Lawn Mower Storage Mistakes Exposed

5 Lawn Mower Storage Mistakes EXPOSED

Posted November 5, 2013 by 51 Comments

Do you want your old trusty mower to start back up in the spring, after several months in hibernation? Then properly preparing it for winter storage is crucial.

Otherwise, you might as well throw a new mower on your Christmas list, and hope Santa won’t charge you for delivery after making these naughty mistakes.

Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid this year when storing your lawn mower, tractor, or zero turn for winter.

1.) NOT Removing Old Fuel from the Gas Tank

Leaving untreated fuel in your gas tank during winter is practically a death sentence for your lawn mower’s fuel system. The gas will begin to go stale, corrode, and form gummy deposits in the fuel tank, carburetor, fuel lines, and fuel filter. So, your safest bet for long-term storage (more than 90 days) is to use or remove all fuel in your mower.

2.) NOT Draining the Carburetor Fuel Bowl

Drain Carb Fuel Bowl

You’ve done a good deed by running the fuel tank dry, but a small amount of fuel may still remain in the carburetor fuel bowl. Get that gas out! Drain the fuel bowl so the gas won’t deteriorate, gum-up, and damage your carburetor.

3.) NOT Disconnecting the Battery

Disconnect Battery

Even with the machine off, a small amount of juice can still be sucked from the connected battery on your riding mower and zero turn. This is often referred to as Vampire Power (Standby Power). When storing your equipment for long periods of time, disconnect the battery and store it in a cool, dry place. It will help decrease the rate of the battery’s discharge.

*Important Tip: Recharge batteries once a month to keep the juices flowing.

4.) NOT Changing the Oil

Change Oil

So why would you want to change the oil before storage? First of all, old used oil contains contaminants that you definitely don’t want sitting in your engine for three or more months. Secondly, it also gives you a head start on next spring’s tune-up, ensuring your engine is properly lubricated from the start.

5.) NOT Reading the Owner’s Manual

Before you start to prep your mower for winter storage, read the owner’s manual. Most manual’s provide instructions on the proper way to store your specific equipment for long periods of time. It might even recommend replacing the air filter and spark plug too, while you’re at it.


  1. Scott P. Blondell
    on November 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I’ve always been a proponent of removing the sparkplug, squirting a small amount of new oil into the cylinder(s) and slowly rotating the crankshaft to distribute it. Replace the plug(s) when finished, of course. No telling what may crawl in there!
    Removing the blades for a rainy day sharpening is on my list, too. At the rate grass grows in the spring there’s never enough time to get these tasks done, so using the cold days of winter to get ahead just makes good sense.

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  2. Glen Spears
    on November 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Good idea to let all the grass cutting experts know.

    Reply to this Comment

  3. Jack
    on November 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    What do you think about Sea Foamfuel additive?

    Reply to this Comment

    • Turner Anderson
      on November 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Sea Foam is a good additive to use, especially when it’s getting close to storage time. Add it to fresh gas and run it through your equipment to help clean out all the internal engine parts and fuel system components.

      Reply to this Comment

    • Robert Munden (MASTER TEC.
      on November 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Sea Foam is very good fuel additive.but it also is very good crank case additive added to oil and run before changing is also a excellent carbon remover.but the best fuel treatment/stabilizer is the Briggs & Stratton Fuel Treatment Advanced Formula Fuel Treatment & Stabilizer.

      Reply to this Comment

      • Robert Munden (MASTER TEC.
        on November 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm

        Jacks price is $11.97 on the 16 oz.

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      • Herman
        on October 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm

        I have used the B&S treatment.. works fine.. on riding mower, my biggest problem is the person who puts extra stuff in the gas tank. a friend mows lots as a hobby and his helper loves to play games..
        fuel filters definitely work to save the carburetor from death…


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  4. Mr. Jim
    on November 5, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Rather than disconnecting the battery on my riding mower, I keep it connected to a “Battery Tender” (TM) all year long. This maintains a continuous charge always. Same for my motorcycle, of course.

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  5. colin mcintyre mowers nsw australia
    on November 5, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    how true that is Turner try and tell people especially the farmers here they won’t listen so next thing they are up for &100s for a new carbie oh well we benefit from it
    reg / Colin

    Reply to this Comment

  6. Chuck Segert
    on November 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Okay for you snow country guys. I’m in central Florida and we never quit mowing. Maybe slow down to once a month from once every five days in the summer. Let’s give a great big je cheer for ethynol. Ugh

    Reply to this Comment

  7. Mark Besmen
    on November 5, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Also when storing your single cylinder yard/lawn equipment over the winter pull them to top dead center of the compresson stroke. That keeps the valves closed to help prevent valve seat rusting.

