Lawnmowers are an important part of people’s garden maintenance during the summer. These machines are used less frequently during the fall months and then do need to be stored away properly for the winter after their last use of the year.
Taking good care of your lawn mower keeps it in top working order and means it will have a long lifespan. Failing to properly winterize a lawn mower can lead it to not work properly when you try to start it back up again.
Whether it is a push mower or a ride-on lawn mower, there are several key areas that should be addressed to correctly store it for winter. We hear from lawn care experts about how and when to winterize your mower, along with six key steps to follow.
Is winterizing a lawn mower important?
After a summer of mowing stripes into a lawn, it may be easy to simply just put your mower away after use and not worry about it. However, this can lead to issues when it comes to mowing the lawn again in spring, as neglecting to winterize the mower can cause problems for the engine and reduce its lifespan. Preparing the lawn mower for winter storage means it comes out again in great condition and ready to start cutting lawns again.
When to winterize a lawn mower
Grasses go into dormancy when temperatures get below 50°F and this can be from mid-October to December, depending on your location. How often you mow the lawn will drop in the fall and a last mow before winter should come before the first hard frost.
Kody Ketterling, lawn care expert and founder of K-IT Products, says: ‘Whenever you are ready to be done mowing and to put your mower away for the season just take a little extra time and clean it before you store it for the winter.
'It takes a little time but your mower will be clean and ready to go for the next season starting in the springtime.’
Kody Ketterling has run his own landscaping business for more than a decade and is an expert in lawn care and maintenance. In addition, K-IT maintenance products are making the grass greener. On shelves at Home Depot stores, as well as Walmart.com and Amazon, K-IT products are easy to use, affordable and saves both time and money in the long-run for homeowners and professional landscapers alike.
How do you winterize a lawn mower?
The exact methods for preparing a lawn mower will vary slightly, depending on the machine. There will be differences if you are winterizing a push mower or a ride-on lawn mower, or if you are storing away petrol or electric lawn mowers.
Whatever type of mower you use for your lawn care, taking proper steps to prepare it for winter storage will ensure it is ready to use next year.
1. Clean the mower
The first step is very basic and should be a task done after every mow to keep your lawnmower clean and give it the longest possible lifespan. Before storing the mower away for winter, you need to give it a good clean. Make sure to remove any grass clippings, dirt, or debris from around the deck of the mower, as well as off the blade. Taking time to properly clean the mower will prevent rust and corrosion from building up while the machine is stored away for winter.
2. Clean the air filters
Cleaning lawn mower air filters should be a task done regularly throughout the mowing season on any petrol lawnmower, but it is especially important before storing it away for many months. It is recommended to clean the foam filter after every 25 hours of use, and the paper filter after 300 hours, as dirt can build up in the filter after many hours of mowing.
It is a simple job to clean the paper filters by tapping it against a flat surface to remove dirt, while you can quickly wash dirt from foam filters using a bucket of water and some soap - just remember to dry it thoroughly before putting it back in the machine to store.
3. Drain or stabilize the fuel
If you have a gas lawn mower, it is recommended to either drain or stabilize the fuel before storing the machine away for winter. It is not advised to just leave it with old fuel in, as old and stale fuel can go bad during months in storage and damage the engine.
If you cannot simply run the machine until it runs out of fuel, then the alternative is to add a fuel stabilizer - which can keep any fuel in the machine fresh for an extended period.
Sarah Jameson, the founder of Lawn Chick, claims that gasoline that has gone bad over winter is ‘one of the main issues that causes mowers to fail to start and run well the following spring.’
She says: ‘You can either purchase an inexpensive siphon to drain the gas, or you can purchase Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer, which keeps fuel fresh for 24 months. That costs a lot less than sending your mower to the small engine repair shop in April.’
Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer keeps fuel fresh for up to 24 months. It ensures you can store lawnmowers with added confidence, in the knowledge they will start up smoothly when needed again
Sarah Jameson is the founder and owner of LawnChick.com, a trusted lawn care blog that educates millions of homeowners each year to help them achieve the greenest, healthiest lawn. Sarah’s blog is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications.
4. Change the oil
As well as tackling old fuel, changing the oil in the machine will also help protect the engine. When being stored away for a long time, old oil can also degrade and harm engine parts. It is recommended to change the oil at the end of the mowing season.
5. Remove and store batteries
Batteries are an important, and costly to replace, part of many mowers. Whether you are winterizing a ride-on lawn mower or storing a battery-powered push mower, they will have batteries that need to be properly stored and maintained over winter.
When it comes to electric mowers, Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, says ‘the most important thing to do is to remove the batteries and store them inside and away from the cold.’
He adds: ‘Constant exposure to cold and below-freezing temperatures can cause your batteries to die over the winter months, and since they are not exactly cheap to replace, make sure to remove them.’
If your ride-on lawn mower has a battery, it is crucial to disconnect it from the machine and store it in a cool and dry place. Even if your mower is stored in a garage or shed, remove the battery and keep it charged over winter. Otherwise you risk a dead battery come spring.
To keep it maintained during winter, regularly check and charge it using a battery tender, such as the Battery Tender Plus 12V Battery Charger and Maintainer available at Amazon.
Jeremy Yamaguchi is the CEO of Lawn Love, helping homeowners find quality, reliable lawn care. Specializing in technology and using industry experience, Jeremy intends to revolutionize the lawn care industry.
6. Store in a dry place
It is crucial to store your lawnmower in a dry and sheltered place throughout the winter, such as in a garage or shed. Abandoning them outdoors and open to the elements leaves them susceptible to many issues, and can shorten their lifespan
Kody Ketterling says: ‘We recommend that they be parked in a garage, shop, shed or covered area to help them stay out of the elements. If you do not have a way to do that then we recommend getting a tarp and covering them up for the winter to protect them from the harsh winter months or weather when the mower is not being used.’
Is it OK to leave gas in the mower over winter?
Any gas left in the tank after the final mow of the year could damage the carburettor and fuel system if it is just left in there to go stale over winter. The two options with any remaining fuel are to remove it from the tank, or to use fuel stabilizer. A recommended approach is to add the fuel stabilizer when you fill the tank for the last time each year and run the engine for a few minutes to distribute this stabilized fuel around the system.
Should I leave oil in my lawn mower over winter?
Oil can be left in the mower during winter, however it may be beneficial to change the oil prior to storing the machine. Old oil has the potential to become dirty and corrode over time, which can affect the mower. Check your oil after the final mow and either top it up before storage, or change the oil and run the machine for a couple of minutes.
Along with storing lawn mowers correctly, it is also advisable to clean garden tools before you store them away for winter. Taking time to sharpen and properly maintain all tools will mean you can use them for many years to come.
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Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.
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