Ride-on mower storage

Lawn Mower Winter Storage

Simple prep work now, will save a lot of head ache later. It's very important to clean old grass and debris from your mower. As grass decomposes it produces acid which eats away at the metal components of your mower.

 

So what is lawn mower winter storage? The basic steps involved in successfull winter storage are:

  • Cleaning the mower
  • Treating the engine cylinder
  • Treating the gas with stabiliser
  • Battery charging (tractor)
  • Coating the the mower
  • Storing the mower indoors

Most of the mowers that reach my workshop in the spring have problems associated with poor or no winter storage preparation. These problems can be costly and are totally avoidable.

 

If you take care to winterise your kit, you'll have trouble-free recommissioning in the spring. Proper prep work isn't difficult, expensive or time consuming.

Mower Cleaning

Walk behind mower or lawn tractor, the process is much similar. To begin, first remove the plug lead and turn off the gas to disable the mower. Not all mowers will have a gas valve.

 

Remove any large clumps of grass and using soapy water, wash the surface area of your mower deck, engine, wheels etc.

 

I prefer not to use a garden hose or pressure washer as it forces water into cables and electrics causing problems later.

Deck Cleaning

Turn your walk behind mower on its side, air filter side up, this prevents gas flooding the engine. If your mower is a riding mower, place a block under the front wheels and apply the brakes. This gives you enough room to reach under and clean the deck. A paint scraper and stiff brush, works best.

 

Most modern mowers have a handy garden hose connector on the deck. So after you've cleaned the heavy grass, turn your mower over, (plug wire and gas back on) connect your water hose and run the engine and blades to thoroughly clean the underside.

 

Now run the engine with the water off, allow the engine heat up and spin the blades to drive off the excess water. Wipe down the mower, drying off any remaining water.

 

Allow the mower to dry out completely, turning mower over once more, spray the underside of the deck with WD40, this will protect against rust and dampness over the winter months. Take care not to spray any belts or pulleys directly.

 

Mower tools Mower tyre tools

Basic Tools

You don't need much in the way of tools, stiff brush, scraper, plug spanner and a tire pump would be nice but not essential.

wd 40

Essential

This is all you really need to know - cover everything in WD, except belts and pulleys.

Mower on its side

Air Filter Up

Turn off gas, if you have a gas valve fitted and pull off the spark plug wire. This prevents the mower from starting accidentally.

Now turn your mower over, air-filter side up. This prevents gas flooding.

Cleaning a mower

Scraping

A paint scraper and wire brush are best for this job.

Mower winterizing

Check

Check for debris around the blades and the wheel axles.

mower clean up

Axles

Old string wound around axles can cause oil leaks and other damage.

Mower deck cleaning

Hose 

Connect a regular garden hose to your deck if fitted with this feature.

mower deck hose connection

Run Blades

Hose on and blades on, this will wash the underside.

lawn mower deck grass cleaning

Build Up

Grass build up, will happily eat your mower.

mower deck rot

Corrosion

Sadly this garden hose connector wasn't overworked.

tractor mower deck cleaning mower parking brake

Jacking

Use a car jack to lift the front of your mower, place blocks of wood under the front wheels.

Apply the hand brake and leave the jack under the mower for additional support.

Often finding somewhere to jack the mower can be a challenge, be careful of steering arms and the muffler.

Tractor mower deck clean

Deck Cleaning

With the deck in the highest position, it's not going to be comfortable, but it's enough clearance to get the job done.

Grass Bag/box

It's important to wash the grass bag or box. Matted grass blocks air from passing through the bag and this in turn stops the grass filling. A pressure washer is best way to clean the bag, otherwise use a stiff brush and some soapy water.

Allow the bag to dry completely before storing for winter.

 

Mower grass bag clean Ride-on mower grass box

Bag Care

Cleaning the bag will help airflow pass through the bag which helps stuff the bag.

grass bag cleaning

Washing

Pressure washing is the best and easiest way to clean the matted grass. A stiff brush does a good job too, but is very dusty.

The Problem With Storing Gas

Bad gas is the number one reason for a lawn mower no start. Gas goes stale, and blocks up the gas system. How long gas stays fresh for depends on factors such as: the temperature stored at; where it's stored; how full the gas tank/can is; type of gas.

 

All mowers are effected, even new ones. Manufacturers won't cover stale gas under your warranty. In lots of cases cleaning will fix the problem, but some will need a new carburettor fitted, expensive!

 

The easiest way to avoid problems with gas - add a fuel stabiliser. This is as easy as emptying a bottle of fluid into the fuel tank and operating the engine for a short time to mix it throughout the fuel system. 

 

I use a product called Sta-bil Storage, check the price here on Amazon.

This will keep your fuel fresh all winter, it will also work in other gas powered kit, 2 stroke or 4. You can put it into your gas storage can also.

 

If you don't want to use a fuel stabiliser, then simply drain the gas tank and run the engine until it stops. This isn't as good as the stabiliser as a residue may remain in the system.

 

All going well, adding some fresh gas in the spring and your ready to mow. Regular gas is best for your small engine, ethanol e10 is fine but e15 is not, it will damage your engine as this fuel burns hotter. All ethanol fuels attract moisture and moisture corrodes the fuel system.

