How To Winterize Your Lawn Mower

By Power Tools

March 11, 2021

Dusting off your mower after a long season of hibernation can have you on tenterhooks. Sometimes, it just won’t start back up again – because you didn’t properly prepare it.

From sticky carburetors to totally destroyed, rain-wrecked engines, leaving your mower exposed the elements is just asking for trouble. 

How to winterize your lawn mower

Today we’ll be taking a look at the most frequently asked questions, providing clear concise answers and helping you ensure your lawn mower survives. Because guess what? Winter is coming…

Do you need to winterize a push mower?

Yes! Whilst the process is simpler than it would be for, say, a ride-along mower, there are certain steps you need to take. 

Most importantly, you want to ensure it is totally clean and free of clippings, dirt, dust and general debris.

Any buildup should be hosed off – be careful not to get the innards wet!

If there’s a gas tank, make sure it is completely empty – otherwise, you’ll end up with a sticky, jelly-like mess that’s impossible to clean out come summer.

Batteries should be removed and stored in a cool, dry place for the winter period, to avoid damage from declining temperatures. 

One tip for cleaning a push mower is to place it on its side and use a wire brush or putty knife to gently remove anything stuck to the blade. Do not use your hands! 

Where can I put my mower if I don’t have a shed/garage?

Those not lucky enough to have a primo storage spot for their mower – never fear!

There are several suitable storage spots you might not have considered, which will keep it out of the way and safe from harm.

Unfortunately, these are only really solutions for push mowers and smaller units that can be taken indoors easily – sorry to those with the thousand dollar lawn care setups!

Storing a mower in your attic or basement is one suggestion, though only really a consideration if the space is suitable for storage already. 

Be sure to wrap the cord well and dust regularly!

Hanging from a hook on the wall is another sensible space saving hack for push mowers, as this stops them from taking up unnecessary room.

On or under a shelf in your pantry or any suitably sized cupboard in the house is also a good call.

With the right weight bearing hook (and installation by someone who knows what they are doing!) you could even hang it from the ceiling. 

Be extremely careful with this one, unless you want to destroy your house!

In a pinch, if you really have no choice but to leave your mower outside, covering it with a large, weather resistant tarp can save you from a multitude of sins!

Can I leave gas in my lawn mower over the winter?

We would highly recommend that you don’t!

As we said above, gas left to congeal is incredibly difficult to clean up after several months, and your mower will never be the same.

Not only that, but you could also jam the carburetor, making ignition of the motor next to impossible and also leaving your mower susceptible to rusting.

Some formulas can break down in as short as thirty days, so cleaning out your fuel tank recommended is best practice. 

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself needing a new mower much sooner!

That being said, if you add some fuel stabilizer into the mix, things can be different. See below…

Is it better to drain gas or use a stabilizer?

Some mower fanatics believe that completely draining a tank of gas can be damaging, allowing oxygen to infiltrate the carburetor and gum it up.

Similarly, leaving a tank empty for long periods of time can allow water vapor to build up and cause damage internally.

One solution to total drainage is to use a stabilizer, which contains additives that can keep fuel fresh for as long as three years (though stabilizers capable of this can be incredibly costly.)

Don’t just put the stabilizer in and hope for the best, though. You need to briefly run the mower and allow it to permeate the whole system.

That being said, a stabilizer is not one hundred percent foolproof, and you could still be left with a gummed up tank. It’s about proper maintenance and keeping an eye on things!

Can you use too much fuel stabilizer?

Yes – but it isn’t dangerous!. Although using a few drops too many of your chosen stabilizer won’t have drastic effects, it could stop the fuel from being, well, fuel.

Without the ability to properly combust, which adding too much stabilizer can cause, fuel won’t burn and your mower won’t run. That renders the whole tank useless!

That being said, in the event that your stabilizer contains a chemical with de-varnishing properties, using too much could damage the fuel system.

Any thin spots in the material will be degraded, which might lead to leaks and cause bigger problems further down the line.

Put simply, using too much stabilizer won’t ruin your mower if it’s only a little. But if you’ve dumped the whole bottle in accidentally, you’ll probably have to say goodbye to that tank of fuel. Sorry!

How do you store a 2 cycle engine for the winter?

Also known as two-stroke engines, these smaller units are some of the easiest to care for. 

First things first, empty your fuel tank – whether you choose to tip it into a gas can or run the engine til the tank’s dry is up to you.

Then get yourself a clean can and mix yourself a proper ratio of gas and oil – 50:1 is recommended, and you should use premium gas where possible.

Only a tiny bit is required – just enough fuel to run the mower for a couple of minutes, so like two or three ounces would be fine. Add a little fuel stabilizer for good measure.

Shake thoroughly to combine the mixture, pour into your mower’s tank and head outside. Run the tank until dry and allow the mower to stop on its own.

This is the most important step: try and start the mower, yanking that cord a good few times; your engine won’t start, but it will try, successfully burning off the last of the oil.

Last but not least, take the spark plug out of the engine – you can find a guide on Youtube for how to do this, or ask someone more clued-up to help.

You’ll only need a wrench and a spark-plug socket to remove it, then you’ll want to lube up the hole once it’s out, pulling the cord again once not to start the engine but coat the cylinder in oil.

Reinstall the spark plug, then properly store your mower away for the winter.

At what temperature does gas freeze?

Between -40 and -200 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately. That is the general answer, but it depends on the type of gas you’re using!

It has to be mighty frosty for gasoline you’d use in a lawnmower to freeze, so unless you live in Canada or an especially cold state, you don’t need to worry.

That being said, you don’t want to leave your mower out in the cold, exposed to the weather and temperature, so be sure to properly store it!

How do you store an electric lawn mower for the winter?

Without taking the proper steps, your electric unit could end up damaged or entirely broken after several months in freezing conditions.

Here is our simple, concise guide to properly storing your lawn mower over the cold season:

  • Clean your air filter – any dust, dirt or debris inhibits the burning of fuel, which leads to more being used overall and could cause more serious problems. Just before storing is a great time to thoroughly tidy it up!
  • Remove any batteries – once, detached, fully charge the battery and then store it in a cool, dry place it won’t be exposed to heat or moisture, so preferably out of the garage – ensure it is free of dust and the terminals are clear, so it’s ready to rock and roll when summer comes around.
  • Thoroughly clean the whole mower – be sure to remove any grass clippings, clogs of dirt and grime; don’t touch the blades with your bare hands and wear gardener’s gloves for protection whilst you work. Focus specifically on the cutting deck, as leftover moisture here can cause serious rusting.
  • Properly wrap cables – don’t wind them too tightly, as this can put pressure on the delicate wiring and lead to fraying or breakage, which means when you try to start it up next it might give you a shock. Too loose and someone might trip, so try and find a good compromise!
  • Cover the mower with a tarp – any industrial sheet or cover is fine, but just putting the mower away in your garage won’t be enough when it comes to dirt, prying children and – god forbid – rodents! Hide it beneath a good old fashioned tarp for added protection.