When landscaping business slows in the winter, landscapers often store outdoor power equipment such as mowers, trimmers and backhoes until the return of spring. Without a maintenance schedule, checklist and proper storage, however, landscapers risk severe damage to their equipment and costly repairs once things start to thaw.
Rich Clark, manager of grounds for a Kansas City, Mo., school district, highly recommends reading the owner’s manual for each piece of equipment. Manuals will explain proper storage and maintenance for each item when they are not in use. As long as you correctly store and properly winterize landscaping equipment, you can leave mowers and other gas-powered tools in storage all winter and trust they will start up promptly in the spring.
Stay on Top of Winter Maintenance
Landscapers should start their winter maintenance routines as soon as there’s a chill in the air. “During this time, it is a good idea to give every part of the mower a good inspection,” Clark says. “Make sure all safety switches, levers, throttle cables, welds and bearings are in good shape, and if they are not, fix them so you are not surprised in the spring.”
Clark recommends landscapers perform all maintenance tasks during the off-season when they have more time. It’s important to not put off maintenance until the spring because that’s usually landscapers’ busiest time of year, he says.
Find the Right Storage Space
“Equipment should be stored in a sheltered dry place — ideally temperature controlled,” says Valerie Wiest, manager of Green Future Construction, an architectural landscape and trees service company in Silver Spring, Md. “Make sure the mower or other equipment is neatly organized and in a place that will be sheltered from water and freezing temperatures.” Landscapers should not disregard organization and placement when storing equipment, she adds. If chainsaws chains are lumped together in a bucket, for example, they can deteriorate and rust.
A Landscaper’s Checklist
Once you have a maintenance schedule and proper storage space in mind, try these tips to ensure your equipment will be set for spring:
- Disconnect spark plugs and drain remaining fuel from your gas-powered equipment, then reconnect the plugs and run the tool until all fuel is spent and the fuel lines are empty. Another option is to use a fuel stabilizer, which acts like anti-freeze. If gas remains in the tank during winter, equipment-damaging deposits can form in the fuel lines, Wiest warns.
- Wash the top and bottom of mowers to ensure all dirt and grime are gone and the deck is clean, Clark says. Wiest also recommends scraping off all debris, rinsing the mower with a hose and scrubbing the mower with hot soapy water and a soft brush to remove grease. If you spot any rust, remove it with steel wool so it doesn’t spread while the mower is stored.
- Check fuel and air filters, and clean or replace them as needed. Some manufacturers recommend removing the oil altogether when storing, Clark says, so be sure to check the owner’s manual.
- Check tires and spark plugs, and replace as necessary.
- Clean and oil chainsaw chains, and lightly coat any exposed metal surfaces with oil to prevent rust. Store chainsaws in a case or another waterproof container, and ensure they are stored in a dry space.
- Grease all spindles and bearings on the equipment and add grease to any Zerk fittings.
- Clean and sharpen all blades on your mowers, trimmers and pruning shears.
- If you must store your mower outside, Wiest recommends purchasing a well-fitting, secure cover to protect the mower’s intricate parts and shield it from heavy wind and precipitation.
- Test your outdoor power equipment prior to the big freeze. Inspect each tool for possible issues, and if you can’t do the needed repairs yourself, get them into a shop. If you use your trucks for snow plowing or other winter work, also take them in for inspection and maintenance before the season starts. If problems go unaddressed, the cold temperatures and lack of use will likely make them worse.
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