Landscapes — and your landscaping equipment — need seasonal attention. Before you store your lawn mower away once cold weather starts, however, you should winterize it. If you don’t properly prepare it for long-term storage, you may have to get another one next spring. Fortunately, this doesn’t take special skills to do. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to winterize lawn mowers and keep it in excellent shape throughout the off-season.
Why Should You Winterize Your Lawn Mower?
It all boils down to safeguarding the lawn mower’s performance and durability. Winter tends to damage appliances, and lawn mowers are no exception.
Winter is long and cold. The time your lawn mower spends in storage reduces its performance eventually. The winter’s cold temperatures are also bad for movable mechanical parts, which can reduce the mower’s performance.
This is why you may have noticed your lawn mower acting up after winter ends and spring comes again. Hopefully, this will not happen to you again.
How to Winterize Lawn Mowers in Seven Steps
It takes more than just a secure storage space to keep your lawn mower safe during winter. These seven steps will walk through how to winterize lawn mowers from start to finish.
1. Clean the Mowing Deck
Grass clippings and dirt contain moisture that, if left to settle for the winter duration, will make the blades and deck rust. Dirt also causes clogging, which in turn causes wear in the motor.
Be thorough when cleaning the lawn mower. Open up the deck and scrape off all particles from under the deck. Also, try to get in-between the movable parts to prevent clogging. Cleanse the dirt off with a garden hose. Use a safe detergent that will not have any adverse effects, such as rusting. Even with a gentle cleanser, rinse the mower deck with clean water before drying and coating it to remove every trace of the chemicals.
Spray the deck’s underside with silicone spray when you are done cleaning. The spray coating will protect the metal and paint from rusting.
You should also take the opportunity to repaint the lawn mower to keep it looking as good as new. Alternatively, coat the lawn mower’s external parts to keep the paint intact and prevent rusting.
2. Sharpen and Balance the Blades
How long have you had your lawn mower? Does it cut as good as it did when it was new? If it doesn’t, it is because the blades are blunt. Grass, rocks, and twigs can dull the blades over time and impede the mower’s performance. While you’re winterizing the lawn mower, take the opportunity to sharpen the blades before closing the deck back up again. The blades should be sharpened at least once a year, or else the lawn mower will not do a tidy job.
Wear protective gloves to avoid cutting yourself on the blades.
3. Drain or Stabilize the Fuel
A full tank is not always good, especially if the fuel will sit there throughout the winter. Fuel goes bad over time, especially if it doesn’t have a preservative or fuel stabilizer. The alcohol in fuel corrodes the rubber and plastic parts in the fuel system. The alcohol also breaks up and absorbs water from condensation, which causes more clogging and rusting. This damage can set you back hundreds of dollars in repair costs or ruin your mower entirely.
Find a way to drain the gas tank – siphoning is simple, fast, and effective. However, there will be some residue left, and it also poses a risk. Get rid of the residue by starting the lawn mower and keep it running until all the fuel is used up.
Alternatively, you can add a stabilizer or preservative and keep the tank full. If you live in a climate where you only occasionally need to mow your lawn, it is also advisable to buy stabilized fuel that can handle dormant periods. However, if you choose this option, then you will need a lawn mower storage shed to keep the tank dry. After adding fuel stabilizer, run the mower for a few minutes to allow the mixture to flow through the fuel lines and carburetor.
4. Remove the Battery
Batteries, like fuel, need special attention. They are susceptible to temperature fluctuations and should not be exposed to the winter cold — it shortens the battery’s lifespan. Batteries also lose power over time when not used or stored properly. To prevent this, remove the battery before putting the mower away.
Be careful with the wiring when removing the battery. Wipe it clean using a dry towel and store it in a cool and dry place. Now is also a great opportunity to check for corrosion and battery acid buildup on the battery and the mower.
Store the battery in temperatures between 40°F and 80°F. Also, make sure that you charge it to full capacity before putting it back into the lawn mower in the spring.
5. Change the Oil
Contaminated oil is bad for your lawn mower’s engine. It causes clogging and worsens the lawn mower’s performance. These effects are made even worse by the cold and dormancy of winter. This is why changing oil is one of the most important steps of how to winterize lawn mowers.
To start, drain the old oil from the lawn mower down to the last drop. Next, inject a fresh shot of oil into the cylinder and all other parts that need it. Check to see that the fresh oil is evenly distributed over the cylinder’s walls. Only use the oil recommended by the manufacturer for optimal performance.
You can also take this opportunity to clean or replace the oil, air filter, and fuel filter.
Consider recycling the old oil elsewhere to reduce wastage. You can give it away at a transfer station or car repair shop. Your city may also have rules for disposing of used oil safely, so check with your municipal website for any restrictions.
6. Replace the Spark Plug
The spark plug is one of the most fragile and vital components of a lawn mower. It should be replaced once every year, ideally right after the lawn mower has done its job for the year. Get a new spark plug that is compatible with your lawn mower.
7. Lubricate the Wheels and Moving Parts
Your lawn mower will stay stationary for the duration of the winter. This is enough time to get the wheels and other movable parts to clog and lock up. Any rubber washers and O-rings may dry out and crack. To prevent this damage, lubricate the moving parts, rubber or plastic components, and any joints or bolts you loosen or tighten during maintenance or seasonal repairs. Use a good-quality green lubricant that will not cause corrosion and other undesired effects. Focus your effort on movable parts around the wheels and inside the engine. As you apply the lubricant, make sure it is spread out evenly across the surfaces.
Lawn Mower Winterization and Storage Tips
Now that you know how to winterize lawn mowers, what do you do about storage? Your lawn mower should be stored in a safe and secure place away from exposure to any destructive elements, such as water and the cold. Here are some tested and proven ideas for DIY lawn mower storage:
Store Your Lawn Mower Inside
If you are wondering where to store lawn mower outside, be careful. There are numerous risks outside, including exposure to moisture, extreme cold, and pests looking for winter shelter. The safest place is indoors, preferably in a garage or storage shed.
Most lawn mowers don’t take up too much space, so you should be able to make room to store them (and hopefully still have extra room in your shed or garage to rent out!). Riding mower storage ideas require more space, so you may need to dedicate more garage space or consider off-site storage. No matter where you store your mower, keep the storage space clean and dry.
Cover the Mower With a Tarp
Your lawn mower is not completely safe indoors. Dust and moisture in the air can slowly degrade the engine, mower blades, and frame. As such, it is prudent to cover the lawn mower with a tarp to keep the dust, moisture, and other undesired elements out.
Make sure that you cover every part of the lawn mower. You can even fasten the tarp to make your DIY lawn mower storage as complete as possible.
Use Bait Stations to Keep Pests Out of It
Are there rats and other pests in your lawn mower storage shed? Furry creatures can exercise their curiosity and chew at the cables and other parts. Insects may also shelter the mower’s crevices. This leads to expensive damage or can ruin the lawn mower altogether. As such, keep the pests away by installing a bait station under and around the lawn mower.
Make your bait stations pet-safe to keep your pets safe. You should also consider pest control services to get to the root of the problem.
It doesn’t take special skills to winterize lawn mowers. Anyone can do it once they read this comprehensive guide to how to winterize lawn mowers. Roll your sleeves up, get your tools out, and put these tips on how to winterize lawn mowers into practice. Now is also a great time to store your motorcycle and boat properly for the off-season.
Proper storage is also just as important as winterization. As such, be sure to store your lawn mower in a clean and dry storage space to keep the lawn mower safe.
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