 

If you forget to drain the gas - cleaning will sometimes fix the problem but often you will need to replace the whole carburettor. I wrote a complete guide on "carburettor cleaning".

 

At the end of the season don't forget to empty and clean your gas can, often it is the cause of gas system contamination.

 

mower gas drain Ride-on mower carburetor

Draining

Draining out the gas at the end of the season will help prevent gumming of the gas system.

mower gas stabilizer

Stabilizer

But this is the guaranteed fix, dump a bottle of this into the gas tank and run the engine for 10 minutes - job done!

When To Tune-up The Engine?

Lots of my customers ask me "when should I get my mower serviced?"  The spring makes the most sense, machinery dislikes being idle. Lawn equipment will often start right up in the spring after the winter storage, but then stall and refuse to run.

 

Dampness is the enemy, it gets into fuel and electrical systems, so the spring tune up is the way to go.

 

Oil Cylinder

Most manufacturers will recommend removing the spark plug and pouring a cap-full of engine oil into the cylinder. Turning (cranking) the engine over by hand, coats the cylinder with oil, this prevents any moisture turning into corrosion over the winter months.

 

Refitting the spark plug and turning over the engine by hand until resistance is felt, closes the valves helping prevent dampness entering the engine. It's a great idea, but truthfully, I have never gotten around to it.

 

WD40

You won't hurt your mower by spraying it with WD, it's great at keeping dampness out of electrics. Spray down the center of the throttle and drive cables using the straw, stops cables seizing over the winter.

 

Coat the whole mower, engine, body, deck, wheels, handlebars you get the idea.

 

The only areas to avoid are belts and pulleys. You may use a whole can, but it's worth it.

 

mower oil Ride-on mower engine

Lawn Tractor

Remove your tractor mower spark plug and allow a cap full of oil to drain in.

Crank over the engine to coat the cylinder, refit the plug, but not the plug wire, crank over the engine by hand (if you have access) until you feel resistance. The valves are now closed.

mower oil mower starting

Walk Behind

Remove your spark plug and pour a cap full of engine oil in. Crank over the engine, now fit plug without plug wire, and crank over the engine until you feel resistance.

The valves are now closed.

Lawn Tractor Winterising

Riding mowers and lawn tractors are a little extra work, all of the above still applies but in addition the tires need to be pumped and ideally the chassis should be resting on blocks.

 

This takes the weight off the tires and prevents flat spot damage. And if that sounds like a lot of work simply park the mower on a heavy rubber mat.

 

Battery Care

The battery needs some special attention, batteries don't like to be totally discharged, it will often kill them. Most mower batteries fail over the winter months because temperatures drop and the voltage is allowed drain away until totally flat.

 

The best solution is to store the battery somewhere warm and buying and using a battery charger.

 

Batteries work best and last longer when their state of charge is maintained, so off season charging is always advised.

 

I treated my own tractor mower last year to a new smart charger, I bought the Noco Genius smart charger, check the price here on Amazon. I'm very happy with it so far, it's simple to use and works on all battery types.

 

Trickle Chargers

There are different types of trickle chargers: 

 

Manual which needs to be turned on and off.

Smart auto charger - turn themselves on and off as the battery requires.

Hybrid version that will double as a high amp charger when needed.

Solar trickle versions are also available.

 

Using Trickle Charger

Connecting them is simple, pop on the colour coded crocodile clips, plug it in and forget about it until spring. The smart charger knows when to turn itself on and off, and they don't cost much to run. The smart charger leaves you with a fully loaded battery every time you turn the key. 

Ride-on mower battery

Storing

Best to store the battery somewhere warm, so if your mower overwinters in freezing conditions, remove the battery and store it somewhere warm.

Note a wet battery contains acid which can spill, is flammable and will burn the skin, so, you know, common sense.

mower battery smart charger Mower battery testing

Smart

Smart chargers come a lot smaller than this one. They cost very little to run, extend your battery life and leave you ready to rock come snow drop time.

Storing Your Mower

A mower should always be kept indoors, mowers that live outside have short lives. Electrical systems fail prematurely and body corrosion is accelerated. I understand for some they have no choice. If so, make sure the gas is drained and the body is clean and dry, if you have a battery, remove it and take it indoors.

 

Spray the whole mower with WD40, engine, body and wheels. Cover down using a breathable cover, a plastic sheet will cause condensation - The Enemy.

 

Old tractor mower out in winter
Mower in the rain Mower under cover

No Garage

Storing your mower outdoors is not advisable. It will shorten the life of the mower and cost you lots in repair bills.

If you don't have a garage, then drain the gas and cover with a breathable cover.

A plastic cover will cause condensation to build up on the mower and cause even more damage.

Mower in garage for winter

Indoors

This is the life! Even better if the garage is heated. Add a dust cover, now your really spoiling her.

Related Questions

Can I store my lawn mower outside in the winter? No, your mower needs to be stored indoors, moisture will damage mower components. If you don't have a suitable indoor location, spray your mower all over with WD40 before covering it with a good quality breathable cover.

 

Can you store a lawn mower in the house? No, storing your mower in the house is dangerous, gas and oil are obviously combustible and also give off fumes which is bad for humans and pets.

Auto Technician and Writer at | Website

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Lawnmowerfixed.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write "How to" articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of mechanical repairs, from lawn mowers to classic cars.