Now that it’s the end of the mowing season, it’s time to get your lawn mower prepared for the winter season. You have made a significant investment in your lawn mower so make sure you take these precautions and steps to make sure your mower makes it through the winter and is ready for spring.
A lawn mower must be prepared for winter storage to prevent damage from moisture from collecting in the fuel system, engine oil, and electrical components. The moisture can cause run ability issues and corrosion of lawn mower components.
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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before 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.
How to Winterize a Lawn Mower in 16 Steps
1. Gather Deck Scraper, Fuel Stabilizer, Rags, and Gloves
- Engine oil and filter (If your mower uses a filter)
- Filter wrench
- Socket wrench or set of spanner wrenches for drain plug
- Oil 1-3 quarts. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct oil type and quantity
- Drain pan
- Air filter
- Fuel filter
- Spark plug(s)
- Wire brush
- Mower deck scraper or putty knife
- Rubber gloves and heavy work gloves
- Safety glasses
- Rags and 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
2. Change Your Engine Oil
- Warm up the oil by allowing the engine to run for a couple of minutes and shut it off. Warm oil drains faster than cold oil.
- For your safety, disconnect the spark plug lead from the spark plug(s) and remove the ignition key before you start changing your engine oil. (Don’t reattach your spark plug wire until all maintenance work is complete).
- Clean the area around your engine oil filter, oil fill area, and drain plug area to prevent dirt from getting into the crankcase.
- Place the drain pan under the drain plug or drain hose.
- Remove the drain plug and drain oil into the pan.
- Replace the plug once the oil stops draining.
- Remove the old filter, if the mower uses a filter. Add a thin film of fresh oil to the seal of the new filter. Install your new filter.
- Fill with oil according to the manufacturer’s directions.
3. Replace Your Air Filter
Because an air filter is such an essential part of keeping your engine running and not contaminating it with dirt, it is important to use a clean air filter.
Replace your air filter so you are ready for next season. If you choose to clean and reuse your air filter, follow my guide here for cleaning procedures. I also share how to tell when you need to replace your filter.
4. Check Your Fuel System for Leaks & Replace Your Fuel Filter
Your fuel filter should be replaced with a new fuel filter. Make sure your new filter is installed with the arrow on the filter pointed in the direction of your fuel flow.
Next, you need to check for any fuel leaks so your mower doesn’t leak and fill your storage area with dangerous fumes.
Follow the fuel line out of the fuel tank. Check the lines for cracks or leaks in the hose or around the area where it is clamped. Replace any cracked fuel lines with new lines.
Continue to follow the fuel line to your fuel pump and carburetor. Make sure these two components are not leaking. If you smell a fuel leak and can’t find it, refer to this article for a more in-depth article on common locations for a fuel leak.
5. Replace Your Spark Plug
A dirty spark plug can foul causing your engine to misfire or not start. It is best to replace your spark plug once a year so you don’t encounter a frustrating running problem from something as simple as a dirty plug.
6. Remove Debris from Your Mower
Remove debris that collected around your engine and in the cooling fins. If your lawn mower has a hydrostatic transmission, clean the debris around the fans and transmission.
7. Clean the Top of the Mower Deck & Check Your Belt & Pulleys
On some mowers, you may have to remove the mower deck to access the top and bottom of the deck for maintenance. Follow the instructions listed in your owner’s manual.
Remove belt covers, if your mower has them, to gain access to all of the pulleys. Remove debris that is collected under the pulleys and brackets on your mower deck.
Check your belt for signs of wearing. This could be a glazed, stretched, or shredded appearance. Replace or belt if worn.
Check the condition of your pulleys. Your pulleys should be sitting flat and parallel to your mower deck. Slowly turn each pulley by hand to ensure they are moving smoothly.
Replace any pulleys where you feel a restriction when turning or you hear a noise coming from the bearing.
