Prepping your lawn equipment for winter
It’s a familiar scene every spring in America. People pull their lawn equipment from storage and prepare to mow their grass, trim trees and shrubbery, and blow leaves off walkways and decks, only to encounter problems. Some engines may start but die a few minutes into the job, others won’t start at all.
The problem is vexing for those who know their outdoor power equipment was working just fine when last used several months earlier. So, what gives?
Preventive measures will help you avoid the hassles
You can avoid joining the masses of people who descend upon small-engine repair shops each spring by following a few steps to prepare your equipment when fall turns to winter.
- Clean and dry your equipment thoroughly before storing.
- Disconnect the spark plug (and the battery, if equipped with an electric starter) to avoid accidental firing of the engine.
- Some experts recommend draining the fuel or running an engine until the tank is dry. Others believe in leaving fuel in the tank. The latter group notes that minute amounts of fuel get trapped in the engine and feed lines and, when exposed to air for extended periods, can turn to varnish and gum up the inner workings. Also, rubber seals in an engine often become brittle and susceptible to cracking when exposed to air instead of fuel.
- If you do plan to leave gas in the tank, manufacturers recommend filling it to about 95 percent with the proper fuel. This will allow for expansion if temperatures rise.
- For most mowers and other equipment that run on regular gas, it is preferable to use brands that do not contain ethanol, which tends to attract moisture when stored. Check gas stations in your area to find those that sell ethanol-free fuel and use that in your outdoor equipment whenever possible.
- For many brands of blowers, string trimmers, chainsaws, etc. that are designed to run on a mix of oil and gas, make sure you use the proper ratio in the fuel you leave in the tank for winter storage (typically 40 or 50 parts gasoline to one part oil).
- Whenever fuel is going to be stored in equipment, always add stabilizer (readily available at home improvement and lawn and garden stores) to the tank to prevent degradation of the gas. Run the equipment for a couple of minutes to assure the stabilizer circulates throughout the engine.
Maintenance you can do now or postpone until the spring
Before you consider the winterizing complete, there are some maintenance options to consider that, if you don’t do them now, you should plan to do before firing up your engines for the first time next spring.
Angie’s List has a number of recommendations to protect your equipment that include cleaning or replacing the air filter, sharpening or replacing mower blades, changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.
If at all possible, do not store your lawn implements outdoors, even if covered. This is a good rule of thumb for all times of year, but especially when the equipment is going to be idle for an extended time frame. Exposing your equipment to the elements can cause problems that range from rust and corrosion of metal parts to dirt and debris in the fuel and inside the engine.
Do not store your equipment close to any source of ignition, especially if you choose to leave fuel in the tank. For instance, even a small amount of gasoline vapor could ignite if contacting a pilot light on a water heater or furnace.
Follow these rules and you should be in great shape when springtime arrives.