I recently discovered a handy way to change the oil on a standard lawn mower. When you wheel the mower out of your garage for the first time of the year, check the oil. Then, don’t screw the dipstick cap back on all the way.
After a few laps around the yard — it’s important to do this in low light — you will notice smoke billowing out of the engine.
Wheel the lawn mower under the light in the driveway. You will find that the whole engine is splattered with oil. Moreover, a moat of oil will have formed around the casing. You might feel embarrassed about this, but remember: It was all part of the plan. You needed the change the oil anyway, remember?
Considering it’s late, though, you won’t want to drive to a store and buy more oil. Not being much of a handyman, you’re not 100% sure what kind of oil or how much you need anyway, so you’ll call a hardware store later. Plus, it’s pitch black outside, and it’s not like you’re going to continue mowing tonight.
The next day after work, though, this will all come back to bite you. Now, you have a code enforcement slip adhered with blue tape on your garage door.
Don’t be bitter. Little damage has been done to your reputation as an expert in lawn care. Besides, it does look pretty bad. It looks like someone has mowed a maze through a cornfield. It’s not your fault it’s only half done — you simply were interrupted when you were trying to mow it the first time — but they do have a point.
Your mind will start to churn. Try as you might to be the bigger person, you will find yourself plotting against the unknown neighbor who might have called and ratted you out to the authorities.
The best bet is to reach out the hand of fellowship. Bake some bread and bring it over to each of your surrounding neighbors. Take a peek in their windows before you ring the doorbell, so you can get to know what they’re really like. In the awkward first few minutes, drop little hints about mowing lawns and whatnot.
Record the conversations with a device in your pocket — what they don’t know won’t hurt them — and analyze their voice patterns for nervousness and inconsistencies. With any luck, you’ll discover which neighbor has buddied up to code enforcement, and you’ll know on which side of your house to leave the decorative patch of tall weeds or in which direction to aim the discharge chute from your lawn mower.
And that’s how to change the oil in your lawn mower. Check back for future columns on topics such as “Fun with electric fences,” and “Swale damming 101.” Send neighboring tips to [email protected].
For other columns by Brian McMillan, click here.