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How to Properly Winterize Your Zero Turn Lawn Mower

how to winterize your zero turn lawn mower

The leaves are changing and starting to drop, signaling the end of the mowing season.  While you might have a few more tasks in store for your lawn mower (like picking up all those leaves), it's time to start thinking about preparing it for storage over the winter. 

In this article we're going to discuss all the steps to properly winterize your zero turn mower.  It's not the most exciting task, but it will help to ensure your mower is ready to go as soon as spring rolls around.

Step 1:  Properly Clean Your Mower

spray the mower deck with water to remove debris

This is a crucial step to ensuring there's no rust or erosion on the frame and working parts of your mower. 

Built-up debris from the mowing season can wreak havoc in the nooks and crannies of your mower over the course of months.  This can weaken the frame and other important components.

A thorough cleaning should include all of the following:

  • thoroughly wash the mower deck making sure to remove ALL stuck on grass and debris
  • make sure the blade shaft and it's connection to the blade is free of debris
  • hose down any other areas that collect debris including wheel wells and under the engine casing
  • you might need to use a screwdriver or other tool to ensure you get everything
  • use towels to hand dry components as much as possible (you can also use a leaf blower here to speed things up)

Step 2:  Change the Oil in the Engine

change your oil filter every time you change the oil

The first step in prepping the engine for the winter is to change the oil.  This prevents any buildup in the oil from forming deposits within the oil pan or the engine itself.  It's also one less thing you'll need to do when getting your mower ready in the spring.

  • run the engine for a few minutes to warm the oil
  • then disconnect the battery and remove the spark plug
  • completely drain the oil from the system.  Remember to proper recycle or dispose of your used oil.
  • using the dipstick, check that all the oil has been drained
  • remove the old oil filter
  • then follow the manufacturers directions for adding the new oil and oil filter.

Step 3:  Top Off or Change the Hydraulic Fluid

Many zero turn riding lawn mowers utilize a hydraulic system for steering.  Most recommend that you change this fluid every 300 hours or so.  It's not absolutely mandatory to change this fluid for winterization, but it does ensure that you'll be starting the mowing season with all your bases covered.

Follow the manufacturers instructions for properly draining and replacing the hydraulic fluid in your mower.

Step 4:  Drain the Fuel or Use a Fuel Stabilizer

fuel stabilizer helps prevent erosion and gumming

Next you'll need to take care of all the gas left in the engine.  This keeps the fuel from getting gummy or eroding the internal components of the engines. 

There are a couple of choices here.  You can either drain the fuel completely or fill the tank with fuel combined with a fuel stabilizer.

Though it's not our favorite method, draining the fuel costs nothing.  The easiest way to drain the fuel is to just allow the mower to run until it completely runs out of gas.  You can help it along by siphoning fuel from the tank back into a storage container.  While this method is OK, it can still leave small amounts of fuel in the engine. 

Our preferred method is to fill the tank with combination of fuel and stabilizer.  Here's what you do.

  • buy a fuel stabilizer at an auto parts store or home improvement center
  • pour it into the fuel tank, preferably before topping off the fuel to allow it to mix
  • if you're going to change your fuel filter, now is the time to do so.
  • run the mower for a few minutes to allow the stabilized fuel to circulate throughout the engine

Step 5:  Remove or Disconnect the Battery

disconnect the battery for the winter

Before stowing your mower make sure to either disconnect or remove the battery.  If you're storing the mower in a shed it might be easier to remove it entirely so you can charge it every couple months. 

This helps to extend the life of the battery and ensure quick starts.  Another option is to just start the mower every couple of months and let it run for 10 minutes or so. 

To disconnect the battery follow these steps:

  • disconnect the black (negative) lead
  • then remove the red (positive) lead

You can also take this time to clean the terminals if they've become corroded.  Here's an excellent article detailing the steps.

Step 6:  Cover the Mower with a Tarp

Keeping your mower dry is a great way to extend it's life.  Whether you store it in a shed, barn, or in your garage during the winter season cover it with a tarp.  This will keep dust and debris from building up on the mower.

While performing this type of maintenance might seem tedious it can help to extend the life of your mower.  Plus, when spring rolls around you'll be ready to start mowing in no time. 

About the Author Jason

Jason is a work from home dad who has a passion for DIY projects, yard work, and SEC Football. His background is IT, but he's always fancied himself as a part-time ship welder, landscaper, and short order cook. During the week he can be found on his laptop 10 hours-a-day, but on the weekends he escapes to the local DIY Cave to play with REAL toys.

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