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How Do You Winterize a Toro Lawn Mower?

As regular readers of Take a Yard know, I’m a bit of lawn mowing nut. I love it! As part of this I always make sure I winterize my mower every year. While there are certain standard things you should do on your ‘winterizing mower checklist’, this article covers how you do it for Toro models.

To winterize your Toro lawn mower you should change the oil and filter, disconnect the spark plug, drain the fuel tank on a push mower or add stablizer for a ride on. You also need to remove the battery, clean the mower and blades, and pump up the tires. Store it under a tarp in a dry, covered area.

Let’s dive down into the subject of winterizing your Toro lawnmower in more detail, and answer all of your most pressing questions on getting this done properly…

Winterizing Your Toro Lawn Mower (Step By Step)

Finished mowing for the year? It’s time to put your trusty Toro lawn mower into hibernation for a while. However, winterizing a lawn mower isn’t as simple as simply putting it in your shed or outhouse (at least, not if you want it to work again), and there are a few steps you need to take to keep your hibernating mower in good condition.

Here’s how to winterize your lawn mower (and the same basic steps apply to both push mowers and riding mowers).

  1. Change the oil as you usually would (disconnect the spark plug, drain the old oil, replace the filter, fill up with oil as per your Toro instruction manual)
  2. Don’t reconnect the spark plug! If you’ve skipped the oil stage, disconnect the spark plug now
  3. What about fuel? Some people prefer to drain the fuel, others add a fuel stabilizer to prevent the fuel from degrading over the winter. Check your manual to find out which approach best suits your mower (generally, it’s empty for push mowers and add stabilizer for riding mowers, but please check)
  4. Wash the mower. A hosepipe speeds up the job and helps you to reach those tricky corners. We suggest choosing a sunny morning to wash your mower, to give it plenty of time to dry
  5. Inspect and scrape the blades: you don’t want to winterize it with bits of grass clogging up the blades
  6. Make sure the mower is dry after cleaning. If you store a damp mower, it will rust. A leaf blower can help speed up the drying process
  7. Remove the battery (tip: a fully charged battery stores better than an empty one, so make sure it’s charged before you winterize your mower). Wearing gloves and eye protection, carefully unclip the battery as per Toro’s instructions. Give it a check over and a brush with a soft dry brush, then store it in a cool, dry place (away from anything combustible)
  8. Inflate the tires to the recommended level. Tires don’t like being winterized on the cold ground, so stand the mower on an insulating material such as cardboard
  9. Prepare the mower’s new winter home, which is ideally cool (but not freezing), dry, swept clean of dust and debris, and free from anything flammable. Lay the cardboard ready to stand it on
  10. Push the mower in, and cover it with a tarp or similar, to keep dust, debris, bugs, and rodents away

FAQ: Winterizing a Toro Lawn Mower

About to winterize your Toro lawn mower? Here are a few things you’ll need to know before putting the mower to bed for the winter.

How Do You Drain the Gas Out of a Toro Lawnmower?

If you have decided to drain the gas from your mower over the winter, it’s a pretty straightforward process. Here’s what you do:

  1. Get hold of a siphon pump and tube. A pump is a far safer way to siphon your tank than the old-fashioned tube-only method, which risks you getting a mouthful of gas
  2. Place the straight tube into the mower’s gas tank
  3. Place the bendy tube into a safe gas container
  4. Start pumping to transfer the gas from the tank to the container
  5. Run the mower to get rid of any remaining gas
  6. The siphoned gas can be used for other yard tools, or even put into your vehicle’s tank

If you’d like to see this in action, take a look at this short film, which shows you how to drain the gas from a lawn mower.

Should You Run All the Gas Out of Your Toro Mower Before Winter?

Yes, you should run the gas out of your lawn mower before winterizing it. Gas left in over the winter will spoil, and can even cause damage to your machine. If the tank is almost empty, one last cut should do the job. 

If there’s a fair amount left, either loan your mower to your neighbor, or siphon the gas out as we described earlier, using a siphon pump. These are fairly cheap and easy to get hold of from places like Home Depot.

There is an alternative with some mowers, and that’s to add a fuel stabilizer to the gas, which prevents it from degrading. We’ll take a look at how you use a fuel improver in your mower a bit further on.

