It is nearing the end of the lawn mowing season and it is time to get your Exmark lawn mower ready for storage over the winter. It is best not to skip this process to make sure you don’t run into additional problems when you go to use your mower once your grass starts to grow next mowing season.
Keeping your zero-turn mower out of the frigid winter elements and free of moisture is best for your lawn mower. Keep reading and I’ll share detailed steps on what I do to ensure our Exmark mowers are properly maintained and stored for our winter season in Michigan.
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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.
12 Steps to Winterize Your Exmark Zero Turn Mower & Prepare for Storage
1. Gather your tools and materials
- Wire brush
- Mower deck scraper or putty knife
- Rubber gloves
- Rags or paper towel
- Fuel stabilizer
- Gas container if you choose to empty the fuel tank
- Cardboard, newspaper, or other product to keep oil from getting on your work surface
- If you choose to change your engine oil at this time you will need:
– Plastic funnel
– Socket wrench or set of spanner wrenches for drain plug
– Filter and filter wrench
– 2 to 3 quarts of oil. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct oil type and quantity
2. Wash Your Exmark Lawn Mower
Spray your lawn mower off with a garden hose to clean the debris off your mower. Be careful when cleaning around your deck so as to not damage the bearings.
I recommend washing your lawn mower early in the day on a nice sunny day so you can be sure your lawn mower is completely dry and moisture doesn’t collect in the electrical components or other areas of the mower.
Using a handheld leaf blower will also help dry your lawn mower. Never store your lawn mower when wet. You don’t want moisture to prematurely rust and deteriorate your mower components.
For more tips on cleaning your lawn mower read, “How to Clean Your Lawn Mower for Best Performance“.
3. Change the Engine Oil in Your Exmark if Needed
Check your engine oil. If the oil is dirty or it has been 50 hours since your last oil change, you may want to change your oil at this time.
- Warm up oil by allowing the engine to run for a couple of minutes and shut it off. Disconnect the spark plug lead from the spark plug(s) for safety before you start changing your engine oil.
- Drain the oil, remove the old filter, replace it with a new filter, and fill it with oil according to the engine manufacturer’s directions.
4. Change Exmark Hydraulic Oil and Filter if Needed.
Most Exmark models have serviceable hydraulic drive systems. For more information on Exmark hydro oil and when you need to change your hydraulic oil and filter read “How to Change Exmark Zero Turn Hydraulic Oil & Filter“
4. Disconnect the Spark Plug Boot
You may have already disconnected the spark plug boot(s) if you chose to change your engine oil. If you skipped changing your engine oil, go ahead and disconnect the spark plug boots at this time for safety.
You do not want the engine to start while working under your deck. Do not skip this step!
5. Scrape Your Lawn Mower Deck
Gain access to the underside of your mower deck. Inspect your blades and remove them wearing a good set of work gloves, for better access to the deck or if they need to be sharpened or replaced.
Scrape the deck with a deck scraper or putty knife to remove all debris. You can also use a wire brush. Once you are done working underneath the mower, reconnect the spark plug boots.
I share more in-depth information on inspecting and changing your mower blades “Inspecting Your Lawn Mower Blades Saves You Time and Money.”
Refer to “Fix Your Exmark Mower Deck Problems” to read a complete list of items to inspect on your mower deck.
6. Add Fuel Stabilizer or Drain Your Fuel Tank
Many Exmark owners prefer to drain their fuel tanks when winterizing their mowers. To remove the fuel, use a siphon and remove as much fuel as you can. Start the mower and let run until it shuts off and no longer restarts.
Personally, I do not drain the fuel in my Exmark mower. Instead, I take precautions to make sure the fuel does not degrade while the mower is stored.
If you choose to store your lawn mower with the fuel you need to use a fuel stabilizer. If you don’t use a stabilizer, you may have problems starting your mower in the spring. The old fuel can cause gumming and buildup in the fuel system.
