Winterizing and Storing Lawnmowers and Other Power Equipment
Save money with proper care
Storing a lawnmower, snowblower, tiller, chainsaw, weedeater, lawn and garden tractor or other small engine outdoor power equipment piece need not be overly complicated. Really all you're trying to do is prevent damage from moisture, rodents and insects and to leave it in a condition where it will be ready to go the next season. What's worse than snow piling up and the snowblower not starting?
The primary concern we have now, and the largest complaint we see in the shop, is damage from ethanol fuels and the water absorbing properties they have. My shop recommends using a good fuel additive in the gas all season, SeaFoam and Techron are my personal favorites, but there are many good products to choose from. Your nearest marine center is a good place to ask about the local favorites.
Save money on small engine parts with a little basic maintenance.
Gone are the days where we recommended filling the tank to the top and then putting a piece of plastic between the cap and tank. Nowadays, the fuel we have will be ruined after several weeks and gelling and corrosion will begin. But, by using a good additive, at the end of the season you shouldn't have anything more to do for the fuel supply system than to drain the tank, start the engine and allow the fuel in the carburetor to run out. If you didn't use an additive all season, then do yourself a favor by adding one and letting the engine run for twenty minutes or so, then drain the tank and let the engine run dry.
This same procedure works for all two-stroke equipment as well. In fact, it's even more critical to properly prep the fuel system for two-strokes as you also have the oil mix and the deposits it leaves behind to contend with.
In my shop, an end-of-season prep includes new spark plugs, sharpening blades, (we'll coat the sharpened portion with a thin layer of spray paint to prevent rust) and a thorough cleaning of decks, engines, cases and anything else we can find. A change of filters and fuel lines if they are starting to break down and we will also change the oil for four-stroke engines and lubricate all grease fittings. If there are tires that need air, we fill them. We try to paint areas that need it and for riders, a coat of wax on the hood makes a world of difference. On the Briggs OHV engines, we recommend checking and setting valve lash as well.
A word on changing the oil. We do this to remove the contaminated oil but at the beginning of the season, we will change the oil again before the engine is started. We change it again because there have been times when we've noticed the oil has collected water. Now this is a very humid part of the country so you might not experience this problem, but, most small engines hold around a quart of oil so the cost is only a few dollars. To me, that's just cheap insurance.
We will also inspect the equipment closely for problems that will need addressing before use in the next season. Such as belts, starter ropes and all other things that might prevent putting the equipment into service. It should also go without saying that the equipment has to be protected from the weather. Even just tarping will provide a lot of protection. If you can only store outside, if you put down a couple of inches of gravel to park on, and then use a good tarp that's tied down well, you will prevent a lot of damage.
The one thing we haven't found a foolproof solution for is rodents and insects. Mice love to chew on wirings and build nests in hidden places, like under the flywheel shroud. A number of insects will build nests inside exhausts, around flywheels, in ignition switches and anyplace else they can. The only advice I have about preventing these troubles is storing your equipment where the vermin aren't, and then still check on it every now and then so if they do get to it, you can maybe lessen the damage.
Outdoor power equipment can last for many years with some basic maintenance and care. If you'll spend a few dollars on that maintenance, you will save many dollars on replacements.