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  8. Scott
    on November 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I always make sure I use ethanol free gas in last tank of the year too . I know I should do it all year, but especially important at end of you in my opinion. I also make sure last tanks gotten a dose of stabile because even if you run tank dry and empty carb, that treated gas residual will then gum up less.

    Reply to this Comment

    • Tommy
      on November 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Nice thought—ethanol free gas. Where do you get this in states like Massachusetts?

      Reply to this Comment

      • Rodney Marsh
        on November 18, 2013 at 10:06 am

        Hi Tommy, If you go to there is a listing of states and the gas stations that still sell ethanol free gas.

        Reply to this Comment

      • Richard
        on November 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm

        I am sure you have Marinas in your area somewhere. In our area none of the Marinas have ethanol in their fuel intended for inboard or outboard motors.

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  9. Grandpop
    on November 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I usually run a fuel additive about one month before my last mowing. Then run everything dry. My exmark I top off, then shut off the fuel and run the carb empty. So far everything starts in the spring. Leaving gas in any small piece of equipment over the winter is a disaster.

    Reply to this Comment

  10. Leroy free
    on November 6, 2013 at 6:43 am

    if i store my battery for the winter from my riding mower or motorcycle i store them at the bottom of my second refig.

    Reply to this Comment

    • Murray Dixon
      on November 11, 2015 at 11:32 pm

      Lawn mower batteries are so cheap, I just buy a new one every two years and never have to get out the booster cables!

      Reply to this Comment

  11. ElliotH
    on November 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Next weekend I will be following your great tips
    Thank You

    Reply to this Comment

  12. Robert Meany
    on November 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I drain the oil from my lawn mower by openining the fill cap and and tipping the mower sideways into an aluminum pan and plce the whole pan into a plastic bucket and pu a lid on it and dispose of the whole bucket at the recycling center. When I cange the oil I never open the plug underneath the deck which can cause problems of stripping the threads or if the plug is intruding it sink into the plug hole and is diffcult to remove and damage the internal engine parts.

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  13. Dwight May
    on November 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    All great ideas, I go one step further, after empting the tank, I run the engine until just before it stops, ( If it has a manual choke) pull it out until the engine stalls.

    Reply to this Comment

  14. jim
    on November 9, 2013 at 12:27 am

    I don’t do anything run the gas out come spring new plug change oin new gas and filter and away it goes

    Reply to this Comment

  15. steve santos
    on November 9, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Very good points. I always followed all with the exception of changing oil. Living in New England this makes sense and I will do this, this year. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply to this Comment

  16. Ed Vanderloon
    on November 9, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I paid dearly this year! Because I left the old untreated gas in my 5 year old Honda mower it ruined the carb beyond repair. I had to pony up for a new mower! I will be draining my gas this year!

    Reply to this Comment

  17. jeff linne
    on November 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    i use stabil fuel additive and only ethanol free gasoline i also put a little carburator and injector cleaner with the gas and have very little problems with storage or starting

    Reply to this Comment

  18. Steve La Duke
    on November 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Albert Barrett:
    I bought a 6 horse Techumseh for my wood splitter 25 years ago and used it without any carb problems until about 20 years when ethanol was going into production into our gas. Once I found out what damage can happen when using gas with alcohol in it, I switched to no ethanol gas. I really think it was to late but I struggled with that engine for around 5 years when I finally admitted that the carb was shot from the use it went through with ethanol adulturated gas. OK. I ordered a new carb that cost $87 pluse $10 shipping and installed the new carb. The motor ran like a new one. I’m back in business.

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  19. Rick Gustoff
    on November 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

    I to change oil before storage and wash/clean entire unit put battery
    minder on rider but I never have drained or run dry a unit with gas
    instead I top off tank add fuel stabilizer to tank and run about 10 minutes and put away in spring all units start right up never have had
    a problem

    Reply to this Comment

  20. Mike
    on November 13, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I’ve been storing equipment for over 40 years by just adding a little Stabil. That worked great…until ethanol came along. Even ethanol fuel with stabil will cause problems. I tried draining, adding every type of stabilizer, etc. and still problems. Now, I use marine fuel (ethanol free) and a little seafoam in it. Zero problems. And never run a piece of equipment dry if it has a diaphram carb. The diaphrams will dry out and become brittle and crack, causing more problems.

