If you live in an area where the temperature can drop below freezing in the winter months, you need to take steps to protect your outdoor power equipment. Taking care of your tools is simple once you know how, and few hours of preparation now can help you to enjoy continued performance for years to come. Check out our outdoor power equipment winterizing tips to ensure that you get the most out of your tools.
Colder temperatures in the winter can cause fuel or other fluids in your outdoor power equipment to freeze up. This may split lines or otherwise damage the internal components of your equipment. If you don’t live in a cold area, you might still be subject to intense rains, which rust metal parts. Winterizing lawn equipment entails preventing the freeze or rain from effecting your tools. The biggest principles to remember are separating liquid from the machine whenever necessary, and to ensure that the tool spends as little time as possible in cold environments.
Bring Equipment Inside
Because you’re less likely to need to mow the lawn or perform certain other maintenance tasks in the winter, the first thing you can do is keep your mower and other equipment in the garage. Make sure that you have a thermostatically controlled heating unit that kicks in as the temperature approaches freezing. You can use a space heater or a central system. If you don’t have the space in your garage, keep your outdoor power equipment in the shed. While a shed is likely cooler than a garage, the walls provide greater protection from wind, rain and snow.
Fuel can’t freeze in the line if you empty the tank. Make sure to flush the lines completely. If you need to use some equipment throughout the winter, such as your chainsaw for felling trees and cutting firewood, purchase fuel stabilizers to add cold resistance. Fuel isn’t the only liquid in your tools that can freeze. Make sure to drain the oil or replace it regularly if you use your outdoor power equipment in the cold season. Buildup on the spark plugs can interfere with starting and operation.
If you keep your equipment in your vehicle, truck boxes keep the rain and wind off of them. They’re easy to install and very durable. You also get the added benefit of theft protection if you purchase a locking box.
Cover Equipment that Must Stay Outdoors
On those occasions where you have to leave your equipment outside overnight, such as outdoor power pumps or portable generators, cover them with a tarp, and secure the tarp to the ground with stakes and bungees to keep it from blowing away. The tighter you stretch the tarp the less wind can get underneath and blow in, which helps to inhibit rust and other corrosion. It’s important to do this even with items that you plan to use frequently, as it prevents the motor and other metal parts from getting brittle in the cold.
Remember the Small Things
It’s not just the tools themselves that you have to protect. Power washers and certain other outdoor power equipment depend on a water supply to function. Use pipe wrap to keep the water inside the lines insulated against freezing temperatures. Hose bib coves protect your hose’s faucet from icing up.
Taking care of the little things is often one of the best steps for success. Gasket seals, such as those around your fuel tank, often crack in the cold. You can remove them before the cold hits, in the case of equipment that doesn’t get used during the cold months, or remember to check them before every use. Fuel and air filters are designed to trap particulates that can damage your equipment. This also causes moisture buildup, which can lead to ice formations. Make sure to replace disposable filters frequently. In the case of long-term filters, the time you spend cleaning out the folds and air-drying them can keep them functioning well despite adverse conditions.
Your spark plugs are essential to the operation of anything with a motor. They ignite the fuel on startup and while it runs. The constant passing of gas through the gap in the plugs can leave deposits. These deposits interfere with the sparking, and in the cold they can freeze over. Carefully removing any buildup between operations ensures continued high performance and optimal fuel efficiency.
Lubricate your moving parts. This is vital for hedge trimmer blades and saw chains. Using manufacturer-approved lubricants, including tung oil, can keep flexible joints from freezing or rusting together. It takes just a few moments to apply, and the best oils last a long time so reapplications are infrequent during idle times.
Don’t forget the very small, out of sight things. If you have a keyed ignition, such as you find on a tractor, generator and many other large pieces of outdoor power equipment, the lock mechanisms can freeze in place. Lock de-icer melts frozen parts so you can fit your key inside. It generally comes in small bottles that you can keep right next to (or even inside) your larger apparatus, and it works in seconds. If ice does build up, you can use RV antifreeze to lower the water’s freezing point for easier melting.
Winterizing Outdoor Power Equipment Checklist
Each piece of equipment is different, and requires custom care. Use the following list to care for your vital tools.
Blowers see a lot of use in the autumn, which tapers off once the leaves are all gone. Make sure to drain any fuel once you’re done using them for the season. Electric blowers require far less winterization maintenance and are lightweight and easy to use.
Chainsaws can see considerable use throughout the winter, especially if you use firewood to heat your home. Keep the chain links lubed and make sure to use fuel stabilizer for all-weather performance. Use blade sheaths to keep the wind and moisture away and switch over to winter-grade bar and chain oil until the temperatures rise again.
Gas-powered generators should be checked frequently, since they’re among the most vital pieces of outdoor power equipment in an emergency. For maximum dependability in extreme conditions, opt for liquid propane models, which have fewer components to freeze. You should still regularly clean and replace filters and seals, regardless of how your generator draws power. If you use a large standby generator, some manufactures sell specific cold weather kits that take moments to install but help the generator to function well in colder temperatures.
The moving blades on hedge trimmers need to be oiled to prevent rust and lockup. Remember to clean off all plant matter after you finish cutting, which helps to inhibit corrosion. Hedge trimmers should stay in the garage or shed since you’re unlikely to use them much throughout the winter.
Use the winter to engage in a vacation from regular mowing, since the grass is likely to either be too wet to mow or covered in snow. Keep the lawn mower tank empty to prevent freezing, as well as corrosion from sitting fuel. Once you clean the spark plugs, filters, blade and underneath the deck, you’re good to leave it in the garage for the rest of the season.
Care for string trimmers as you would any other piece of outdoor power equipment. The most important unique concern is to make sure that the string stays in a warm place to keep it from becoming brittle.
Learning ways to winterize lawn mowers and other apparatus keeps your home and business protected. You can’t predict the weather, but you can be prepared for it and save yourself hours worth of labor in the long term. Make protecting your outdoor power equipment a priority every year and keep your investment in top shape.