As much as I hate to admit it, Summer is finished, Fall is here and Winter is just around the corner. Those of us that live the in Pacific Northwest are just about at the end of the yard work season. Which means it's almost time to put away that yard equipment for the winter. Once upon a time you could get away with just sticking your equipment in the shed and forgetting about it until Spring. Unfortunately, thanks to ethanol mixed in your fuel this is a very bad idea; at least if you want your things to start in the Spring. Here are some tips that will hopefully save you some tears and money.
Ethanol free fuel is your best bet. Finish the season using non-ethanol fuel (2-3 tanks if possible). For your last use of the season add a fuel stabilizer. We recommend Sea Foam , but there are other good products out there. When you are finished, top off your fuel tank and add a bit more stabilizer. Keep in mind, too much stabilizer will not hurt your machine, it may not run very well until you get it out of the system in the Spring, but that's about it. Not using enough can mean a trip to the shop. It's important to fill the tank completely, this will reduce the amount of oxygen your fuel is exposed to and slow the oxidation process.
If you don't have access to ethanol free fuel you can dump all the fuel in the tank and drain the carburetor (or run the engine until it uses up the fuel). Then add straight Sea Foam to the tank, enough to fill the carburetor and at least coat the bottom of the fuel tank. Keep in mind, however, that Sea Foam does not burn very well so in the spring you will most likely need to drain it out of the carburetor in order to start the engine. Even though is seems like alot of work, in the long-run it will protect your fuel system over the course of the winter.
There is one more option that I don't recommend and that is simply draining the fuel system and calling it good. The reason I don't think this is a good idea is the fact that all of your fuel system parts have essentially been washed in alcohol which means once you take away the fuel they will dry out and possibly need to be replaced in the spring.
Some other things that you should consider are things like cleaning the machine before storing it for the winter. Grass, dirt and debris build up left over the winter is a great place to catch and hold moisture which will cause rust to form on the steel parts and possibly lead to pre-mature failure. Grass seems to turn to concrete if left dry any place it has built up. This can cause problems with your transmission linkages not working, belts slipping, etc.
If you have tires that are losing air you should consider getting them repaired or putting the machine on stands of some sort. Tires left flat with weight on them, particularly in cold weather, will cause cracks in the sidewalls which cannot be repaired.
Consider where you are storing your equipment. Keeping the rain and snow off is important. Having a shed of some sort is best, but even a simple tarp will get the job doe. If water gets into your exhaust (and there is really nothing stopping that from happening) or your intake can ruin your engine. Not to mention protecting the paint, etc. If you are doing the tarp method I recommend doubling the tarp (unless you have one that is very heavy duty) and make sure to secure it well.
Finally, if your machine has battery, you should take some precautions to protect it. The best thing to do is to pull it out of the machine and store it somewhere where it won't freeze. If that's not an option, at least disconnect the negative terminal to prevent any sort of parasitic draw; electronic hour meters and other electronics pull a very small amount of current from your battery. Over time, these will drain the battery completely. No matter which way you store your battery it should be re-charged occasionally. I don't recommend "battery tenders", in my experience these seem to cause pre-mature battery failure. Rather I prefer to simply charge the battery when needed then leave it alone. It is very important that you don't let the battery go completely dead or freeze, these will most likely ruin your battery. On our equipment I try to make a point of at least starting the engines once a month so, then let it run until it is completely warmed up. This allows you to assess the battery and it will help get rid of any condensation that may have built up in the engine. However, keep in mind that if you do start the engine you need to make sure it runs long enough. Shutting it off too soon will only increase the condensation inside the crankcase.
There is an old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" there is no place this axiom is more true than in the realm of machinery. If you need help getting your equipment ready for the winter give us a call!