Written by: Clive Harris
Petrol lawn mowers are a popular choice because they are more powerful than electric mowers and cordless mowers. They also offer a clean, efficient cut and an all-round better mowing experience.
If you’re thinking about buying one of the best petrol lawn mowers recommended on our list, take a look at the following tips to help you make an informed purchase.
Self Propelled Petrol Mowers vs Manual Push Petrol Lawn Mowers
A self propelled lawn mower uses engine power to achieve forward motion – the alternative is you having to push it manually. The best self propelled petrol mowers are great if you have a large area to mow or uneven lawns and slopes. They also tend to work well on long grass, bumpy lawns and damp grass. Self propelled petrol models require a larger engine and will be more expensive. They also tend to be heavier and larger.
A push mower will be sufficient if you have a flat, even lawn and rarely need to cut long, overgrown areas. The blades are powered by the petrol engine but the mower is pushed by hand with no help from the motor. These petrol mowers are usually smaller and lighter than self-propelled ones. They offer excellent maneuverability in small- to medium-sized gardens; especially useful when cutting around flower beds and features.
Sizing Up Your New Petrol Lawn Mower
The Cutting Deck
When it comes to petrol lawn mowers, the size of the cutting deck affects how much grass gets cut at a time.
Most lawn mowers will have a cutting deck of between 40 – 53 cm.
A smaller deck will be suitable for smaller gardens, especially if there are a lot of obstacles to mow around. For large gardens, a larger steel deck will get the job done quicker.
The Grass Collector
Having to keep stopping to empty the clippings bag or box can be a nuisance. If you plan on collecting clippings, choose a mower with a larger collector to cut down on the time spent emptying it.
Grass collectors can range in size, generally having a capacity between 40 L to 70 L. Depending on the size of your lawn, a smaller capacity might be sufficient; however, if you have a larger space you may have to empty the collector too often if it’s on the small side.
An extra thing to bear in mind: if the lawn mower has a ‘mulching‘ feature, you can eject mulched grass onto the lawn instead of collecting it. If you’re happy to use mulch clippings on the ground as fertiliser, it won’t matter what size the grass collector is as you won’t need to use it.
The Mower Itself
It’s worth considering where you’re planning to store your mower whilst choosing which model to buy. Some may be much larger than others and you don’t want any unexpected surprises on the day you introduce your beautiful new mower to your shed or garage.
Some petrol lawn mowers (but not all) have foldable handles. This reduces the space they take up in storage. It can make them a lot easier to store, so take note of whether or not the mower you’re looking at has collapsible handles.
Other than that, your best bet is to check the specifications of the mower you’re looking to buy, and physically measure out how much space it will take up in the shed. This helps visualise the situation, as some mowers may be much larger than you think!
Choosing the Right Starting Mechanism For You
Some of the best petrol mowers have an electric start to ensure they start reliably every time. Mowers with an electric start have a rechargeable battery to support this mechanism, so you will have to remember to charge this. Most also have a standard pull-start as well, in case the battery isn’t charged.
Other petrol lawn mowers can have an automatic choke, which makes sure the engine receives the right balance of fuel and air, for reliable starting.
Finally, there is the more ‘traditional’ way of starting a petrol engine: priming and pulling. Generally, you will need to press the priming bulb slowly around three times to deliver fuel to the carburettor, then pull the starting cord to get the engine going.
See here for more information about how to start a petrol lawn mower.
Choosing a Petrol Lawn Mower with the Right Cutting Settings
Petrol lawn mowers have a variety of cutting heights usually measured in millimetres. These vary between models and some petrol mowers cut lower than others.
You may wish to check how close a shave your mower can give, especially if you want a bowling-green finish to your lawn. Most of the time it’s easy to change the cutting height setting using a simple lever. Although, very occasionally, mowers have a more complicated mechanism so it’s a good idea to check.
Equally, if you’re not as worried about having a lot of height choices, you can find a mower with less height-cutting range and it may work out cheaper.
How to Fuel Your Petrol Lawn Mower
Always use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer and ensure it is fresh. Unleaded petrol goes stale after three months and your mower will be more difficult to start with old fuel.
If your mower has a two-stroke engine, the motor oil will need to be mixed in with the fuel. If it has a four-stroke engine, there will be a separate compartment for the oil.
Again, you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific machine. With two-stroke engines the ratio of fuel to oil tends to be 40:1.
If using a four-stroke mower, check the oil level before every use and top it up if necessary.
See here for more detail on what oil to use in a petrol lawn mower.
Cleaning and Mulching Accessories You May Want
Some petrol lawn mowers include additional features such as a mulching plug and/or cleaning accessories.
A mulching plug will shred the clippings into tiny pieces before discharging them onto your lawn. This helps to fertilise your lawn and maintain moisture. This is an especially good feature if you often cut long grass which would go sodden and brown if left on the lawn without mulching.
If a petrol lawn mower has a hose attachment then cleaning the underside deck becomes much easier. This makes it possible to simply hook up a hose in order to flush out and clean the cutting deck.
It’s essential to regularly clean your petrol mower if you are going to get many years of use out of your machine. As a result, a mower with a hose attachment makes the process of cleaning much simpler.
How to Maintain & Look After Your New Petrol Mower
Despite lasting for many years, most petrol lawn mowers require occasional repairs. Check that the brand you choose has spare parts available. Take note of the following suggestions to keep your mower in good shape after each use:
- Check all bolts and screws regularly to make sure they are not loose or missing. Check the wheels to make sure they are not loose or wobbly.
- Clean the underside of the mower after each use with water; grass cuttings left on the metal parts may damage them. When cleaning and checking the machine deck, always lift the mower up from the front. Turning the mower on its side can allow fuel to flow into the air filter. This will cause difficulty in starting and excessive smoke.
- Clean the cutting blades of your machine regularly and have them sharpened or replace them as necessary.
- Clean the grass bag or box. If this becomes clogged it may block air flow or cause poor collection.
- If your mower is self-propelled check the drive belt regularly. Take off the belt cover, remove grass and debris and check that the drive belt is in good order and properly adjusted.
- Check the air filter and spark plugs and clean or replace if necessary.
- Check the oil regularly and fill it up if it’s running low.
A Word About Routine Servicing
Petrol lawn mowers need regular servicing, much like a car, to keep them working well for years. You can do this yourself (see here to learn how) or have someone do it for you. Many lawnmowers offer a 3-year guarantee, so this is worth looking out for.
Firstly, as mentioned above, you don’t want to spend hours choosing the best mower only for it not to fit in your shed.
Folding handles help with storage, and measuring out a space for the lawn mower before you buy it can be invaluable.
When winter comes, and it’s time to store your mower, drain the fuel from the tank or run the engine to burn off any remaining fuel.
Always store the mower on a level surface. Do no lean it against a wall or hang it from a hook – this may cause oil to seep into unwanted parts of the engine.
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