Take care of your mower, other engines before storing them for winter

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

SALISBURY — The weather still has a few homeowners mowing, but many are seriously contemplating hanging up the string trimmers and mowers for the winter. It is important to winterize your small engine equipment at this point. Winterizing small gasoline engines helps to extend their life and make the first use in late spring much easier.
Before initiating any work, be sure to disconnect the spark plug wire as a safety precaution.
The first step is to give the mower a thorough cleaning top and bottom, removing dirt, grime and plant material. Sharpen cutting edges, and if a lawn mower blade needs more than a light sharpening, check it for balance before remounting it. Spray blades and bare metal parts with a penetrating oil such as WD–40; lubricate, per the owner’s manual, cables etc., where indicated, with motor oil. It’s also a good idea to install a new spark plug at the start of the mowing season.
The air filter should also be cleaned. If you have a paper type filter, avoid using pressurized air, as a hole can be blown through the paper. When in doubt, replace the filter. Change the oil if the engine is a four-cycle type.
Winterization of your gasoline engine can be done in a couple of ways. One approach is to drain the fuel system. Check the owner’s manual on draining the system, if recommended for your engine. It reduces evaporative emissions that occur during storage. If the manual says the gasoline can be removed and done easily, carefully drain the tank (and carburetor if possible) into a clean, approved storage container. Run the engine to remove any residual gasoline until the engine stops.
The other approach is to add a fuel stabilizer to the tank. To minimize air space, fill the tank full with the gasoline/stabilizer mixture. Operate the engine a few minutes to draw the stabilized mixture into the carburetor. Local small engine mechanics prefer the first step of draining the engine because of the extended storage problem with ethanol.
In either case, adding a small amount of engine oil or “fogging” oil through the spark plug port can help winterize an engine. For added protection, you may want to close the engine’s valves by pulling on the hand-pull starter cord until resistance is felt, which means the valves are closed.
If the equipment has an electric start/battery, the battery can be left in place with negative cable removed or connected to an automatic trickle charger. The best choice is to remove it, fully charge it, and store in a cool dry place.
As a final step, store your motorized equipment in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated and out of direct sunlight.

Darrell Blackwelder is County Extension Director, Rowan County Center; 704-216-8970