How to Winterize and Store Your Lawn Mower in the Offseason

posted on Monday, October 21, 2019 in How To

Store Mower in Winter

Southern lawns don’t sit under several inches of snow all winter. Those established or overseeded with cool-season grasses keep on growing and greening

Warm-season lawns, on the other hand, start winding down in October and November, entering their winter dormancy. When your grass goes dormant, your mower does too. Before you stick it in the back of the garage or shed for the next several months, follow these steps to prep and store it properly for the offseason.

Preparing Your Mower for Winter Storage

Routine maintenance is critical to the health and longevity of your lawn mower. In mowing season, you need sharp blades and clean oil to keep cutting at a high level

When putting your mower on the shelf for three months, your maintenance to-do list is about keeping your machine stable — not at peak performance. So when it’s time to shake the cobwebs off your lawn mower, it’s easier to get it ready for spring work.

1. Clean your machine.

Sometime after your last mow, give your lawn mower a thorough cleaning — the sooner, the better. All the grass, dirt, and debris gets into your deck, engine and other critical parts, It can cake on, build up, and cause problems next season. Moisture from cut grass can cause rust and corrosion if left on long-term.

Spray down your mower with a garden hose to remove clippings and dirt. Get under the deck and turn your sprayer up to the highest pressure setting to blast away debris. If you haven’t done this regularly, some debris will be dried on. Use a plastic paint scraper or bristled pot scrubber to scrape the deck clean. Wear heavy work gloves and be careful of the blades — or remove them to be safe.

You’ll also want to clean out the inside chute and bagger if you have them. After everything’s washed, run your lawn mower for at least five minutes to dry the belts and pulleys.

2. Make any necessary repairs.

The wear and tear of mowing season takes its toll. Give your machine a once-over, looking for worn and damaged parts, loose hardware, and scratched or chipped paint. Replace any parts that need it. Tighten up the bolts and screws. 

To prevent rust from forming in the future, repair the nics, scratches, and chips from metal surfaces and put a light coat of engine oil on pivot and wear points. Lastly, lubricate the grease points and fill the tires if their pressure is low.

3. Stabilize the fuel.

You may have a little gas in the tank after your last cut. While it’s fine if fuel sits in your engine week-to-week, left long enough, it can damage your mower. Water condensation can mix in with the fuel and cause rust, clogs, and corrosion.

Riding lawn mowers and lawn or garden tractors aren’t like push mowers. It’s not so easy to drain the gas tank. Instead, it’s recommended that you add fuel stabilizer or conditioner to absorb any water and stop the chemical breakdown of your fuel. 

If you use stabilized fuel year-round, simply fill up the tank to limit the amount of air that gets in and reduce deterioration of the fuel. If not, park your lawn mower in a well-ventilated area and follow these steps:

  • Leave your mower on until it runs out of gas. Turn off the key switch so your mower doesn’t start up once fresh fuel is added.
  • Mix in fuel stabilizer with some fresh fuel following the stabilizer’s instructions. Use a separate container so you can do so accurately.
  • Fill up your gas tank with the new blend. 
  • Turn your mower back on and let it run for a few minutes so that the stabilized fuel circulates throughout your machine.

4. Winterize the engine.

After you’ve stabilized the fuel, you may be able to park your lawn mower in its winter storage spot. Chances are, it’ll sit there for more than 60 days. And when an engine doesn’t run for two months or more, you need to follow some basic engine storage procedures to ensure the motor runs like new after its hiatus.

  • Clear debris out of the engine air intake.
  • Clean the engine and engine compartment if you didn’t go to those lengths when you washed your mower.
  • Remove the battery to clean it as well as the battery posts.
  • Close the fuel shutoff valve. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re not sure if your lawn mower is equipped with one.

You can also use this time to get a start on spring and give your mower a tune-up. Change the oil and the oil filter. Clean or replace the air filter. Remove the spark plugs and grease their cylinders with clean engine oil. When you reinstall them, don’t connect the spark plug wires.

When you’re all done, take your battery with you inside. Batteries can be charged every 90 days, so charge it to full capacity. Store it in a cool, dry place where it won’t freeze when winter temps dip down.

Choosing the Best Lawn Mower Storage

Lawn mower winterization preps your machine for a long layoff. The right storage space is just as important during that time. Since your mower will be out of use, you want it out of the way. Not just any space will do.

There are three factors to consider before choosing the storage area for your riding lawn mower:

  1. Sunlight – Prolonged exposure to the sun can damage the surface of your machine and its components.
  2. Moisture – Water mucks up your fuel, corrodes your engine and rusts out any metal surface when it’s left to collect.
  3. Rodents – Animals look for warmth in the winter months. Lawn mower decks and engines make for cozy shelter away from the cold.

Storing your mower outside exposes it to all three risks. But sometimes your yard is the only available space you have. If lack of space forces you into outdoor lawn mower storage, park it in a covered spot if possible, like under an elevated deck or porch. Drape a waterproof lawn mower cover over it and make sure it has a tight fit. Place some mothballs near the engine and underneath the mower deck to keep shelter-seeking animals from nesting and chewing up your wiring.

A better place to store your lawn mower would be a shed or garage. Inside, it’s safe from the elements so you know it will be dry and covered. Rodents and other animals may still be a problem, especially in a lawn mower storage shed, so using a cover and mothballs still provides additional protection. 

If your garage or shed has a heat source, find a different storage area for your mower. Your machine still has gas and oil in it and shouldn’t be stored anywhere near a potential source of ignition. 

Taking a season off gives both you and your lawn mower a break. It can also decrease the amount of wear you put on your mower every year. With proper winterization and seasonal storage, in turn, you can reduce your maintenance workload next spring and beyond.

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