There is a large selection of petrol powered mowers available. Knowing which is best suited to your needs is not always easy. Prices vary widely from approximately $300 to $900 for a domestic mower and well over $1,000 for a more heavy duty commercial petrol mower.2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke
Most modern petrol mowers have 4 stroke engines. This means you can use ordinary unleaded fuel in the fuel tank, but they have a separate oil tank which needs to be topped up and changed occasionally, similar to a car engine. 4 stroke engines tend to be quieter and more fuel efficient than 2 stroke engines, and as there is no mixing of the oil and fuel, can be easier to operate. 2 stroke engines do have one significant advantage over the 4 stroke – they can be turned upside down and continue operating. For this reason most whipper snipper and chainsaws have 2 stroke engines. If your lawn is particularly steep you will need to use a 2 stroke mower. 4 stroke mowers do not handle the tipping on a steep slope and the engine can be damaged.Body Construction
The chassis of a mower will take a lot of knocks and needs to be very durable, particularly for uneven lawns. A strong steel body can be heavy to push but will handle the knocks. In general the lighter the weight of the machine the less knocks it will handle. The exception is the aluminium chassis. An aluminium body will cost more, be lighter in weight but will also not rust where it gets knocked by stones. Look at the wheels to ensure they are durable enough to cope with the area you will be mowing. Some of the cheaper models have small wheels which will not cope with uneven terrain.Engine
The engine capacity is often represented as “cc”. This measure of the volume of an engine can be used as a guide to the power output of the engine. Lawnmowers range from 125 cc through to 190 cc engines. A greater capacity engine will be preferable for challenging or large lawns. While considering the engine of the mower, check where the valves are for changing the oil, and cleaning the air filter. They should be easy to access. Direct overhead valves on some of the Briggs and Stratton engines provide the cleanest operation with less fumes and less vibrations which will increase the engine life. Honda engines found in some of the Victa mowers are amongst the most reliable mower engines available. Be aware that all engines need to be maintained to ensure reliable operation.Cutting Width
Some of the more expensive models have wider blades and a wider cutting path. This may not seem overly significant but if you have a large area to mow it can make a big difference to how many turns it takes to cover the entire area. While standard mowers have a cutting width of 18 -20 inches, some such as the Toro Timemaster, are as wide as 30 inches. Be sure to check the width of your shed if tempted by a wider cutting path, to make sure that the wider mower will comfortably fit through the door.Self-Propelled
Many newer models are “self-propelled'. This means the wheels are driven, a bit like a car and that the operator can use a lot less effort in pushing, but still needs to steer the mower. This can take a lot of the heavy work out of mowing. Most self-propelled mowers are 2 wheel drive. 4 wheel drive options are available for uneven lawns. Check if the drive operates the front or rear wheels. Front wheel drive can lose traction going uphill, but can give better manoeuvrability. Also check the method of operating the drive system, as they can vary and make sure it is comfortable for you to hold and operate while you are pushing the mower.Starting Options
In order to start a petrol mower, they need to be primed, adjust the choke and then pull hard and fast on the cord. This is usually very easy on a new mower but as they age and the cord mechanism gets worn, it can get harder to start. This will be a feature that will often wear out sooner on a cheaper mower than on a more expensive and better quality mower. Some new models have the cord on the handle of the mower to save the bending and pulling. This is very effective for anyone with back troubles, but not so great for anyone who is a little short as they may not get the full reach required to start the mower. A couple of the Victa models now have key start which is ideal for those who wish to avoid pulling the cord.Mulch or Catch
Many mowers now have the option to mulch the grass clippings rather than collect them in a catcher. The grass clippings are forced back through the blades and cut ultra-fine and forced back into the grass. This is an excellent feature for lawns which are mown often and therefore do not produce huge quantities of clippings, as it allows the clippings to compost and feed the lawn, and saves work in emptying the catcher. These mowers do have the option to use a catcher when desired which may be needed if there are weeds seeding in the lawn or the lawn has been allowed to get a little longer and there are too many clippings for self-mulching. A self-mulching mower will not leave visible clumps of clippings on the lawn. Some of the more expensive self-mulching mowers also have a side chute for small branches, effectively allowing them to function as a small mulcher as well.
The heavy duty models with the extra features will cost more but for large or difficult lawns will be worth the extra investment. As a general rule of thumb, the harder the mower has to work, the better quality you will need and the more it will cost. There is huge variation within the range of mowers in terms of price, weight, capacity and features. Make sure you try the mowers out by pushing them around in the hardware store (if they will not let you take them outside), as making sure the mower is comfortable for you to operate is also a very important consideration.
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