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Darrell Blackwelder: Take care of your mower before you put it away

Winter is upon us and use of outdoor power equipment, especially gasoline-powered lawn mowers, has greatly diminished. Proper maintenance at the end of mowing season is essential for the longevity of lawnmower engines.

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 until it runs completely out of gas.

Some use 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 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.

• Remove any grass or debris from underneath the mower deck and spray with a rust inhibitor (WD-40) before storing for the winter. The 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.

Darrell Blackwelder, deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.

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