Winter Equipment Maintenance

Just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean your lawn and landscape work is complete. There are many chores that can, and should be done during the winter months. Cold weather is the time to service your tools and power equipment, build a new compost bin, calibrate your sprayer, or even identify some winter annuals for proper control methods later.
Starting your mower, tiller, weed eater, or blower next spring can be easy with a few winter preparations. Gasoline breaks down over time, leaving a gummy residue inside your equipment’s carburetor and fuel tank. When you start up your equipment in the spring, this residue gets sucked into tiny holes inside the carburetor called “jets” and stops them up. When this happens, it takes a skilled mechanic to clean the tank and carburetor. To prevent this, always drain fuel and add a fuel stabilizer to the tank. Pull the cord or turn the engine a couple of revolutions to work the stabilizer through the fuel system for best protection.

Many times our equipment gets neglected during the year while it is used regularly. Winter is the best time to make sure you have a fresh oil change. Drain the oil using the drain plug typically on the side or underside of the engine. Add new oil per manufactures recommendations and change filter if applicable. Make sure you dispose of oil properly and do not leave the equipment without oil (you might forget to add it in the spring causing serious damage to the engine).

Air filters are often overlooked and arguably, the most important maintenance item on many pieces of equipment. A precise mixture of air and fuel is needed for combustion engines to run smoothly. The air filter will ensure only clean, dust free air enters the combustion chamber. Many filters are disposable and will need to be replaced but some are the washable sponge type. Wash them with warm water and a small amount of soap; rinse and allow to dry thoroughly; and then add a little engine oil to the sponge. This will allow the filter to collect dirt and debris even better! If you use your equipment in a dusty environment, you probably should clean it much more often.

Look over all of your equipment for signs of wear. Often, cables get worn or rusty. A little lubricating oil will help tremendously on rusty cables before they get too stiff and break. Check for debris built up in the tines on your tiller or around your blade(s) of your mower. A clean piece of equipment is a happy piece of equipment. Engines produces a lot of heat which wears on the metal and decreases the life of the engine. A dirty engine retains more heat than a clean one. Take some time to clean debris and built up grime from all surfaces.

Winter is a great time to take a look at the underside of you mower. Grab the blade and push it up and down opposite the direction it turns. If you feel movement, you could have bearings bad in the spindle. Repairing them now will prevent even costlier repairs later.

Many of these maintenance items are fairly simple and will add to the useful life to your equipment. Some maintenance will prevent the need for a skilled mechanic often correlating to costly repairs. If you find problems that you are familiar with, make sure to get some expert advice from a local repair shop. Whether you do it yourself or have a repair shop do it, take a few hours this winter and take care of the equipment that takes care of your lawn and gardens!

Submitted by Andrew Rideout, Agent for Horticulture, Henderson Co. Cooperative Extension