How to winterize a lawn mower: tips for gas, cordless and riding mowers

Find out how to winterize a lawn mower with these expert tips for every type of mower, and ensure yours is kept in top condition during the colder months

Lawn mower on lawn with a canister of oil
(Image credit: Willowpix / Getty)

If you want to know how to winterize a lawn mower, you'll need to follow different procedures depending on the type of mower you have. 

Whatever mower you have, however, make sure that you don't skip the winterizing process. Following the correct steps to prep your mower for the winter will prolong its lifespan and ensure that come spring, you'll have a mower that's in perfect working order and ready for that first spring cut.

All lawn mowers need some form of winterizing, though some need a lot more winter prep than others. Follow these easy step-by-step instructions for your mower type and your machine will be fully ready for the cold season. 

A lawn mower on a green lawn

(Image credit: Stefan Cristian Cioata / Getty)

How to winterize a gas lawn mower

Winterizing a gas mower is simple but you need to do it properly. Think of it as part of your winter lawn care routine. These are the steps to follow according to Dale Steven, a lawn mower expert at Mowersandyardtools.com (opens in new tab) :

  1. Remove the spark plugs and pull out the recoil starter. Disconnecting the spark plugs is important to prevent the plug sparking while you're cleaning your mower. 
  2. Disconnect the battery cables. 
  3. Remove the fuel tank. Discard any fuel that remains in the tank. Do not leave old fuel in the tank over winter to avoid damaging your lawn mower's engine.
  4. Remove the air filter. 
  5. Remove the blades. 
  6. Clean the blades and other moving parts with a solvent and a brush. 
  7. Refill the oil with fresh lawn mower oil. This is not to be confused with fuel, which should be discarded.
  8. Wipe down the frame, deck, and other parts with a dry cloth. 

'Disconnecting spark plugs from petrol lawn mowers is important for two reasons, explains Darren Feasey, Brand and Product Director at Flymo (opens in new tab): 'It means it won’t spark whilst you are cleaning the mower, and it will also enable you to clean the spark plug itself. A summer of mowing the lawn can mean spark plugs can end up covered in carbon so now is a good time to give it a good clean to make sure it is fresh and ready for next year.'

Gas mowers should be stored upright if the model allows for it. Darren explains that 'residual fuel or oil can seep into the engine by storing it horizontally'. However, storing your mower upright is not essential if you've successfully drained all fuel from it. 

When you want to use your mower again for your spring lawn care, you'll simply need to put it back together. Dale Steven advises you start by reattaching the blades, the spark plugs, the recoil starter, the battery cables, and the fuel tank. Then fill up the fuel tank with fresh gasoline and reattach the fuel cap. Start the lawn mower by rotating the recoil starter.

A lawn mower on a green lawn

(Image credit: Mint Images/ Tim Pannell / Getty)

How to winterize a cordless lawn mower

Good news if you were dreading a complicated process, as 'cordless lawn mowers don't require much in the way of winterization', according to Jen Stark, home improvement expert at Happy DIY Home (opens in new tab)

  1. If you have a battery-powered cordless lawn mower, simply remove the battery pack from the mower and store it indoors somewhere dry and warm. If you can't remove the battery, make sure it's fully charged before storing the mower for the winter.
  2. Give your mower a good clean to remove any clippings or dirt before putting it away for winter. 
  3. Keep your clean lawn mower in your shed or garage over winter.  

Like Jen, Darren Feasey also recommends fully charging and removing the battery before storing it 'safely out of the cold and in the house. Avoid storing the battery in extremely cold conditions like garden sheds over the winter, this may damage the battery cells as the battery will absorb moisture and encourage corrosion.' Room temperature is optimal for storing the battery.

'It’s also worth wiping the battery with a cloth to make sure it is in good condition before you store it away for the winter,' adds Darren. 

Flymo Easistore 340R Li Rotary lawn mower in use on grass

(Image credit: Future)

How to winterize a riding lawn mower

'The best way to winterize a riding lawn mower is to take it to a professional for servicing. However, you can also do it yourself if you're comfortable working on engines,' advises Jen Stark. If your riding lawn mower runs on gas, then simply follow the same steps as you would for winterizing a gas lawn mower above.

If you have an electric riding mower, Dale Steven advises the following steps to winterize it:

  • Make sure all debris and leaves are cleared from the mower deck. This will help reduce the amount of ice that forms on the deck. 
  • Make sure the mower is properly charged. A full battery will help to improve run time and prevent any potential issues. 
  • Make sure the mower blades are sharp. Dull blades can cause the machine to bog down and freezing temperatures can cause them to become brittle. 
  • Keep the mower clean. Dirty blades can also cause problems. Clean the mower with a brush and a solution of water and detergent. 
  • Insulate the mower. Covering it with a heavy coat of insulation will help to keep the machine warm during the winter. 
  • Monitor the machine. Keep an eye on the mower as one of your winter garden jobs to make sure it is operating properly. If there are any signs of issues, take action right away.

riding lawn mower on a lawn

(Image credit: fury123/Getty Images)

Do I have to drain the oil from my lawn mower over winter?

No, but you do need to replace it when winterizing your lawn mower. Darren Feasey explains that a gas mower needs to be 'topped up with high-quality oil before you store it. This means removing the old oil that is already there.'

The rationale for replacing the oil is that 'the fresh oil contains rust inhibitors that can help extend the life of your lawn mower. If you don’t change the oil before storage, it will allow deposits to settle during the wintertime.'

Not sure which oil to use? While you can buy lawn mower oil on Amazon (opens in new tab), Darren recommends checking the manufacturer’s instructions for more details.

Should you remove gas from your mower over winter?

Yes, removing any gas/petrol that remains in your gas mower is a key part of how to winterize a lawn mower. Devin Purcell, of AutoKnowIt.com (opens in new tab), is an automotive professor with over 20 years of experience repairing engines big and small, and he is adamant about this point.  

Devin explains that you have to make sure no fuel remains in your gas mower because 'the high ethanol content in fuel can cause severe damage to the carburetor of your engine. This can cost hundreds of dollars to repair.' He suggests not refilling the fuel before your final cut of the year: 'Let the engine run empty during the last cut, this will ensure all of the fuel is removed from the fuel system.'

It pays to keep this in mind when thinking about the last time to mow a lawn before winter

shed with lots of neat garden tool storage

(Image credit: Trevor Chriss Alamy Stock Photo)

Where should I store my mower over winter?

Keeping your mower alongside your other garden tool storage in a dry shed or garage over winter is the best way to keep it protected from lower temperatures and cold weather. 

Devin Purcell recommends investing in a good-quality lawn mower cover, available from Amazon (opens in new tab), for the winter and storing your mower 'away from small rodents such as mice, rats, squirrels, etc.  These small animals can cause repairs that end up costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on the damage that they do.'

Anna writes about real estate, interior design, and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications in the US and the UK. Before embarking on her writing career, Anna taught English at university level and is the author of a book called London Writing of the 1930s. She currently splits her time between London and the Midwest US. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.