Nigel from Ransomes Jacobsen explains the importance of carrying out regular checks and routine maintenance on mowers.
It goes without saying that mowers, especially the cylinder models used on greens, tees, surrounds and fairways, must be well maintained and set up correctly to ensure that you get a maximum return on your investment. With tighter budgets, machines are being asked to work harder and longer, so maintaining them correctly has become even more important for some clubs as the financial squeeze takes hold.
Many modern ride-on mowers have a diesel power unit and hydraulic drive to the cylinders. Whatever make or model, these modern machines are very robust and reliable, but it’s really worth regularly checking all of the hydraulic connections for any sign of leakage. A visual check of the ground where the machine has been standing since its previous use is also advisable. Who wants to be responsible for dumping gallons of hot hydraulic fluid on the 18th green, just prior to an important tournament!
The battery is one of the most vital components on any mower. Make sure that the leads are fitted tightly and the terminals and connectors greased to prevent corrosion. Next, check each cell for electrolyte and top up where necessary. Also, check the filter screen in front of the radiator. If clogged with old clippings remove with an airline or stiff brush. Check the fuel level in the tank and, if possible verify that the fuel indicator gauge is working correctly. You don’t want to get stuck in some remote part of the course!
You’re not paid to be an airline pilot, but it’s worth checking the instrument panel to ensure that all gauges and indicators are working correctly. Also check that all safety and operator presence systems are fully functioning. If not, get your mechanic or local dealer to rectify any issues; do not compromise on safety. Once you are satisfied that the power unit is fine, now is the time to look at the cutting units. These are obviously critical to determining the quality of your playing surface and there will be various elements to inspect and check, depending on the type of cylinder used.
First off, check the bottom blade. Make sure it is sharp and regrind if in doubt. If your cylinder manufacturer recommends an air gap, ensure you’re mowing with a gap. Check the clearance between the reel and bottom blade with a feeler gauge and test the scissor action using a piece of paper. A point worth noting is that by using the non-contact (air gap) method you can reduce the wear on bottom blades by anything up to 50%. There will also be less strain on the motors and you will use less fuel.
It’s very important to carry out cylinder/bottom blade adjustments before setting the height of cut. As either is adjusted, the height of cut is also changed. Check for worn bearings in the front and/or rear rollers. An accurate height of cut cannot be achieved if there is free play in these bearings. If groomers are fitted, one of the first jobs is to set the blade depth. This is done using a setting bar and Ransomes Jacobsen recommends that the blades are set at 50% of the height of cut. Any deeper and, not only are you putting more strain on the unit, there’s an increased risk of scalping.
Where possible and appropriate, Ransomes Jacobsen recommends that rear roller brushes are fitted as they will keep the roller clean and help maintain a consistent height of cut. They are belt-driven and the belt tension should be checked to ensure they are functioning correctly.
Don’t forget that these checks have to be done on all cylinders and groomers. On a greens/tees triple or five-unit fairway mower, it’s very easy to ‘forget’ the rear units, especially if it’s not the swing-out type and difficult to access. Ransomes Jacobsen is a manufacturer that features easy-to-maintain swing out centre units; it’s one of the unique selling points of their machines.
Finally, check the roller and cylinder bearings periodically. Look for play when spun, any unusual noises or any tightening as they rotate. If any anomalies are found, do not take the machine out. Consult your mechanic or local dealer. Whenever possible, use manufacturer’s genuine parts. It’s tempting to use generic will-fit replacements because they are usually a cheaper option. But bear in mind, the short-term gain can become a long-term loss; it’s a fact that our genuine parts are manufactured to the strict quality standards of BSEN836 and are guaranteed with a 12-month warranty that protects against defects in material and workmanship and includes the replacement cost of the part.
Regular checks and routine maintenance are not ‘rocket science’, but they are essential for not only producing excellent sports turf but also help with the longevity of your equipment.
YPO has a Grounds Maintenance Equipment framework that can help you purchase professional mowers, strimmers, hedge cutters and more. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the framework then please get in touch with the team!