Winter Lawn Mower Maintenance

There is nothing more frustrating than a lawn mower that won't start in the spring. As the lawn mowing season slows, the secret to keeping your lawn mower in perfect working order is to put it away, the right way, in the winter. Here are some tips on what you can do to enjoy a happy reunion in spring.

Empty the gas tank or add stabiliser
Ideally you should run your lawn mower to dryness making sure it is completely out of fuel before storing it away for an extended period of time. If you have too much fuel in it or don’t want to run it empty, it is important to add gasoline stabiliser to the fuel mix. The stabilizer keeps fuel fresh for up to 6 months and without it fuel left in the engine will gunk it up for sure. 

Change the oil
Before you attempt to change oil or do anything to your lawn mower engine, the very first step is to unplug the spark plug for safety. It also pays to have an oil pan ready and to check your Operator's Manual to determine the type of oil, and make sure you have enough on hand. Locate the oil drain plug. On most home lawn mowers, the plug is typically below the deck and may require you to turn the machine upside down. Once the the old oil is all drained out and you have safely re-inserted the oil plug,add fresh oil in according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Be sure to dispose of the old oil responsibly and in accordance with regulations in your area, don’t just dump it.

Clean the air filter
Now that the oil is dealt with, turn your attention to the air filter. Some gasoline lawn mower engines have foam element filters that need to be cleaned with hot soapy water and others have a paper element that can be cleaned by simply brushing it off. Generally it is recommended that you replace it at least once per season so, more often under heavy use. Either way once you have cleaned or replaced the filter reinsert it back into the lawn mower remember to tighten up any screws. 

Sharpen the blade
Just as important as an engine that runs is a blade that is sharp. A sharp blade makes a clean cut on the grass, and a clean cut leads to a healthy lawn. The blade will need to be removed in order to be sharpened. It’s possible to sharpen a blade by hand if you have a good vice, you could use a metal hand file, but of course it’s a whole lot easier and faster to use a bench grinder if you have one, and even easier again to take it to your local lawn mower service centre. If you do take on the job yourself, always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes because you are going to make sparks grinding.

Clean your Mower
Before reinstalling the blade, use this opportunity to clean the underside of the lawn mower. All the caked grass will not only hasten rusting of the metal but diseases and insects can also grow if you leave it there over the winter. This could cause problems the first time you mow come spring. Tools of the trade for this job include a putty knife, a wire brush, and a flat head screwdriver and it’s just a matter of chiseling away all the dry caked on grass.

Changing the spark plug
As the last step, remove the old spark plug and pour a teaspoon of clean motor oil right into the engine and reinstall a nice, clean, and shining spark plug. Pull the crank and distribute that oil evenly through the engine.

Pro Tip: Make sure your operator's manual is on hand for quick reference when you work on your lawn mower and when removing bolts put them in a container close by to easily locate them again.

Store your Mower in a Dry Place
Store your lawn 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.