Believe it or not, summer is officially over – the first day of fall has come and gone, and cooler weather is fast approaching. You will soon mow your lawn for the last time until spring, which means it’s almost time to prepare your lawn mower for months of storage.
Replacing the oil, spark plugs, and air filters on mowers and focusing a little extra attention on grimy recesses before storing them for the winter will ensure that they’ll be ready to rev up when warmer weather returns and the grass begins to grow.
Here are some tips on what you can do this fall to be sure your mower will be ready to tackle your lawn next spring.
- Find your owner’s manual. There are some specifics in there regarding your make and type of machine that may be good to know and reference.
Remove your lawn mower battery and store it in a cool, dry place away from gas cans, the water heater and your furnace.
Clean the battery. Disconnect the battery cable from the battery, starting with the negative cable (it will have a minus sign). Remove the battery and wipe it off with a cloth.
Clean the mower itself. Before continuing with the remaining maintenance steps, it's very important that you disconnect the spark plug to prevent the mower from kick-starting accidentally, which could lead to serious injury. Brush or hose off leaves, grass and mud from your mower.
If it’s a walk behind mower, gently tip it on its side to spray the underbody. If debris is caught on the blade, use a stick or tool to remove it – do NOT use your hands.
- If the mower has a 4-cycle engine, you'll need to change the oil. Drain into a drip pan and replace, filling the oil tank with fresh SAE 30 or 30-weight oil, and recycle the used oil at a service station. Don't use a thicker oil, such as 10W-40. Refer to your owner’s manual if uncertain.
- Clean the air filter. If your mower has a paper filter, replace it with a new one with the paper edges facing out. If it's an oil-soaked sponge filter, remove it, wash it out with soap and water, allow it to dry completely, and then add a bit of clean oil to it before putting it back. Clear the cooling fins of dirt and debris.
Remove and replace the spark plug, using a socket wrench with a spark-plug socket. This ensures a clean start in the spring.
Never store your lawn equipment with a partially full fuel tank. Unused gas left in a mower over the winter can get stale, gumming up the carburetor and inviting rust. First, add fuel stabilizer to the tank, then run the mower to distribute it through the system. Turn the mower off and allow the engine to cool, then siphon excess gas into a clean can. (You can put this gas in your car, provided it hasn't been mixed with oil.) Restart the mower and run it until it stops; repeat until the engine no longer starts and the fuel lines are empty.
Store your mower in a dry, protected place such as your garage or a garden shed. Never store it next to a furnace, water heater or appliance with a pilot light.
This yearly maintenance really can make all the difference in how that first turn of the key or pull of the cord will go for you and your lawn mower. Just a little TLC will end up saving you frustration and costly repairs from rust and corrosion damage.