I’m sure this is an issue that’s plagued us all at least once in our lives: we forgot to winterize our lawn mower before packing it up as winter set it and then spring set in and our mowers refuse to come out of hibernation.
Luckily, there are a couple of quick fixes to help your lawn mower get back into gear after being hidden in the garden shed for a while. Keep reading to find out more about what you can do if you forgot to winterize your lawn mower.
- 1 Why Do You Need To Winterize Your Lawn Mower?
- 2 What Can You Do If You Forgot To Winterize A Lawn Mower?
- 3 How To Properly Winterize A Lawn Mower
- 4 How To Store Your Lawn Mower Over Winter
- 5 Safety Tips To Follow When Winterizing Your Lawn Mower
- 6 FAQs
- 7 Now You Know How To Winterize Your Lawn Mower
- 8 About The Author
Why Do You Need To Winterize Your Lawn Mower?
Before we get into what you can do to reverse the effects of a lawn mower that hasn’t been prepared for winter, let’s first go through why it is so important to winterize your mower.
Lawn mowers are easily corroded by oxygenated gas that contains ethanol. When ethanol absorbs water, the newly formed mixture can corrode several parts of a mower, including the gas tank, cylinders, fuel lines and carburetor.
How will you spot corrosion on your lawn mower? Keep an eye out for white crusty deposits that look like white rust on any of the metal parts of your machine. These corroded bits can be quite bothersome because they can even end up clogging carburetors.
When old gas has been left in your lawn mower for some time, it’ll start to break down its components. Once broken down, some of the individual particles of the leftover gas in the tank will resemble a gum-like substance. This substance will end up coating the mower engine and clogging the carburetor, leading to a lawn mower that refuses to start.
Did you know that lawn mowers that aren’t winterized have a significantly lower lifespan compared to those that are winterized every year? The winterizing process takes just an hour or two annually, but has been known to work wonders in protecting mowers for years! Even if you don’t live in a region with an extreme climate, think of this process as a helpful tune-up.
What Can You Do If You Forgot To Winterize A Lawn Mower?
If you’ve forgotten to prepare your lawn mower in time for winter, there are a couple of things you can do to get it back to working condition.
It can be so frustrating if your mower doesn’t start, especially when you know it worked perfectly fine the last time you used it, so don’t give up just yet. Try these steps instead!
Remove The Spark Plug And Disconnect The Power
First things first, you need to make sure that your lawn mower has been completely disconnected before you start checking out its parts and cleaning it out. Always put safety first because lawn mowers can be quite unpredictable at times and many components of these machines can be harmful.
The first component of your mower that you need to find is its spark plug. Spark plugs are pretty inexpensive and small but they’re one of the most important parts of a mower.
To make sure it’s completely disconnected, you can remove the spark plug on gas models and, if you have an electric mower, make sure it is disconnected from any power source before you proceed.
You can remove the spark plug by pulling off the rubber cover and then using a socket wrench to loosen and remove it.
Drain Out The Old Engine Oil And Refill The Fuel System
Out with the old and in with the new! Your first move to get your mower back in good health is to drain out the old engine oil. Make sure you’ve cleared out every drop of it from your machine, including the float bowl.
Once all the stale, excess gas has been removed, you can fill up your fuel system with fresh gas. That could be all your lawn mower needs to start working again, but if it still doesn’t cooperate, be sure to check out the rest of the steps!
Remember that using quality fuel will boost engine performance and determine the durability of your machine. Refrain from using unapproved fuels and stick to ones you can trust.
When dealing with fuel, please remember to exercise caution because fuel is extremely flammable and explosive.
Check out this video by YouTube user Shop Shenanigans for a demonstration of how to flush out old gas:
Use A Fuel Stabilizer
The magic of fuel stabilizers is often raved about and I’m adding myself to the fan club! Adding a fuel stabilizer is the easiest option to try and fix your lawn mower. There’s also no need to drop out any stale, excess gas.
Start by adding fuel stabilizer to the same gas that’s already in your machine. Add fuel stabilizer in the recommended amount (as per package instructions) to your gas tank. If you’re not sure which fuel stabilizer to get, check out the very popular Sta-bil brand.
