For most people, putting away the lawn mower at the end of the season is a cause for celebration. After the long, hot growing season this past year, folks have never been happier to be relieved of this chore. But for others, putting away the lawn mower for the winter can be a little sad. Say what you will, but I admit I like mowing the lawn. To me it’s therapeutic. The sunshine on your skin, the smell of cut grass and the time it gives you alone with your thoughts are all some of the reasons I’m going to miss it. So as I hold back the tears, here are some helpful tips on how to get your lawn mower ready for storage.
Start With a Thorough Cleaning
The first thing to do when winterizing a lawn mower is to give the machine a thorough cleaning. Soap and water will work just fine. During my years working as a property manager, I came to know firsthand how corrosive grass clippings left in and on equipment can be. Be sure to scrape off the accumulated grass particles around the mower blades, as well as around the engine. If you’ve been bagging your grass clippings, clean out the mower bag as much as possible. The best way to shorten the life of your mower bags is to leave grass clippings in them all winter.
Protect the Carburetor and Prevent Condensation in the Gas Tank
The next step has to do with the gas tank. For a long time, I was under the impression that the best way to store a small engine was with the gas tank empty and fuel line dry. Many folks still believe this is the best practice, understandably, since old gas can clog the carburetor come spring. However, an empty fuel tank is prone to water accumulation from condensation. The best solution is to actually fill the gas tank completely and add a fuel stabilizer. This solves both problems. A full gas tank won’t let water condense in the tank, and the stabilizer will keep the gas fresh and prevent deposits from clogging the carburetor. After you’ve filled the tank with gas and stabilizer, make sure you run the engine for a couple minutes to allow the stabilized gas to enter the carb.
Inspect Belts and Blades
Next, inspect the belts and blades and replace any that have become worn out. For blades, a good sharpening is often all they need. Because this is a slow time of the year for most lawn mower maintenance shops, make appointments now to get your lawn mower tuned up and blades sharpened to beat the rush next spring. If you’re able to sharpen the blades using a bench grinder, follow the recommendations in the owner’s manual regarding blade sharpening.
Oil, Spark Plugs, and Filters
For those of us that take our lawn mowers to a shop for a tune up, they should change the oil, check the spark plugs and replace the fuel and air filters for you. For those of us that are more do-it-yourselfers, these things will need to be inspected at this time. Owner’s manuals are the best way to know how to do this for your specific lawn mower, as well as the appropriate lubrication to apply to your machine.
Protecting the Battery
Finally, remove the battery and place it in a warm area. It’s also a good idea to periodically charge it throughout the winter. This will increase the life of the battery and help it keep a full charge. If you have a problem with mice and other rodents making nests in your equipment, place a few mothballs around the engine of your lawn mower to prevent them from causing damage.
Lawn mowers aren’t cheap. I’ve been personally responsible for lawn mowers worth over $10,000 during my employment history. While the average lawn mower used by most homeowners will be nowhere near as expensive, it still serves the same purpose. Regular maintenance and winterizing are essential to keep these amazing machines running smoothly and cutting grass week after week.