Keep your mower in tiptop shape with winter prep

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published October 30, 2019

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METRO DETROIT — Bright colors, falling leaves and the crisp, cool air of autumn are signs that yardwork will soon turn from lawn mowing to snowblowing as Old Man Winter comes to town.

But before residents shove their lawn mowers in the backs of their garages, to be forgotten until spring, there are a few things to do to make sure the equipment will still work next year.

“The biggest one to take care of is the carburetor and the fuel system,” said Dave Hellebuyck, the store manager at Hellebuyck’s, 52881 Van Dyke Ave. in Shelby Township. “Gas that you get from the gas pump is organic — just like milk, it does have an expiration date.”

Because most gas station fuel includes ethanol — which is corn alcohol — it can cause damage to the carburetor after a few months of idleness.

“Alcohol is going to attract water. It will promote corrosion on metal parts, and it takes a lot of the moisture out of rubber,” which will make it fail sooner, Hellebuyck said.

The best practice, he said, is to run the machine entirely out of gas, or at least until it stops running. The gas could also be siphoned out with a hose.

“You’ll never actually get all of the gas out of there,” he said. “There is still some in there, so step 2 is, you want to get an ethanol-free, alkaline-based fuel.”

That could be a product like TruFuel, which is available at lawn mower repair shops or online.

“A quart can do multiple pieces of equipment,” Hellebuyck explained. “Run them all until they run out of gas and divide this quart into each gas tank, then run it again for maybe a minute, two minutes. The fuel will get in the tank, in the fuel lines, in the carburetor.

“That gas takes two years before it’ll even start to think about going bad.”

Alkaline fuel can be used in lawn equipment the entire season for better performance if owners prefer, he said.

David Benoit, who works in sales and service at Forton’s Mower Service, 21707 Harper Ave. in St. Clair Shores, that it’s important that machines are clean before they are stored for the winter.

“You want to make sure that the machine is clean — it’s been rinsed off,” he said. “Make sure it’s cleaned off good, not stored with any debris stuck to it. You might want to lubricate any wheel bearings before you put it away — any rusted bolts or nuts.”

The tips apply to anything that runs on gas, he said, be it a lawn mower, gas trimmer or other equipment, because any gas left in a tank could clog up the carburetor. Other maintenance, such as changing the air filter, oil and spark plugs, can be done in either the fall or first thing in the spring, Hellebuyck said.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute also recommends that any equipment with a battery has it removed and fully charged before storing and that all equipment is sheltered from winter weather.

Moisture and snow can expose equipment to metal fatigue, Hellebuyck said.

“If you can get a tarp and throw it over” the equipment, it will help, he said, for those who don’t have a garage or shed in which to store their equipment. “The cold temperature won’t do anything, but if you can keep it out of the moisture, at least, it will help.”

To get ready for winter, residents should also clear paths they use regularly, review safe handling of winter equipment such as snowblowers and generators, find and prepare a gas can, and make sure they have a weather-appropriate extension cord on hand for a generator, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

Benoit said that fuel from the gas station will only be good for about 30 days, so it’s important to only keep 30 days’ worth on hand in a gas can.

“If you’re going to store the fuel for more than 30 days, we recommend using a fuel stabilizer,” he said.

Hellebuyck said that even with a stabilizer, gas station fuel starts to lose its potency after two to three months.

“Purchase an amount you would go through in a few months; that way you can” cycle through it, he said.

Now is a good time to get the snowblower out and get it running if it hasn’t been turned on all summer.

“Twenty-five to 30 seconds is really all you need, and if it stayed running the whole time, shut it off and let it wait till next time,” Hellebuyck said.

Now is the time to check over the machine, looking at the wear bar on the bottom of the snowblower, which protects the housing. If it is too worn down, replace the bar, because continuing to run the machine with a worn-out wear bar could lead to having to replace the housing or the entire snowblower. Belts should also be checked for wear.

Benoit said that now is the time to schedule a tuneup on the snowblower if it is needed.

“End of fall, you want to get your snowblower looked at so you’re prepared for winter,” he said.

For more information, visit Hellebuycks.com or call (586) 739-9620 for Hellebuyck’s, with locations in Shelby Township and Warren, or call (586) 775-7472 for Forton’s Mower Service of St. Clair Shores.