    Reply to this Comment

    • Murray Dixon
      on November 11, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      I don’t run them dry, I just tip them over and drain out the gas. That is maybe why I haven’t had a problem in my 45 years of lawn mowing.

      Reply to this Comment

  21. Phil
    on November 13, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Watch out for water in the fuel. Settles in the float bowl, as mentioned above pull and clean the float bowl and the float.

    Reply to this Comment

  22. J Cloutier
    on May 6, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Awesome tips and ways to keep your lawn mower looking and performing like new!

    Reply to this Comment

  23. Jim
    on May 9, 2015 at 7:55 am

    MAINE WINTERS,All I do is run the marine stable on the heavier side I think 1oz to 5 gal all year long and run full synthetic oil in all my equipment for better flow in cold.In my gravely with Kawasaki motor the manual says 10w40 full synthetic is ok to like 0° or less so I fire it up every two weeks in unheated garage and never have any issues at all.Although I have debated rather two weeks is stretching it for possible rust build up internaly. I probably will switch to weekly start ups!

    Reply to this Comment

  24. Ralph E.Wycoff
    on June 5, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Thanks for your informative post that you’ve shared on this site. I’m going to follow your helpful tips for my beloved garden.

    Reply to this Comment

  25. Rob V. Robertson Austin, TX
    on July 22, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Posted July 22, 2015. My new Sears Crafstman 22″ front drive came with electric start button. A buddy tells me that summer storage in hot garage degrades the battery fast. Is that true?

    By the way, the new mower pulls me fast. Not sure if I can figure out how to slow it down a bit. Yes, will check manual again.

    By the way, the owner manual is poorly done. It should have assembly and start up steps at the very start of the booklet. No, the material is buried inside.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply to this Comment

  26. Jose Santos
    on November 11, 2015 at 11:29 am

    5.) NOT Reading the Owner’s Manual, I think must be the number 1.)

    The eternal battle between suppliers and customers, the war that never ending of excuses: he told me, I think, I believe, I guess, I did it (but when is questioned doesnt know), I always did like this and this is the first time that happen, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc x 10^-24

    Just, read the owner manual and you will keep your best buy and your guarantee. Greetings =D

    Reply to this Comment

  27. Mark T
    on November 11, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Who has 2 cycle trimmer or blowers? I fill my walk behinds with mixed fuel late in the season for 2 reasons – use up the 2 cycle to keep a fresh rotation and the oil mixed in the fuel keeps it stabilized while adding some critical upper cylinder lubrication for storage.
    Don’t neglect your cans either! If plastic, empty them – dump regular fuel in your truck or something. Metal cans, treat with Sta-bil and fill full. Condensation will cause water formation unless the can is full. Same is true for metal fuel tanks – if you’re not draining it, fill it full with stabilized fuel.
    22 yr old Lawnboy – first pull start every spring. 9HP Briggs at 12 yrs old is a 2 pull start. Hard to beat that.

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  28. John
    on November 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I know this is about winter storage but how about the air filter. Does any one clean in fall to be ready for spring?

    Reply to this Comment

  29. John Cizmar
    on November 11, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    VP (the racing fuel people) make small equipment fuel without ethanol. Home Depot in the Chicago area sells it. It is also available pre-mixed for 2-cycle equipment.

    Reply to this Comment

  30. Paul W.Waren
    on November 11, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I run Tru-Fuel in my last tank of the season. It will retain its integrity up to two years in an engine (up to five years in original, UNOPENED container). I also clean carb with carb cleaner, compressed air, and run carb through ultrasonic cleaner, then dry with compressed air again. I change oil and put piston at top-dead center to close valves. I also clean entire mower. I make certain engine cooling fins are free of debris, remove and clean wheels and axles, inspect blade, and lubricate all cables. Never have had a problem.

    Reply to this Comment

  31. Ken
    on November 11, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    A few of you recommend the use of ethanol-free gasoline for winter storage. The only ethanol-free gasoline I have been able to locate near me is 92 octane. All of my small engines call for 87 octane.

    What’s more important: winterizing with ethanol-free gasoline, or winterizing with gasoline that has the correct octane but contains ethanol?

    Reply to this Comment

  32. Pete
    on November 11, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    The only stabilizer to use in ethanol gas is the ETHANOL SHIELD from
    B3C Fuel Solutions. None of the others address the phase seperation
    (water and ethanol combining and sinking to the bottom)
    My Troybilt tiller sat in the shed for 2 1/2 years with fuel in it and
    started on the second pull. When I buy fuel I treat the gas can then it is ready for any thing I use it in.Works great in 2 cycle and my antique
    car also.

