After mowing the lawn through the hot dog days of summer, we're pretty much ready, once the fall rolls around, to close the door on our lawn mowers -- until next year, that is. If we want there to be a next year for the lawn mower, a little bit of prep work and maintenance will go a long way in making that happen.
First things first, drain the lawn mower of all fuel, and then run the engine for a few moments to make sure the gas is completely gone. You don't want to store gasoline in the unit, because the ethanol causes fuel to break down and it could be like adding water to the tank.
If you decide not to drain the unit and only need to store it for a few months, you need to add a quality fuel stabilizer to make sure it will start up again. Never store fuel for more than three months without a stabilizer. It doesn't matter if it's a walk-behind mower, a riding mower, another engine-run garden tool, your gas can or even your snowblower at the end of the winter season. Make sure the gas tank is full, and run the motor for two or three minutes after adding the fuel stabilizer to allow the additive to run through the engine.
If you are storing the unit for more than one season, you are better off draining the unit.
Make sure the power switch is off, the key is removed and any spark plugs are disconnected before cleaning the undercarriage. Turn the mower on its side, and brush off the blades using a long-handled broom or wire brush. Finish cleaning the blades with a light spray from the garden hose. Use a stick to dislodge any leaves, twigs or pebbles from the undercarriage and chute. Keep your hands out of there. Let the mower dry before stowing it away in a dry place, preferably in the garage or shed.
Remove the spark plugs, and dip the bottoms in motor oil, or pour a few drops of oil into the receptacle before replacing the plugs. Don't connect the wires. Remove the battery from the lawn mower, and store it on a flat surface until next season. Wipe the outer body casing with a damp cloth to cut down on metal rot. Visually inspect the oil for any debris that may have gotten inside; drain the oil if it is old or contaminated. If there is no drain plug to drain the oil, carefully turn the unit on its side and drain the oil into a container for proper disposal. (Check your local recycle and collection services for rules and locations.) Replace the oil with fresh oil, checking for the proper type in the owners manual.
Thoroughly wipe the gas and oil caps before storage, and spray the undercarriage with a lubricant such as WD-40. Spray a degreaser on oil stains, and use a fine sandpaper on rust spots, followed by a rustproof spray paint in the appropriate color to keep your unit looking new. Regular maintenance of lawn mowers includes annual tuneups. Preparation before storing the lawn mower in the offseason will make those tuneups easier and will help to prolong the life of your machine.
Make a regular schedule to check and change air filters before the start of a new season. Change spark plugs as necessary. Sharpen the blades. And check the tires; if the tires are pneumatic, make sure they have the right air pressure. (Check your owners manual.) All this will help to keep your mowing even. If you are buying a new lawn mower, match up the capabilities with the area and terrain. Use a walk-behind for a small yard, a riding mower for a large one and string trimmers for uneven or heavily treed areas.
Do-it-yourself tuneups are relatively easy, and info is readily available. Be aware of your experience and confidence, the necessary time needed and the cost of supplies. Professional tuneups are available at many mower or power tool shops but will cost more than doing it yourself.