How to Winterize Your Lawn Mower
Before you put power tools away for the winter, be sure that they’re ready to be stored. All it takes is a few simple steps to ensure that your lawn mower will start up easily in the spring.
- Empty the Gas Tank. If your mower runs on gas, you’ll need to empty it. Look in the owner’s manual for directions on how to do this and be sure to dispose of the gas safely. Or, better yet, run the mower until it runs out of gas. If you leave gas in the tank over the winter, it can oxidize, cause rust, or congeal into a jelly-like substance, all of which will damage your engine when you start it in the spring. If for some reason you can’t empty the tank, try adding a fuel stabilizer to the remaining gas (but note that stabilizers work best on fresh fuel, not gas that’s been in the tank for a while). Fuel stabilizers are safe for most 2- and 4-cycle engines but check your owner’s manual first; some brands specifically state not to add stabilizer and doing so can void the warranty.
- Change the Oil. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual on this one.
- Check and/or Change the Spark Plug. Remove the spark plug and check it for damage, corrosion, and/or dirt. If it’s not looking good then get a new one. Add a small amount of oil to the crank case and then reinstall the spark plug, but don’t connect the ignition cable (you’ll do that in the spring).
- Clean the Entire Lawn Mower. Never store it for the winter without cleaning it first! This means wiping down not only the engine and frame, but also scraping out all of the grass clippings and dirt caked onto the underside of the mower. Tip the mower on edge to clean the underside; don’t turn it upside-down! Once you’ve wiped and scraped off all debris, rinse the mower completely with a hose, being careful not to get water into the engine compartment. Dry it off thoroughly.
- Check and/or Sharpen the Mower Blade. Take a close look at the blade for wear and tear. Most blades are pretty dinged up at the end of the season (if you’re like me, you’ve probably run over plenty of sticks and stones). If the blade is nicked or dull, use a heavy-duty file or a grinder to file down and sharpen the edges. If the mower blade looks like it’s damaged, it’s better to simply replace it with a new one.