8. Scrape Your Lawn Mower Deck & Sharpen Your Mower Blades
Gain access to the underside of your mower deck. Put on a good pair of work gloves. Check your bearings in your spindle housings by grabbing a hold of each end of a mower blade.
Rock the blade up and down. You’re trying to identify a bad bearing in the housing.
If you feel movement when rocking the blade or you hear a knocking noise, there is a good chance your bearing is bad. In this case, remove the spindle housing and inspect the bearing.
On some mowers, you can simply replace the bearing. Other models will require you to replace the whole spindle assembly. Continue to check each spindle assembly.
Remove your mower blades and sharpen or replace them with a new set. At this time, I typically replace my blades with a new set so I’m ready for next season.
If my old set isn’t in too bad of a condition, I sharpen them and keep them on hand for a spare set. I share more on removing, inspecting, and sharpening mower blades in this article.
Next, scrape the debris and dirt from the underside of your lawn mower deck using a deck scraper. A putty knife or wire brush works well too.
You need to remove all of the debris. Debris can hold moisture that can prematurely cause rusting of your deck.
9. Add Fuel Stabilizer or Drain Your Fuel Tank
Many homeowners prefer to drain their fuel tank 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 my fuel. 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 these two brands: STA-BIL and Sea Foam fuel stabilizers. Read more about fuel stabilizers here.
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.
10. Fully Charge or 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.
11. Check Your Tire Pressures
Tires can develop flat spots on them from sitting in the same position for long periods of time. To minimize the severity of a flat spot, inflate your tire to the pressures recommended in your operator’s manual.
You can even fill it a couple of PSI higher than recommended because tire pressure drops in cold weather. Most of the time, once you start running your mower again, any flat spot you developed will work itself out.
Sometimes the flat spot will be so severe, you will have to replace your tire. Storing your lawn mower with low tire pressures can make flat spotting worse.
12. Check for Missing or Unsecured Parts
This is a good time to check over your mower and secure all hardware on the mower. If you are missing any parts, get them ordered and replaced before the next mowing season.
13. Grease & Lubricate Your Mower
Grease the grease zerks on your mower. You may have grease zerks on your wheels, front axle, and idler arm pivots. In addition, lubricate linkages, brake pedals, deck spindles, and pivot points.
These items vary by mower model because the type of components varies by manufacturer. Refer to your owner’s manual for all lubrication points on your lawn mower.
14. Wash Your Lawn Mower
Spray your lawn mower off with a garden hose to clean any remaining dirt debris from your mower. Allow your lawn mower to completely dry before placing it into storage.
Moisture left in the mower can cause corrosion of your electrical components. When possible, I place my mower in the sun or on a breezy day to help dry out my mower and evaporate any remaining moisture.
I also speed up the drying process using a leaf blower. An air compressor with a blower tip works well to get water off your electrical components.
15. Store Lawn Mower in a Dry Cool Place
Store your lawn mower in a cool dry environment. Don’t store them next to any combustible items. 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 of the lawn mower when storing indoors and a waterproof material when leaving your mower outdoors.
16. 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 of time 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 isn’t 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 have to do is throw a tarp over it to keep the dust off of 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 don’t place it next to any combustible items for your safety.
Under Your Deck or Overhang
- I am not one of the homeowners that have room to place my lawn mower in the garage. I keep it under the deck year-round. The problem with this location is when it rains, the rain falls between the deck boards and onto the mower.
- To keep a mower from getting wet when stored outside, I use a heavy-duty mower cover made from marine-grade fabric. This product can be used whether you are storing your mower outside or in an indoor area.
- Having additional outdoor storage is a great idea to keep your garage clean. A storage shed not only can house your lawn mower, it can also store all of your lawn tools, bikes, etc.
- Make sure you measure your mower to make sure it fits in the opening of the shed
- You can purchase storage shed kits. Grab a friend and have a project for next weekend!
Winterizing equipment is not a step you want to skip or you’ll end up paying for it when you need your equipment in the spring. Be prepared and take action before you place your lawn mower in storage.