It’s that time of year again when the grass no longer needs cut and the lawn mowers can be stored away for the winter. But putting your mower away for winter storage isn’t as simple as placing it in the shed or garage and not looking at it for several months, as improper winter preparation can lead to serious problems in the spring.

“The majority of problems lawn mowers have at the start of spring are caused by failing to care for them before winter,” said Jeff Linderman, outdoor power equipment specialist for RepairClinic.com. “Proper maintenance of a lawn mower before storage will prevent costly repairs, extend its life and ensure it works when needed again.”

Donnie Patterson, of Wright’s Equipment in Rainsville, agreed, saying you are likely to experience a variety of issues in the spring with a mower that has sat all winter long without being properly winterized.

“If you don’t do anything to your mower to prepare it for winter, several things could happen,” Patterson said. “The fuel will go bad, and it will sit in the carburetor and become a sticky mess, meaning you will have a lot of cleanup work to do in the spring. And if your battery stays cold throughout the winter, there’s a good possibility it will be dead by spring.”

To ensure your mower is properly prepared for winter, Linderman and Patterson provide the following tips for effective winterization.

Replace damaged or worn parts and troubleshoot performance issues. Inspect key components and replace as needed. Pay particular attention to the engine and blade, as a damaged blade can be a safety risk. Consider replacing the fuel filter, spark plug and air filter. Foam air filters should also be cleaned. Patterson said the first of winter and spring is the best time for a maintenance check of your mower. “These are the best times to check for damaged parts, worn belts and other issues and to make sure everything is working properly,” Patterson said.

Thoroughly clean the undercarriage, deck and fuel cap. Remove the spark plug wire and boot before performing any maintenance. Use a hose, putty knife and car wash detergent to remove debris buildup from the undercarriage and deck. Fuel caps have vent holes to allow air into the fuel tank. Use a paintbrush to brush away particles and buildup on the fuel cap. Before closing the fuel cap, inspect for blockage and replace it if there is a blockage.

Degrease. Spray degreaser on oil stains and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping with a clean cloth. Rinse with a hose.

Spray lubricant on any bare metal undercarriage parts to prevent rusting.

Add fuel stabilizer to fresh fuel or empty the fuel tank, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions for the particular mower model. “The best advice I can give to prepare your mower for winter is to put 100-percent gas and stabilizers in it and run it for a few minutes to get everything circulating,” Patterson said.

Check the mower owner’s manual for the recommended way to handle oil replacement. Most small engine repair shops and auto parts stores have a free recycling program for used oil.

• Store in a dry place such as a garage or shed. “If the place where you are storing your mower isn’t heated, it’s a good idea to disconnect your battery and store it in a heated area so it won’t freeze and be dead by spring,” Patterson said. “And perhaps the best thing you can do to ensure your mower is going to be problem-free in the spring is to just start it every now and then throughout the winter.”

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