AIKEN - As yards and gardens explode with foliage every spring, business at small-engine service and sales shops starts growing like a weed.
"Right now we're busier than a one-armed paper hanger," said Win Bailey, manager of Bailey's Small Engine repair and sales shop in Aiken. "Spring is definitely our busiest time of year, and the lawn mower season will kick off in a few weeks."
With the chirping of birds in the springtime comes the drone of lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed eaters. While chainsaw repairs and sales usually slack off by February, the Jan. 26 ice storm has kept people cleaning up storm debris and demanding replaced parts for broken or worn chainsaw gear.
"We've had trouble just keeping chains in stock," said Sandra Wright, the office manager of Wright's Mower & Saw in Aiken. "Chainsaw work started picking up with the ice storm and hasn't slowed down."
As people pull their lawn mowers, tractors, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers out of the shed, some are finding problems waiting to sputter.
Bad gas is usually the problem, the pros say. So are dead batteries.
"Part of the problem is that these things are out of sight and out of mind," Mr. Bailey said. "If people put a gas additive in their fuel, it kind of helps the gas from going bad and the machines from getting clogged."
Brian Derrick, one of the owners of Derrick Equipment Company Inc. in Aiken, said lawn mowers and tractors need normal maintenance just like automobiles. He sends fliers to customers to remind them to bring in lawn mowers for greasing and blade-sharpening during the winter months.
"We want people to come in during the winter and get the mowers serviced, but most people just pull out the mower when they are ready to run it," Mr. Derrick said. "What gets most of them is storing gas in them all winter long, which gums up the carburetor."
Hubert Boyd, 70, the owner of Boyd's Small Engines in Warrenville, said most of the repairs he does are to lawn mowers that have been sitting for months.
"Any machine needs preventative maintenance," Mr. Boyd said. "If you take care of them, they can probably last about five years."
Even though the lawn mower season won't really hit its peak until early April, business is already speeding up.
"We're picking up several lawn mowers a day now. Our business has almost tripled in the last two weeks," Mrs. Wright said.
Before cranking a lawn mower:
Reach Karen Ethridge at (803) 648-1395.