Winter means taking a break from lawn care, but those months of storage can really take a toll on your equipment. These tips will help you get everything ready for the off-season so you’ll have a trouble-free start to the spring.
Modern fuel doesn’t stay fresh for long, even when a fuel stabilizer has been added. Ethanol-containing fuels will separate and gather moisture, while non-ethanol gas will degrade and lacquer the tank and fuel lines.
Unless you’ll be using it to power a snow thrower this season, use up any gas you have in storage. If it hasn’t been mixed with two-stroke oil, it’s fine to use in your car. As for the equipment, empty the tank and carburetor before putting it into storage. The tank can usually be emptied by disconnecting the fuel line and letting the gas flow into a suitable container. Some carburetors will have a bolt on the bottom of the float bowl that allow them to be emptied. If there isn’t one, add some fuel stabilizer to the tank and run the engine for a few minutes to ensure there’s only treated fuel left inside the float bowl.
Once everything has been emptied, start the motor and let it run until it’s completely out of fuel.
On a two-stroke engine, if you run it out of fuel, the remaining oil residue will keep the engine lubricated for next year. Inspect the spark plug and replace if necessary.
On four-stroke engines, remove the spark plug and put a couple drops of oil inside the hole the plug threads into. Pull the starter a couple times to circulate the oil around the inside of the cylinder. This will keep the engine spinning freely when you take it out of storage. Most plugs should be replaced yearly, so screw in a new plug and reattach the plug lead.
Change the oil and give the air filter a thorough cleaning. Paper filters can simply be tapped to remove dust, but foam filters usually need to be washed, dried, and soaked with clean oil. Check your engine owner’s manual for more information.
Cleaning and Preparing Surfaces
Every surface should be cleaned and dried before storing. Never aim high-pressure water near the engine, as this can force water into the oil sump or combustion chamber, damaging internal components.
Exposed metal should be protected with a light coating of oil. Penetrating oil or a water displacer like WD-40 is perfect for this. Spray silicone lubricant is the best choice for keeping pivot points and cables from stiffening over the winter.
Tips for Specific Equipment
Mowers – Don’t forget to clean out the bottom of the deck. Clumps of grass can gather moisture that will rust out the metal. It’s also a good time to sharpen the blade.
String trimmers – Sharpen the line cutting blade on the trimmer’s shield and make sure the spool is properly wound.
Chainsaws – You might need to pull the chainsaw out later to clear debris after a major snow storm, so keep a can of long life gas on hand. It will have the right amount of oil for your chainsaw’s engine, and, if left unopened, it will stay fresh for when you need it. If fuel isn’t available for your chainsaw, keep a bottle of oil with fuel stabilizer on hand for mixing with fresh fuel. It’s also a good time to pick up an extra chain so you can be ready when a storm hits.
Snow throwers – Like chainsaws, you’ll end up using your snow thrower when a storm comes, and for parts of the country that could be at any time. Save yourself from breakdowns by stocking up on shear pins and belts ahead of time. Even though they’re used in winter, snow throwers should be cleaned and lubricated just like the rest of your equipment.
Once your small engine equipment has been prepared, it can be put into storage. Ideally, this should be in a covered area.
- Don’t store your equipment near anything corrosive, like pool cleaners and fertilizers. Over time, this casual exposure can damage metal.
- Don’t put a tarp over your equipment: this can capture moisture which will promote rust. Instead, use a breathable cover, preferably designed for that specific device.
- Don’t store equipment near sparks or open flame, including furnaces, saws, and welders. Even with the engine drained, there’s still a chance that fumes from leftover fuel could ignite. Furnaces also produce ozone, which will eat away at rubber parts including tires and fuel lines.
Getting Parts and Accessories for your Equipment
If you need a new spark plug or air filter to get your equipment ready for winter, or you’re looking to add something to your arsenal to make next spring easier, come by Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re a certified dealer for a wide range of lawn care equipment and small engine manufacturers, so we have the people and parts to help you get ready for the off season. Our shop is at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway, Chambersburg, PA. That’s off Route 11, or you can take Exit 10 Marion from Interstate 81.
Not in south central Pennsylvania? You can still order parts from us over the Internet. Visit us at www.shankslawn.com.