To everything there is a season—a time to sow, a time to reap, a time to put the garden tools to sleep. The suburban gardening season starts sooner and ends later every year. Eventually, it does sputter to a halt. No more tilling, mowing, trimming, edging, grinding, chopping, and blowing for a while.
Before you put the summer items away and break out the winter ones, check out our tips to ensure all your power equipment is running smoothly next season!
Consumer Reports estimates that homeowners replace the average lawn mower every six years. These general steps may extend the life of these indispensable machines. Always consult the owner’s manual for specific practices for your mower brand. “Lost” owner’s manuals can sometimes be found posted online by the manufacturer.
- Wash the mower to remove dust and debris.
- Disconnect the spark plug wire.
- Remove caked grass clippings from under the mowing deck with a plastic scraper, then rinse with a hose.
- Consider using a silicone spray on the dried underside to reduce future clipping build-up.
- Remove and sharpen the blade; consider buying an extra replacement blade.
- Check that the blade attachment hardware is in good condition; replace if it is not.
- Lubricate the deck height adjustment mechanism.
- Change the oil and properly dispose of the used oil at a recycle center.
- Remove the spark plug and add a teaspoon of oil into the cylinder. Pull the starting cord slowly to coat the moving parts.
- Then replace the spark plug with a new one.
- Clean foam air filters or replace paper air filters as needed.
- Clean the belt and gear drives on self-propelling mowers; check the belt for wear and lubricate these parts.
- Check and replace wobbly wheels.
Note: There are conflicting recommendations for fuel and storing equipment. Here are the two general approaches: Safety dictates running the mower until the tank is empty if stored in the house or in the garage. If you store the mower in an outdoor shed, you may want to do so with a full tank of stabilized fuel. A full tank reduces the chance of condensation. It is best if you run the engine so that the stabilized fuel reaches the carburetor before shutting it off.
- Prepare the proper gas oil mixture, using high octane winter fuel and a small amount of fuel stabilizer. Check the spark plug; make sure it starts.
- Replace the bar oil with winter grade variety that flows better.
- Sharpen or replace the chain. Buy a spare chain, spray it with lubricant and keep it in a sealable plastic bag.
Electric string trimmers need little care beyond making sure all fasteners are tight and any straps still strong.
- For gas-powered trimmers, add stabilizer to the fuel and run it until it’s out of gas.
- Remove the spark plug, replace if worn. Pour a teaspoon of oil into the spark plug opening, then replace the plug, and pull the starter cord slowly to distribute the oil.
- Clean or replace oil and gas filters.
- Add stabilizer to the remaining fuel an run the motor until it stops.
- Thoroughly clean, remove all dirt.
- Remove and check the spark plug.
- Replace the blades annually; less often if lightly used.
- Remove tines and sharpen with a file so it is ready for spring tilling.
- Tighten all nuts and bolts.
- Lubricate control levers, cables, and connections.
- Store under cover or in a dry place.
- Before the first snow, fill the tank with winter grade fuel, then add a stabilizer, and start the engine.
- Change the oil, if you didn’t at the end of last winter.
- Check all nuts, bolts, and connections.
- Spray the inside of the discharge chute with silicone spray to reduce clogging.
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North Carolina native Glenn Morris is a freelance Travel and Garden writer. He is the author of Taylor's Weekend Gardening Guide to Small Gardens, and North Carolina Beaches. His article What in the World is Workamping? appears in the 2021 Farmers' Almanac.