An in-depth look at when you do and when you don’t need to secure a…
If you have a mower, you’ve probably had an uneasy feeling that you should tuck it in somehow for the winter. But the gutters need cleaning and the leaves need raking, and somehow it’s easy to neglect the mower. These mower storage tips are really fairly simple, and can save you a lot of expensive repair bills down the road by practicing proper mower storage.
- Store indoors
- Take care of fuel
- Clean off grass clippings
- Keep air in the tires
- Keep battery charged
1. Mower Storage Indoors
Do you store your mower outside? If so, its useful lifespan will be shorter. Two main problems:
- Sun: Sun can fade paint and plastic parts. But it can also make them more brittle and susceptible to cracking or breaking. Engine covers are particularly prone to cracking, as they are constantly being opened and closed. Mower seats are also prone to cracking. Cracked mower seats are useful for storing rain and transferring it to your posterior. Other than that, they’re mostly just unsightly.
- Moisture: As you can imagine, mowers like to be kept dry. Moisture can collect and pool, and can cause rust.
Are you out of room in your garage? A shed is a great place to store a mower, and keep it out of sun and snow. If you don’t have a shed yet … well, we’d love to help you! Sheds come in all sizes, from just big enough to squeeze in your riding mower (6×8), to ample room for your ’55 Chevy “Gasser” drag racer and your mower besides.
Take Care of Fuel
Rolland Schrock of Schrock Tool and Saw has been selling and repairing equipment since the early ’90s. He’s a walking encyclopedia of small engine facts, and has helped us out with the following four Mower Storage Tips.
The biggest issue with mower storage is the fuel.
The Problem. Over time, fuel gets old and begins to break down. It will gum up the carburetor and the fuel system. When this happens, your mower won’t run right. Off to the mower repair you go for another repair bill!
Fuel with ethanol is particularly bad. Every gas station in the country sells fuel with 10% ethanol, which is actually alcohol made from plants. Ethanol is hard on your mower. Here is a Popular Mechanics article that explains why ethanol wrecks your mower’s fuel system. The good news is that you can also buy ethanol-free gas. It may take some looking around for you to find ethanol-free fuel. It’s worth the look.
Back to mower storage tips …
The Solution: Here are a few tips to keep your fuel system in tip-top shape:
- The biggest thing is to keep the fuel fresh. If you are only running an engine 2-3 times a year (more likely with your hedge trimmer than your mower), you’re not running enough fuel through it. You should be running at least 2 gallons of fuel each year. If you are running less than that, you need to use canned gas. Canned gas doesn’t break down and gum up the fuel system. It is available from any reputable dealer of lawn equipment. It’s expensive, but cheaper than a repair bill.
- Another great storage solution is to use fresh, high-octane, ethanol-free gasoline. But you still need a fuel stabilizer over the winter. The stabilizer will keep the fuel from breaking down. Which will keep your mower from breaking down.
Extra Credit. The best way of getting your fuel system ready for storage is to let the mower run dry, then fill it with new fuel. Be sure to run the mower for a few minutes to let the fuel circulate through the system.
Pro Tip: Some people like to just run the mower dry, so that there’s no fuel in it over winter. That doesn’t work. Your best bet is a full tank. Here’s a helpful article with more details.
Clean Off Grass Clippings
The Problem. Have you ever wondered why mower decks so often rust through? Grass clippings can accumulate both on top of and below the mower deck. This causes problems in two ways.
- First, when green grass clippings rot, they turn acidic. (If you’ve smelled rotting grass, and had your nostrils stung by the fumes, you know what we’re talking about.) This eats through paint, and eventually through the metal itself.
- Second, even completely dry clippings can gather moisture. If you happen to leave your mower outside in the rain, the clippings will gather moisture and hold it, promoting rust on your deck.
The Solution. Keep grass clippings cleaned off above and below. Compressed air is the easiest way to clean off the upper side. Underneath, the grass cakes against the mower deck. A putty knife is a great tool here.
Pro Tip. Turn off the mower blades before cleaning the deck.
Extra Credit. What about washing the deck? Rolland says, “Don’t kill it with kindness.” Obviously, if you’ve got mud on your deck, you’ll need to wash it off. But if you make a habit of regularly washing the mower deck, you can get moisture in the very bearings that keep your blades humming. Moisture in the bearings = failed bearings. Enough said.
Keep Air in the Tires
The Problem. Tires tend to lose air over time. When tires go flat, your mower ends up sitting on the rim — which is hard on your tires.
The Solution. Be sure that before you store your mower for the winter, the tires are aired up to capacity.
Keep Your Battery Charged
The Problem. Batteries drain over time. Allowing batteries to drain down reduces their lifespan.
The Solution. You have a few options.
- Charge the battery up a few times over the winter.
- If you don’t think you’ll get that done, you can use a trickle charger. A trickle charger, or battery tender, will keep the battery charged up. Is your shed off the grid? You can even get solar battery tenders.
Pro Tip. Some people like to run the mower for 5-10 minutes every once in a while, to keep everything in good shape. That doesn’t work. First, you take out more from the battery than you put back. And second, by not letting the engine get good and hot, you actually invite condensation inside the engine. (That’s a bad thing.) So, if you’re going to run it, let it run for at least 1/2 hour to recharge the battery and burn off the condensation.
Bonus mower storage tip – Changing Oil
You should change your mower’s engine oil each year. But should it happen fall or spring?
Turns out, it doesn’t really matter. Rolland notes that it may be a little better in the spring, since you can get rid of any condensation that might collect in the winter. But, he sees very few condensation problems come into the shop. And those that he does see, probably come from being started and run only a brief time.
Needing indoor storage for your mower? Check out our sheds!