With fall approaching, it’s time to start thinking about how to winterize those gasoline-powered tools and your hand tools that you have been using all summer in your garden and landscape. Here are a few tips to get that equipment ready for next spring.
Gasoline Powered Equipment- Putting Them to Bed for the Winter
Gasoline-powered equipment comes in two varieties, four-stroke and two-stroke. Let’s look at the four-stroke variety first and how to winterize them effectively.
Four-Stroke Equipment Easy to Winterize
There are two schools of thought on gasoline engines. One says, drain the fuel from your four-stroke equipment and run the engine until no fuel left remains in the carburetor.
The other school advises to add fuel stabilizer to the fuel and run the engine until the stabilized fuel has filled the carburetor and then shut the engine down and leave it for the winter.
To be honest, both ways work. On smaller equipment, draining the fuel tank is not much of a problem. You can turn the equipment on its side and get most of the fuel from the carburetor. It’s messy and can leave a residue in the fuel tank that may cause problems later.
On larger equipment, draining the fuel tank can be a problem requiring unhooking fuel lines or using pumps. The better alternative is to stabilize the fuel using any of the commercially available fuel stabilizers.
Recommendations – Fill and Stabilize!
My recommendation is to fill the fuel tank on your equipment and add a stabilizer as directed by the instructions from the manufacturer. Start the engine and let it run long enough to fill the carburetor with stabilized fuel and then shut the engine down. Add enough fresh fuel to top off the fuel tank. Keeping the tank full minimizes the chances that water will condense inside the fuel tank and contaminate the fuel.
Don’t Forget the Oil – It Needs a Change as Well
Now is also a good time to change the oil in your four-stroke equipment. Just like your car, the oil in your small engines needs changing regularly. Fresh oil prevents the build-up of corrosive by-products and other contaminants in the oil that can damage the engine even if there is plenty of oil.
Follow the instructions in the manual provided by the manufacturer to change the oil. If your equipment has an oil filter, change that as well.
Stay with the Program and Recycle
Don’t forget to recycle that old oil and any contaminated gas. Many cities now offer recycling stations where you can drop off used motor oil to be recycled.
Clean Air is Important to Your Equipment
While you are at it, put in a fresh air filter. If you have been running that equipment all season, the air filter is probably long due for a change, especially if you are in West Texas.
Give that Equipment the Once Over
Check all the linkages and cables and make sure they are tight and in place.
Follow the manufacturers instructions on cleaning and lubricating all moving parts. Some larger pieces of equipment, such as tiller or aerators, may have bearings that need fresh grease. Clean the underside of the deck on mowers. Leaving caked-on grass and dirt can invite rust and corrosion on metal surfaces.
Inspect any belts. Drive belts should be smooth and pliable. Replace the belt when it shows cracks or fraying
The Neglected Areas Need Some TLC
Lastly, I look at all those places that move like throttle and drive cables. Water can get inside the housing of those cables, cause rust, which in turn makes them hard to operate. Loosen the highest end of the cable housing from its support and carefully run a bit of light machine oil down inside the cable housing.
I also oil any hinges or pivot points. The places where handles attach to the equipment frame get a lot of wear and not much attention. A bit of spray lube on to these places will keep them free and prevent corrosion wherever bare metal may be exposed from rubbing.
Blades and Cutting Gear – Get it Sharp Now
On lawnmowers, you should inspect the blade. If you haven’t been routinely sharpening and inspecting your blade during the mowing season, you probably need to replace the blade. I like to replace my blade in the fall so that I start the next season with a fresh sharp blade. Keeping the blade sharp is important for the health of your turf. A sharp blade will also help in reducing those unsightly brown tips that sometimes appear after mowing.
Taking Care of Two-Strokers – Don’t Make Them Throwaways
Two-stroke engines are much the same. To winterize this type of equipment is a bit simpler. Most two-stroke equipment is small enough that draining the gas tank is easy. Drain the gas into an approved container. Start the engine and let it run until the carburetor runs out of fuel.
Follow the same routine maintenance outlined above. When in doubt, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations found in the manual that came with the equipment.
The Cordless Crew – They Need Your Attention as Well
Don’t forget to winterize your battery-powered equipment. I use a battery-powered mower and trimmer. They need the same kind of care and attention as their gas-fueled cousins. I don’t have the same issues with fuel, but all the moving parts are the same and need the same kind of attention to keep the equipment in good running order. A drop of oil here and there on moving parts will make the equipment last longer and operate easier.
Winterize your Investment – A Little TLC Goes a Long Way
I often see what looks like perfectly serviceable lawn equipment tossed into junk heaps or sitting by the side of the road with for sale signs on them. More often than not, the reason they are in the pile is their owners failure to give them the proper maintenance and care. A little time spent during the season can add years to the life of what can be an expensive part of gardening and lawn care. A bit of your time can save a lot of money in the long run.
Links and Resources
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