This is an example of how to turn a 15-minute job into an hour.
I just started mowing the yard. The mower sounded like it wasn’t running a fast as it normally does. Then it cuts out. The pull chord is stuck in place.
I checked the gas and there was enough. The thought struck me, “Does this thing take oil?”
I checked all around the engine housing and there’s a little plug that, once I wiped away years of dirt and grime, said “oil.”
At this point, I swear that I saw faint blue flames coming from the front of the engine. In retrospect, I think it was merely fumes, but that didn’t stop me from getting the garden hose and preparing to play amateur fireman.
I imagined a conversation with my insurance agent.
Agent: “How’d the house burn to the ground?”
Me: “The lawnmower exploded and flaming parts landed on it…”
Agent: “Did you forget to put oil in it?”
Agent with disgusted look on his face: “Idiot.”
When I returned, I couldn’t see any flames, so I didn’t douse the lawnmower, thankfully. I probably would’ve cracked the block.
Back to that little plug. I unscrewed it. It was a dipstick, a white dipstick. How do I know it’s white? Because there wasn’t a drop of oil on it. One side contained the words, “Do Not Overfill.” I thought, “That’s not really my problem, is it?” On the other side were the words, “Fill Level,” and an arrow.
I grabbed oil from the shed and put some in. Light gray smoke rose from the fill hole. I checked the oil level and nothing registered. I was reasonably certain that I troubleshot the problem at that point.
I repeated this process several times. After all, I didn’t want to overfillit. According to the dipstick, that would be a “bad thing.”
I pulled the starting chord several times, not trying to start the mower but to work the oil through the engine. It was difficult at first, but became easier. Now for the big test–would it start?
After a couple of tries, it did. I finished the job, noting that the mower had more power. Imagine that.
Here’s the lesson: If you have a gas mower, don’t be like me and mow for years without checking the oil level. Think of it like Chicago voting: Check it early, check it often.