Getting the Most Out of Your Summer Gear

By Sarah Skidmore, AP Business Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Nothing can give you the summer blues like a flat tire when you want to take a family bike ride or having to replace patio furniture in midseason because it's falling apart.

Here are a few basic preventative measures that could help your gear last longer — and help you avoid mishaps.

LAWN AND GARDEN: The lawnmower, a staple of summer, greatly benefits from maintenance, says Home Depot operations manager Jesse Elizondo.

After each use, let your mower cool down and then rinse off grass and other debris that could oxidize on the blades. If it's a gas mower and it will sit for more than a few weeks, also drain its fuel, Elizondo says. The same goes for any gas-powered yard equipment.

Also change the spark plugs once a season and keep the blades sharp to protect the grass and avoid making the motor working harder than necessary.

Hand tools need care too. Some people swear by Vaseline to keep blades in smooth operation, while others store hand tools in a mix of sand and vegetable oil.

BICYCLE: Low tire pressure makes riding more difficult and can cause flats. Because tires always lose pressure between rides and while sitting in storage, says Zan Gibbs, a program coordinator for the Community Cycling Center in Portland, Ore., you should frequently check they are inflated to the level printed on the side wall. While you're at it, make sure they aren't cracked, which also can lead to a flat.

Gibbs also recommends a front-to-back safety check: Spin the wheels, squeeze the brakes, shift gears, check the seat and pedals and make sure nothing is loose before hitting the road or trail. And be sure your bike's chain, which can get damaged sitting on a porch or in a damp garage, is always properly lubricated. But don't use WD-40, which takes grease off. Bike chain oil is best, though any chain oil will work in a pinch.

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