9 steps to winterizing a lawn mower

As another mowing season draws to a close, now is the time to winterize your lawn mower for the cold months ahead. This way, it will restart without a problem when the grass grows back in the spring.

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We know it’s tempting to just put the mower away and worry about it next year, but procrastination will only make it even harder to get the mower going when the yard is ready for a cut.

Here are nine simple steps to winterizing a lawn mower now, so it won’t be a problem in a few months.

1) Remove or stabilize the fuel

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A mower used at the end of the season must be emptied of its fuel; if you want your mower to start in the spring, this is the most important step. First, drain or siphon the gas tank dry. If the gasoline has a fuel conservator, you can keep it until next spring or run it in your snow thrower. If the gasoline has not had a preservative added, you should use the gasoline as soon as possible. Allowing it to sit over the winter will cause ethanol to separate into gasoline and degrade its other chemical components.

The alcohol in the fuel dissolves the plastic and rubber parts in the fuel system. It also fouls carburetors and attracts moisture, which corrodes metal parts. And even if the engine escapes damage, it suffers a loss of performance due to chemically degraded fuel. This is because ethanol-based gasoline can deteriorate quickly, often separating into layers of alcohol and fuel.

Once you’ve drained off as much gasoline as possible, start the mower and run it dry, burning off any remaining gas. If the fuel lines are easily accessible, you can also unplug and drain them – this keeps the mower as fuel-free as possible throughout the winter.

2) Remove the battery

man mowing the lawn

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If you own a lawn tractor, remove its battery and bring it indoors for the winter. Clean the battery well, removing any dust, grease or dirt. Store it in a cool, dry place away from flammable substances such as gasoline or heat sources such as a water heater or furnace. Next spring, use a 120-volt battery charger to bring the battery to full capacity, then reinstall it in the mower.

The same goes for a cordless battery mower: remove the battery and store it indoors.

3) Remove the spark plug

small gasoline engine repair

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Remove the spark plug and spray some oil into the cylinder. Pull the recoil handle several times to distribute the oil evenly on the cylinder wall. Replace the old spark plug with a new one.

4) Replace or clean filters

Remove and clean (or replace) the mower’s air filter and fuel filter. Consult the owner’s manual for more specific maintenance information.

5) Change the oil

Drain all the oil from the mower and replace it with the type / specific weight recommended by the manufacturer. Recycle the old oil at a local transfer station, auto repair shop, or auto parts store.

6) Scrape the mower deck

Remove the spark plug to prevent accidental starting, then tilt the mower to its side or chock it securely. Unbolt and remove the mower blades. Then use a putty knife to scrape any encrusted grass clippings from below the deck. (Grass clippings contain moisture which can cause rust.) Then spray a liberal coat of WD-40.

7) sharpen the blades

Lawn mower blade sharpening with file

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In order for your mower to cut quickly and cleanly, it is important to sharpen the blades at least once a year. However, if the blades are bent, chipped, or cracked, replace them with new ones. And don’t forget to balance the blades before reinstalling them. For specific instructions on sharpening lawn mower blades, our explainer has you covered. Caution: Before removing the blades from the mower, first remove the spark plug to prevent accidental starting.

8) Clean and lubricate the mower

Before storing the mower for the season, use a damp cloth to wipe down the motor housing, wheels, handle and top of the mower deck. Dry the mower with an old towel. Lubricate all cable movement points and exposed pivot points with a aerosol lubricant.

9) Storage tips

Store the mower indoors, if possible, and under a tarp to prevent dust. If mice are a problem, place them tamper-proof and animal-safe bait stations under the mower. This will discourage mice from getting into the motor and chewing on the electrical wiring.

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