9 Steps to Winterizing Your Lawnmower

After a long hot summer of yardwork and mowing the grass, it is time for you and your lawnmower to get ready to enjoy the cold months of late fall and winter, but first you need to winterize.

Lawnmowers need a quick tune up and a little preventative care before putting them away during the winter months. By putting in a small amount of time to properly care for your mower, it can be up and ready in no time when the spring grass begins to grow.

Closeup of red riding lawn mower

To winterize your lawn mower, all you need to do are these easy __ steps.

  1. Adding Fuel Stabilizer to the gas tank
  2. Take out the battery
  3. Remove the spark plug
  4. Clean or replace filters
  5. Remove the blades and sharpen them
  6. Drain the oil
  7. Brush out and scrape off caked on grass cuttings on the underside of the lawn mower
  8. Clean mower casing and lubricate where needed, reassemble lawnmower
  9. Store mower in a dry, rodent free area

Why Winterize a Lawnmower

After you finish getting your lawn ready for the impending winter, it’s time to give your trusty lawn mower a nice, well deserved break.

However, sitting around for several months can prove detrimental to your lawn mower if proper steps are not taken to prevent rust, corrosion, rodent damage, and more.

Merely covering it up with a tarp is not enough, especially if you want your mower up and running as soon as the spring grass begins to grow.

While completing these steps, it is a good idea to have your lawnmower’s operating manual handy to refer to when removing and maintaining certain parts of the equipment.

Step 1: Add Fuel Stabilizer to Your Gas Tank

There are different thoughts about how best to prepare your gas tank for winter.

Several individuals suggest emptying it, while others recommend adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas instead.

Goldeagle.com discusses some problems associated with draining the gas for winter and filling it up again in the spring.

Some points which are mentioned include:

  • When fuel is drained the carburetor is exposed to more oxygen.
  • Condensation can gather inside the tank, causing rust and corrosion which can result in “white rust” and other types of water damage.
  • Certain plastics and rubbers are meant to remain moist and lubricated, not dried out and can crake if exposed to too much air.

However, it is not recommended that the tank just sit with gasoline in it for the entire winter either.

Gas that isn’t stabilized can go stale and clog up the carburetor.

Also, the chemicals in the gasoline, such as fuel and alcohol will begin to separate, causing problems when the engine is started up again.

To add fuel stabilizer, you need to:

  • Get fresh fuel and add fuel stabilizer.
  • Fill up the tank to at least 95% which will allow for slight expanding as the weather cools, but also takes up most of the room so water condensation is minimalized.
  • Turn on the engine and run it for a few minutes so that the fuel can make it through all of the fuel lines.

At this point, some people may drain the fuel if they feel that the engine and fuel lines are sufficiently coated, but there is no disadvantage of leaving stabilized fuel in the lawn mower over the winter.

Step 2: Take Out the Lawnmower Battery

Whether it is your riding lawnmower, or your typical gas lawnmower, it is important to remove, clean, and store your battery.

This will insure that the battery isn’t effected by adverse whether conditions.

If you are unsure how to remove the battery, refer to your lawnmower’s operating manuel.

Once removed. take time to clean any rust, grease, or any other kind of debris that may have accumulated on its surface.

After it is cleaned, find a dry area to store it where it is away from any sources of heat or flammable substances.

When you are ready to use your lawnmower again, recharge your battery on a battery charger (if the battery is able to be recharged) before placing it back into your mower.

Step 3: Remove the Sparkplug

Removing the sparkplug is not only for maintenance, but for safety as well.

By taking it out, you are making sure that the mower’s engine won’t accidentally kick-start on you.

That would be very bad.

Once again, if you are unsure how to remove the sparkplug of your particular model of mower, refer to your owner’s manual or quickly peruse YouTube to find a tutorial that works for you.

Once the sparkplug is removed, put a little W2-40, or another type of oil into the cylinder and pull the recoil handle a few times so that the cylinder’s wall gets adequate oil coverage.

Replace the existing or new sparkplug once ALL maintenance is completed.

two gas powered lawnmowers on lawn

Step 4: Clean or Replace Filters

Locate the mower’s air and fuel filters.

If the filters are washable, wash them out as instructed by your owner’s manuels.

