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Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42″ Mulching Mower

Get the Right Replacement Blades – Look for High-Performance Steel

As spring rolls around and you prepare to mow your lawn again after a long winter, it’s important to thoroughly inspect your trusty 42-inch mulching mower. With heavy usage over the past mowing seasons, critical components like the deck blades can wear out or become damaged. Replacing worn-out mower blades with new high-performance steel blades is essential for maintaining proper cutting performance and extending the life of your mower.

When shopping for new mulching blades, you’ll want to look for blades specifically designed for mulching. These will typically have more curved or swept-back cutting edges and lift the grass better to repeatedly cut clippings into tinier pieces. Be sure to match the exact part numbers for the blades your mower model requires, like the MTD brand 94204308x blade. Opt for hardened steel alloy blades that resist nicks and dents better than standard steel. Durable carbide-tipped blades are another smart option, as they’ll retain sharp cutting edges 3-5 times longer before needing sharpened.

Inspect Other Key Parts Like the Deck, Belt, and Pulleys

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

While you have the mower tipped up to access the underside for removing blades, this is the perfect opportunity to thoroughly inspect other critical components too. Examine the condition of the metal mower deck itself around all sides and the interior. Look for any cracks, holes, bent areas or excessive rusting. Use a putty knife to clear out clumped grass debris around the underside that can impede proper dispersal.

The deck belt is the next vital part to check over. Look for cracked, dry, glazed or overly stretched sections that indicate worn out belt material. Test the tension by pressing firmly on the belt midpoint to measure give. Approximately 1⁄2 inch of deflection is ideal. If loose, adjust tension by repositioning the pulley. Inspect both spindles and pulleys for damage, wobbling and unwanted bearing noises when spun.

Sharpen, Balance, and Level the Blades

Before reinstalling freshly sharpened blades back on the mower deck, take a few extra minutes to balance and level them. Carefully follow the owner’s manual for your mower to ensure proper tightening torque with washers placed correctly. Improperly installed blades can vibrate excessively and damage the mower or leave an uneven cutting pattern.

Use a bubble level tool to determine if the deck itself sets evenly. Adjusting the deck height or support springs can fine-tune a slightly unbalanced deck. Lastly, carefully hone and sharpen blade edges with a file or grinder if nicks are present. Equalizing and sharpening the edges help prevent excess vibrations and a rough cut.

Replace Neglected Parts Causing Problems

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

By thoroughly inspecting all aspects of your 42-inch mulching mower this spring, you’re sure to discover at least some worn or damaged parts needing replacement. Addressing these proactively, like installing new mulching blades, improves performance and prevents bigger problems down the road.

Pay special attention to parts impacting engine drive power transfer like belts, pulleys and PTO clutch. Lubricate key pivot points to avoid binding. Check the transmission and wheels for slippage issues too. Don’t put off essential mower maintenance – you’ll reap the reward of a reliably smooth cut all season long.

Schedule Yearly Tune-Ups for Optimal Operation

While DIY blade replacement, sharpening, and belt adjustments can go a long way, also consider having a small engine shop tune-up your mower yearly. The pros can tweak settings and catch underlying issues you might miss to keep the mower running at peak efficiency for years to come.

A well running mulching mower not only saves time and frustration while mowing, it preserves the health of your lawn. Dull blades tear grass rather than cutting cleanly. Catching and resolving problems early on reduces unexpected breakdowns each time you mow.

Maintaining your investment through seasonal tune-ups and replacing worn parts as needed, allows your trusty mower to continue delivering beautiful, even and reliable lawn results. Don’t mow through another season struggling with a worn-out machine – get the right replacement parts you need to make your old mower run like new again.

Check the Deck Belt for Wear and Tension

The humble deck belt is one of those easily overlooked mower parts that can quickly lead to bigger problems if not properly maintained. During your spring tune-up, be sure to thoroughly inspect the condition and tension of the deck belt.

Start by looking closely at the entire length of the belt for any cracked, dried out, glazed or overly stretched sections. Belt material hardens and loses elasticity over time, especially with exposure to sun, heat, and oily residue. Tiny cracks across the ribs or lengthwise are warning signs the integrity is fading.

