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How to Winterize Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment

Lawn mower mowing the grass

If you’re like many homeowners with large lawns, you likely welcome the beginning of winter as a break from the cycle of mowing all summer long and leaf-blowing all fall. But winter doesn’t just mean the end of outdoor chores for a few more months — it’s also the time for winterizing your lawn and garden equipment to keep cold temperatures and long periods of inactivity from becoming damaged. Leaving the fluids in your equipment at the end of the season can lead to serious damage that costs a lot to repair when spring rolls around. Make sure your weed trimmers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and other pieces of equipment are ready for the winter with these easy steps.

Drain the Fuel or Stabilize It

Putting stabalizer in the fuel

Gas doesn’t stay good forever — or even for more than a month or two in many conditions. If enough time has passed or the temperature has been fluctuating, it will begin to separate, causing water to accumulate in the tank and rust it out. The separated fuel also causes the equipment to fail to start or run roughly until you get it all out again. Prevent this either by draining the tank or adding a fuel stabilizer product. Small equipment like powered hedge trimmers are easy enough to tip and drain, but you’ll need a small hand-powered pump for emptying equipment like a lawn mower. If there’s just a small amount of fuel in the equipment, try running it until it shuts off naturally to ensure that it’s empty.

Clean off Mud, Grass Clippings, and Other Debris

Using a brush to brush off clippings

To ensure the lawn mower or trimmer can’t start, disconnect the battery. Use a brush and a hose to clean away any accumulated debris. Leaving corrosive materials on the mower deck or trimming blades can cause rust over the winter, especially if there’s any water trapped between the material and the metal. Let the equipment dry before putting it away in a shed or garage.

Replace the Filters

Taking the old filter off of the mower

Each gas-powered piece of equipment will contain a fuel filter and an air filter. Replacing both of these filters at least once per year is essential for good performance. Proper filter replacements can extend the lifespan of a tool significantly while also improving the experience of using it. If you’ve been struggling to get good performance from a chainsaw or mower, a filter change may be all you need to restore it.

Pull the Battery out

A group of batteries

Vehicle and equipment batteries need proper storage whenever they’re not being used on a weekly — or at least monthly — basis. Disconnecting the battery and moving it to a dry and somewhat warm environment will ensure that it’s ready to use again in the spring without replacement or recharging. Batteries hold their power over the winter if they’re stored between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also replace the spark plugs and check out the condition of the wires when putting away a lawn mower or other large piece of lawn equipment for the winter.

Change the Oil

Close-up on the oil cap

The oil in a lawn mower won’t separate or go bad over the winter like fuel will, but it’s still something you should change annually. Unless you managed to get to it in the middle of the summer, take care of it now — don’t wait until spring. String trimmers and other types of 4-cycle equipment also need oil changes, so don’t stop your efforts with the lawn mower. If nothing else, at least check the oil level and bring it to the recommended amount before winter. It’s not good to start up with a low amount of lubricant.

Replace or Sharpen Blades

Sharpening mower blade

You may think of your lawn mower blade or the edges of your hedge trimmers as permanent, but they’re actually consumable parts. At the very least, you should consider sharpening your lawn mower blades with a sharpening tool for your power drill. Simply clean off the blades, grab a mower blade sharpening tool, and restore the edge. Doing so will ensure that it cuts smoothly again next year. You’ll need specialty sharpening tools for equipment like chainsaws and hedge trimmers. Replacing these blades is also an option, especially for any tools that have been cutting unevenly or binding up around the edges.

Without the proper care, winter will do a number on your lawn equipment. Protect your favorite lawn mower by following these winterizing tips.