me some tips on lawnmower care. He said leaving clippings stuck to the underside of the mower promotes corrosion that can eat through the deck long before a well-maintained motor wears out. His advice was to apply cooking spray to the underside of the mower deck to keep grass clippings from accumulating, and then hose them off after each mowing.

The cooking spray worked great, and even if I skipped hosing the mower once in awhile, it was easy to blast away the clippings next time. When the clippings became harder to hose off, another shot of cooking spray kept them from sticking.

Unfortunately, regular maintenance of the engine, combined with keeping the undercarriage clean, can only go so far. The control cable on the mower eventually broke, and I had no luck finding a new one for a 25-year-old off-brand mower. Guess that was one part I overlooked in my preventive maintenance.

So now I have a new mower—bought from a dealer this time, rather than from a big-box store. With it came personalized service, including detailed operating and safety instructions and advice on using cooking spray. I patiently listened to the advice and pretended I hadn’t heard it before.

The story would normally end here, but I thought I’d share what happened when I used the mower for the first time this year. I cut the grass on a sunny Saturday morning…and two inches of snow had collected on the lawn by dinner time. Fortunately, that’s all we got, so I didn’t have to pull out my 15-year-old snowblower.

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