Winter lawnmower maintenance
By Aaron Abler, Email Marketing & Content Specialist
Storing your outdoor power equipment correctly is extremely critical for anything with an internal combustion engine. If avoided, you risk serious mechanical and or performance issues when it's time to use the machine next spring. To help ensure your mower not only starts but performs at its best, we compiled a list of must-do winter storage maintenance procedures. You can always refer to your operator's manual for additional instructions.
1. Stabilize lawn mower fuel
If anything tops the list in terms of importance, it's stabilizing your fuel. At Gravely, the most common maintenance issues we learn about are those related to fuel deteriorating and clogging the fuel system.
- Add fuel stabilizer to your mower tanks according to the instructions on the bottle.
- After stabilizer is added, operate your mower for about ten minutes to incorporate the stabilizer throughout the fuel system.
- When complete, park the mower, but if it has a carbureted engine, keep the engine running. If it's an EFI engine, simply switch the key to the off position and remove it.
- Close the fuel valve and allow the engine to suck fuel dry from the carburetor.
- After the engine stops, turn the key to the off position and remove the key.
Gasoline can break down in as little as two weeks, let alone the two or three months it's sitting in your mower's fuel tank during storage. The potential for fuel to degrade in ethanol-blended fuels is even greater. When fuel deteriorates, it turns to a gel-like substance, clogs your fuel system and prevents your engine from starting. If this has ever happened to you, you know it means harmful downtime and expensive repairs.
2. Change lawn mower oil
Oil changes are easy to perform and don’t take much time. The engine is your power plant. If it's not performing well, you're either not cutting well or you’re not cutting at all. After a full season of use, your engine needs an oil change, a new oil filter and potentially a new air filter.
- Remove the drain plug and allow oil to drain into a container. Use a funnel if necessary.
- Once drained, reinstall the drain plug and tighten to the specification in the manual.
- Remove the oil filter, allow the oil to drain from the filter and into a container and dispose the filter.
- Dip the tip of your finger in the used oil and apply a light amount of oil around the rubber gasket of the new oil filter.
- Install the new oil filter and tighten according to the specifications in the manual.
- Remove the cover from the engine fill port and add the correct volume and type of engine oil listed in the manual.
- Reinstall the fill port cover.
- With the parking brake on, start the mower and visually inspect the engine to ensure oil isn't leaking. Stop the engine when complete.
3. Change lawn mower air filter
This is the easiest procedure related to engine maintenance. Open the engine air filter cover according to the instructions in the manual and remove the filter. Inspect the filter to see if it's dirty. If it’s clean, reinstall it and the cover; there's no need to replace a clean air filter. But, if it looks dirty or clogged, toss it, replace with a new filter and reinstall the cover.
4. Change transmission fluid
Like engine oil, transmission fluid needs to be changed annually or at the intervals listed in your manual. Some zero turn mowers have sealed, maintenance-free transaxles, but commercial lawn mowers will need transaxle maintenance.
- Operate the unit for a few minutes to warm the fluid.
- Stop the unit and wait for hot parts to cool.
- Remove the transaxle filter guards, if equipped.
- Remove oil filters, drain filters and dispose.
- Remove the fill plugs from transaxles.
- Wipe the filter mounting surfaces clean.
- Lubricate rubber gasket on new oil filters with hydraulic oil.
- Install filters onto transaxles and torque to specification.
- Reinstall filter guards with original hardware and torque to specification.
- Add the correct type of hydraulic oil to the transaxles until oil appears at the bottom of the oil fill openings.
- Reinstall oil fill plugs and torque to specification.
- Add hydraulic oil to the expansion tanks until fluid level meets the cold fill line.
- Purge the hydraulic system according to instructions in manual.
5. Connect battery charger
Seasonal battery storage is important. If you own a motorcycle or other seasonal recreational equipment, you might be familiar with this procedure. When not in use for extended periods of time, batteries can slowly discharge and lose their charge capacity. To keep your battery in good health for next season, you’ll need to disconnect it from the battery cables and connect a battery tender or trickle charger.
Battery tenders are somewhat different from trickle chargers. A trickle charger will apply a constant, weak charge to the battery and will keep it fully charged through the offseason. Battery tenders charge a battery, stop charging once the battery reaches a full charge, and will then start charging again once the battery drops below a certain voltage.
Both options are good solutions for maintaining your mower's battery health, but some resources suggest a battery tender is the better option because the constant charge from a trickle charger can damage the battery.
6. Clean mower deck
Cleaning has a purpose. Grass and debris buildup under the deck and around the spindles can affect your mower's performance, cut quality, and your reputation as a landscape professional. Additionally, grass and debris buildup retain moisture that can rust and corrode critical mower deck components, which is why it's important to periodically remove and clean the deck.
Removing a Gravely lawn mower deck is easy because we made it that way. We include detailed instructions in the operator's manual, but it's as simple as:
- Remove the PTO belt from around the clutch.
- Disconnect the deck lift linkages.
- Disconnect the deck mounting arms.
- Remove the deck from under the unit.
- Carefully remove the blades.
- Clean the debris from under the deck with low-pressure water. Using high-pressure water can damage certain components.
If you see rust forming on bare metal areas under your deck, remove it with an abrasive material like sandpaper, clean the area and cover it with touch-up paint.
Check mower belts and blades
It’s not critical for storage maintenance, but as long as the deck is removed, it's an opportunity to check the condition of your blades and to sharpen according to the instructions in your operator's manual. If blades are damaged or worn too much, replace them. Also, check your belts for signs of wear and replace if necessary. If you do it now, it saves you from doing it in the middle of next season.
Replacement mower parts
Our objective to providing a comprehensive checklist for seasonal maintenance is to help keep your Gravely mower running as good as the first time you used it. We want our machines to live up to your expectations, which is why we supply your local Gravely dealer with OEM parts and accessories. While many online parts stores stock cheap imitations, it's no substitute for the quality of parts, level of service, and the relationship you can build at your Gravely dealer.