The spring mowing season is here — and in many areas that means it’s time for your zero turn radius (ZTR) mower and your compact tractor to get back to work. Before you jump on the machine though, start with a service check and simple walkaround, so that you don’t have to worry about having your equipment fail when you need it most. As you do that, here are some spring mower maintenance tips that will help get this equipment ready for action.
Check the engine oil, transmission fluids and coolant to make sure they’re at the levels specified in your tractor’s or ZTR’s manual. You may also want to put some manufacturer recommended fuel additives into the tank to give your carburetor a cleaning after sitting through the winter.
If you properly treated your fuel with additives before storing it for the winter, some of your potential fuel worries may be avoided. Remove the fuel cap and look for signs of moisture under the cap and on the insides of the tank (above the fuel line). If no signs of moisture appear, proceed with start-up procedures. Should you find signs of moisture, it’s a good idea to drain the old fuel and start new.
Check Belts, Hoses, and Hydraulic Fittings:
Just like anything, your belts and hoses in your tractor or ZTR can crack or become worn over time. Catching issues like this early can help save you time and money later on. Checking hydraulic fittings and lines for signs of fluid leaks or seepage may prevent additional downtime as the mowing season progresses.
Check for Animals:
After a compact tractor or ZTR has been sitting for a while, the issue of whether any squirrels, chipmunks, mice, or any other rodents have nested in the equipment is a real concern, especially as a fire hazard. By lifting the hood and inspecting everything, you should be able to see into all of the small areas where those animals typically build their homes or nests. Whether you see anything or not, blowing out the air cleaner chamber to clean it is a good way to prevent losing equipment and more importantly, to prevent serious injury if it were to catch on fire.
Check the Battery:
Making sure that your battery on both machines is in good working order is an easy catch. Inspect the terminals for corrosion and check to make sure the cables are tight and there is no sign of loose hardware or electrical connections that may have been missed before storing for the winter. If needed, tighten terminals to be sure of a good connection. Since all batteries self discharge, even if you’re not using them, having a battery charger or trickle charger on hand will give you the peace of mind that you’re starting the season with a fully charged battery.
Adjust ZTR Hydrostat Transmissions:
As zero turn mowers age, their transmissions occasionally need to be readjusted. This helps to ensure that the levers for the transmissions come together evenly and that the mower won’t pull to the right or to the left. If it does start to do that, it could lead to excessive wear on one side or the other.
Check the Tires:
Changes in temperature during the winter can affect air pressure in your tires. That’s why it’s so important to check each tire and make sure that they’re at the recommended air pressures. This is an important factor in how the equipment will operate, but it’s especially true with ZTRs, because tire pressure controls the grass-cutting ability of the mower.
Sharpen and Check ZTR Blades:
Whether you sharpened your zero turn mower’s blades before you stored it for the winter or not, plan to do so before putting the mower to work for the spring. This will clean off any rust build-up or anything else that might be on the blades. It will also make sure that the blades are the best condition possible at the beginning of the season as opposed to potentially losing valuable time having to stop in the middle of a job.
Check ZTR Deck Height:
As part of your mower maintenance protocol, the beginning of the mowing season is also the time to check the deck height on your ZTR. Lower your deck in position and check deck height and blade height to make sure that when you set the blade at three inches that it’s actually cutting the grass at that height.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these steps yourself, take your compact tractor or zero turn mower to a qualified service department. Some dealers even offer a spring rollout check for a relatively low price.
It’s important to note that some of these same steps for mower maintenance should be followed for many attachments as well. Fluids, belts, and hoses should be checked and the air pressure in tires should be inspected prior to use. The main priority is that this type of maintenance is done at the beginning of spring, so you’re ready to provide the best service possible all season long.
Cathey is territory manager for KIOTI Tractor in Kansas, Okl. and eastern Texas. KIOTI supplies equipment to the U.S. and Canadian markets and offers a full line of compact tractors, utility vehicle, and zero turn mowers for residential and commercial use.