I prefer this brand from Amazon: Sea Foam fuel stabilizers. Sea Foam fuel stabilizer will not only stabilize the fuel, but it will also reduce moisture in the fuel system.
Add the stabilizer to a full tank of fuel according to the directions on the stabilizer bottle. Start the mower and let the stabilizer work its way through the fuel system by letting the engine run for a few minutes. These additives will stabilize fuel for up to 2 years.
For an in-depth explanation on the benefits of Sea Foam read “Why Use Sea Foam Fuel Additive in a Lawn Mower”
7. Remove the Battery and Clean the Terminals
Again, you have an option for this step. You can remove the battery and move it to storage in a dry cool place, or you can make sure the battery is fully charged before storing it.
A 100% fully charged battery will not freeze. If you choose to remove your lawn mower battery for storage, follow these steps:
- Protect yourself from battery acid by wearing gloves and eye protection.
- With the mower turned off, remove any brackets that are holding the battery in place.
- Use an adjustable wrench to turn the black negative terminal counterclockwise to loosen it and remove the cable. Follow the same procedure for the red positive terminal.
- Inspect terminals and cables and remove any corrosion with a wire brush.
- Store the battery in a cool dry place away from combustible products.
Check out our guide to winter battery care.
8. Change Additional Maintenance Items
Check your air filter, fuel filter, and spark plugs, and replace them if needed. I like to change these items out once a year so I know I’m all set for the next mowing season.
9. Lubricate and Grease
Lubricate your cables and apply grease to all grease zerks
10. Store Lawn Mower in a Dry Cool Place
Store your lawn mower in a cool dry environment. Do not allow moisture to get into your mower and begin corroding your mower.
Cover with a tarp or large drop cloth to keep dust off the lawn mower when storing indoors and a waterproof material when leaving your mower outdoors.
11. Keep Pneumatic Tires Off Cold Concrete
Place a piece of cardboard underneath your pneumatic Exmark zero-turn tires if your mower has pneumatic tires. The pneumatic tires are the small caster wheels that are the front of your zero-turn. You will want to keep these tires off the cold concrete.
12. Add Rodent Prevention Method
Protect your lawn mower from mice and other rodent infestations. A lot of our wires are coated with soy products as manufacturers follow more environmentally friendly practices and use renewable products. This soy product is an edible material that rodents like to chew on.
When storing your lawn mower for an extended period use a method or two to prevent rodents from making a home in your lawn mower.
There are many items you can use to deter rodents. It is best to use a product that is not dangerous to family pets. You can place mothballs around the mowers. Personally, I use a product you can find on Amazon called Grandpa Gus’s Mouse Repellent.
I love it because it smells a lot better than mothballs and it is all-natural. I use both the extra strength packets and the spray. I spray the wires and place the packets around my lawn mower, boat, quad, and any other item that I place in storage.
Spending a little money on rodent control can save you thousands of dollars in electrical repairs later.
Indoor & Outdoor Lawn Mower Winter Storage
Garage of Pole Barn
- You may be one of those fortunate homeowners who have a large garage where you have excess room to store your lawn mower. All you must do is throw a tarp over it to keep the dust off it.
Basement or In the House
- If you choose to place your lawn mower in your basement or another place in your house, be sure you do not store it with fuel. Make sure you do not place it next to any combustible items for your safety.
Under Your Deck or Overhang
Many Exmark owners don’t have the luxury of extra space in their garages. While storing the mower indoors in a garage, pole barn, or storage shed is best, it is not always an option.
I am not one of the lucky homeowners that have room to place my lawn mower indoors for storage. I keep my lawn mower under my deck year-round. The problem with this location is when it rains, the rain falls between the deck boards and onto the mower.
In the winter, the snow blows and covers the lawn mower.
To keep my mower from getting wet when stored outside and to keep it out of the winter elements I use a heavy-duty mower cover made with a marine-grade fabric. I also use these coverings for some of the small items I store in my garage to keep the dust off them.