However, if filters are unable to be washed, replace all filters with new ones.

Step 5: Remove and Sharpen Lawnmower Blades

Lawnmowers are subject to a lot of abuse and dulling as it it cuts the grass throughout the major growing season.

This can lead to your mower’s blades becoming dull and less efficient.

Dull blades can then in turn rip through your grass, leaving tips that are torn which can lead to browning and more likely to succumb to pests and diseases.

To sharpen your blades, Popular Mechanics has the following recommendations:

  • Remove the blade by loosening the bolt underneath the mower. If the bolt is rusted, use oil.
  • Keep the blade from turning by wedging a block of wood between the blades and the inner casing.
  • Make sure that you can remember what side of the blade faces down, that way you can reassemble it correctly later on.
  • Determine where the cutting edges are, then clamp the blade at an angle so that one of the cutting edges is upward facing.
  • Using a drill-powered blade sharpener, sharpen the blade. Repeat for each of the cutting edges. Make sure to wear protective eye coverings.
  • Balance the blade, by first testing the blades balance by using a lawnmower blade balancer to see if it spins without tilting. If one side tilts, remove a little more metal until blade spins without wobbling.
  • Replace the blade after Step 7.

If you do not have the equipment, new blades can be purchased and used instead of sharpening them.

However, whether you choose to sharpen or buy lawnmower blades, do not reattach them until after completing Step 7.

Step 6: Drain Oil from the Lawnmower

Refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to change the oil.

For most models, ThisOldHouse.com advises to set the mower with the air filter and carburetor facing up before removing the oil plug.

Make sure to have a pan to catch the used oil, and that it is situated in a position that it can get all the oil when the mower is tilted, causing the oil to drain.

Once oil has drained, replace the plug and dispose of the oil legally.

Check your local ordinances on where to properly dispose of oil, or ask your local auto-parts store for information.

Step 7: Brush Out and Scrape Off Caked-on Grass Cuttings on the Underside of the Lawn Mower

Before you begin lubrication and reassembly, make sure you take time to remove any debris found on the underside of your lawnmower.

If grass clippings have gotten compacted in tight spaces in the undercarriage of the mower, take a dull knife or scrapper and try to remove built up debris in every nook and cranny that you can reach.

Because grass retains moisture, leaving grass clippings on any metal surface increases the chance of rust spots.

Step 8: Clean Mower Casing and Lubricate Where needed

Once the undercarriage is taken care of, turn your attention to cleaning the mower casing and lubricating any areas.

Using a aerosol lubricant is an easy way to make sure that every area gets an even coat of oil to help prevent rusting and water damage caused by water condensation.

Once the casing is cleaned and lubricated, replace the blade making sure that the correct side is facing down.

After making sure that the blade is totally secured, insert the sparkplug.

Turn on the lawnmower and make sure that everything is running properly.

Congratulations, your mower is now ready to go into hibernation.

Step 9: Store Mower In a Dry, Rodent- free Area

When trying to determine where to keep your mower over the winter, keep in mind places to avoid:

  • Areas near flammable materials
  • Areas prone to water leakage
  • Areas prone to rodent infestation
  • High traffic areas

Ideally, a lawnmower should be kept in a storage shed away from water heaters, and other sources of heat (remember, there is still gasoline in the mower).

Some individuals may choose to leave their mowers in the yard, covered with a tarp.

The problem with this method is that condensation can still reach the mower if left outside, and sometimes tarps get holes from rats, weather, and other sources.

If you do not have a storage shed or garage and your only option is to leave the mower outside, tarps (although not ideal) can be used.

Place the mower on a water proof barrier and tightly secure tarps around the mower, making sure that there is no exposed surface.

Make sure to keep rodent repellants and other pest control measures in place to reduce the chance of rats chewing through the tarps to get to the mower.

If possible, find a canopy to store it under to reduce the amount of moisture it will be exposed to.

Enjoy Your Rest

Now that your lawnmower is tucked away for the winter, it is time to enjoy some well deserved rest.

When the winter snows melt away and spring brings the renewal of life, you and your trusty lawnmower will be ready to face whatever greenery your lawn decides to throw at you.

However, until then, enjoy your winter break.

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