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Winterizing a Lawn Mower

I’m a lawn care geek so am always sad when mowing season comes to an end, but how do we winterize our lawn mower to prolong its life?

If you want to keep your lawn mower in pristine condition it’s important to winterize it properly by emptying old fuel, disconnecting the spark plugs or battery, and cleaning the mower and cutting blades before dry storage. This will ensure it starts first time in the spring.

Let’s dive down into the subject of winterizing your lawn mower in more detail, and discover why we need to do it and the essential steps needed to get it done with minimum hassle…

Winterizing a Lawn Mower

Do You Have To Winterize Lawn Mowers?

You’ve done that last cut of the year, and now it’s time to winterize your lawn mower. It’s important to store your mower safely when it’s out of action, and old fuel, oil, and even unused batteries can cause damage if left in over the winter.

If you want to keep your mower in great condition (and make sure it starts first time in the spring), you need to winterize it properly. This involves cleaning it, draining it of any oil and gas or removing the battery, and making sure all the parts are free from debris and ready for storage.

It’s not a difficult job, but there are several steps you need to take. We’ll walk you through these in just a moment. Before you start, make sure you have a safe and dry place ready to store your mower. You won’t need it for a while, so it can go towards the back of your shed or garage.

How Do I Prepare My Lawn Mower For Winter?

The lawn has been mown for the last time this fall. How do you prepare your lawn mower for its temporary annual hibernation? 

Here are the simple steps you need to take to winterize your lawn mower:

  1. Empty the fuel. Run it as low as you can prior to draining because it will be easier. When you’ve finished mowing, leave the mower to cool. Drain the gas into a safe container
  2. Check the gas has all gone by starting the mower. Still starts? Run it until it can’t run any more, then switch it off. Some mowers should have gas left in them over the winter – but this has to be fresh gas, and we’ll look at this in more detail in a few moments
  3. Disconnect the spark plugs. This prevents the mower from starting while you’re working on it
  4. Or, if you have a battery-powered model, disconnect and remove the battery
  5. Remove the blades for cleaning. This makes it easier to clean the rest of the mower. It should unscrew easily, but make sure you wear gloves
  6. If your mower has separate oil and gas, you’ll need to empty the oil so it doesn’t become sticky and unpleasant over the winter. With most mowers, you lie the machine on its side, open the plug, and let the oil drain into a safe container
  7. Take out the air filter. If it’s a paper one, get rid of it and leave yourself a note to get a new one next year. If it’s a reusable one, wash it and leave it to dry while you get on with the rest of the mower cleaning
  8. Clean the mower. Now the messy jobs are all done, you can give the mower’s undercarriage a good clean. A wire brush and a cloth should do the job well enough. Any blades of grass left behind can lead to rust over long periods
  9. Put the blades back as it’s the safest place to store them. Leave yourself a note to replace the spark plugs, filter, and battery/gas in the spring. Blades need sharpening? Again, wait until the spring, as newly sharpened blades are more vulnerable to rust, so it’s not a good idea to sharpen them then leave them for a few months

Can You Leave Oil in Your Lawn Mower Over Winter?

You can have oil in your lawn mower over winter, but you have to make sure it’s fresh oil. Old oil contains soot and chemicals that will damage the motor over the winter.

If you add new oil to your mower, check it’s the right sort, then run the mower for a few minutes to coat all the parts with the clean new oil.

How to winterize a lawn mower

Should You Run The Gas Out of Your Lawn Mower Over Winter?

You should always use up the old gas in your mower over the winter. As we mentioned earlier, run your mower until it’s out or nearly out, then drain any remaining gas and store it safely. If there’s any left, run the mower again until it stops dead. Switch it off, and when it’s cool, remove the spark plugs.

Why is it so important to run the gas out? Old gasoline can end up clogging the fuel system, and you really don’t want that. However, some models actually state that you need to have gas in over the winter, so what do you do?

Firstly, consult your model’s instructions. If it says the mower should be stored empty, run out the gas then carry on with all the other winterizing stages. If it says the mower needs to keep a tank of gas over the winter, here’s what you need to do…

Empty the old gas as above. You’ll need to get hold of some fuel stabilizer and a can of fresh gas from the filling station. Mix the new fuel and the stabilizer together (the instructions on the stabilizer will give you the correct ratio), then fill the tank on the mower with the fresh mix. Run the mower for about ten minutes to fill the system with the new fuel.

What do you do with the old gas? If you have a gas-powered car and your mower doesn’t mix the gas with the oil, apparently you can simply pour your mower’s old gas into the tank.

How Do You Store a Lawn Mower Battery For The Winter?

If your mower has a battery, disconnect it and store it safely over the winter. It needs to be in a cool and dry place, away from anything like a furnace or the gas can that you’ve just stored your mower’s fuel in…

To disconnect the battery cable from the battery, first remove the negative cable. You can then remove the battery, and give it a bit of a clean. Clean the terminals with a brush and the rest of the battery with a soft cloth. You can coat the terminals with a special battery terminal protector.

Final Words: How Do I Start My Lawn Mower After Winter?

Hopefully, your efforts in the fall will pay off in the spring, and your winterized mower will be in top condition.

You’ll need to add fresh oil and gas (if you have a mower that needs to be left empty), and replace the spark plugs and air filter. If your mower has a battery, check it for defects and charge it before putting it back into the machine.

There’s one more job that needs doing before you start mowing the lawn again, and that’s sharpening the blades ready for the busy new season. This isn’t a job you can do before you winterize the mower, as sharpening exposes fresh metal to the air, opening it up to the elements and potentially causing rust. 

This short film from The Lawn Care Nut shows you how to sharpen your lawn mower blades. If your mower is getting a bit elderly, you may even benefit from installing a new set.

Give it a quick wipe over to remove and dust and cobwebs, and you’re good to go, all ready for a spring and summer of regular lawn mowing.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >