Okay, I have to admit the title was a "fake it until you make it" thing. But, in spite of the fact that there is still a foot or more of snow on the ground and continuing cold weather I am confident that Spring is almost here. Thankfully it's not just the calendar that tells me that; there are some tell tale signs from Mother Nature that we are almost there. The days are noticeably longer, trees are starting to bud and I have heard rumors of Robbins in the area (though I can't confirm that last one). In the mean-time, while we patiently wait for the thaw, there are some things you can be doing to be ready for the warmer weather.
If you are like me you may tend to forget that you own outdoor equipment over the winter. Now is a good time to take a look at anything you have with a gas engine and get it started. Most people don't realize how bad modern gas is for your equipment. The idea of gas being bad is strange but true. Most gas stations only sell gasoline that has a fair amount of ethanol added. Unfortunately it only takes a couple of weeks for the fuel to start breaking down. Once this process begins the fuel is less combustible, eventually the fuel will not ignite at all. From there it only gets worse; over time it will start causing damage to your carburetor and even engine components.
The burning question is what can you do to prevent this? There are several things that can help minimize fuel related problems. The most obvious is to drain the fuel from your equipment at the end of the season. This is better than nothing, but can cause it's own problems in the form of dried out seals. The alternative is to leave the fuel in the system and add a fuel stabilizer. Unfortunately that is still not enough. The best solution is to use non-ethanol fuel, a fuel stabilizer and start and run the engine long enough to reach operating temperature on a monthly basis.
Since we are at the end of winter there is a good chance that you haven't done as much as you would have liked. That's why I recommend taking a good look at your equipment now, before you need it. If your equipment was running fine when you parked it but won't start now the first step is to drain the fuel from both the tank and the carburetor and then fill it with fresh. If it still won't start you can try a new spark plug. However if you still aren't making progress it might be time to get it into the shop. There is a high probability that the carburetor is plugged and needs to be either be cleaned or replaced.
Don't wait until you are ready to use your equipment. Once the season gets started there are many people doing the same thing. Which means longer wait times for repairs, and if parts are not readily available it could be several weeks before you see your equipment running again. It very frustrating when you are ready to ride your bike or mow the lawn and all you can do is wait.