Lawn Mowers


Lawn Maintenance Companies

March 7th, 2013 ernie Posted in Maintenance No Comments »

Lawn Maintenance CompaniesWant your lawn to look like this one on the left? You probably should be prepared to hire a lawn maintenance company. Also spend money on fertilizer and weed killer. With lots of watering to get your lawn looking like this one on the left. Of course with a large lot and home like this particular house, most people are going to think that they cannot afford it. Beautiful lawns make a property look great. Next to the house this is the first thing you look at when you approach a property. Talk about creating a first impression! For many people before they even enter the home, there mind is made up based on the landscaping.

Hire the Right Lawn Maintenance Companies

This is why hiring the right lawn maintenance companies can really make a difference to the impression that your home leaves with visitors. That first impression you get is all important. From the outside there is your homes overall architectural look. Then there are the surrounding gardens, landscaping and the lawn of course.

Lawn maintenance companies know that the secret to a great looking lawn is controlled by the following:

  • Applying grass seed at regular intervals to thicken the lawn
  • Applying fertilizer at least 4 times a year
  • Regular watering
  • Mowing your grass so that no more than 1/3 of the blade is removed at a time
  • Applying the appropriate weed killer, grub killer etc when needed to deal with these pests.

These are the five key rules and activities that will ensure that you have a healthy, lush green lawn to show off to all of your visitors.

Hiring a Lawn Maintenance Company

Starting from this basic set of requirements, homeowners can decide what work they wish to take on vs. what they would like a lawn maintenance company to do for them. Lawn maintenance will typically do all of the activities for you listed above except for the watering, which is usually completed using an automated watering systems. Consumers can contract everything or just the maintenance that they prefer not to do.

Some people really enjoy getting on a riding lawn mower every week to mow their lawn, while others either find it too boring or just do not have the time for this activity. Mowing your lawn takes the largest commitment, while adding fertilizer and weed spray is less time consuming. Consumers can ask for a package deal that includes everything or just those activities that they are not interested in doing.

One comment that consumers should note is that if you are paying someone to do everything you have the right to complain if your lawn is not doing well, since the lawn maintenance company should be taking care of the lawn to make sure it is always looking great. On the other hand if the consumer is doing some of the work, then there may be a shared blame if the lawn is not doing as well as you think it should. Continuous monitoring and activity is needed to maintain a great lawn.

Always Have a Contract

One final comment about lawn maintenance companies is needed. Just like all other work that you arrange to be completed around your home or even the office, there should always be a contract. It spells out in detail exactly what services are being provided by the lawn maintenance company. Also when they will be provided. This is just a matter of communication. It ensures that everyone is working under the same understanding and assumptions. If there is no contract with these details written down, there will always be misunderstandings between participants. Which can lead to acrimonious feelings from one or both parties. We strongly urge consumers to always have a contract that spells out the details. Include the termination notice that is required by both parties along with payment details.

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Lawn Care Treatment Companies

January 21st, 2013 ernie Posted in Maintenance 1 Comment »

Lawn Care TreatmentWe all want to have that perfect lawn like the one shown in the picture. A manicured golf fairway of grass that is lush and green, even, with no dry spots and NO weeds. It can take a lot of work to get a lawn to look like this so many people will turn to a lawn care treatment company to look after the lawn for them. This may even include mowing the lawn once or twice a week as well. Lawns also take a lot of water to keep them looking great. However there are ways to minimize the amount of water that is used as well and keep the weeds down.

Weeds seem to survive regardless of how much water or rain is applied. You need to stay ahead of the weeds as well. We have listed some of the services you may want to consider when hiring a lawn care treatment company to look after your lawn. These are the best ways to have a great lawn.

Lawn Care Treatment-  services can include:

  • Mowing the lawn the specified number of times per week
  • Trimming the edge of the lawn along gardens, walkways, fences and driveways
  • Applying appropriate fertilizer at least 4 times per year
  • Applying weed killer either on a spot basis or on a broadcast basis as needed
  • Clearing debris from the lawn such as leaves in the fall
  • Applying specialized applications of chemicals such as grub killer as needed
  • Preparing recommendations for improvements to your lawn including watering

While all of these steps will relieve you of a great deal of work and your lawn will certainly improve there are additional steps to be taken and decisions that you will need to make in conjunction with the lawn care company.

