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Winterizing small engines
by Tim Lewis
Nov 17, 2013 | 4907 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Winter is just around the corner and, even though the hands-on gardening opportunities are fewer, one thing we all should consider is how to best treat the small engines that assist us in our many gardening endeavors. Lawn mowers, rototillers, chain saws, blowers, tractors—all need attention this time of year. Preparing a small engine for winter storage is an important task homeowners should pay attention to right now. In addition to the routine maintenance required for summer operation, it is equally critical to perform proper maintenance on them prior to storing them for the winter.

Before storing your small engine for the winter months, you will want to take a few steps to preserve the engine and other parts.

First, keep the equipment clean. Give it a good cleaning with mild soap and water to remove all traces of dirt and debris. Allow it to dry in the sun before storing to prevent rust formation.

Next, prepare the fuel. The natural components of fuel are harmful to your gas tank when allowed to sit stagnant for a long period of time. Add a gas additive to keep the gas from breaking down and corroding the engine’s inner parts. Fill the tank to the top to prevent condensation from building up. Another option is to drain all gasoline from the tank.

Drain old engine oil and catch in a plastic container. Used oil should be taken to a recycling center or to an auto parts store that provides this service. Replace the oil drain plug and refill with fresh oil. A word here about oil- engine oil does four things. It lubricates engine parts, reducing wear; it cools the engine; it seals spaces between the cylinders and rings, preventing compressed air from escaping; it cleans the engine by carrying away the by-products of combustion.

If you are storing a tractor, protect the battery by charging it fully and removing it for the winter months. Do not place batteries directly on concrete floors. At the very least, disconnect the terminals to avoid discharge during storage. Charge the battery occasionally over the winter.

Next, remove and inspect the spark plug. If it is fouled with a heavy dark combustion buildup, replace it with a new one. If relatively clean and less than a year old, clean it with a carburetor cleaner and a stiff wire brush. Wipe it with a clean rag. Before reinserting the spark plug, spray a good lubricant such as WD-40 into the cylinder and pull the starter rope several times to distribute the oil throughout the cylinder. Replace the spark plug.

Next, remove and clean or replace the air filter. Clean the filter housing with a clean rag and some lubricant.

Finally, lubricate all moving parts of equipment before and after storage.

Store your “new” small engine in a sheltered, dry area and cover with a drop cloth to prevent winter accumulation of dust and dirt.

Remember--proper storage lengthens the life of all your garden implements and makes for smooth operation when spring comes around.

After completing this cleaning regimen, you will feel better—and so will your small engine!


Tim Lewis is a Georgia Green Industry Association Certified Plant Professional, gardening writer, former Perry High School horticulture instructor, and former horticulturalist at Henderson Village and Houston Springs. He and his wife, Susan, own and operate Lewis Farms Nursery located on Hwy 26 two miles east of Elko, where he was born and raised. He can be reached at (478)954-1507 or timlewis1@windstream.net and at LewisFarmsNursery.com.
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