Winter Maintenance Tips

For many homeowners, the beginning of November brings a change in weather. As it starts to get colder, we put away our lawn mowers and prepare to fire up our snowthrowers for the inevitable snowfall. Our vehicles also need to get us through the winter while remaining reliable on a daily basis. But in order for that equipment to run strong when we need them to, a little preventative maintenance goes a long way. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for winterizing your lawn mower for storage and preparing your snowthrower and your vehicle for winter months.

Mower Maintenance

Winterizing Your Lawn Mower

-          Have a place to store it
Outside on your porch or next to your shed is not the place to keep your equipment, even if you have a cover or some sort of shelter for it.

-          Gather your tools
A socket set, rags, and a funnel should be all you need.

-          Clean it up
Thoroughly clean the outside and bottom of the mower. Note the condition of your blades and if they need resharpening.

-          Prep the engine for storage
Fill the mower with fuel and add fuel stabilizer to prevent fuel deterioration and rust in the fuel system. Run the mower to circulate the stabilizer. Next, remove the spark plug(s) and add a small amount of oil to the spark plug hole – this will help keep the spark plug clean and free of corrosion.



Preparing Your Snowthrower

-          Check/change the oil
Make sure you have the right oil (2-cycle or 4-cycle) on hand; your owner’s manual will list the kind you need. If you’re starting it up for the first time since last season, check the oil level. If it will run, start it and let it warm up for a bit – this will make it easier to drain the oil. Remove the drain plug, drain the oil, then refill it with the amount you need.

-          Inspect the belts
Check your owner’s manual for the location of the belt cover. Most two-stage snowthrowers have two belts (for the auger and the drive system). Inspect the belts for cracks or signs of wear and replace if needed. Tighten if needed as well.

-          Check scraper bars and skid shoes
Both of these pieces are designed to wear down over time. If you’ve had your snowthrower for a few years, check the bars (which scrape snow off your hard surface into the auger) and shoes (which set the auger height to keep it from picking up stones) for excessive wear.

-          Change spark plugs
It’s a good idea to check your plugs every year and replace them as needed. If your plug looks damaged or has deposits of gunk on it, go ahead and swap them out for new ones.

-          Inspect shear pins and starter cord
Shear pins connect the auger to the gear case. With the snowthrower off, inspect the pins. If any are broken or missing, replace them only with the exact replacement pins recommended by the manufacturer. Also check your starter cord and make sure it’s not cut or frayed.

-          Refresh the fuel system
Drain the fuel from your tank and replace it with fresh fuel to avoid deposits. Fuel stabilizer also helps maintain engines as well.

-          Tighten all bolts
Because a snowthrower vibrates quite a bit, nuts and bolts can loosen over time. Finish your inspections by tightening all nuts and bolts before you take it out in this winter’s first snow storm! 


Winter Car Maintenance

Preparing Your Vehicle

-          Perform preventative maintenance
If you’re noticing any performance issues such as hard starts or a rough idle, get them checked out before it gets colder – bad weather will make these issues worse. Change your oil and filters on schedule as well, as winter will again exaggerate any performance issues.

-          Protect fuel lines
Especially in locations where temperatures drop well below freezing, add a bottle of fuel treatment in your gas tank once a month to help prevent freezing in your fuel lines.

-          Flush the coolant system
Replace the concentration with a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. Make sure the engine has cooled before removing the radiator cap!

-          Prepare your windshield and wipers
Rubber-edged winter blades are the best weapons in harsh climates. Winter windshield washer solvent is also extremely helpful for deicing your windshield. You’ll also want to have an ice scraper handy, especially getting around for your morning commute.

-          Inspect the battery
Have your battery power checked by a professional, but routine maintenance can be a DIY project – scrape away corrosion and clean all surfaces before the weather gets worse.

-          Check your tires
Worn tires can be extremely dangerous and deadly in winter weather. Make sure yours have suitable tread life left. Even with sufficient tires, adding a bit of weight in your trunk or truck bed in the form of sandbags can help reduce slippage.

-          Have an emergency kit in the vehicle at all times
Besides standard kit components, you should include extra gloves, boots, and blankets; a small shovel, sand or kitty litter (to provide traction/weight if you get stuck); a flashlight with extra batteries; a charger for your cell phone and a few extra snacks.


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