For instance, most lawn car companies will recommend that the lawn be watered once each week to a level of one inch of water to ensure that the roots penetrate deeply and that the fertilizer is absorbed. Deep roots will help a lawn survive dry periods better and to block out weeds that may be trying to grow amongst the grass.  In addition if your lawn car treatment company is also mowing the lawn for you they should be setting their lawn mowers higher to allow the grass to grow longer during dry periods as well. Longer grass prevents the grass drying out, protects and shades the roots to prevent evaporation of moisture from around the roots. During periods were there is lots of rain, the lawn can be cut lower.

Weeds are a Big Problem for Many Home Owners

Application of weed killer will deal with most weeds; however in Canada for example there is a ban on some pesticides used to deal with weeds in lawns. As a result the weeds are taking over. Unless homeowners get out there and pull the weeds your lawn is going to suffer. Fortunately you can still go to the US and purchase all of the weed killer that is needed.

If you do not live close to the border or prefer to not purchase weed killer with the appropriate pesticide there are alternatives. The alternative is to keep your lawn really healthy and to manually pull the weeds. A healthy lawn will prevent a lot of weed seedlings from getting started. Those that do can be manually pulled using an appropriate tool.  The lawn in the picture would probably take an hour each week of manual checking and pulling. While many smaller urban lawns would only take a few minutes each week to identify and pull the weeds.

You may also hire someone to do this work for you. Particularly if you have a large lot or just do not have the time to deal with the lawn. Always have a contract with the lawn care treatment companies that you hire that lays out exactly the services they will provide, the time frames for each service and of course the cost. Examine and discuss the fertilizer that they will be using and specify how often the lawn will be mowed and the edges trimmed to ensure that you obtain exactly the services that you wish to have. Anything left to assumptions can sometimes disappoint you and cause frustration. Make sure everything is clear before you sign on the dotted line.

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Lawn Care Maintenance Service

January 7th, 2013 ernie Posted in Maintenance 1 Comment »

Lawn Care Maintenance ServiceMany consumers use some kind of lawn care maintenance service, while others do everything themselves. There are also various levels of lawn care as well that customers can consider for their lawn. Lawn care companies will offer a full service maintenance package. As well as packages that split the work between the home owner and the lawn care maintenance company. There are a lot of services that can be included. It really depends on price as well as how much the home owner wants to take on themselves. The list that follows is a complete list that home owners can consider. Although not all companies offer all of these services. Consumers will have to choose the one that meets their needs.

Typical Services

The following is a list of services that can be considered:

  • Edging around all garden areas with a lawn edge trimmer
  • Cutting the lawn
  • Bagging the grass clippings or mulching the lawn clippings
  • Fertilize the lawn at least 4 times per year
  • Application of pesticides for weed control if allowed in your area
  • Removal of weeds by hand
  • Aerate your lawn once per year
  • Watering the lawn
  • Over seeding the lawn
  • Spreading top soil on the lawn in the fall or spring
  • Checking the lawn for PH level and adding lime if needed
  • Pest control e.g grubs
  • Crabgrass control in the spring
  • Dethatching the lawn once every couple of years

Most lawn care maintenance service companies will do all of these services. The exception will be watering the lawn since this takes a great deal of time. Some consumers will install automatic watering systems. They can be programmed to water the lawn at specified times during the day.

In addition, some companies specialize in fertilizer and pest control applications, leaving the actual grass cutting and edging etc up to lawn care landscaping companies. You will see these companies going around with their trucks spraying the lawns with liquid fertilizer up to as many as 4 times per year which ensures that the lawn always is fed at the right time with the correct mix of fertilizer.

Lawn Care Maintenance Service & Landscaping Companies

If you also have a lot of gardens and shrubbery, you probably already know that these also require constant care and maintenance. They need to be fertilized and trimmed every year to ensure that they stay healthy and contribute to a beautiful looking yard. While we did not include this work activity in the above list, this work can be added to the contract that might be struck between you and the service company.