Next, check the tension by pressing firmly on the belt midpoint and measuring the deflection amount. Around 1/2 inch of give is ideal for proper operation. If the belt is too loose, the blades will slip during mowing resulting in an uneven cut. On the flip side, an overly tight belt strains the electric PTO clutch.

Adjusting tension is as simple as repositioning the pulley bolt in the slotted mounting holes. Refer to your mower’s manual for the specified range. Insufficient tension adjustments on older belts indicates replacement is required to restore optimal function.

Choose the Right Replacement Belt

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

Selecting the proper deck belt is crucial for ideal performance and longevity. Consult your owner’s manual or measure the worn belt’s length. Match the exact OEM part number if possible, as aftermarket belts may not align and track correctly.

Opt for belts constructed of high-grade neoprene rubber with rigid Aramid or Kevlar cord reinforcement. This durable yet flexible combination stands up well to heat and oily conditions while providing grip and shock absorption.

Avoid cheaper rubber-only belts that can overstretch with minimal load. Also beware flimsy generic belts that don’t sync properly with your mower’s pulley system.

Inspect Pulleys and Spindles

When installing a new deck belt, also examine the pulleys and spindles closely. Spin each one to check for wobbling, grinding or squealing noises indicating a bad bearing. Replace any visibly damaged or severely worn pulleys.

Proper belt alignment depends on pulleys and spindles being perpendicular and free of defects. Lubricate pivot points with the recommended oil or grease to prevent binding and resistance.

By attending to your 42″ mower’s overlooked deck belt and related components, you’ll safeguard smooth operation and prevent bigger problems down the road this mowing season.

Inspect the Spindle Assembly and Bearings

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

The spindle assembly is a crucial component on riding mowers that drives each cutting blade. Examining the condition of the spindle housings, shafts and bearings during routine maintenance helps avoid failures leading to costly repairs.

Start by checking for any loose mounting bolts or damage on the spindle housings attached to the deck underside. Look for cracks, dents or excessive rusting. Then grasp the spindle shaft and try moving it side to side and up and down to check for worn bearing fit with excessive sloppiness.

Listen closely for any growling or squealing noises emanating from the bearings while you slowly spin the blades by hand. Any roughness or tight spots likely indicates corrosion buildup inside that requires bearing replacement.

Replace Faulty Bearings

On older mower models, the sealed spindle bearings are commonly the first components to wear out. When bearings become noisy, grind or allow wobble during operation, promptly replace them to avoid destructive damage to the spindle shaft itself.

Carefully press out the old bearing races using an appropriate puller tool. Thoroughly clean the housing bores and shafts before pressing in the new matched bearing set per the manufacturer specifications.

Be sure to use the exact replacement part number for your mower model. Upgrading to heavy-duty commercial sealed bearings often extends service life. Lubricate with lithium grease during reassembly.

Inspect Pulleys, Bushings and Belts

Spindle pulleys should be checked for tightness on the shaft, wobble and wear. Replace loose, bent or cracked pulleys for optimal durability and belt tracking. The rubber drive belt condition also needs inspection for glazing, cracks and proper tension.

Closely examine plastic and metal interior bushings for abnormal wear that allows side play. Worn bushings inside the spindle housing lead to vibration and part failures.

By periodically inspecting your mower’s spindle assemblies and replacing worn bearings, pulleys and bushings, you can avoid major repairs and enjoy lasting performance.

Replace Damaged or Worn Pulleys

The pulleys in your mower’s blade drive system are simple components that can cause major issues if not maintained properly. Inspect pulleys closely each spring and replace any that are bent, cracked, or excessively worn.

Start by checking for any wobble as you spin each pulley. Side play indicates the hub is loose or the bearing is shot. Then examine the pulley faces contacting the belt for significant wear. Grooves that are abnormally deep can cause belt slippage.

Also look for any missing side flanges designed to keep the belt centered. Bent or cracked flanges lead to improper belt tracking. Replace any pulleys with these defects to prevent blade drive problems.

