Stashing your mower in the shed without cleaning it or draining the gas is a recipe for failure and means it may not start when you need it again next spring. But give your mower a little TLC now and it’ll be ready for the first mow after the snow melts. The needs of larger cutting gear differ from those of walk-behind mowers in only a few ways. Changing spark plugs and sharpening blades, for example, is standard practice across walk-behind and riding mowers.
Check the gas. Buy some fuel stabilizer, which is available at home centers and gas stations, and add the appropriate amount to the existing fuel. If you keep your mower in a heated garage, run the engine till it’s dry. If you store it in unheated garage or shed, condensation is a concern. Once you’ve completed other maintenance, mix the proper amount of fuel stabilizer with fresh gas in a gas can and fill the tank to the top.
Clean the underside. Many new mowers have a washout port, which can prevent buildup of grass clippings. Whether or not you’ve been cleaning the deck, you’ll need to spray or scrape off any remaining clippings to prevent rusting. (An old bristled pot scrubber might do.) Spraying the cleaned, dried deck with silicone spray can help prevent future build-up.
Change the oil. Chances are you’ll need to flip a walk-behind mower (with the gas tank empty) to drain the oil. Look for the designated mark on the dipstick while refilling, as too much oil can be as bad for the engine as too little. You can take used oil to a local service station or recycling center for disposal. Flipping isn’t necessary on riding mowers; every lawn tractor and zero-turn-radius mower has a way to drain oil.
Charge the battery. If you have an electric mower, or even just a battery-powered starter system in a gas mower, you’ll need to periodically charge the battery throughout the winter. Otherwise, its ability to fully recharge will diminish gradually before failing altogether—and sooner than you expected. The batteries for some electric mowers can and should be brought indoors over the winter; check the manual for temperature specifics.
Air filter. On riding mowers, if your carburetor’s air filter is paper, replace it. If it’s foam, wash it in soap and water. Rinse and squeeze it dry. Check your owner’s manual. Some suggest you also, at this point, oil a foam filter with engine oil. If so, squeeze the filter dry again before you reinstall it.
Electrical. For tractors, remove the battery, and keep it charged over the winter using a trickle charger.
And don't forget. Spark plugs don’t need replacing every year—typically, it’s every 100 hours of operation. But most of us don’t keep track. Fall is a good time to get your blade sharpened, since repairmen aren’t yet fixing snow throwers. Also, check your owner’s manual for how often to replace the air filter and, if your mower has one (few do), the fuel filter.
Lawn mower Ratings and recommendations