Mouse v. Mower- A tale as old as... Engines.
A precision piece of equipment the internal combustion engine has evolved much over the past 100 years. From the days of the first automobile, complete with crank to start engines, to modern day overhead valve, the IC engine has evolved through it's long history of innovation and miniaturization. Today, almost everything we use outdoors regularly from our cars, trucks, and mowers to our generators and weed wackers are powered by the IC engine. However, a century plus of innovation has its match; which leads us to our contender.
Dating back about 54 million years, the modern mouse is a(n adorable) marvel of evolutionary disease transmitting and scavenging prowess. These fuzzy little creatures reproduce, well, like mice, and have invaded our homes, sheds, and hearts in search of a solid meal and a warm place to sleep... and other gross stuff too.
Now that we know our contenders lets take a look at the stakes in the game. As we know, mice need a nest just like we need our homes. It's a place to put our tiny little paws up and relax. Now more often than not, for mice that home ends up becoming a warm, safe, cozy space in the corner of our sheds, where they hope to be left alone from our traps and our occasional feline companions. But this home isn't always as innocuous as it may seem. In fact, the all time favorite spot for our furry little friends is underneath the blower housing (main cover) of our lawn mower engine. Now this may seem harmless enough, but it isn't always that simple.
First, mice don't just cuddle up on the, oh-so cozy, hardened, aluminum fins that make up our engine heads. Most of the time they want a little insulation to stay warm and a little bed to sleep, and poop on. And even further, this bed often ends up being pieces of fabric and grass they find laying around. As to be expected, living underneath the cover of an engine with 23 children gets a little boring and it's a lot of mouths to feed, so the mice often end up chewing the wires and components of your mowers electrical and ignition system. This can lead to some costly repairs if Mickey and the kids chew entirely through the ignition coil wires or grounding diodes on some engines.
Even further, there's the issue of that little bungalow they have made themselves. Well, no surprsie but Pinky and the Brain don't necessarily make their bed to give themselves a nice place to lay their heads, rather, they construct an insulated home to stay warm! And come Spring... warm it may get! Remember those aluminum fins I mentioned earlier? Those are designed to help keep the engine cool; and if they are filled up with straw, cloth, wire insulation, and actual fiberglass insulation it can get very, very, hot underneath the cover. In fact, we have seen severe head and valve damage and sometimes even engine fire caused by excessive heat around the flammable materials.
Last, but certainly not least, is their... well, excrement. It is not the most common event, but mouse urine has been known to corrode the adhesive that holds charging system magnets to the flywheel. This along with high temperatures and fast speeds may cause the magnets to fly off and damage the magneto. To the layman, well, it isn't a good look if you want to keep mowing for any period of time.
So what do i do?
You could always be a crazy cat person?
Let's say that's not your style. You're allergic, or, maybe you like your current social standing the way it is.
The next best thing is something that may surprise you. Dryer sheets. Yup, dryer sheets. For some reason mice HATE the scent of dyer sheets and will shy away from nesting in their immediate vicinity. Putting dryer sheets on and around the mower can push them away from your lawn and garden investment and possibly save you a bit of... cheese. Get it? Anyway, if dryer sheets aren't your thing they also do not like mothballs and can use them under the same principle. Juuust remember to remove those dryer sheets before you mow. Unless of course, you want your mower to smell like you had a bonfire at a laundromat.
I didn't know, so, now what?
If you forgot, or didn't know, that mice could cause a problem with your power equipment you may be stuck wondering: "now what!?" Not to worry, if you remove the blower housing, (remember that top cover) from the engine you should be able to inspect, remove, and repair the damage that Stuart Little may have caused over the winter. It is usually a repair that can be done with a pair of nitrile gloves (please wear gloves, mice are gross), a few wrenches, a pair of pliers, and an air gun.
No thanks, try again...
Dealing with this stuff not in your wheelhouse, too gross, or not worth the effort? Good news! Most dealers and small engine service centers are equipped to handle this task. And further, most places of that sort offer a low rate incentive to service your mower early or pre-season which includes this specific type of inspection and repair standard. Hey, it's our job. Admittedly, not the cleanest part, but part of the job none the less!
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