Use Proper Installation Techniques

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

When installing new pulleys, careful attention to proper alignment and torque requirements helps ensure longevity. Consult your mower’s repair manual for the recommended tightening torque and use a torque wrench.

Make sure pulleys spin true without runout before tightening fully. Position flanged models such that the belt rides centered in the grooves. Lubricating the hub with oil aids assembly and prevents corrosion.

For belt-driven blade spindles, align the pulley with the engine crankshaft pulley using a straightedge. This prevents belt wear from misalignment.

Choose Durable Replacement Pulleys

Seeking out quality replacement mower pulleys boosts reliability and cost-effectiveness in the long run. Opt for OEM parts or thick, heavy-duty aftermarket pulleys over flimsy generic versions.

Metal pulleys with smooth hub bores, double sealed ball bearings and structural reinforcement withstand vibration and loads without failure.

Proactively replacing damaged pulleys keeps your mower’s blade drive system functioning properly through season after season of mowing.

Examine the Blades for Nicks and Bends

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

The mower blades bear the brunt of impact and wear, making inspection for damage critical. Look closely for any nicks, missing chunks or bends before reinstalling blades each season.

Small nicks along the cutting edges sap performance and indicate the blades likely need sharpening. More prominent notches and gouges warrant replacement. They throw off the balance of the blade and may eventually lead to cracks under heavy loads.

Also check blade ends for irregular bends that cause wobbling. Carefully lay each one flat on a level surface to gauge if the ends stay flush. Excessive wobble or warp means it’s time for new blades.

Inspect Blade Mounting Holes

Further inspect the mounting holes in each blade for elongation or excessive wear. Oval holes that are visibly enlarged signal the blades have loosened over time from improper torque.

The loose movement accelerates wear of the holes, eventually allowing the blades to wobble violently during mowing. Always use a torque wrench for tightening to spec when installing blades.

Replace Unbalanced, Damaged Sets

Rather than mixing older, worn blades with new ones, replace the entire set at the same time. Alternating old and new blades creates an unbalanced condition increasing vibration and component strain.

Not addressing bent, gouged and wobbly mower blades causes a multitude of problems over time – from uneven, ragged cutting to excessive deck and engine wear. Take time each season to examine and replace damaged blades.

Ensure the Deck is Level and Undamaged

Mower deck condition plays a key role in achieving an even, consistent cut. Inspect your deck closely for levelness and damage when doing spring maintenance.

Start by looking for bent or rusted areas, especially along the front edge that takes abuse from hitting objects. Use a straightedge to detect any areas that are warped out of shape or concave from impacts.

Holes, large dents and excessive rusting can weaken the deck structure to the point of cracking with forceful blows. Address these issues promptly before they worsen.

Check Adjustment and Levelness

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

Refer to your owner’s manual on procedures to check if the deck is properly leveled. Typically, this involves measuring blade tip height at certain points and making adjustments.

The mower should be parked on a flat, level surface. If one corner is noticeably higher, the deck leveling adjustment rods likely need recalibration.

Fine-tune the adjustment spring positions or clevis height to tweak deck pitch for flawless leveling. Proper leveling prevents scalping and ensures a uniform cut.

Restore Protective Paint Coating

Preventing rust damage keeps your mower deck fully functional longer. Sand any problem rust spots down to bare metal and apply a quality primer followed by enamel paint.

For better protection on older decks, consider a hammered black paint made specifically for mower deck use prior to mowing season.

Taking time to properly assess deck condition and levelness pays off all season long with better mowing performance and healthier grass.

Clean Out the Grass Buildup Under the Deck

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

It’s easy to overlook the grass clippings and debris that accumulate under the deck over time. But allowing that buildup to remain causes significant problems.

All the damp grass trapped under there provides the perfect breeding ground for corrosion and rust. As it rots and packs down, the buildup prevents proper airflow for cutting and discharge.

Clogged passages force the discharge chute to work harder in clearing clippings. That extra load strains the blade drive system over time.

Use a Putty Knife to Clear Passages

For quick cleaning, use a putty knife to scrape away clumped grass packed around the underside. Pay extra attention to the discharge opening and around pulleys.