Once your stabilizer is in, it’s time to test it! If it starts on the first try, let your lawn mower run for a couple of minutes before turning it off. By leaving it on, the stabilized fuel will make its way into the mower system and draw out any water. Repeat the process once more for a few minutes and then you should be good to go!
Check out this YouTube video by FIX IT Home Improvement Channel to find out more about using stabilized fuel before storing your mower in winter:
Top Up With Fresh Gas
Maybe a trip to your nearest gas station is in order because sometimes all lawn mowers need is a good old top-up of some fresh fuel. If you have just a little bit of stale gas remaining and it hasn’t developed into a gum-like substance, just filling your fuel tank might do the trick. As long as you have mostly fresh fuel instead of stale in your tank, this should work.
While this tip is useful, it’s always recommended that you try out a fuel stabilizer first.
How To Properly Winterize A Lawn Mower
Now that you know what to do if you forget to winterize a lawn mower, let’s go through what exactly you need to do to get it ready to be packed away for a few months until spring.
Disconnect The Power
This rule isn’t just important for lawn mowers, but basically any lawn equipment you handle: exercise safety precautions.
Lawn mowers can cough and sputter, even when they aren’t running, and it’s easy for the person handling the machine to get seriously injured in just a matter of seconds. While electric lawn mowers operate differently, the risks involved are just the same if the power button is pressed accidentally.
If you’re working with a gas mower, disconnect the old spark plug and turn it onto its side, making sure the air filter is facing up. If you’re working with an electric model, don’t forget to remove the battery first.
Clean The Deck
You should ideally be cleaning the deck of your lawn mower after every use to ensure that the blade performs optimally, but doing is even more so important before winter because it’ll prevent moisture from causing any issues like corrosion or degradation of future performance.
In order to clean the deck, you’ll need to work around the blade so you need to proceed with caution.
If the grass clippings stuck to your lawn mower are fresh, they’ll be easy to remove with a pressure washer or garden hose and all-purpose cleaner. If they’ve already dried up, you’ll need to use something that’ll help pry them off such as a pot scourer or plastic paint scraper.
Be sure to use work gloves if you’re going to be working close to the blade. To prevent future buildup, apply some silicone spray to the underside.
Empty The Fuel Tank
In general, normal gas has a usable life of between three to six months. Gas that’s been hanging out in your machine for longer than that can be considered stale or old gas, and it should be removed as soon as possible and replaced with fresh fuel.
Why the urgency? Stale gas can be extremely harmful to your lawn mower, as I mentioned earlier in the article. In addition to the fact that it can damage your carburetor, stale fuel can also produce harmful peroxides that can destroy rubber seals.
Now, if you don’t want to waste all that fuel you’ve already got in your mower, you could always use some fuel stabilizer to keep it fresh for longer. If you’re planning on going shopping for some, be sure to first check your mower’s specs and user guide for clear directions.
Change The Oil
While motor oil is able to withstand intense heat and pressure, it collects debris while cooling and protecting the motor. These particles of debris can wear down your lawn mower when they start building up.
To change the oil in your mower, you will first need to remove the drain bolt, collect the old oil, place the bolt back into its slot and refill it with your lawn mower’s recommended type of oil.
Changing lawn mower oil isn’t just a task that should be done once in a blue moon. In fact, you should change the oil after every 50 hours of mower use.
P.S. Remember to dispose of the old oil responsibly, such as dropping it off at your local hazardous waste collection site.
Change The Filters
Lawn mowers can have between one to three filters. Most of them have filters in the fuel line while four-stroke ones have the fuel line filters as well as another one for the oil tank. Let’s also not forget the air filter!
Fuel filters are needed to remove small particles of dirt and debris from gasoline, but they can get clogged up after a while, leading to restricted flow and the mower motor being starved of fuel.
To change the fuel filter, first make sure that you block off the fuel from the tank. Then you will need to remove the clips that hold it in place using a pair of pliers. Swap out the old filter with a new one and you’ll be good to go!
