How to Winterize a Lawn Tractor: Step-by-Step With Essential Tips

Winter is coming, and did you know that neglecting your lawn tractor during this season can shorten its lifespan by up to 30%? That’s a shocking statistic, but it’s true. Many people overlook the importance of proper winterization, leading to costly repairs and premature breakdowns.

But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the essential steps to winterize your lawn tractor, ensuring it stays in top condition and ready for spring. Say goodbye to unexpected issues and hello to a well-maintained machine!

Keynote: How to Winterize a Lawn Tractor

Winterize your lawn tractor to extend its lifespan and ensure peak performance next spring. Drain the gas tank, change the oil, clean the mower deck, and disconnect the battery. Store it in a dry, protected area. Proper maintenance now saves you time and money later, keeping your equipment ready for a fresh start.

Preparing for Winterization

  • Before you start, gather these essential tools and materials:
  • Fuel Stabilizer: Prevents fuel from deteriorating over winter.
  • Oil and Filters: Fresh oil and clean filters keep the engine healthy.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Ensure your tractor is free from dirt and debris.
  • Storage Covers or Tarps: Protects your tractor from the elements.

Safety Precautions

“Safety first is safety always.” – Charles M. Hayes

Winterizing your lawn tractor involves several steps that require caution. Always work in a well-ventilated area, wear protective gloves and eyewear, and ensure the tractor is on a stable surface to prevent accidents.

Fuel System Maintenance

Draining the Fuel Tank

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Locate the fuel valve and turn it off.
  2. Disconnect the fuel line from the carburetor and drain the fuel into a suitable container.
  3. Use a siphon pump if necessary to remove all fuel from the tank.
  4. Properly dispose of the old fuel according to local regulations (Bob Vila).

Adding Fuel Stabilizer

Purpose and Benefits:

  • Fuel stabilizers prevent gasoline from breaking down and forming gum and varnish, which can clog your engine (Farmers’ Almanac).
  • Consider using products like Briggs & Stratton Fuel Stabilizer or STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer, known for their effectiveness and reliability.

Running the Engine to Distribute Stabilized Fuel


  1. After adding the stabilizer, fill the tank with fresh gasoline.
  2. Run the engine for about 5-10 minutes to ensure the stabilized fuel circulates through the system.
  3. This helps protect the carburetor and fuel lines from corrosion during the winter months.

Engine Maintenance

Changing the Oil and Filter

Step-by-Step Guide:

  • Warm Up the Engine: Run the engine for a few minutes to warm up the oil, making it easier to drain.
  • Drain the Oil: Place an oil pan under the drain plug, remove the plug, and allow the oil to drain completely.
  • Replace the Filter: Unscrew the old oil filter and install a new one, making sure to lubricate the gasket with a bit of fresh oil.
  • Refill with Fresh Oil: Reinsert the drain plug and fill the engine with the recommended type and amount of oil (Briggs & Stratton, This Old House).
  • Dispose of Used Oil: Take the used oil to a recycling center or an auto parts store that accepts used oil for proper disposal.

Removing and Cleaning Air Filters


  1. Locate the air filter cover and remove it.
  2. Take out the air filter and inspect it for dirt and debris.
  3. If it’s a foam filter, wash it with soapy water, rinse, and let it dry. For paper filters, tap it gently to remove debris or replace if necessary.
  4. Reinstall the clean or new filter and secure the cover.

Inspecting and Replacing Spark Plugs


  • Remove the spark plug wire and use a spark plug socket to unscrew the spark plug.
  • Inspect the plug for signs of wear or carbon buildup. Clean with a wire brush or replace if the electrode is worn down.
  • Check the gap with a spark plug gap tool and adjust if necessary.
  • Reinstall the spark plug, tighten it securely, and reattach the spark plug wire.

Cleaning and Protection

Cleaning the Lawn Tractor

  1. Use a mild detergent or specialized lawn equipment cleaner. Products like Simple Green or a degreaser from Family Handyman’s recommendations work well.
  2. Thoroughly clean the exterior and underside of your lawn tractor. Removing grass clippings, dirt, and moisture prevents rust and corrosion.
  3. Use a hose or pressure washer on a low setting, but avoid electrical components.

Protecting Components

  • Apply lubricants like WD-40 or silicone spray to moving parts, such as the steering, cables, and pivot points. This reduces friction and prevents rust (Family Handyman).
  • Protect your tractor by covering it with a breathable tarp or specialized lawn tractor cover.
  • Ensure it is stored in a dry, sheltered place to shield it from harsh winter elements.

Battery Maintenance

Removing the Battery

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Turn Off the Engine: Ensure the tractor is turned off and the key is removed.
  2. Locate the Battery: Typically found under the seat or hood.
  3. Disconnect the Cables: Start by disconnecting the negative (black) cable first to prevent short-circuiting, followed by the positive (red) cable.
  4. Remove the Battery: Carefully lift the battery out of its compartment (Briggs & Stratton).

Proper Storage Conditions:

  • Store the battery in a cool, dry place.
  • Avoid direct contact with the ground; place it on a wooden board or shelf to prevent discharge (Family Handyman).

Cleaning and Charging the Battery

Recommended Cleaning Methods:

  1. Clean the battery terminals with a mixture of baking soda and water using a wire brush.
  2. Rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly to prevent corrosion (Family Handyman).

