Winterizing your tractor

  1. pogobill
    Well, winter is quickly approaching and it's time to think about putting your mowers away and getting out the snow removal equipment. But before you do that, let's get that mower and weed whacker ready for winter.

    It's pretty simple to winterize your tractor, lawn mower, or whatever else you have that uses a small gasoline engine. Hopefully the following procedures will help you to get your equipment ready for winter storage, assuming that you will be storing your equipment and not be using it again for at least a couple of months.


    Spit and Polish

    First off, let's start with a good cleaning. Get out your garden hose, and a bucket of good hot soapy water. Start from the top down, and work from the dirty to the oily. If you have a pressure washer, go ahead and use it, but use caution as you do not want force dirt and water into bearings that were not designed to withstand the kind of pressure that you can get out of a pressure washer. The high pressure spray will also wash away any grease and lubricants that it comes in contact with.

    Inspect and Service

    Now that your machine is nice and clean and free of debris, the next step would be to inspect the deck, deck belts, hangers and blades. If you find anything that is worn or broken, now would be the time to repair it or replace it so that you are ready for spring. If you have the deck off your tractor, or your tractor jacked up, remove the blade(s) and have it (them) sharpened, or replace them if they are beyond sharpening. You can get the blades off by blocking the blade with a piece of wood that will not damage the blade, and unscrewing the
    blade bolt or nut.

    Wear gloves, especially when re-installing the sharpened or new blades. It is a good idea at this time to replace deck belts that have any signs of wear, so that you have a better chance of getting through the next cutting season without any downtime for a belt that you knew was looking a bit rough!

    If you have removed the deck, now is a good time to grease and lube the tractor. Use your owner's manual, as it will guide you through what kind of lube you should use, and where it should be applied.

    Changing the Oil

    The next step would be to change the oil. A lot of moisture and acidic products of combustion build up over time in the oil, and it is a good time to get rid of this stuff before it starts to corrode and damage your engine. Check the oil level and if it is fine, start the engine and let it to warm up.

    This will make the oil a little thinner, and easier to change. It will also mix up any dirt that might be in the oil pan and get it into suspension so that it will flow out with the used warm oil. Stop the engine and drain the oil. If your engine is equipped with an oil filter, now would be the time to change it. Replace the drain plug, and add the proper amount and type of oil as per the manufacturer's recommendations.

    Let's get into the engine

    Remember, gasoline is very dangerous, very flammable and very toxic. Work only in a well-ventilated area away from any source of heat or open flame.

    Fuel Filter

    Another thing to consider at this time is the fuel filter. Make sure you pinch off the fuel line between the tank and the fuel filter. Remove the filter by loosening the clamps that holds the filter and then pull it out of the hose. Make sure you catch any gasoline that may spill, as you don't want it to contaminate the yard or your well, if you have one. It's always a good idea to replace the hose that is between the filter and the carburetor. You will note that the filter usually has barbs on it. These barbs hook into the inside of the fuel hose, and may tear the inside of the hose when the filter is removed. A piece of hose could enter the carb or the fuel tank and
    cause real problems.

    Next would be to remove the air filter and pre-cleaner. Clean and/or replace them as required.

    Stabilizing Your Fuel

    Next, let's prepare the gasoline itself. Gasoline should not be stored for more than 30 days without treatment and should be stored in an appropriate, environmentally friendly container. There are a few great fuel stabilizers out there, and I have been making sure that I use one in every fuel can that I fill up as I can't be sure that I'll use a full 5-gallon can of gas a month.

    But what about the fuel in your tank? The best thinking for storage is to add a little bit of gas to the tank that has been treated with a stabilizer. Then start the engine and let it run out of gas. You don't want to leave any gas remaining in the tank or the carburetor or it will form
    gummy deposits and varnish that will clog the carburetor jets.

    Spark Plugs

    Well, we are getting close to being finished. Park the tractor where it's going to be put away for the winter, and after the next couple of steps, this is a good place to stop your winterization, if you will be using the tractor to push snow or to haul hay bales over the winter. If not, remove the spark plug. Put a teaspoon of engine oil into the spark plug hole and replace the spark plug with a new one(s). Crank the engine over a few times to spread the oil inside the cylinder(s).

    And if it is possible, turn the engine over by hand until you feel the compression stroke. This closes the valves and prevents moisture from getting into the engine.


    Now is the time to remove the battery from your unit and store it in a warm spot, like a heated garage, or in your basement. If you have a battery charger, or a trickle charger, it would be good to give your battery a charge just before you put it away.

    Well, now that you have finished these steps getting your power equipment ready for storage you should be ready to safely store your gear for the winter. Don't forget to replace any damaged or worn out parts during the winter so that when spring arrives, you are ready to get mowing again.

    Remember, before repairing or working on any power equipment, disconnect the spark plug so that the machine cannot inadvertently start while you are working on it.

    Good luck and have a great winter!

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