Reel Lawn Mower Repair

Yes, reel lawn mowers are still around. Reel mowers are ecologically friendly, relatively inexpensive, and pretty easy to maintain. This Fix-It Guide on reel lawn mower repair tells how a reel lawn mower works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a reel lawn mower problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to sharpen blades and how to adjust the mower.

Fix-It Tip

Preventive maintenance includes washing down the reel mower after every use then spraying metal surfaces that may rust with a lightweight oil or penetrating oil for protection.

How Does a Reel Lawn Mower Work?

Reel Lawn Mower Repair

Components of a typical reel lawn mower.

A reel lawn mower is a machine for cutting grass. It’s either human-powered or small-engine powered. Cutting blades attached to the reel spin and cut grass as the mower is rolled across the lawn. It’s that simple.

What Can Go Wrong with a Reel Lawn Mower?

The mower may cut unevenly or tear grass rather than cut it. A blade can be bent. An engine-driven reel mower may have the same problems that any gas-driven machinery may have.

How Can I Identify a Reel Lawn Mower Problem?

  • If reel lawn mower blades do not cut well, you can sharpen them following the instructions in your owner’s manual or the general guidelines below.
  • If a reel lawn mower blade is bent, you may be able to reshape it by lightly tapping it into alignment by hammering it near the edge. If the blade is badly bent you can replace it.
  • If a reel lawn mower does not cut evenly you can adjust the rollers (see below).

What Do I Need for Reel Lawn Mower Repair?

 Reel Lawn Mower Repair

Sharpening kits containing tools, grinding paste, and instructions are available through larger hardware stores and home centers.

Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers and from mower shops, local hardware stores, and home improvement centers. The tools you will need to fix a reel lawn mower include these:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Flat file or flat sharpening stone
  • Grinding paste
  • Locking pliers
  • Lightweight oil
  • Newspaper


Wear leather gloves when handling reel mower blades. Not only will you get a better grip, you’ll also protect your hands from cuts.

What Are the Steps to Reel Lawn Mower Repair?

 Reel Lawn Mower Repair

Some reel mowers require that you remove a wheel and secure the axle to rotate the wheel backwards. Check the mower owner’s manual for specific directions.

Sharpen reel lawn mower blades:

  1. Put the mower on a work bench or other area where you can easily service it.
  2. Use a fine flat file or a flat sharpening stone to remove any burrs from the blade and cutter bar.
  3. Apply grinding paste to the blades’ cutting edges.
  4. Rotate the reel backward for 10 minutes to sharpen the cutter bar and the blades.
  5. Remove excess grinding paste.
  6. Test and adjust the mower (see below).
  7. Place a piece of newspaper between the reel and cutter bar, then rotate the reel to make sure that the blade cuts smoothly. If not, adjust the mower (see below).
 Reel Lawn Mower Repair

Adjust the cutter bar for even contact with the reel blades.

Adjust a reel lawn mower:

  1. Loosen and adjust each end of the roller shaft to the same height. Most units have an adjustment nut at the ends of the roller shaft.
  2. Turn the reel checking for contact with the cutter bar. As needed, adjust the reel to touch but not be stopped by the cutter bar.
  3. Insert a strip of newspaper between the reel and the cutter bar, then rotate the reel to verify that it cuts evenly. Adjust as needed; adjustments typically are located at each end of the cutter bar.