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Tips from the real lawnmower man

By Ed Brock

ebrock@news-daily.com

The grass is getting taller by the second and a lot of people are wishing they had brought their lawnmowers to the repair shop long before now.

Allen Bartlett tells customers at his shop, B&B Lawnmower & Chainsaw on South Main Street in Jonesboro to bring their rider and push mowers in for regular service by January or February.

"Then they'll be out there cutting their grass when other people are in here waiting on their lawnmower," said 50-year-old Bartlett.

But having been in the lawnmower repair business for 36 years when he started at his father's shop as a teen, Bartlett knows most people won't heed that advice. People often don't treat their lawnmowers with the care they require.

"It's the most abused piece of equipment people own," Bartlett said.

Bartlett, who lives in McDonough, was mechanically inclined in his youth.

"I worked on my go-carts and mini-bikes as a kid," Bartlett said.

His father operated a grader until he decided to move into the small engine repair business in the early 1970s. He opened B&B Sales & Service in Lake City with his brother and Bartlett went to work for them, first in repairs and then manning the counter.

"I learned the business from my dad and uncle," Bartlett said.

Six years ago Bartlett broke away to start his current operation where, between his manager of 28 years Tim Lucas and a third employee, they repair about 25 mowers a day in the busy season. His customers come from neighboring counties as well as Clayton County.

For $55 for a push mower and $75 for a rider mower Bartlett's crew will go over the mower from "the top of the handle to the front of the mower," tightening wheels sharpening or replacing blades and finishing up with a steam cleaning. A clean lawn mower runs better, Bartlett said.

When they're finished the customer should only have to keep gas in the mower for the length of the summer. One of Bartlett's customers, 32-year-old Sharona Fountain of Jonesboro, has become a devotee of his philosophy of regular, early maintenance for her mower.

Her father recently gave Fountain her first rider mower, used of course.

"It was kind of not working," Fountain said.

As for other tips on keeping the ol' grass chopper going, Bartlett recommends clearing the yard of any debris that may damage the blade or be thrown out of the discharge chute to possibly injure the operator or someone else. When cutting on a steep grade, try to keep the chute pointing downhill.

Don't cut the grass when it's wet or it may stick to the undercarriage of the mower.

During the winter months when the lawnmower is not in regular use, start it every two weeks to keep the engine in good shape.

For young people who are making some extra summer money by cutting yards, Bartlett recommends that, if they cut something like five yards a day, they should get the mower serviced at least every three months.

When picking a new mower, spend the money to get a good quality mower. And the greatest expense is usually incurred by people who try to fix the problem themselves, Bartlett said.

And again, Bartlett recommends getting the mower serviced before it starts exhibiting a problem.

"Once it starts smoking it's usually too far gone," Bartlett said.

A well maintained mower can last for over a decade, Bartlett said, and he speaks from personal experience.

"I've had my lawnmower since 1976. It still runs perfectly," Bartlett said.