Your lawn and shrubs will always be at an optimum level this way with minimal work required by the homeowner if that is what is really desired. Many people do not mind cutting the grass once a week, but prefer to leave all of the other work to the lawn care maintenance service companies. This can also be accommodated by most companies.

Contracts with Lawn Care Service Companies

We strongly urge consumers to ask for a simple written contract with any service company that spells out exactly what service will be performed, when it will be performed and how often the work will be done for each service along with the price. Most companies are very reputable, but sometimes misunderstandings can occur and the best way to prevent this situation from occurring is to have it written down so that there is no confusion.

In fact all transactions should be handled in this manner to avoid any dispute or frustration on the part of the home owner or the lawn care maintenance service company.

That’s all we have about lawn care maintenance service. Your next step is to decide what work you personally want to do and what work that you would like to be completed for you.

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Trouble Shooting Lawn Mower Starter Problems

March 7th, 2012 ernie Posted in Maintenance 3 Comments »

Lawn Mower Starter ProblemsIt is always a good idea to keep your lawn mower tuned up and ready to go for the summer lawn cutting season. But sometimes they just will not start and you need to know what to do before calling for expensive repairs or just chucking it and buying a new one. There are 4 or 5 steps to take before you raise the flag so to speak and call in someone to help. We will cover these issues for you in the following post.

Of course if you are handy then you can take it a lot further, but for now we will settle for these simple steps to get your lawn mower started.

  • Check the Choke and Throttle
  • Make sure there is Gasoline in the Tank
  • Clean Your Spark Plugs
  • Clean the Carburetor
  • Change or Clean the Air and Fuel filters
  • Call a Mechanic or a Good Friend

These are all pretty basic, but one word of caution, before you look underneath, always disconnect the spark plug to prevent the engine from accidentally starting while your hands are underneath.

Dealing with Lawn Mower Starter Problems

Check the Choke and Throttle

Most lawn mowers have a choke and throttle which must be in specific positions depending on whether the engine is hot or cold. Check your manual and make sure they are in the right position when you are trying to start the engine. Some of the newer lawn mowers have chokes that are automatic so all you need to do is make sure the throttle is in the right position. Pretty easy for most people.

Make sure there is Gasoline in the Tank

You might laugh at this one. Who would not make sure that there is gasoline in the engine. Well it happens more often than you might imagine.  I have worked around lawn mowers for many years and it has even happened to me. In my case I never checked the lawn mower after finishing the lawn one day. Apparently the gas tank was empty and so next time it started and only ran for a minute or two. It took me about five minutes to figure out that I should check the gas tank to make sure there was gas in it. Some people get as far as taking their lawn mower to a mechanic only to find out that all it needed was gas in the gas tank. So make sure that there is gas in the tank.

Clean Your Spark Plugs

If your lawn mower is a few years old or even older, spark plugs will get dirty and corroded. Sometimes they get so bad that the corrosion stops the spark from igniting. If you cannot get your lawn mower to run, take out the spark plug, clean it up, file the metal contacts a little bit so there is shiny metal showing and re-gap it. If you are up to it make sure that there is a spark.

Put on a pair of gloves, make sure the spark plug wire is connected and hold the spark plug engine end against a meal object. Make sure sure there is no gasoline around that could accidentally be ignited. Crank the engine slowly and you should see a spark between the two electrodes. If you are not holding it right, you could also get a good shock!

Clean the Carburetor

This may not be for everyone, however if your carburetor is dirty or gummed up from  old gasoline left over winter, you will need to clean the carburetor. Check your manual for the proper procedure and then reset all of the settings for the lawn mowers carburetor.

Change or Clean the Air and Fuel filters

Sometimes it is very dusty when you are cutting the lawn and the filters can get dirty preventing the engine from running smoothly. It is a simple matter, following your instruction book, to change the filters so that your engine is getting sufficient air and clean gasoline. Most engines will run with dirty filters, but they may sputter or back fire occasionally and they will run rough. This could be one of the reasons!

Call a Mechanic or a Good Friend

If none of the above worked for you, it might be time to call in a professional mechanic. Or perhaps a good friend who knows their way around a lawn mowers engine. While you are at it, make sure they change the oil in the engine as well. Always ask for an estimate of the repairs to make sure there are no surprises. If they are high, you may want to consider buying a new lawn mower instead of getting expensive repairs completed.

