Even with the onset of automation and the popularity of ride-on models, walk-behind mowers continue to hold an important place among landscape professionals. Here, industry experts share their thoughts with ML on proper maintenance and tips to keep walk-behind equipment running smoothly all year round.
Brian Aldinger, product manager for commercial walk-behind mowers and large-area mowers at John Deeresays not to underestimate the benefits of simply consulting the operator’s manual.
“Commercial walk-behind mower maintenance is very similar to ZTrak (zero-turn mower) and QuikTrak (stand-on mower),” he says. “The operator’s manual is a great resource to use for recommended machine maintenance. There are recommended maintenance intervals based on engine hour intervals. In addition, the operator’s manual contains a list of items to check and inspect before and after each use.
A common misconception is that walk-behind mowers require less maintenance than other models, says Lenny Mangnall, product manager for Exmark.
“(Maintenance) is overlooked in many cases and sometimes (walk-behind mowers) are considered lesser equipment,” he says. “The feeling is that someone doesn’t need to be as diligent in service and maintenance as they would be on a (rider mower), and that’s just not true. The opposite can be true. When you look at engine placement, typically the engine is much closer to the mower deck and those operations in a walk-behind vehicle. It’s likely to catch more debris, more dust, and possibly heat up a little more in certain situations.
Mangnall also cites regular oil changes and air filter cleaning as maintenance items the pros can’t ignore.
“When you go down to the 21-inch and 30-inch models, not all of them have engine oil filters,” he says. “Guys get into the mindset of ‘when it burns oil, I add oil.’ You can’t neglect service and maintenance because it’s a walk-in service.
“A lot of times (negligent maintenance) happens unconsciously,” Mangnall continues. “I don’t think people consciously think, ‘I don’t have to maintain this.’ There may also be cost factors. You have a $1,700 21” mower. You have a $6,000-$8,000 walker and a $10,000+ rider. So maybe because of the cost, you unconsciously lose the idea of maintaining certain equipment.
Climate-specific needs, technological progress
In various climates and terrains, Mangnall says maintenance remains largely the same outside of service intervals. He says it’s similar to automobiles. Today’s vehicle algorithms look at how well the vehicle drives and under what conditions it operates.
“The same is true with turf equipment,” he says. “In the spring, when you’re mowing heavier grass, you need to sharpen your blades more.”
Mangnall and Aldinger say walk-behind mowers will continue to find their way into lawn care circles, even with advances in technology giving users more options.
“We see the technology growing across the industry,” says Aldinger. “Having a robust technology solution is definitely an area that John Deere is focusing on. As we look ahead five to 10 years, we are excited about what the future holds and the potential of what we can bring to market to help our professional landscapers operate more efficiently.