How to Winterize Your Riding Lawn Mower

By Lyle Weischwill | Dec. 07, 2023 9:37 am PST

Image showing how to winterize your riding mower.

At the end of mowing season, resist the temptation to drive the riding mower to the back of the garage and forget about it. By spending an hour with it now, it will be easier to get it ready in spring, when the grass suddenly starts growing.

Gather Your Supplies

To winterize the engine and battery, you’ll need:

  • Engine oil.
  • Oil filter.
  • Spark plug(s).
  • Air filter.
  • Fuel filter.
  • Fuel stabilizer.
  • Battery cleaner.
  • Battery terminal cleaning brush.
  • Battery corrosion inhibitor.
  • Protective gloves.
  • Paper towels.

You’ll also need compressed air and a cleaning brush to clean the engine.

To clean and winterize the lawn tractor body and mower deck, you’ll need:

  • Cleaning brush.
  • Cleaning cloth.
  • Scraper.
  • Compressed air.
  • Hand tools.
  • All-purpose lubricating oil.
  • MO-DECK lubricant spray.
  • Drive belts, blades and mandrel pulleys (as needed to replace worn or damaged parts).

Now, before you begin gathering supplies and doing this project yourself, you can have Sears complete many of these steps for you by scheduling a riding mower maintenance. A Sears Technician will visit your home and get your riding mower tuned up for the spring. You can store the riding mower with the confidence that it will be ready to go when you pull it out to start mowing next year.

Read on to see how to winterize your riding mower yourself.

Clean and Lubricate the Riding Mower Body and Deck

Move the riding mower to level area on grass or pavement. If the mower deck has a washout port, connect a garden hose to the port and wash the deck as described in the owner’s manual for your riding mower.

Remove the Mower Deck

Follow the steps shown in this video or the instructions in the owner’s manual for your riding mower to remove the mower deck for cleaning and maintenance:

Follow these steps to clean and maintain the mower deck:

  1. Blow grass clippings, dirt and debris off the top of the mower deck.
  2. Flip the mower deck over and scrape all grass clipping build-up and debris off the underside of the mower deck. Use a brush and moist cloth to clean the underside of the deck. Dry the underside of the deck and coat it with MO-DECK lubricant spray.
  3. Check the mower blades for wear or damage. Replace any worn or damaged blades as shown in this video repair guide: How to replace a riding lawn mower blade.
  4. Examine the blade drive belt and mandrel pulleys for wear or damage. Replace the belt if needed and install new mandrel pulleys if necessary.
  5. Lubricate all moving parts on the mower deck according to the directions in your owner’s manual.
  6. Wipe down the top of the mower deck using cleaning cloths.

Check the Ground Drive Belt

Examine the ground drive belt for wear or damage. Replace the ground drive belt if it’s excessively worn or damaged.

Lubricate all moving parts in the drive system and in other areas at the bottom of the riding mower according to the instructions in your owner’s manual.

Reinstall the Mower Deck

Follow the directions in your owner’s manual or use the tips in the above video to reinstall the mower deck on your riding lawn mower.

Clean the Riding Mower Body

Wipe down the entire mower body to clean of dirt and debris. Use vinyl protectant on the seat to keep it looking good and prevent cracks.

Winterize the Engine and Battery

Getting the engine and battery ready for winter storage is crucial for trouble-free operation of your riding mower in the spring. The engine will start right up and run smoothly when you follow these steps.

Tune Up the Engine

An engine tune-up includes changing the oil, oil filter, air filter, spark plug and fuel filter—this video walks you through the process so you can have the engine ready for spring mowing.

After the tune up, clean the engine cooling fins, the inside of the blower housing and the flywheel fins, using a brush and compressed air.

Fill the Tank With Treated Gasoline

Don’t leave untreated gas in the mower over the winter, because the gas deteriorates, and the mower might not start in spring.

If there is treated gas in the tank, top off the tank with more treated gas to lessen the chance of water contamination from the fuel tank sweating. The treated gas will also protect the fuel system and carburetor from gumming.

If you don’t have treated gas in the tank, follow these steps to winterize the tank and fuel system:

  1. In a well-ventilated area, drain untreated fuel from the tank.
  2. Fill a gas can with gas and add fuel stabilizer to treat the gasoline.
  3. Fill the riding mower fuel tank with the treated gasoline and run the engine for 10 minutes to run the treated gasoline through the carburetor.
  4. Top off the riding mower tank to reduce the chance of water contamination from the fuel tank sweating.

Park the riding mower in its storage location after topping off the gas tank with treated fuel.

Store the Lawn Mower Battery

Remove the negative battery cable and then the positive cable. Pull the battery out of the riding mower and clean the battery terminals using battery terminal cleaner. Coat the terminals with a terminal protector.

Store the battery in a cool, dry location such as the garage or storage shed.

Cover the Riding Mower

Cover your riding mower to protect it from dust, dirt, snow and precipitation during the winter.

Now you can relax and enjoy the winter – knowing that your riding mower is fully ready for mowing in the spring.

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