Oil filters work just like fuel filters do, but they just filter out gunk from the oil in your lawn mower. These filters are usually screwed on the side or underside of the lawn mower motor. Simply unscrew them by hand and put in a new filter in place of the old one.
Sharpen The Blade
What’s a lawn mower without a sharp blade? Not very efficient, right? While a blunt blade may still be able to cut grass, it’s definitely not going to do it as well as a sharp blade can. In fact, dull blades mash grass fibers, which hinders its growth, allows for diseases, and may cause patches of brown grass.
On the other hand, a sharp blade will cut the grass blades in a clean fashion, allowing your lawn to grow healthily.
Sharpening lawn mower blades regularly is a good habit and can be done while they’re still attached to the mower or once they’ve been removed.
If you’re sharpening it while it’s still attached, turn the mower onto its side so that metal filings fall off onto the ground instead of into the shaft that drives the blade. To sharpen the blade, you can use a simple hand file or a rotary tool with a grinding accessory.
Clean And Lubricate The Moving Parts
First things first, consult your lawn mower’s owner’s manual for guidelines on lubrication as advice from the manufacturer will be best in terms of helping you prolong the life of your machine.
It’s quite easy for dirt and debris to get trapped in lawn mowers because there are just so many gaps that turn into dirt traps. If these aren’t cleaned out regularly, it can result in corrosion and further damage. Some of the most common places to check for dirt are wheels, axles, levers, and handles. If left uncleaned, the build-up of dirt can start to stick and become bothersome.
Once you’ve cleaned your mower thoroughly, apply some light machine oil.
Check The Cables
Over time, throttle cables can get worn out and will eventually rub through their protective coating, allowing for rust to set in. If they’ve rubbed against the guides, you will need to replace them, which is a quick, easy and affordable process.
You should also change the throttle cable if it has started to fray because if the thin wires loosen, you could get injured.
If you have an electric lawn mower, check the cable to see whether there are any cuts or cracks. Remember that exposed wires can trip breakers and stop the mower from working. Let’s not forget that you could get an electrical shock if you touch an exposed wire!
Remove The Battery And Store It Indoors
This one is for those who own electric riding or cordless lawn mowers. It’s important to remove the batteries to minimize temperature fluctuation. Battery power can be drained if left connected due to cold weather. If your mower is stored in a place that experiences freezing temperatures, the battery should definitely be removed and kept somewhere else that’s warmer.
Check The Spark Plugs And General Condition Of The Lawn Mower
Once you’ve removed the spark plug by unscrewing it from the machine and prying it out with a socket wrench, have a look at the end of it that screws into the machine. You will need to replace the spark plug if it is dark and rusted or shows signs of corrosion.
While checking out the rest of your lawn mower, be sure to keep its overall health in mind. If you spot any visible issues such as rust, corrosion, or any other signs that suggest deterioration, make sure you fix them before storing the mower away for the winter. If you leave it until after winter, the problem will be much worse!
Check out this YouTube video by a user named Grass Daddy for a great description of how to winterize your lawn mower:
How To Store Your Lawn Mower Over Winter
A lawn mower is an investment, and luckily, there are ways to prolong its life expectancy. There are so many types of lawn mowers out there that it’s hard to provide a clear-cut method of mower storage. However, there are some best practices that should be kept in mind when you’re ready to pack your mower away for the winter.
Store It Indoors
No matter what kind of mower you have, please make sure you store it indoors in a shed or garage in winter if you are able to! It is super important for your mower to be shielded from extreme weather conditions. Even if you’re unable to store it indoors, leaving it under an awning or shelter of some sort will still be helpful.
If you don’t have enough space indoors or for whatever reason are unable to keep your mower inside, you need to make sure that it is kept in a dry place or protected from being exposed to any moisture. Don’t forget that if you rent out a self-storage facility, you might be able to store your mower there if the facility allows for equipment with small engines.
The best ways to do this are to store it above ground and to cover it with a strong tarp or another type of covering that’s strong enough to resist the elements. Make sure that whatever type of protective covering you use is fitted loosely over the mower to allow for adequate airflow, which will prevent mold and rust.
