9 Tips for Preparing Your Lawn Mower for the Winter
With winter fast on the way your lawn isn't going to need as much attention, but now it's time to focus on your lawn mower. If you live in an area with heavy snow or rain, chances are it will be sitting for up to six months. And just as you prepared your sprinkler system for winter, your also going to have to do some preventative maintenance on your mower.
Months of sitting around is bad for the engine of a mower, just as it is for a car. The gas goes bad, the engine seizes the battery dies, dust gets everywhere, and your belts can crack. If you want to prevent this, then make sure to follow these simple tips.
1. Drain the Fuel Tank
Gasoline goes bad if it sits there long enough, and it's even worse when it's in a motor. The gas can partially evaporate, clogging carburetors and fuel lines, which is a hassle to clean and repair. To avoid this, simply add some fuel stabilizer to your gasoline, then run it for five minutes. Proceed to drain the gas tank, then run the mower until it dies. Try to start it a few more times, just to make sure that the lines are truly empty. After that you should remove the spark plugs and add just a little oil into the combustion chamber (about a cap full). Turn over the engine one more time, to get it evenly distributed.
2. Remove the Battery
If you are lucky enough to have a mower with an electric starter, then you are going to want to remove the battery before you store it for the winter. The reason being that lead-acid batteries discharge over time, and when this happens the lead plates inside build up sulfate deposits making the battery ineffective. The simple solution to prevent this is to charge your battery once every two to three weeks. This prevents damage to the battery, and will keep it ready for next year.
Also, if your battery is the kind that requires maintenance, (such as adding distilled water) this would be a good time to do it.
3. Check Your Belts
(Make sure to remove the spark-plug for safety purposes.)
Lawn mowers which have belts should have them checked before storage. Cracked or worn belts will only deteriorate with time. And though it would be best to replace them next year, it may still be a good time to have the old ones removed for storage.
4. Remove the Blade
Removing the blade at this point will help with later steps, but don't waste the opportunity to look it over. Check for wear and cracks in the blade, if it's in good shape then you may only need to sharpen it, otherwise replace it.
5. Drain the Oil
Motor oil, just like gas can go bad if it sits around long enough (though it typically takes significantly longer). Because of this, it's a good time to drain it out, and plug the engine back up before you store it. Just make sure you put fresh oil back before you start it up next spring.
6. Replace the Air-Filter
A dirty air-filter can choke an engine to death. If you've been having trouble getting it started this is a likely culprit. And seeing as you are doing a lot of maintenance anyway, you might as well give this a look. If it's dirty then you can clean it with soap and water, then make sure to let it dry completely before reinstalling it. If soap and water is not enough to clean it up, then replacements are fairly inexpensive.
7. Clean the Undercarriage
The underside of the deck, or undercarriage gets pretty dirty with use, and all those caked on lawn clippings have a nasty habit of holding on to moisture, which can cause rust. Now is the perfect opportunity to give it a good cleaning. A wire-brush or putty-knife work well for this, just scrape off any sizable clumps of grass and mud. You don't need to get it spotless as it's only going to get dirty again next year.
(Now is a good time to replace the blade, then the spark-plug.)
8. Fill Up the Tires
Make sure to inflate the tires on your lawn mower (should it have inflatable tires). Low tire pressure will get even worse at the months go on, and if they get too low you can blow a bead, or even have your tires split, requiring replacement before you can use your equipment again.
If you are suspicious that a tire may have a slow leak, then you can always remove it so that your mower wont be resting on a flat-tire for the winter.
9. Cover It Up
Sitting for months on end is a great way to get dust in every nook an cranny of your mower. A very simple way to prevent this caked on dust is to cover it up. A tarp will do just fine, as you are only trying to keep any sediment from resting on the mower itself, though for best results, you should make sure to keep it in a utility shed.
Following these tips you'll be sure that come next spring your mower will be good to go and ready for another year.