Our next post is going to discuss whether it is cheaper to buy or get your old one repaired. Man perfectly good lawn mowers are being thrown out because the cost to repair them is just too high. check out next weeks post, “Repairing Your lawn Mower vs Buying New”, if you would like more information on this subject.

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Lawn Mower Blade Care

July 21st, 2011 ernie Posted in General, Maintenance 1 Comment »

Lawn Mower Blade CareOne of the most important parts of your lawn mower, next to the engine is the blade. A sharp well maintained blade will ensure a clean cut on your grass. A clean cut will not only provide a nicer look to your lawn after it is cut, your lawn will be healthier as well. Dull blades tend to tear the blades of grass rather than cut them. Torn blades do not look as nice as sharp ends that have been cut off. They are more susceptible to disease and insects as well which can lead to long term problems with your lawn.

Also blades with nicks out of them may become unbalanced and place unnecessary stress on the engine. If your blade as nicks out of the cutting service, you should really replace the blade with a brand new blade specifically designed for your lawn mower.

Lawn Mower Blade Care

Periodically inspect the blade  for cracks, especially if you strike a foreign object. Replace when  necessary. Follow the steps below for blade inspection and service:

  • Disconnect spark plug wire from spark plug.
  • Tip lawn mower on its side  making sure that the air filter and the carburetor are up
  • Remove the bolt and the blade bell  support which hold the blade and blade adapter to the engine crankshaft
  • Remove blade and adapter from the crankshaft

The blade may be re-sharpened by removing it and either grinding or filing the cutting edge keeping as close to the original bevel as possible. Do not attempt to sharpen the blade while it is still on the lawn mower.

It is extremely important that each cutting edge receive an equal amount of grinding to prevent an unbalanced state.

Note: improper blade balance will result in excessive vibration causing eventual damage to the engine and lawn mower. Be sure to carefully balance blade after sharpening. Possible damage resulting from blade unbalance condition is not the responsibility of the manufacture and most will not honor warranties on blades or engines when they are not balanced properly.

Note: always removed blade from the adapter for testing balance.

Reassembling the Blade with the Lawn Mower

The blade can be tested for balance by balancing it on a round shaft screwdriver. Remove metal from the heavy site until it balances evenly.

  • Before reassembling the blade and the blade adapter to the unit, lubricate the engine crankshaft and inner surface of the blade adapter with light oil
  • Installing the adapter on the crankshaft with the star  away from the engine.
  • Place the blade with the side marked bottom facing away from the adapter.
  • Align the blade bell support over the blade with the tabs in the holes of the blade insert the hex bolt.
  • Tighten the hex bolt to the torque listed in your manual.

Above all review your manual that came with your lawn mower. The above guidelines are just that and not specific to any particular lawn mower. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about checking your lawn mowers blade or sharpening the blade, take the lawn mower into your local small engine repair shop for maintenance. You can have the oil changed at the same time and the spark plug checked also.

They will charge a nominal fee and ensure that your lawn mower will last another year and run well for you. Some people believe in just using them until they stop, then going to purchase another one, which is a really poor use of a piece of equipment.

Additional comments are welcome about lawn mower blade care and sharpening. Spam comments are auto deleted.

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Lawn Mower Repairs

January 15th, 2010 ernie Posted in Maintenance 1 Comment »

Lawn Mower RepairsMaintaining your lawn mower on a regular basis will ensure that you keep repairs to an absolute minimum, however there will be lawn mower repairs to contend with, particularly as the lawn mower gets older and also depending on how much lawn you cut every week. The more wear and tear your lawn mower undergoes, the more you should concentrate on maintaining your lawn mower and also repairing anything that is needed immediately. If you use your lawn mower often, then you really cannot afford to have a break down. Some home owners or small landscape companies will always have a backup so they are never without a lawn mower.

Lawn Mower Repairs

There are  all types of lawn mowers including push non-motorized, push motorized, self propelled and riding lawn mowers. They all have their specific requirements for maintenance, and all need repairs from time to time. Operators can often avoid serious and costly repairs by repairing something before it becomes serious and costly. Tightening a loose bolt, removing debris from around the lawn mower housing, cleaning a carburetor, replacing a spark plug because your lawn mower is back firing or not developing full power are just a few examples.

