Your lawn mower is a super hard-working piece of equipment that deserves a little TLC before you roll it into the garage after the season’s final mowing. Taking just a little time to prep your mower for winter will help make it last longer and reward you with better performance come spring!
The two main tasks are to clean up the mower and take out the fuel.
Clean it up
Damp grass clippings and caked-on dirt can cause rust and corrosion, so you’ll want to get your mower clean.
- Unplug the spark plug so that the mower doesn’t accidentally start up.
- Brush off the mower, top and underneath. It’s a good idea to wear gloves, especially when working around the blades.
- Use a plastic paint scraper (or something similar) to scrape any hardened-on grass or dirt.
- Rinse the entire mower with a hose.
- Dry the mower (and especially the blades) with an old, absorbent towel.
- Spray the blades well with WD-40 to protect against rust.
Deal with the Fuel
If left in the mower, gas starts to deteriorate (starting in about a month). That deteriorated fuel can lead to gumming up in your carburetor and fuel system. There are two ways to deal with this, and experts and mower manufacturers differ in their advice. The two approaches are to either empty the gas tank and leave the tank empty or empty the tank and refill it with clean, stabilized fuel. Check your owner’s manual to see which method your mower’s manufacturer prefers.
Method 1: Empty the gas tank
One way to get the gas out of the tank is to run the mower until it runs out of gas. This works best if you can time it so there’s not much fuel left in the mower.
Other ways include siphoning the fuel out into a gas can or removing the fuel tank cap and tipping the mower over a drain pan. (This is potentially a much less tidy method, so be careful — it might be a good idea to put plastic down under the mower first, to catch any spills.) When you’ve siphoned or drained as much as you can, run the engine until the mower stops to finish up the job.
Method 2: Empty the tank and refill it with clean, stabilized fuel
Empty the gas tank as described above. Using the directions on the stabilizer package for amounts, place fuel stabilizer in an empty gas can. Fill the can with fresh gas. Add the stabilized fuel to your mower and run for a few minutes to get it through the fuel system.
Note: Don’t add fuel stabilizer to old gas in the mower. (Though it may stop its further deterioration, it won’t condition old gas.) Drain the old gas and add it to new gas. Then add the newly stabilized fuel to your mower.
Remove the battery (if your mower has one)
If you have a cordless electric or gas-powered mower with a battery, disconnect the battery from the mower and wipe it off. Store the battery in a cool, dry place (not near a water heater or furnace).
Use a metal brush to clean the battery terminal.
Change the oil
Changing the oil is something you can do yourself or something that you can have done when you get your mower serviced — now or in the spring. (If your mower is a 2-cycle engine, the oil is mixed with the gas and this step won’t be necessary — you only need to change the oil if your mower has a 4-cycle engine.)
If you want to do it yourself, empty the gas tank and then:
- Unplug the spark plug.
- Remove the blade piece by unscrewing the bolts that hold it in place.
- Take out the plug to the oil reservoir.
- Tilt the mower so that the oil drains into a pan.
- Replace the plug.
- Fill the oil tank with the proper weight oil (check your owner’s manual).
Sharpen the blades
If your mower blades are bent or cracked, have them replaced. If they’re dull, you can sharpen them yourself or you can have it done professionally.
Again, unplug the spark plug to prevent the mower from starting up. Unscrew the bolts that hold the blades in place, then remove the blade piece. Take the blades for sharpening or DIY. When the blades are sharpened — and the underside of the mower has been cleaned — replace them.
Replace the spark plug
You’ll probably need a socket wrench with a spark-plug socket (it has a lining to protect the plug) for this job. Remove the old spark plug, spray some oil into the cylinder, and put the new spark plug on. (This is something else you can have done as part of getting your mower serviced, if you’d rather.)
Change the air filter
There are two kinds of air filters, a paper one and a sponge. If your mower has a paper filter, replace it with a new filter. Otherwise, wash the sponge filter with soap and water and let dry before replacing. Use an old toothbrush, Q-tip, or screwdriver to clean dirt off the fins.
Once your mower is ready for its winter break, pick a spot where it will stay dry. Cover it with a tarp or a lawn mower cover to keep it nice and clean until you’re ready to call it back to work.
Oh — and this would be a good time to get out your snow shovel!
Are you finished mowing for the year? Have you prepped your mower for winter?
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