Should You Take the Battery Out of Your Toro Lawn Mower for the Winter?

Always remove your battery from the lawn mower after the last cut of the season, which will help to keep the battery in better condition. A charged battery will keep better in storage than an empty or low one, so make sure it’s fully charged before you start to disconnect it.

Check your mower’s instruction manual for the location and fittings of your particular mower battery. Disconnect the spark plug first, then wearing gloves and goggles, disconnect the battery as per the instructions.

This is a good opportunity to check the battery for any signs or corrosion or wear. If all seems fine, give it a gentle dust with a soft brush, then store it for the winter. Choose a cool, dry place, away from anything flammable, and place a cover over it to prevent dirt or bugs getting to it. Check on it occasionally over the winter, ti make sure it’s not getting dirty or showing signs of corrosion.

This film takes you through how to remove the battery from a lawn tractor. It’s the same basis process for all batteries.

Is It Better to Drain Gas or Use Stabilizer?

If you’re wondering whether to drain the tank or add stabilizer, check with your manufacturer. As a general thing, it seems to be that push mowers get drained, while riding mowers and lawn tractors have stabilizer added; however, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.

What are the advantages of using stabilizer? Well, it’s easier than draining a tank, that’s for sure. However, there’s another good reason, and that’s that fuel tanks are designed to hold fuel. An empty fuel tank provides an area for water vapor to condense, and this condensation can lead to corrosion and damage.

You can pick up stabilizer online or in hardware stores. Here’s how you use it:

  • Fill the tank with fresh gas: older gas may already be starting to degrade (fill it to about 85% full, to allow room for any expansion)
  • Add the correct dosage of stabilizer to the tank
  • Run the motor for a few minutes to allow the stabilizer to circulate
  • Winterize your mower as above: it really is that simple

Toro can supply their own fuel treatment for Toro mowers, which costs around $9.

How Long Can Gas Sit in My Toro Mower?

If the gas hasn’t been treated with a dose of stabilizer, it can degrade surprisingly quickly. We rarely see this with our cars or vans, as we’re constantly running down and topping up their fuel tanks. 

However, if fuel simply sits there, it starts to form a sticky, gummy substance that can block the moving parts and damage the motor. Ethanol in the gas can also cause corrosion.

Depending on who you read or listen to, gas can start to degrade in as little as one month. Certainly, three-month-old gas shouldn’t be used. So, if you’re not regularly getting through the fuel, drain it or use a stabilizer. Certainly, don’t leave untreated gas in the tank over the winter.

Can I Use Last Year’s Gas in My Toro Mower?

Gas degrades pretty quickly if it’s just sitting in the tank, so last season’s gas will be no good for this year’s mowing. Considering that gas is regarded as “old” after as little as 30 days, last year’s tank is definitely a no-mow.

However, if you have used a stabilizer (mixed with fresh gas) before winterizing your mower, it should start up OK at the beginning of the new mowing season. A stabilizer can keep gas fresh for over a year (different brands have different guarantees), meaning that last summer’s tank will still be fine for this spring’s lawn mowing. 

How Do I Know if I Have Bad Gas in My Toro Lawn Mower?

How can you tell if your gas has degraded over time? There are a couple of ways to tell before you start the mower. 

Give the air a sniff. Does the gas smell even stronger than usual? This could be a sign that it’s degraded, as bad gas has a stronger smell. Carefully siphon a bit of the gas into a clear glass container. Does it appear dark or discolored? Bad gas looks, well, bad.

If you have started up your lawn mower, you’ll soon be able to tell if the gas in its tank has gone bad. It will struggle to work, will start to make sputtering noises, and will probably stop working. If this happens, stop mowing, and take steps to drain the tank.

Disconnect the spark plug before emptying the tank using a siphon pump and a safe gas container. This gas will need to be disposed of properly, as it’s not good enough to be used for any other application.

You may also need to give the tank a good clean before adding fresh gas, as it may be coated in that sticky subrace that degraded fuel leaves behind. Check the carburetor for signs of blockage. 

When the tank is clean and dry, hopefully there’s no damage done and you can refill it with fresh gas, and ideally, a fuel stabilizer. 

Can I Leave My Toro Lawn Mower Outside in Winter?

In an ideal world, a lawn mower should spend the winter like you do: cozy indoors. However, if you’re short on space or if you have a larger riding model like a lawn tractor, you might have to store it outside permanently.