Lawn mower repairs should always be completed in a safe manner. Always shut the lawn mower off before doing any work on the machine. In fact it is recommended in all manuals to disconnect the spark plug wire from the spark plug before doing any work or repairs.

A routine that everyone should follow :

  • Perform all annual maintenance called for in the manual
  • Perform all maintenance called for after the prescribed number of hours of operation
  • Before starting your lawn mower each time check for any loose bolts that should be replaced or tightened.
  • Replace or repair any of these items immediately to avoid further damage and potentially more costly repairs.

Common lawn mower repairs may involve engine tuning, tire replacement or tire repair, blade sharpening, belt replacement if you lawn mower uses belts, oil changes and many other miscellaneous items.

Immediate repair will ensure that you are not left without a lawn mower and that your lawn mower will last a lifetime.  There are multiple ways to complete repairs. For example many consumers will perform their own repairs and purchase brand new parts to be installed. Consumers can usually order these parts from your lawn mower’s manufacturer as well as some of the more common parts can be ordered from your local small engine mechanic.

I have found that getting to know your local small engine mechanic to be a win win situation. As long as you purchase parts from him, they will often assist you with making sure you have the right part and explaining the best way to install them. They have had a great deal of experience repairing lawn mowers and have probably seen just about every thing you can imagine. A few minutes discussion can often save lots of money, time and also reduce frustration. Just make sure you show some loyalty by spending some money purchasing parts.

Professional Lawn Mower Repair

Of course not everyone wants to do their own lawn mower repairs. Load up your lawn mower and take it to your local small engine mechanic. This will no doubt cost more and take more time as well, but it means you do not need to worry about repairs. Always ask for an estimate before actually completing the repairs. Sometimes it can be cheaper to just go and purchase a new lawn mower vs. repairing the old one, especially if you are paying someone to make the repairs. Adding the cost of parts and the hourly charges can quickly compare to a new lawn mower. There may be a silver lining to this situation. Your small engine mechanic will often take the old lawn mower off your hands. He will use it for spare parts, particularly if your lawn mower is old and parts difficult to find.

Taking your lawn mower in for repairs in the middle of the summer or at the beginning of the season may be problematic. Many consumers faced with the need for repairs seen to discover that they need repairs in the spring when they first go to use their lawn mower. You may have to wait your turn to get your lawn mower back. Borrow the neighbor’s lawn mower or let your grass grow until your lawn mower is repaired.

Riding Lawn Mower Issues

Consumers with riding lawn mowers are faced with an additional problem. You just cannot throw your riding lawn mower in the back of the trunk. Most will need a small trailer to transport riding lawn mowers to be repaired. If you do not have a trailer or cannot borrow one, you may have to make transport arrangements yourself. The riding lawn mower may be picked up or for the repair technician to visit your home.

Companies such as John Deere offer this service. Many local companies will also offer this type of service for a fee. Always find out what fees you will be charged. What the hourly rate is before hand to avoid any surprises. Often there is an initial flat rate fee just to show up. Then you are billed by the hour for the repair activity.

Compared to completing the repairs yourself, this can become an expensive proposition. Once you have compared the prices , you can make an informed decision regarding

  • A) repair it yourself
  • B) have a technician complete the repairs or
  • C) Buy a new lawn mower.

Even if you make mistakes or need to purchase a tool you may not have, doing your own repairs can be the most economical as well as rewarding. Just take your time, work safely and apply standard problem solving techniques to completing repairs to your lawn mower.

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Lawn Mower Maintenance

January 8th, 2010 ernie Posted in Maintenance 1 Comment »

Lawn Mower MaintenanceI know people who change the oil in the car engines every 3000 miles religiously, however when it comes  to their lawn mowers, they rarely change the oil from year to year. They will not even think about changing the oil. Yet they expect their lawn mower to run each and every time they need it to cut the lawn. My neighbor has not changed the oil in his lawn mower in 3 years. It was black and full of sludge. I got him to change the oil and it even runs better now.

