Caring for Power Equipment

You can do much of the maintenance work on power tools yourself, with the help of the owner’s manual and this section. When in doubt as to whether your machinery requires professional attention, consult When to Take Your Engine to a Repair Shop.


All power equipment, whether electrical or gasoline, should be wiped with a clean rag after each use. Pay particular attention to the cooling fins on gasoline engines where grass clippings tend to get trapped. Always clean carefully around the openings for gasoline and oil so that when the caps are removed debris won’t fall into the tanks.


Whenever metal moves against metal, it needs to be kept lubricated—oiled or greased—so that the parts can move freely. Lubrication prevents engine wear, so if you want your engine to last you must keep to a strict lubrication schedule.

All your garden equipment, whether powered by gas or electricity, requires lubrication. Engine oil lubricates the internal parts; other oils help keep external surfaces and parts rust-free and operating smoothly.

Grease is oil that is thickened with a special soap; it is used to lubricate moving parts that run at high temperatures. Your owner’s manual gives detailed instructions for lubricating your particular piece of equipment. Many types of grease are available, but “general-purpose” grease is what most types of garden equipment require.

Since grease attracts and holds dirt, use it primarily in areas where it will be covered—for example, inside the wheel housing on lawn mowers, rotary tillers, and garden tractors. Check your owner’s manual for information on specific points that need to be greased as well as frequency of application.

Larger pieces of equipment have several grease fittings at different locations on the machine (see your owner’s manual to find out where). These fittings are small, nipple-like projections, all of a standard size. Fit the tip of the grease gun over them; then pump grease into that area to lubricate the moving parts. Wipe the nipples clean before and after applying the grease, or else you may shoot dirt and grit into the machinery.