Maintaining your zero turn mower should always be your priority because it prolongs its natural lifespan. This is especially true during the mowing season, when your lawn mower is obviously going to be accruing the most wear and tear.
First things first
Before you get down to the cleaning process, ensure that you keep your zero turn mower properly maintained.
Check your mower regularly for leaks. This sounds like common sense, but you’ll be surprised how often this crucial part of the process is overlooked. Leaking fluid is not only obviously something that needs to be repaired, but if it gets out of hand, it’ll make the internal components of your zero turn mower a nightmare to clean, and could affect the exterior as well.
It’s also important to check your blades. If they’re bent or damaged in any way, it could cause a number of problems, including metallic debris to flake off and make trouble down the road, not only leading to cleaning difficulty but more serious issues as well.
It’s also important to store your mower indoors in a dry setting. Even if it’s not actively raining outside, moisture can still lead to corrosion over time, which will make your mower difficult to clean; down the line, corrosion can even reduce your mower’s functionality and degrade components, so this is an important part of the maintenance process that is essential and will lead to an overall cleaner mower over the years.
Follow the rest of the maintenance in your owner’s manual regularly and keep a log of maintenance to ensure you get the best use out of your zero turn lawn mower.
When to clean vs. when to replace?
There are certain internal components on your zero turn mower that you can and should keep clean, such as your air filters. However, other dirty components should be replaced instead of cleaned.
Here is a simple list of the components you should replace instead of clean:
- Secondary filters
- Spark plugs
- Oiler filter
- Fuel filter
- Drain old fuel and replace with new fuel (do not keep fuel in your mower during the off season, and ensure the carburetor and fuel lines are empty as well for best results)
Some people are confused about how to approach a dirty air filter. Generally, it can be cleaned. (I will detail how to do that below.) But if there is any major issue with the filter, that needs to be addressed with a complete replacement.
How to clean under your mower deck
Cleaning under your mower deck is one of the most important things you need to do to maintain your mower during the mowing season. If you don’t, grass clippings and debris will build up and harden, which will only make it more difficult to clean when the time comes. You’re going to want to clean the deck of the mower at least twice during the mowing season, and more as needed.
Figure out the best and safest way to get access to the underside of your mower deck. This varies more than you might imagine, so I’m not going to give particulars on that, since there’s no one universal answer. Even on the same mower, two different people might have two different ways of accessing the deck, and some mowers even have easy-access features.
Once you have achieved mower deck access, the real cleaning begins.
Start by spraying underneath the deck to shake loose grass clippings or loose dirt. You may be tempted to power wash your deck, but DO NOT DO THIS. I can’t stress this enough. Pressure washing your deck can cause problems, including opening it up to an increased likelihood of corrosion. You can use a regular garden hose at its highest pressure setting, but genuine pressure washing is a no-go.
If your deck is only minimally dirty, simply scrubbing it with a scrub brush and some good ol’ fashioned soap and water will do the trick. Obviously, this isn’t going to work if you have large amounts of caked on mud, though, which means you’re going to have to take some more aggressive measures.
For caked on mud, always go for the putty knife. Putty knives are useful, versatile and often-overlooked tools. And believe me, when it comes to cleaning your zero turn mower’s deck, they’ll get the job done. Scrape all the gunk off, being careful not to harm the finish and then use soap and water as the final touch. (Always be sure to thoroughly dry your deck after washing to prevent rusting.)
Another thing to avoid is using Pam, lubricants are any other products in an effort to make your under-deck stay cleaner longer. This is a waste of time and may damage some components. Simply clean your deck as needed and you’re good to go.
How to clean your air filter
If your air filter is severely dirty or damaged in any way, take the safe route and replace it altogether. If it’s only mildly dirty, cleaning it is the way to go and it’s pretty easy to do. Simply blow the paper air filter with low-pressure compressed air. It gets the job done quickly without risking damage to your filter.
How to keep your zero turn lawn mower exterior clean
Cleaning the outside of your lawnmower is also a must, because even if it looks visibly clean, it’s not. It’s been amongst the dust and the grass all summer, so it definitely needs a wash.
Before you get to work cleaning, you want to ensure there are no chips in your mower’s paint finish. Chips may not be a big deal to you cosmetically, but they are an open invitation for rust to set in. Paint over all chips and let them dry thoroughly—then, you can move on to the cleaning process.
The best cleaning product to use on your mower’s exterior is mild detergent or soap. Don’t be tempted to use anything harsher, because you want the paint finish to last. The goal isn’t to sanitize any plant diseases or other germs; the goal is to wash them off as well as visible dirt and grass. Use only low-pressure water and carefully dry with a non-abrasive towel when done. Ensure your mower is 100% dry before storage to prevent rusting.