How To Winterize Outdoor Machines & Equipment
Spend a few hours winterizing your expensive outdoor equipment to make it last longer and perform better. Save money and avoid costly repairs with these maintenance tips.
Does your business have green space to maintain? Whether it’s a simple front lawn or a complex landscape design, there’s a good chance you are using some type of machinery to keep the grass and other vegetation looking trimmed and tidy. When winter approaches, don’t forget that those outdoor machines require extra attention before storing them for the season. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way in ensuring they are working properly when you need them again in spring!
Autumn is the right time to get your outdoor machines ready for winter hibernation. Landscaping becomes less of a priority as winter approaches and it’s time to take a break from yard work. When you’re ready to store your machines, you can’t leave them parked in a storage shed full of dirt, gas and oil.
If you neglect your lawn equipment, it can break down, rust, corrode or deteriorate over winter. Repairs and restoration are costly. Often, people end up buying brand new equipment to replace worn out machines because the cost of repairs and replacement parts can be as much or more than a new machine! This practice is neither sustainable nor cost-effective.
With a little preparation and maintenance, keep your outdoor machines in working order. Carefully cared for equipment will last years. Maintenance now is always cheaper and easier than major repairs (or replacement) later.
What to Winterize?
So which machines should be winterized? The answer is anything you intend to store and not use through the winter months. The list could include:
- Lawn mower – push mower or riding lawn mower
- String trimmer
- Leaf blower
- Gas-powered edger
- Hedge trimmer
- Chain saws
- Power washer
- Compaction equipment – plate compactor/power tamper
- Walk behind tractor & any implements
- Lawn tractor & any implements
Effects of Ethanol
In the effort to reduce air pollution and gasoline emissions, ethanol is added to gasoline as mandated by the EPA. While this is a positive thing for the environment, it comes with a cost. Ethanol affects performance, reducing gas mileage and limiting power. More importantly, ethanol damages engines.
Ethanol draws moisture from the air, causing water to build up within the engine. The blend of ethanol, water and gasoline causes a chemical reaction that effectively turns it into varnish. This gums up the engine with sludge, making the engine work much harder and wear out quickly. Water in gas specifically damages carburetors and other fuel system parts, degrading rubber, plastic seals, fuel lines and primer bulbs, and causing corrosion (rust).
When this happens, parts need to be replaced—a very expensive endeavor. The good news is with the right maintenance and winter prep, these problems can be circumvented and your machines can work efficiently for years to come, extending the life of your equipment.
Similar to gasoline, oil that’s been in use all season can damage the parts of your machine while sitting for the winter. Changing the oil ensures everything is well-lubricated going into storage, which will keep motors running and ready to go in spring. When spring arrives and it’s time to mow the grass, trim the hedges and edge your walkways, your equipment will be primed and ready for the job.
Clean Up the Crud
Dirt and other debris can cause premature rust, dulling of blades and other unnecessary wear and tear. This happens because soil and other plant material store moisture, and when that moisture sits on your metal equipment it causes rust. Cleaning all the soil, leaves or other material clinging to your machines before you store them is a protective step to keeping expensive equipment in optimal condition.
Gas-Powered Engines: What to Do (Best Practices)
There are 2 methods to storing gasoline-powered engines during the long winter months. Both are effective solutions—your option will be based on what type of machine you’re winterizing.
1. Draining Fuel
Better for lighter gas-powered equipment like trimmers, edgers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, etc. Draining can keep gas from drawing moisture and gumming things up, but…
- An empty tank can create more moisture buildup.
- Important seals can dry out and need replacing.
- Make sure gas cap seals tightly to keep water from getting into the system.
- Store far from moisture, or indoors if possible.
- Cover machine up with tarp or fitted cover.
2. Stabilizing Fuel
Stabilizing fuel is best for larger equipment like lawn tractors, walk-behind tractors and lawn mowers. Stabilizer can be added to the gasoline mixture to preserve the life of gas.
But before you begin, please note…
- Gas goes bad after 60 days.
- Not all stabilizer is created equal—make sure yours is formulated for your needs.
- In 2-Cycle engines, stabilizer is already added to the gasoline/oil mixture, so DO NOT add!
Here’s how to stabilize your fuel:
- Add stabilizer, then run the engine for 5 minutes or so to get the stabilizer into the carburetor.
- Fill up the tank. A full tank minimizes the condensation buildup inside.
Your Winter Storage Checklist:
It’s not just the gasoline that needs attention. Here is a comprehensive check-list of what to do to ready your equipment for winter storage.
❏ Clean equipment to get rid of built up debris
❏ Inspect equipment
❏ Order replacement parts (wheels, bolts, blades, seals, belts, fasteners, o-rings, etc.)
❏ Tighten bolts, loose screws and nuts (after each use, ideally)
❏ Sharpen blades
❏ Lubricate and oil moving parts to prevent them from drying out in the winter
❏ Spray hinges and moving parts
❏ Wipe wooden handles with tung oil to keep them from drying out and cracking
❏ Drain engine oil and change oil filters (Note: Oil gets sludgy as it sits unused in an engine—this makes the engine work harder, wearing it out more quickly.)
❏ Change air filters
❏ Replace spark plugs
❏ Squirt some oil into the cylinder head, then replace spark plug with some oil around the seal
❏ Pull out the battery and store in a warm spot
❏ Hook up to battery charger if possible
❏ Clean dirt and debris any hand tools (rakes, shovels, clippers etc.) before they go into storage
Other Tips to Remember:
- Store equipment under a tarp if you can’t store them inside. Wrap the tarp with bungee cords or rope to keep the tarp in place and your equipment safely under wraps.
- Empty any unused gasoline sitting in gas cans into vehicles that will be used through the winter. (Unless the cans have stabilizer added to them.)
- Try to visit your equipment once a month when it is in storage to make sure mice or other creatures aren’t using it for shelter.
Lastly – use this time to take out your snow blower and perform some basic maintenance checks so it is ready to go when the snow flies!
Making money isn’t just about increasing profits—it’s about making the most out of what you’ve already invested in. Take care of your outdoor machinery. A few hours of winterization prepping and your outdoor equipment will last for many years. This is sustainability in action.
Featured image licensed under CC0 1.0.