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“According to Tim Allen, the only reason men are alive is for lawn care and vehicle maintenance,” smiled my friend Kate, gazing at our overgrown backyard.

“And grilling and serenading wives,” I added, winking at my man Pat. The unkempt visage of our yard wasn’t his fault. He’s a top-notch gardener, but the lawnmower wouldn’t start the last time he tried. We’re due for a lawnmower tune-up.

“We are the best lawnmower shop in the world,” touted customer-service rep Pablo at Pacific Lawn Mower Works (619-583-8797) in the College Area. “We work on all types of machines, and [different machines] require different tune-ups. Our tune-up price is $56.25, plus parts. The turnaround time is five to ten days.”

How often should you get a tune-up?

“It depends on how much you mow,” he replied. “When the oil is black, when the filter is dirty, or the blade is dull, it is time for a tune-up. We also sharpen blades, so if you dull it out, every 30 days you can bring in the blade, and it’s usually done by the next day. For $4.50.”

“If you have to put more than half of what you paid for the machine into the tune-up, you might want to take a look at buying a new mower,” suggested Marty McClung, owner of Western Mower & Engine in Poway (858-748-2292). His basic tune-up is $36, plus parts. “We sharpen the blade — a rotary-mower single blade. We change the oil, clean or replace the air filter, replace the spark plug, and do a compression check to see what kind of life the engine has left.

“We also offer a tune-up and a carburetor rebuild,” he continued. “The price varies per machine, but the max runs about $120. We’ve been doing a lot of these recently. Everybody has been a little bit tight, so there have been a lot of people that say, ‘It’s less than the price of a new machine.’”

McClung offered a tip for keeping lawnmowers running smoothly. “We have a big issue with stale gasoline in California. Power equipment tends to sit around for a long time, especially over the winter. Our fuel here in California turns sour and gums carburetors up. And fuel systems. We do a lot of carburetor work for that reason. It’s very easy to prevent — just use some fuel stabilizer. It really makes a difference. Just add it in with the fuel.”

Blade sharpening at Western Mower & Engine is $10, while the customer waits.

“We work on all gasoline mowers, but we don’t work on electric equipment,” said owner Javier of Javier Lawnmower Shop in Chula Vista (619-420-8709). “A maintenance tune-up entails cleaning the fuel tank, changing the oil, replacing the air filter, spark plug, and sharpening the blade. That’s usually $45, plus parts. With a complete tune-up, we go into the carburetor and replace the carburetor kit, and that is $60 for labor plus parts.” Turn-around time currently is a couple of days.

“We also offer sharpening of the blade: $5 if it’s off the machine, $6 on the machine. If it is something like a mulcher blade, it is $7 off the machine, $8 on the machine.”

“If the cost of the work is going to be over $85, we call before we work on it,” said Fernando Lefort, owner of Lefort’s in National City (619-477-9770). “I know a customer doesn’t want to spend more than $100 for a lawnmower tune-up.”

A full-service tune-up costs $65 plus parts at Lefort’s. “We clean and rebuild the carburetor, clean the tank, sharpen the blade, change the oil, and replace the spark plug, if needed, and also the air filter.”

“We don’t work on the cheap machines because it’s not cost-effective,” offered owner Brian of San Diego Small Engine in Talmadge (619-281-0455). “Changing the oil, spark plug, the air filter, making sure everything runs well, and sharpening the blade on the bottom is $32, plus parts. Right now we are averaging a three- to four-day turnaround time.” Single-blade sharpening costs $7 off the machine, $10 on.

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