It’s finally getting cold outside and the grass has gone dormant. It’s time to put the lawnmower away for the winter, and you want to ensure a smooth start-up in the Spring. You have some ideas of what to do but are not exactly sure. This post covers two great approaches for winterization and a bonus approach that helps extend the life of your lawn equipment.
First Approach for Winterization
- Completely drain the gas tank – This can either be done with a transfer pump or by removing the hose that connects the gas tank to the carburetor. If you can access that hose at the carburetor, using that method for draining the tank will cause less mess in the next step.
- Remove and Clean Carburetor Bowl – Remove the bowl on the carburetor, empty it of gas, and clean it out with carburetor cleaner or brake clean. Do not skip emptying the bowl. Gas left in the bowl will undergo separation of the ethanol ( in a process called phase separation) and parts in the carburetor will severely corrode. Spray a rag with WD-40 and wipe the inside of the bowl, then reinstall the bowl.
- Change Oil – Methods will vary by manufacturer. Some lawnmowers have drain plugs, while some must be drained through the oil fill. If yours is the latter, I recommend using a transfer pump for small engines. It is better than trying to tip the lawnmower over to drain the oil into a container, usually resulting in a mess.
- Change Air Filter – Lawnmowers suck up a lot of dust and debris throughout the season. This is not something to skimp on. An OEM air filter is usually under $10 each.
- Change Spark Plug – Admittedly, I am not the best with this. However, most manufacturers recommend the spark plug be changed once a season. Winterization is a great time to get it done.
- Blade Care – Either remove the blade and send it to the local equipment shop for sharpening and a balance, or buy a new blade. There is a cost factor to consider when choosing to sharpen or replace a blade.
If you have a 21” Toro Recycler with one blade that costs $19.99, It doesn’t make sense to pay $60 to have the old blade sharpened. If you are like me and your blades cost $400, then it makes sense to have them sharpened and balanced.
- Clean Mower Deck – use a specialty grass scraper tool or a drywall putty knife to scrape off built-up grass from the mower deck. This is probably the least glamorous part of mower maintenance, but should not be overlooked.
- Grease Lubrication Points. Some mowers have them, others don’t. Check the manual for your mower to see whether anything needs to be lubricated.
- Check Drive Belts. Most modern mowers are self-propelled and have a drive belt. On most mowers that come from home improvement stores, the belt is hiding under a cover above the blade. Remove the cover to check for cracks or glazing of the belt.
- General Check-over for Broken/Loose Parts – Take a few minutes to look over all the parts of the mower: the wheels, cables, nuts and bolts, and covers. Ensure everything that should be tight is tight, and everything that should move freely is doing so.
Pro Tip for Gas: Do not store gas for a year (or longer) at a time. For every month stabilized ethanol-blended gas sits, it loses one octane point. If it is unstabilized, it is recommended to not buy any more gas than what will last you 30 days.
Read about the second approach for winterization on the next page.