For a deeper cleanout, removing the deck enables better access to all areas. Use a stiff brush and scraper to remove packed layers of decomposing grass before they rot the deck.

Prevent Future Buildup

Regularly clearing out under the deck prevents major buildup. Not overloading the mower helps too – take a narrower cut or double pass wider sections.

Applying a silicone protectant to the underside repels clippings. Letting the deck fully dry after washing keeps moisture from sticking.

Don’t neglect that hidden area under your mower deck. Keeping it clean improves performance and reduces corrosion.

Lubricate Key Parts Like the PTO Clutch

Proper lubrication is often overlooked, yet it’s crucial for protecting internal components against wear. Be diligent about greasing the PTO electric clutch and other key parts before mowing season.

The electric PTO clutch engages the mower blades. Lack of grease causes rapid wear of the clutch bearing from all the rotational forces and vibrations.

Use only grease made specifically for electric PTO clutch applications on riding mowers. Regular wheel bearing grease is too thin and leaks out.

Lubricate Drive Shafts and Linkages

Also lubricate the drive control linkages, shafts and bushings that transfer motion to engage the mower deck. A sticky, grinding clutch indicates lack of lubrication.

Cables sheathed in a housing can be lubricated by carefully injecting oil into both ends. Unhoused cables benefit from light oil worked along their length.

Grease all zerks on pivot joints. Pumping new grease purges older contaminated grease to extend component life.

Prevent Rust With Protectants

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

Apply a moisture-displacing lubricant like WD-40 to metal parts prone to rust like springs, pulleys and control levers. This prevents seizing and corrosion.

Proper lubrication before seasonal use reduces wear and prevents problems. Don’t overlook this essential maintenance step.

Evaluate the Drive and Transmission System

The transmission and drive components on riding mowers take quite a pounding. Slowing or loss of drive power can indicate issues needing attention.

Test drive the mower to listen for any grinding noises from the transmission. Slowly engage the drive levers while listening for smooth engagement without hesitation.

Inspect drive belts for glazing, cracking and proper tension. A loose belt will slip and fail to transfer power properly. Adjust tension or replace as needed.

Check the Transmission Oil

Transmission oil level and condition should be checked per the manual’s specifications. Low oil causes internal components to wear rapidly or overheat.

Drain old dirty oil and replace the filter if equipped. Refill to the proper level with fresh oil of the recommended weight and detergent type.

Catch leaks early – oil on the exterior signals seals are failing internally, allowing damaging leaks.

Inspect Wheels, Axles and Bearings

Need New Mower Blades This Spring. 13 Critical Parts to Check in Your 42" Mulching Mower

Wheels that wobble or squeal indicate a loose axle bolt or worn wheel bearing. Replace damaged wheels and tighten hardware to specified torque.

Listen for clicking noises when turning suggestive of worn drive axle universal joints. Binding pivot points need lubrication.

By tuning up the transmission and drive system, your mower will deliver reliable performance all season long.

Don’t Forget to Sharpen the Blades!

It’s easy to reinstall blades on your mower without considering their sharpness. But failing to properly sharpen them first leads to poor cutting performance all season.

Inspect blade edges carefully for visible nicks, rounding or uneven wear. Use a quality file to reestablish crisp cutting edges, filed at the original sharpening bevel angle.

Don’t aggressively grind away more metal than necessary – small nicks are easily honed out by hand. Remove the minimum needed to renew sharpness.

Use a Balancing Tool

Out-of-balance blades cause annoying vibrations and put excess strain on mower components. Use a blade balancing tool to equalize the sides.

Carefully polish down the heavier side until the blade sits level. Don’t go overboard though – some imbalance is unavoidable.

For severely damaged blades, professional sharpening or replacement is a better remedy than prolonged grinding on a poor blade.

Consider Carbide Sharpening Tools

Investing in a quality carbide sharpener makes maintaining edges much easier. The ultra-hard cutters shave metal off faster than files with more consistency.

Always wear heavy gloves when sharpening. Chainsaw-style round file tools with guide heads work well too.

Sharpen mower blades regularly for minimal effort cutting thick grass all season long.