As another lawn mowing season is coming to a close, now’s the time to prep your lawn mower for winter to ensure it starts right when you need it to next spring.
We all know it’s tempting to just store that mower away and worry about it next spring, but procrastinating will only make it that much more difficult to get the mower up and running when the yard is ready for a trim.
Here are 7 simple steps to winterizing your lawn mower now so it won’t be an pain in the back in a few months.
A mower used at the end of the season needs to be emptied of fuel. This is the single biggest step to ensure your mower starts in the spring. First, drain or siphon the gas tank dry. If the gasoline has a fuel preservative, you can save it until next spring or run it in your snowblower. If the gasoline has not had a preservative like Startron added, you need to use up the gasoline as soon as possible. Allowing it to sit over the winter will cause the ethanol in the gasoline to separate and its other chemical components to degrade.
The alcohol in the fuel dissolves plastic and rubber parts in the fuel system. It also can gums up carburetors and attracts moisture, which corrodes metal parts. And even if the engine escapes damage, it experiences a loss of performance from chemically degraded fuel because ethanol-based gasoline can spoil rapidly, often separating into layers of alcohol and fuel.
Once you’ve emptied as much gas as possible, start up the mower and run it dry, burning through any remaining gas. Optionally, If the fuel lines are easily accessible, you can disconnect and drain them, too, to ensure that the mower is as fuel-free over the winter as possible.
Remove the Battery
If you own a rider mower, or zero-turn mower, remove its battery and bring it indoors for the winter. Clean the battery well, removing any dust, grease, or dirt. Store it in a cool, dry location away from flammable substances like gasoline or heat sources like a water heater or furnace. Come next spring, use a 120-volt Battery Charger to bring the battery to full capacity, then reinstall it into the mower.
Same goes for a cordless, battery-powered mower: remove the battery and store it indoors.
Remove the Spark Plug or (Plugs)
Remove the spark plug. Insure that the part of the plug that is in the engine, is colored an even gray. If there is black sooty build up on the plug this indicates, oil consumption. If the plug is white or light colored, it indicates that your engine is running lean and the carburetor might need inspected.Replace the old spark plug with a new one.
Replace or Clean Filters
Remove and clean or replace the mower’s air filter and fuel filter. Check the owner’s manual for more specific maintenance information.
Change the Oil
Drain all the engine oil from the mower and replace it with the specific type/weight recommended by the manufacturer. Generally on push mowers there is plug under the mower that you can remove or, if your mower is newer than 2015, You will need to have a vacuum extractor, tip the mower on its side and drain the oil out the fill tube. (Note: I personally don't recommend this). If your mower is a rider or zero-turn, the drain plug is at the bottom on the side of the machine. Remember to replace the oil filter on the engine, whenever you replace the engine oil if your mower has an engine oil filter. Recycle the old oil at a local transfer station, car-repair shop, or auto-parts store.
Scrape Out Under the Mowing Deck
Remove the negative (ground cable) from the battery to prevent accidental starting, then tip the mower onto its side, or prop it up securely. If your mower is a rider or zero turn, make sure your method of lifting the mower is secure and proper to avoid injury or death. Consider investing in the MOW-JACK Mower Lift to insure safe lifting. Unbolt and remove the mower’s blades. Next, use a Putty knife or some other flat wide scrapper blade to scrape loose any caked-on grass clippings from the underside of the deck. (Grass clippings contain moisture that can cause rust.) Optionally you can spray on a liberal coating of WD-40.
Sharpen the Blades
To ensure your mower cuts quickly and cleanly, it’s important to sharpen the blades at least once a year. However, if the blades are bent, chipped or cracked, replace them with new blades. And don’t forget to balance them before reinstalling them. If you don't know how to balance your blades take them to a Authorized Service Center like your local Outdoor Power Sales & Service Store Caution: Before you remove the mower blades, please remove the negative wire (ground wire) on the battery to prevent accidental starting.
Clean and Lube the Mower
Before you store away the mower for the season, use a damp cloth to wipe down the engine housing, wheels, handle, and top of the mowing deck.. Spray Lubricate on all exposed cable-movement points and pivot points using a good-quality lubricate like WD40 or PB Blaster. Grease all grease points on your mower. Generally there is a service schematic on the mower somewhere.
I recommend you store the mower indoors, if at all possible, and under a tarp to keep off the dust. If mice are a problem, place tamper-resistant, pet-safe bait stations under or around the mower. This will discourage mice from climbing into the engine and chewing up the electrical wiring, which will cause a headache come spring!