Many of the lawn mowers today are 4 cycle engines. Which means that you do not mix oil with the gasoline. They take regular unleaded gasoline. It also means that you must check the oil reservoir once and a while. Make sure that there is sufficient oil in the engine. Most new engines will not burn oil, so you should never see a drop in engine oil in a relative new engine. Once your lawn mower engine is older and of course this depends on how much lawn you actually cut each week, you might begin to see some oil usage. a good rule of thumb is to check the level of the oil each time you start the engine and part of your regular lawn mower maintenance routine.

Like any engine, the oil does it’s job of lubricating the engine and over time will become contaminated from combustion particles. A good indication of contaminated oil is that it begins to turn black and may even become relatively sluggish if it is left long enough.

Lawn Mower Maintenance – Change the Oil

Basic lawn mower maintenance calls for the oil to be changed at minimum once per year. Review the maintenance section of your manual to confirm how often you need to perform this level of maintenance. If you are unsure how to do this simple maintenance activity, the manual will also cover how to actually drain the oil. There are a few basic steps to follow, however we strongly recommend you follow the steps in the manual:

  • Run the engine for 5 or 10 minutes to warm up the engine
  • Disconnect the spark plug wire before you do any work at all
  • Locate the oil drain plug and place a flat pan underneath to catch the oil.
  • Remove the oil plug and allow all of the oil to drain out
  • Replace the drain plug
  • Pour the recommended oil into the appropriate intake for oil on your engine
  • Fill to the recommended level
  • Reconnect the spark plug and run the engine for a few minutes to circulate the oil
  • Shut the engine off, check the oil level once again and adjust the oil level appropriately

These step by step lawn mower maintenance  procedures only take 10 to 20 minutes, will add years to your lawn mower engine life, and save you hundreds of dollars.

Lawn Mower Maintenance – Sharpen Your Lawn Mower Blade

While you are changing the oil as part of your regular annual lawn mower maintenance routine, another excellent step to take is to sharpen your lawn mower blade as well.  You will need to actually remove your lawn mower’s blade from the engine shaft. Again follow the step by step guidelines in your manual and always make sure that the spark plug wire is disconnected before doing any of this work.

Once you have the blade off of your lawn mower, use a flat file to sharpen the blade. You will see immediate results once you perform this function. Your old dull blade will rip the grass apart leaving jagged edges to the blades, while a sharp blade will actually cut the grass leaving a nice straight cut. If you have thick grass, your engine will not have to work quite as hard as well.

Dealing with Small Engine Repair Shops

If you are at all uncomfortable with doing this kind of work yourself, or perhaps do not have the tools to perform basic levels of lawn mower maintenance on your lawn mower, you can always take your lawn mower into a small engine repair shop.

These shops repair all types of small engines, including lawn mowers, snow blowers, weed whackers and any other types of small engines that consumers use around the yard.

Many will have a standard charge for oil changes and blade sharpening. It is a good idea to go in early in the season if you would like your lawn mower worked on in time for the spring lawn cutting season. These guys get pretty busy at the beginning of the season, when consumers go to start their lawn mowers the first time and encounter difficulty in starting their engines. They rush to the small engine repair shops along with everyone else and find they have to wait their turn.

If you can drop your lawn mower off in the fall after the season has ended, and before the snow comes, this may be another excellent time to arrange for basic maintenance to be completed. You can also request that all other aspects be checked as well. For example, the carburetor can be cleansed, gaskets replaced, new spark plug installed and all systems checked to confirm it is ready for the next season.

Of course this all costs money and it becomes a trade off between paying for maintenance or repairs vs. purchasing a new lawn mower. I have maintained my own lawnmower for years and it is currently hitting the 30 year mark and still running well.

Clean Lawn Mower Housing

Another basic maintenance activity keep the housing clean. Both the outside surface as well as the housing underneath. The grass can collect both on top as well as underneath and if it is moist at all can slowly over time eat away at the housing. Additionally, ( this actually happened to me) if grass builds up close to the exhaust, it can start to smoke or even start on fire. My lawn mower was smoking and I could not figure out why. I thought initially it had blown the piston ring and was burning oil. Actually grass had caught fire and was smoldering, creating a lot of blue smoke. So keep the housing clean and free of grass!!!

For more information on this topic, click here.

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