No mowing, but mowers still need care now

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 8, 2006

By Jim Morris

Master Gardener Volunteer

With the abrupt arrival of frigid winter temperatures, the need for using outdoor power equipment greatly diminishes, especially gasoline powered lawn mowers. Proper maintenance before winter is essential for increasing the longevity of lawnmower engines. Agricultural engineers from Penn State University suggest that lawn mowers will last 8-10 years with proper maintenance. Following these winter maintenance tips below will help achieve this goal.

* Change the oil before storing the mower for winter. Solids, water and acids accumulated in the oil over the summer corrode the engine. Change the oil before storage and while the engine’s still warm. Contaminants suspended in warm oil drain out easier when the oil is warm. Changing while the oil is cold allows materials to settle to the bottom of the crankcase solidifying into a thick gum.

* Before storing your gas-powered equipment for the winter, try to run the engine till it runs completely out of gas. Many resort to using a turkey baster to remove leftover gasoline. Another method of removing excess gasoline and accumulated dirt from the tank is to wick the last few drops with a rag. Over wintering gasoline in the engine makes the engine difficult to start in the spring.

* Add a fuel stabilizer designed for small gas engines if you can’t remove the gasoline and run the mower for a few minutes before storing it. Fuel stabilizers normally extend the storage life of the gasoline up to six months.

* Check the spark plug so that your mower will be ready to go next year. If the plug is still fairly new, clean it and put it back; if not install a new one and remove the spark plug wire.

* Remove the spark plug and spray the cylinder with a little oil (WD-40) to keep moisture from accumulating and rusting the cylinder walls.

* Check the throttle cable and dead man cable making sure both are intact. Examine the starter cable to make sure it isn’t frayed and in good condition.

* Check the blade for major damage and have it sharpened and balanced. If the blade is worn or damaged, replace and purchase a spare to be ready when turf resumes growth.

* Coat under the mower deck with a rust inhibitor spray or thin oil (WD-40) before storing it if stored in a damp location. This thin oil film limits moisture penetration discouraging rust.

* Tie a tag or label on the mower to remind you when you serviced it, and what you did.

Jim Morris is Master Gardener Volunteer for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. For archived garden columns or other information, visit the Rowan County Master Gardener web site at , e-mail Darrell_Blackwelder