Most lawn mowers, including riding lawn mowers, need some maintenance at the end of the season to remain in good working condition for the long term. While it may seem harmless to place your riding lawn mower straight into the shed until next spring, neglecting proper winterizing of equipment can not only double the work for next spring but also impede the overall performance of your mower. But if the maintenance work is taken care of at the end of the mowing season, your equipment should be ready to go for the first cut next spring.
The following are general tips on winterizing a riding lawn mower to help you prepare for the cold months ahead. Depending on your model, the instructions listed below may vary slightly. Always be sure to check your operator’s manual for detailed instructions before placing your riding lawn mower in storage for the winter.
Guide to Winter Riding Lawn Mower Storage
Step 1: Prepare the mower and gather needed tools and supplies.
- Be sure your mower is on a flat, level surface. Turn the engine off and make sure it is cool.
- Remove the ignition key and disconnect the spark plug ignition wire. Engage the parking brake and chock the back wheels. Be sure the PTO lever is disengaged.
- Put the deck height lever in its highest position.
- Then, gather the necessary tools and supplies. Most winterization procedures described here can be completed with a basic mechanic’s tool kit, but some steps may also be easier when utilizing a siphon pump, blade sharpening/balancing kit and blade removal tool.
Step 2: Disconnect and maintain the mower battery.
- Disconnect the black negative (-) battery cable from the battery. Unless directed by your operator’s manual, it may not be necessary to remove the battery when storing the riding mower for extended periods.
- Clean the battery terminals as directed in your operator’s manual.
Step 3: Check and replace spark plugs.
- Replace worn or damaged spark plugs in the mower.
- Check your old spark plugs or your operator’s manual for the correct part number.
Step 4: Change the oil and replace the fuel filter.
- To change the oil on a riding lawn mower, first clean the oil fill and drain area of any debris.
- Remove the dip stick from the oil fill tube. Then, using the siphon pump, place the black tube into the dip stick hole on the engine, and the orange tube into the oil pan.
- Prime the pump by pumping the handle three to four times. Once the liquid begins to flow, it will flow without further pumping.
- Remove the siphon pump.
- Remove the oil filter. Using oil, lubricate the gasket of the new filter, then install the filter.
- Add new oil as instructed in your operator’s manual.
- Replace the dip stick. Wait several minutes, then use the dip stick to check the oil level.
Step 5: Replace and clean the air filter.
- Remove the air cleaner cover from the riding lawn mower. Then, remove the paper and foam elements.
- Wash the foam element in mild detergent and water and allow it to dry completely.
- Apply a few drops of clean engine oil to the foam element and squeeze out all excess oil.
- Replace the new paper element and the foam element into the air cleaner cover.
Step 6: Service or replace the blades and clean the mowing deck.
- To access the blades on a riding mower, it’s best to use a mower jack so you can easily elevate the mower, and tend to and remove the mower blades. Another option is to remove the cutting deck, as directed in your operator’s manual.
- Clean the undercarriage of dirt, grass clippings and any other objects that may have become lodged there.
- Wearing gloves for protection, inspect your blades for wear or damage. Use the blade removal tool to hold the blades in place.
- Then, using a socket, loosen the bolt securing the cutting blade to the spindle. Remove the blades and sharpen or replace if needed.
- If replacing blades, assemble the new blades and blade adapters on the engine spindle and tighten the bolts to the proper torque as indicated in your operator’s manual.
- If your blade only needs sharpening, use the blade sharpener and balancer kit.
- Remove the blade removal tool.
Step 7: Check the mower for broken, worn or missing parts.
- Check the mower for any broken or worn parts, including belt covers, belts, discharge chute, deck wheels and tires. Replace any of these worn or broken parts with the right replacement parts as noted in your operator’s manual.
Step 8: Prepare the fuel tank for storage.
- Finally, add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank to help prevent fuel from spoiling while the mower is not in use.