Getting your equipment ready for winter storage?
Don't be this guy.....
Stabilize the fuel. This is of the utmost importance. The majority of mower engine issues are fuel related, only to be compounded by your machine sitting all winter with the fuel getting stale and clogging passages and jets. There are different schools of thought as to whether or not the fuel should be drained. No matter which route you decide to take, run a fuel stabilizer through the engine before putting it away. Let the engine run a bit to circulate the stabilizer through the carburetor. Some folks actually run stabilizer and cleaner in their machines all year. Can not hurt, but sure can help! If you choose to leave fuel in your mower, make sure you keep it full to prevent any condensation from forming inside of the tank from temperature change.
Change the oil. Some folks like to change the oil in the fall, others in the spring. My school of thought is the fall. Why leave dirty and contaminated oil sit in your engine over the winter? Before changing, run the engine long enough to get the oil heated up to operating temperature, getting all the contaminants suspended in the oil. When filling the crankcase after draining, be sure to put in the proper amount. Take into account if you have a filter on your mowers engine.
REMEMBER TO RECYCLE YOUR USED MOTOR OIL!
Change the air filter. It's a good idea to change your air filter annually. If it is clean and looks like new, you could get by for a second year. Remember, the cleaner the filter is, the better job it's doing to protect your engine.
Replace the fuel filter, if you have one. If you have a fuel filter, change it. If you don't, not a problem. Now, you just may want to consider installing one if you don't have one, providing you have a fuel line and not a direct fuel feed from your tank to the carburetor. Just keep in mind, there are different filters for different applications that may effect fuel flow such as gravity feed vs. vacuum operated fuel pumps. While you are messing around with the fuel lines you may even consider an in-line fuel shut off valve. That may save you from a crankcase full of fuel from a bad needle and seat in your carburetor in the spring!
SAFETY NOTE: Fuel is highly flammable! Work in well ventilated areas and avoid any ignition sources and open flames!
Replace the spark plug(s). Depending on the amount of use your machine gets over the summer months, it's a good idea to replace the spark plug. If you use your mower less that 25 hours, the plug should be good for 2 years at least. Otherwise, remove the plug, get a new plug of the proper model, gap it (info found in your owners manual), and before you re-install the plug, put a small amount of motor oil or Marvel Mystery Oil (great stuff!) in the spark plug hole and pull the rope a time or two to lubricate and coat the cylinder walls. Then, install your new plug.
Inspect your belts. Now would be a good time to check your belts for dry rot, cracks, frays or old just stretched out beyond adjustment. If they are questionable, at least have an extra set on hand so your not half done on a Sunday and the belt snaps on you!
Remove or disconnect the battery. I like to remove the battery from my electric start machines. I keep the batteries in the basement where it's fairly warm. One fellow that I used to work with would take his batteries out of his machines that were not used in the winter and connect them to a battery charger that was plugged into his overhead garage door. Every time the garage door was used the batteries got about 3-5 minutes of a charge. Smart guy! Now, if you prefer to keep your batteries in your machine, I would suggest removing the cables, cleaning the posts, and leaving them disconnected. Would not hurt to put a good charge in them a time or two over the winter months. Another option would be to use a Battery Tender or similar type unit that would maintain the charge you already have. Keep in mind these type of trickle chargers maintain a charge but will not charge a dead battery.
SAFETY NOTE: Remember, batteries contain sulfuric acid! USE the proper safety equipment (Gloves, Goggles, Aprons etc.) to protect yourself!
Clean the deck! Get that old grass and debris off and out from under your deck. There are several ways to do this. Either spray it off with a garden hose or compressed air. On the underside you could even just scrape it off with a putty knife. If you spray or power wash it off, try to refrain from putting pressurized water directly on or into the sealed bearings/shafts, etc. You don't want to get water in these areas as they will cause rust and corrosion over the winter. Allow the deck to thoroughly dry before storing it. Applying a coat of silicone, Pam, paint or any aftermarket deck sprays to keep grass from sticking next spring wouldn't't hurt anything either. If you have grease zerks on your bearings or shafts, apply liberally.
SAFETY NOTE: Remember compressed air or pressurized water can blow or blast objects back at you and into your eyes! Wear protective gear such as goggles or a face shield!
Sharpen blades. As long as you are working on the underside of your mower, it would be a good time to inspect and sharpen the mower blade(s). This is a good article on blade sharpening. BLADE SHARPENING
Great info on how to get a nice edge.
SAFETY NOTE: Disconnect your spark plug wire(s) while working on the blade. It can start! It can remove body parts when it does!
Clean her up! No harm in giving your mower a good bath. Once you have performed all the preparation work and services to you mower, wash and wax the painted and chromed surfaces. Clean the plastic surfaces and apply a coat of protectant like Armor All or something similar.
Put her away. Once you have performed all of your winter preparations, find a nice dry area to store your equipment in. It's not a bad idea to throw a cover over your mower to keep it clean of dust and over-spray from those winter projects you'll be working on!
A little effort now will go along way. Come Spring when the grass starts growing again and you turn the key and she comes back to life with minimal effort, you'll be glad you spent a little time getting her ready for Winter!