    Reply to this Comment

  33. Steve
    on November 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I always mix 1 oz racing Castor Oil (Klotz Benol) per gallon of gas. I’ve done this for years, and my 37 year old B&S snowblower starts every time on the first pull. Use it in my riding mower and push mower also. Run out the gas, change the synthetic oil and filter(s) and squirt mystery oil in the plug hole and turn it over a few times. That’s it, and virtually no engine wear. IT works.

    Reply to this Comment

  34. Murray Dixon
    on November 11, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    I have never used stabilizer in the 45 years I’ve owned lawn mowers. I just tip them over to drain out the gas and put them in the lawn shed. I had two twenty year old lawn mowers that hadn’t been started for several years, filled them completely full with fresh gas, and they started right up. So I sold them and moved into a condo!

    Reply to this Comment

  35. David's Small Motors Alabama
    on November 12, 2015 at 11:03 am

    These are great comments and good advise all the way down. Ethanol gas is a disease to our fuel consumption. It sucks the moisture out of the air and makes water in our fuel systems. As we, here in Alabama experience one of the most humid areas in the states, it is even worse. Ethanol (i’ve read a lot about it) has a maximum of 30 days shelf life. So be mindful of how big a purchase you make at 1 time, make sure it will be used before 30 days. Adding new fuel on top of old fuel doesn’t make the old fuel new again.Ethanol Shield is a good additive to put in jugs/cans as an extra preventative. Also fuel treatment is good too, even though it is 98% alcohol, it will mix with the water and burn through the combustion cycle.

    Reply to this Comment

  36. Dean Calloway
    on November 13, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Here are my thoughts on this. I use a fuel additive STA-Bil in every tank of fuel. I also add Marvel Mistry Oil 2 times a year. I also use Opimal 2 which is a 2 cycle engine lubricant.

    I have a Troy Bilt 12 HP riding mower 1992 with 750/Hrs. I have a Still weed trimmer 2006, Still blower M-55, Still chain saw 2013.
    I never drain the gas from any of my machines. Also note the my mowing season starts in March and ends in December.

    I also bring the units out about once a month start em up let each one run about 15 min. Even if you live in a cold climate I think you could do this.
    I have never had an engine issue using my system. Even if you do not try this. I will stick to the my way.
    Here is a list of the equipment that I own.

    Troy-Bilt 12/HP purchased 1992 Riding mower 750hrs still running
    Still trimmer year purchased 2000.
    Still blower tear purchased 2006
    Still chain saw year purchased 2010.

    My first push mower was a 3.5 HP Murray it cost $30.00 in 1965 I kept the mower until 1995 rebuild carburetor and new wheels. Sold mower for $35.00.

    I will keep to the way I am doing. I hope some of the info helps you.


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  37. Pingback:
    Winter's coming: Vehicle storage options from lawn mowers to RVs - Uncle Bob's Resources
  38. Rich
    on May 2, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    What ruins a small engine:
    Simple: Moist air in the cylinder, moisture between valves and valve seats, (as is advised for calipers and micrometers, do not store with metal surfaces touching…same probably goes for valves and valve seats) Water, Water Vapor, Molecular water in fuel, liquid water in fuel, acid, acidic oil ( motor oil becomes acidic as it is used in an engine), mice, rats.
    Oil holds water, gas holds water, crankcases hold water. Float bowls hold water, fuel lines and filters hold water. Is there a common thread here?
    Dump the oil…dump the gas…drain the float bowl, lines, and filters, put Blue Brillo pads in an around wire harneses for garden tractors to keep mice away. Moth balls don’t do anything…they play with them. Squirt oil in the cylinder…put anti seize on the spark plug threads and TORQUE them at the LOW END of the Torque specification. They only have a few SOFT aluminum threads in the head and remember it is not critical to CRANK in the spark plug since it is not an airplane or a car…its just a lawn mower. Good Luck!

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  39. David Tucker
    on August 25, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I don’t have a garage/shed will the cold weather hurt the engine of a riding mower?

    Reply to this Comment

    • Turner Anderson
      on August 29, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Clean out the carburetor, and run some fuel stabilizer mixed with gas through the engine for a few minutes. One of the biggest issues people have during winter is letting old stale fuel sit in the gas tank and remnants in the carburetor. It will slowly eat away at the fuel system components. Also you could throw a cover over your mower to protect it from moisture. Otherwise the cold weather shouldn’t hurt your engine.

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