February 1, 2016

How to clean the air filter in your lawn tractor

By Sears PartsDirect staff
How to clean the air filter in your lawn tractor.
How to clean the air filter in your lawn tractor.

Dirt is your lawn tractor's enemy. Dirt in the lawn tractor or riding mower air filter can block airflow to the carburetor, and dirt blocking the cooling surfaces can make the engine overheat. Keeping the air moving is simple, but essential.

Your owner's manual has specific instructions and a recommended engine cleaning schedule for your model, but the following steps cover the basics for cleaning the air filter's foam pre-cleaner, air filter and cooling areas. In general, clean the paper filter after 2 or 3 mowing sessions. Wash the foam pre-filter, if your mower has one, after 25 hours of use.

For help diagnosing a problem with your lawn tractor and step-by-step repair guides, see our riding mower repair help.

Remove the filter cover

Work in an area where dirt won't blow or fall into the lawn tractor during this process.

Wipe loose dirt and debris from the area near the filter cover.  

Remove the wing nuts that hold the filter cover in place. Set the cover and wing nuts aside. 

Remove the filters

Before removing the air filter, use a rag to wipe dirt from rubber seal that surrounds the filter. Take care not to push dirt under the air filter element.

Remove the filter and, if present, the foam pre-filter. 

Clean the foam pre-filter

After every 25 hours of operation or once a year—whichever comes first—wash the foam pre-filter in diluted liquid dish detergent and pat it dry with a paper towel or clean rag.

If washing doesn't remove the dirt or if the foam is damaged, order and install a replacement pre-filter.

Clean or replace the paper filter

Tap the paper filter gently on your hand or a flat surface to remove loose dirt.

If the filter is dirty after you tap it, or if the filter is ripped, order and install a replacement filter.

Warning: Don't use compressed air or any petroleum products, such as gasoline, oil or kerosene, to clean the paper air filter paper. They can damage the filter.

Install the filters and cover

Wipe any dirt from the areas that the air filter rubber seal touches.

Install the pre-filter and filter.

Put the air filter cover into position and tighten the wing nuts to secure the cover in place. Don't overtighten.

Symptoms common to all riding mowers & tractors

Choose a symptom to see related riding mower and lawn tractor repairs.

Main causes: worn or broken ground drive belt, bad seat switch, transaxle freewheel control engaged, transaxle failure, dirty carburetor
Main causes: dead battery, stale fuel, bad starter solenoid, ignition system problem, bad ignition interlock switch, clogged carburetor
Main causes: damaged cutting blade, worn deck pulley, damaged mandrel pulley, loose fasteners on mower deck components
Main causes: engine overfilled with oil, leaky head gasket or sump gasket, damaged carburetor seals, cracked fuel pump, broken fuel line
Main causes: punctured tire or inner tube, leaky valve stem, damaged wheel rim
Main causes: unlevel mower deck, dull or damaged cutting blades, worn mandrel pulleys, bent mower deck, engine needs tune up
Main causes: damaged tie rods, bent or worn wheel spindle, worn front axle, damaged sector gear assembly
Main causes: worn or broken blade belt, broken belt idler pulley, blade clutch cable failure, bad PTO switch, damaged mandrel pulleys
Main causes: shift lever needs adjustment, neutral control needs adjustment

Repair guides common to all riding mowers & tractors

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your riding mower or lawn tractor.

How to replace the starter motor on a riding lawn mower

If you hear the solenoid click but don’t hear the starter motor spin when you turn the key, follow these steps to replace it.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a riding lawn mower spark plug

If the engine is hard to start or if the spark plug electrode is burnt or cracked, take 15 minutes to replace it.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a riding lawn mower carburetor

If the engine of your lawn tractor surges or is hard to start, the carburetor could be the problem. Follow these steps to install a new one.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 45 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all riding mowers & tractors

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your riding mower or lawn tractor.

May 1, 2017

Riding lawn mower engine spins but won't start video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Troubleshoot fuel, spark and compression issues.

June 1, 2016

How to mow a lawn for healthier grass

By Erin Hynes

How often and tall you mow your lawn has a big impact on its health. Check out these 3 rules.

March 1, 2016

How to change the Smart Switch Ignition password on a lawn tractor video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

See how to unlock the factory default start code so you can set your own passcode.