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winterizing your lawn mower

Winterizing Your Lawn Mower

Steps for proper end-of-season maintenance and storage

By Scott Bish

You’ve spent the summer working hard on your land. Depending on the climate you live in, it may be time to wind down the outdoor chores and begin winterizing your lawn and garden equipment.

To protect your lawn tractor or mower throughout the months ahead and ensure a smooth startup when it’s time to spring back into action, there are key steps you should take to properly clean and store away your machine.

1 Clean Your Mower
First, remove dirt and debris from the underside of the machine. Newer models feature a hose port to make rinsing the deck easier. If you don’t have one, you can still get the job done fairly easily.

Before you begin, disconnect the spark plug to prevent the mower from accidentally starting and causing injury. Then place your mower on a flat, paved surface, and carefully tip it onto its side. For a riding mower, be sure to safely support and secure it.

Pull on heavy work gloves and use a flat pry bar or putty knife to scrape off any dried-on clumps of grass. Remove all dirt and debris with a wire brush.

Next, use the hose to give the underside and blade a thorough spray-down. If you prefer to remove the mower blade and clean it separately, use a socket wrench to remove the bolts that hold it in place. Lay the blade on its side, and hose it off. Let everything dry thoroughly, reattach the blade if you’ve removed it, and proceed to the next step.

2 Drain the Oil
First, spread out a tarp to catch any oil splatter and have an oil pan handy. Next, locate your oil drain plug in the engine compartment and open it. Depending on what kind of mower you have—walk-behind or riding—you can attach a hose to the drain or place a funnel with a hose attached to it just below the drain; the hose should direct the flow of oil right to the pan. After draining, replace the plug (also cleaned of gunk and build-up), and add in new oil, following the guidelines in your owner’s manual. Be sure to properly recycle your old oil when finished, and contact your local waste and sanitation department for proper disposal.

3 Make a Fuel Plan
If you choose to leave fuel inside your mower while storing it during the winter, you should add a fuel stabilizer. This prevents gas from degrading and clogging up your fuel system. Once you’ve added the stabilizer according to the bottle directions, run your mower’s engine for a few minutes to cycle the stabilized fuel through the system.

If you prefer to remove unused gas before you stow your mower away, make sure the engine is cool and siphon the excess gas into a clean gas can. Restart your mower and run it until it stops. Repeat until the engine no longer starts and the fuel lines are empty of gas.

4 Remove the Battery
Gently remove the lawn mower battery, wipe it off with a clean cloth, and store it in a place that’s cool, dry, and out of reach for children and animals. To preserve the life of the battery, you may want to use a battery tender or maintainer. This will continually drain and recharge the battery, keeping it ready for spring.

 5 Find a Safe Storage Spot
Whether you choose to store your mower in a barn, shed, garage, or other building, make sure you pick a spot where it can stay dry and protected from the elements. Park it far away from potential sources of flames or heat, such as water heaters, furnaces, and appliances with pilot lights.

Extra protection never hurts, which is why it’s a good idea to cover your resting mower with a waterproof tarp.

Visit your local Tractor Supply, where a friendly associate can help you choose all the gear and products you’ll need to safely clean and store your mower.

Scott Bish is a writer who hails from Ohio.