Off season storage of your lawn mower

Seasonal yard machine storage

Proper storage of lawn mowers, tillers and other yard machines can extend service life and save serious money. Off season storage of mowers and other yard machines is a simple inexpensive task.  With a little knowledge and the help of the Internet almost anyone can take actions to protect their investment.

First and foremost, disconnect the spark plug wire to avoid possible unintended starting of the motor.  Always following manufacturers recommendations and requirements.

Proper storage of lawn equipment requires basic mechanical abilities and a willingness to save money.  The first step for off season storage should include a thorough inspection.  Belts need to be checked, tires properly inflated, scratches should be touched up and a thorough exterior cleaning is in order.  This can be done with a hose or high pressure washer.  High pressure washers are available for rent at many home supply stores. When cleaning a lawn mower be sure to inspect and sharpen the blades following the manufacturer instructions.  Look underneath the mowing deck and scrape all encrusted grass off, wash thoroughly.  Grass is acidic and left on the deck will speed up corrosion and eventually lead to rust through of steel decks.  Yes, if you take care of the mechanical portion of your equipment you could actually have it last longer than the deck!

Once you have cleaned the exterior of the unit look it over once again to see if there are any signs of damage or wear.  Damaged areas where paint has been severely scratched or peeled should be cleaned and touched up.  Supplies for this purpose are available at most hardware and automotive stores.

Once the exterior is cleaned and set for storage you need to change the oil and on some units the filters.  It is generally easy to see where the oil drain is near the bottom of the engine block.  If you can't locate it a quick lookup on the manufacturers web site will assist you in finding the drains, filters, capacity, and oil requirements.  Be sure to follow the manufacturers recommendations.

Before you drain the oil and replace the filters start the unit up and leave it run for a while to warm the oil in addition to mixing settled contaminants with the oil so they are drained away. To do this you will have to reconnect the spark plug wire that was disconnected earlier.  (Never leave a running unit unattended).  One the unit is warmed up you can drain the dirty oil into a container.  Never put the oil in the trash as it is a contaminant and should be recycled.   Remove the oil filter and replace with a quality filter per manufacturer recommendations.  Be sure to dispose of the filter properly. Refill to capacity as stated in your owners manual.  Restart the motor and check for leaks.

It is also important that you either drain or use all the old fuel.  Unleaded fuels do not store well and old fuel can give you fits in the spring.  If you cannot run all of the fuel out you can add fuel stabilizer such as Sta-bil or Sea Foam.  Both of these and similar products are available at your local hardware or auto parts store.  Add the recommended amount to your tank shaking the unit to mix it thoroughly.  Once the gas and stabilizer are mixed you can restart the engine and let it run for a few minutes.  If your unit has a fuel shut off you can run the fuel out of the carburetor which is recommended. 

I like to add fogging oil to my units.  Fogging oil can be sprayed into the carburetor just before shutting off the engine.  If you cannot do this you can remove the spark plug and spray some oil into the cylinder being carefully not to put in too much.  This is a good time to replace the old spark plug with a new one that has been properly gapped for your motor.  In the spring your motor should start up without too much trouble.  Don't be alarmed by the white smoke as that is cause by burning off the fogging oil and will subside in a short amount of time.

By taking an hour or so of your time and using basic tools and wrenches you can keep your yard machines running for a long time.   Another tip is never use gasoline with ethanol in your small engines.  Many older engines were not manufactured to use ethanol and hoses can be damaged by the alcohol content. In addition some say fuel with ethanol does not store well.  Many fuel suppliers now offer at least one grade that does not include ethanol.