If your lawnmower has to live outdoors during the winter, follow these steps:

  • Choose a sheltered part of your yard, away from prevailing winds, and ideally, protected from the rain
  • Perform the usual winterizing procedures we mentioned earlier (a good clean, adding fuel stabilizer etc). However, if you do nothing else, make sure you remove the battery, as those guys really don’t like being cold
  • The mower needs to be kept off the ground, so elevate it on jacks or a ramp, or even bricks (just make sure it can’t roll off)
  • Cover it with a tarp or similar waterproof cover: you don’t want rain, bugs, or rodents getting in, so make sure the cover is secured well
  • Keep checking it (on dry days, so you don’t expose it to rain). Check the tarp too, for holes and tears

Ideally, you won’t have to do this. Just because a machine is designed to be used outdoors, it doesn’t mean it can be outdoors 24/7, 365 days a year. Do you have a friend who can take it in for the winter? Offer the first cut of the year in exchange! If you have a good quality mower that you don’t want to compromise, think about hiring a storage unit for half the year.

If you’re looking for a winter DIY project, how about assembling a shed or a lean-to cover for your mower? Take a look at these suggestions for an easy lawn mower shed. You can easily build your own lean-to shed, and it’s amazing what a difference a couple of supports and a fixed tarp can make when it comes to keeping the weather and debris off your mower.

Winterizing Your Toro Lawn Mower
Winterizing Your Toro Lawn Mower

How Do I Keep Mice Out of My Toro Lawn Mower Engine?

It feels weird that this is even a question, but yes: mice will move into the strangest of places, including your Toro lawn mower engine.

The problem with winterizing anything is that there’s a good chance a family of rodents will take up residence while the item’s in storage. A lawn mower engine is snug, dry, and dark, and very unappealing to cats: the perfect piece of rodent real estate.

How can you keep the mice away?

  • Reduce routes in. Fasten caps and don’t leave any easy tunnels
  • Use a tarpaulin or similar cover, and fasten it tightly. Don’t use appealing bedding material, like an old bedsheet
  • Make sure there are no crumbs about. Sure, you won’t be eating your lunch next to your mower (well, it’s unlikely), but what other food sources are about? Bird food, pet food, seeds for your garden, crumbs from the grill?
  • Put down humane rodent traps, and regularly check them
  • And speaking of checking, keep an eye on the engine for signs of an infestation
  • If you have a cat, let it prowl through the shed or outhouse occasionally. Even if your kitty is no good as a mouser, their scent will be off putting to would-be residents

You also don’t want bugs to make a home in your mower. Follow the same steps: check there are no easy ways in, no food sources, and make sure you cover the mower.

Summary: What Happens if You Don’t Winterize Your Toro Lawn Mower?

Well, we’re afraid that the answer to that is “nothing good”. A Toro lawn mower, or indeed, any lawn mower, needs correctly winterizing after the last cut of the season. If you don’t you risk shortening its life, and because mowers aren’t cheap purchases, we don’t want that.

Draining the fuel tanks or adding stabilizer (depending on the manufacturer’s advice for your particular model)  will prevent damaging build-ups of degraded gas. Removing the battery will keep the battery healthy, and means that after another charge it should start up happily again in the spring.

Cleaning and drying the mower prevents rust and corrosion from developing, while storing it in a dry place and under cover makes sure that moisture can’t creep in.

Finally, a well-fitting cover or tarp will keep most dirt, dust, and debris away, as well as rodents and other unwelcome critters. Keep human mouse traps nearby, and keep checking under the covers for any sign of unwanted lodgers. 

Of course, depending on what gardening zone you live in, the winterizing period is different. However, even if your winters are short and/or mild, it’s still worth tending properly to your lawn mower, as even a break of just one month can result in degraded fuel and a potentially damaged engine.

It’s also good to give any engine a bit of TLC every once in a while, and the winterizing checklist is a good opportunity to make sure everything’s working well. 

When it’s time to start mowing again in the spring, recharge and reinstall the battery, fill up with fresh fuel (if you haven’t used a fuel treatment over the winter), and give it another quick clean and check over (you don’t want to fire up those mice along with the motor…). Your winterized lawn mower should start like a dream. 🙂

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 >