If you’re storing it in a wooden shed, just be wary of damp. Unfortunately, wooden shelters offer poor protection from moisture built up, so please check whether your shed is absolutely safe first before storing your mower in there.
Don’t store your mower close to any appliances with pilot lights, such as furnaces or water heaters. Make sure that the area is clear of any chemicals or cleaners that could spill on the mower and damage it. Also, make sure that any heavy objects that aren’t properly secured near or above the mower are removed from close proximity to prevent damage in the event of an accident.
Fold It Down Properly
Many types of mowers come with collapsible or adjustable handles. These can either be folded backward or forwards. Fold your machine as much as you can before storage so that you take up less space. A folded-up mower is also easier to prop up against a wall, saving you floor space.
If your mower has a removable grass collector, you can also detach it from the machine before putting it away. Just remember to make a mental note of where you’re keeping the different parts so that you can find them easily when you’re ready to whip it out in spring!
If you own a riding lawn mower, have a look at this article for more helpful storage ideas!
Check out this YouTube video by a user named askmediy on how to properly store your lawn mower in winter:
Safety Tips To Follow When Winterizing Your Lawn Mower
Whether you’re simply mowing your lawn or maintaining your mower, you should always exercise caution and be mindful of the risks you expose yourself to when dealing with a lawn mower and other machines. It’s very easy to get seriously injured when handling a mower in an improper fashion.
Here are some of the most important safety tips to follow when winterizing your lawn mower!
- Add fuel before starting your lawn mower and not while it’s running.
- Do not remove any safety devices, guards, or shields on switches.
- Do not leave a running mower unattended under any circumstances. This point is especially important if you have kids or pets. If you need to stop, simply switch it off first before you leave.
- Do not touch the engine cover because it might be hot and you could get burnt.
- Wear protective gear when operating or maintaining your lawn mower. This could include safety goggles, sturdy gloves, closed shoes, and long-sleeved clothing.
- Be wary of distractions around you. Pay attention to the lawn mower and avoid all distractions while the machine is still running.
- Do not touch the mower blade without heavy-duty gloves on. The blades are very sharp and could cut you very easily.
- If you have a riding mower, under no circumstances should you allow a child to ride on it, even if they are accompanied by an adult.
- Do not carry out any maintenance on your lawn mower if you are under the influence of alcohol.
- Make sure you read the mower’s user manual properly before performing any maintenance on it.
Do I Have To Winterize My Lawn Mower?
You have to winterize your lawn mower if you want to prevent moisture from impacting the way your machine runs. Winterizing your mower will also ensure that you keep the blades sharp and clean, which promotes optimal mower performance.
What Happens If I Don't Winterize My Lawn Mower?
If you don’t winterize your lawn mower, your gas will go stale and it will start to break down and form a gum-like substance. This substance can cause catastrophic engine failure and clog the carburetor, impacting the overall performance of your mower.
Will Leaving A Mower In The Rain Ruin It?
Leaving a mower in the rain will ruin it. Exposure to sun, rain, and snow over a long period of time can ruin the lawn mower’s engine, fuel line, spark plugs as well as many other parts. You should make sure your lawn mower is dry and store it indoors.
What Happens If You Don't Prime A Lawn Mower?
If you don’t prime a lawn mower, it will end up damaging the carburetor. Primer bulbs are designed to replace air in the carburetor and fuel lines with gas and they make it much easier to start the engine.
What Happens If You Put Old Gas In A Lawn Mower?
If you put old gas in a lawn mower, your machine will not run smoothly, but rather, it will actually sputter and eventually break down. This is because the volatility of the gas will degrade over time.
Now You Know How To Winterize Your Lawn Mower
Winterizing your mower may not seem like a necessity, but it really does have a lot of benefits that make the trouble worthwhile. Please don’t forget the most important rule of all when dealing with a machine like a lawn mower: always consult your owner’s manual before performing any maintenance on your machine.
I hope these tips and tricks about winterizing a lawn mower have helped you as you work on prolonging the longevity of your machine. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!