What to look for in a new lawn mower
We are over a month into the lawn mowing season. Some of you may be in the market for a new lawn mower for various reason. Below are some considerations for when purchasing a new lawnmower.
Types of Push Mowers for Different Landscapes
The size of your lawn is a factor in choosing a push mower that's right for you, but also consider the terrain and obstacles, such as trees and flower beds. If your lawn is larger than 1/2 acre, you might want to think about choosing a riding mower.
Gas Push Mowers
Gas mowers are a good choice for larger yards up to 1/2 acre in size. A gas mower provides more power than an electric mower and doesn't have the restriction of a battery charge or power cord. Most crank with a pull start, but some feature an electric starter that eliminates the need to use the pull cord. Gas mowers need the right fuel — follow the manufacturer's requirements and read Fueling Power Equipment for tips on keeping your machine running properly.
Shop for Gas Push Mowers
While traditional push mowers can be a good choice for lawns up to 1/3 acre, if you have a larger yard, hilly terrain or want to mow with less effort, consider a self-propelled mower. There are three types to choose from:
Front-wheel drive mowers are good for level terrain. Since the drive wheels are in front, they allow you to tip up and turn the mower more easily than some other drive systems.
Rear-wheel drive provides more traction at the center of the mower, helping you mow hilly terrain more easily. Some models allow you to disengage the drive system, giving you the turning ability of a FWD model.
All-wheel drive models provide power to all four wheels, giving you benefits in both level and hilly yards.
Push Mower Features and Options
Once you've decided on the type of mower that best suits your lawn, look for features and options that make the work more efficient:
Voltage on a cordless mower and amps on a corded mower both indicate power output. Higher measurements mean more power.
A dual-battery system on a cordless mower extends the cutting time.
Engine torque measures — in foot-pounds. The force that keeps the mower blades spinning. Higher torque offers a better cut in tall or thick grass.
Engine displacement describes the size of the cylinder in a gasoline engine. Manufacturers measure displacement in cubic centimeters . A higher cc measurement means a more powerful engine that can handle heavier cutting.
A no-prime engine lets you start a gas mower more quickly and easily.
Cut width indicates how wide a swath of grass you can mow in a single pass.
A self-propelled mower is either single-speed or variable-speed. A variable speed mower lets you set your own pace. You can control the speed of some mowers with either hand.
A blade brake clutch stops the blade from spinning but allows the engine to keep running. This feature lets you empty the grass collection bag without restarting the mower.
Dual- or single-lever height adjustment makes changing the height of the cut easier than adjusting a lever at each wheel.
Large rear wheels and front caster wheels make a mower more maneuverable.
A deck wash port connects to a garden hose to help you clean the underside of the cutting deck.
Electric Push Mowers
Electric push mowers are effective for relatively flat lawns measuring 1/3 acre of less. They start with the flip of a switch and are quieter and run cleaner than gas push mowers.
Cordless mowers feature rechargeable batteries and give you more mobility than corded models. Lithium ion batteries with higher voltages — 40 or 80 volts — give you a longer run time than lower-voltage models. Charge times vary by battery and charger, ranging from 30 minutes for quick-charge batteries to 2 or 3 hours.
Corded mowers don't require recharging, offering unlimited runtime. However, the power cord restricts the operating area, making it a challenge to mow large lawns or those with trees or other obstructions. Corded mowers require a suitable extension cord. Follow the device manufacturer's specifications for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.
Good to Know
Some cordless mowers use batteries that can also power equipment such as string trimmers, hedge trimmers, blowers and chainsaws. If you have several compatible devices, you can use one battery while others are charging.
Manual lawn mowers or reel mowers are a good option if you have a small, flat yard and don't want to rely on power cords, batteries or gasoline, a reel mower is an option. This type can be effective with lawns 1/3 acre or smaller, but a smaller cutting width means more time and exertion. As the operator pushes the mower, a set of rotating knives — the reel — spins against a fixed blade. The cutting action is similar to that of scissors. These mowers can give a cleaner cut than power mowers. Push reel mowers are also emissions-free and quiet. However, you may need to mow more often since they struggle in taller grass.
Handling Grass Clippings
The design of the cutting deck on a mower determines where grass clippings go as you cut.
Side-discharge mowers direct the clippings back out onto the lawn — helpful if you have grass that is coarse or tall. If the clippings are thick, you need to rake them up and dispose of them.
Mowers with bagging systems collect clippings, keeping your lawn looking clean without raking and reducing the spread of weed seeds. In the fall they're also useful for clearing leaves. Keep in mind that emptying the bag — especially for large or tall lawns — adds time to your mowing and you must dispose of the clippings.
Mulching mowers have decks designed to contain the clippings, allowing the blade to cut them to a smaller size. The clippings fall onto the lawn as mulch to add nutrients to the soil. Mulching works well if you mow regularly and the grass isn't too tall.
Many mowers quickly convert between these configurations so you can choose the one that works best for your lawn or for the conditions each time you mow.
Push Mower Maintenance Considerations
Cleaning and blade care are necessary for the best performance and longevity of any mower, but there are additional maintenance requirements based on mower type. Reel mowers have a set of knives you need to sharpen by hand and that are not as easy to replace as blades on other mowers. Cordless mowers and some gas mowers require battery care. All gas mowers need regular oil, air filter and spark plug changes. They have additional requirements for winter storage.
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