Trickle Charging or Storing on a Battery Tender:

  1. Use a trickle charger or a battery tender to maintain the battery charge over the winter.
  2. This prevents the battery from discharging and extends its lifespan.
  3. Check the battery periodically to ensure it is holding a charge.

Storage Considerations

Choosing a Suitable Storage Location

  • Store your lawn tractor in a garage, shed, or any dry, sheltered area to protect it from the elements.
  • Ensure the storage area is well-ventilated to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to rust and mold (Briggs & Stratton).

Preventing Rodent and Pest Infestations

Sealing Entry Points:

  1. Inspect the storage area for any gaps or holes and seal them to prevent rodents and pests from entering.
  2. Pay special attention to doors, windows, and other potential entry points.

Using Repellents or Traps (if necessary):

  • Place rodent repellents, such as mothballs or peppermint oil, around the tractor.
  • Set up traps if you notice signs of rodent activity to keep them away from your equipment.

Covering the Lawn Tractor (if stored outdoors)


  1. Use a breathable tarp or specialized lawn tractor cover to protect your tractor if you must store it outdoors.
  2. Secure the cover tightly to prevent wind from blowing it off.
  3. Ensure the cover allows for air circulation to prevent moisture buildup underneath.

Spring Startup

Reinstalling the Battery

  • Reinstall the battery by placing it back into its compartment.
  • Connect the positive (red) cable first, followed by the negative (black) cable.
  • Ensure the connections are secure and free of corrosion.

Checking and Refilling Fluids

  1. Check the oil level and top off if necessary.
  2. Inspect the fuel level and add fresh fuel if needed.
  3. Check other fluids, such as hydraulic fluid and coolant, and refill as required.

Inspecting Components for Any Issues

  • Inspect the air filter and replace if dirty.
  • Check the spark plugs for wear and replace if necessary.
  • Look for any signs of damage or wear on belts, blades, and other components.

Starting the Engine and Testing

  1. Turn the key to start the engine and let it run for a few minutes.
  2. Listen for any unusual sounds and check for leaks.
  3. Test the tractor’s functions, including steering, braking, and blade engagement.

Spring Startup Summary Table

Reinstalling the BatteryPlace the battery, connect positive and negative cables securely.
Checking and Refilling FluidsTop off oil, add fresh fuel, refill hydraulic fluid and coolant.
Inspecting ComponentsInspect air filter, spark plugs, belts, and blades for wear and damage.
Starting the EngineStart the engine, listen for issues, and test all functions of the tractor.

Final Thought

Winterizing your lawn tractor isn’t just about preventing damage; it’s about preserving your investment and ensuring your equipment remains reliable for years to come. This small effort during the off-season can save you significant time and money when the grass starts growing again. Think of it as a form of respect for the machinery that helps maintain your beautiful lawn.

As you prepare your lawn tractor for its winter rest, consider the broader implications of maintenance and care. Just as we protect our homes and cars, our lawn equipment deserves the same attention. By winterizing your tractor properly, you’re not only extending its lifespan but also contributing to a more sustainable, less wasteful lifestyle.

How to Store a Lawn Tractor for The Winter (FAQs)

What do you do to winterize a riding lawn mower?

To winterize a riding lawn mower, first, clean the mower thoroughly, removing dirt and debris. Drain the fuel or add a fuel stabilizer to prevent the gas from deteriorating. Change the oil and replace the oil filter. Remove and clean the air filter, inspect the spark plugs, and lubricate moving parts.

Is it okay to leave gas in a mower over winter?

No, it’s not okay to leave gas in a mower over winter. Gasoline can degrade and form gum deposits, which clog the carburetor. This can lead to starting problems and potential engine damage. Always drain the fuel tank or use a fuel stabilizer before storage.

Should you disconnect tractor battery in the winter?

Yes, you should disconnect the tractor battery in the winter. Removing the battery prevents it from discharging and extends its lifespan. Store the battery in a cool, dry place and consider using a trickle charger to maintain its charge.

Why is it important to winterize a lawn tractor?

Winterizing a lawn tractor can extend its lifespan by up to 30%, saving you from costly repairs. Proper maintenance ensures your tractor is ready for use in the spring, reducing downtime and enhancing efficiency. According to experts, equipment neglect can lead to a 20% increase in maintenance costs.

What should you do with the gas tank to prep your riding mower for winter?

Drain the gas tank or add treated fuel to prevent ethanol from degrading and clogging the carb. This ensures a smooth start next spring.

How can you clean the mower deck effectively before storing your lawn mower?

Use a garden hose and putty knife to remove debris from the mower deck. This prevents rust and damage for a fresh start next year.

Is it a good idea to disconnect the battery for lawn mower storage?

Yes, disconnect the battery and use a terminal protector or battery terminal cleaner. This prevents corrosion and maintains the battery’s health.

Why should you replace or sharpen the mower blade before winterizing your lawn mower?

Sharpening or replacing the mower blade ensures efficient lawn care next season. A well-maintained blade saves time and effort when you mow.

How does winterizing a lawn tractor save you dollars in the long run?

Proper winterization, including oil tank maintenance and carb cleaning, prevents costly repairs. It keeps your lawn mower engine and other equipment like snowblowers and generators in top shape.

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