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Save yourself hassle: Prepare Power Tools for Winter Storage

It’s late fall, and the outdoor flowers are parched with frost, the leaves have fallen, the tropicals are in the greenhouse and the lawn has had its last cut. Now is the time to put away your garden power tools for winter. But in the urge to store everything, a big mistake can be made by not preparing the tools properly. Improper storage can bring much frustration in spring when small power tools will not start and may even need professional repair. Fortunately, this all-too-common scenario can easily be avoided by preparing power tools correctly in the fall.

draining the mower 16.11.15
Draining the mower

A big consideration is gasoline. Much of today’s gas not only contains ethanol, it’s also formulated to last only about six weeks. This is plenty of time to use up gas in the tank of a car, but it’s far too little serviceable life when gas is left in power tools over the winter. After sitting in a gas tank for six weeks or more, ethanol starts to attract water, and this moisture can remain in the engine, causing it to misfire. In addition, gas left to sit for a long period of time gradually turns into a gummy, varnish-like substance that clogs carburetors. Considering both these factors, it’s no surprise that your garden tools, when stored with old gas in them, don’t work very well when spring rolls around.

To solve these problems, start by always using gas to which either Stabil or Startron enzyme treatment has been added. Both products can be purchased at most gas stations or hardware stores. Walmart and Amazon also carry them.

Cleaning the mower 16.11.15
Cleaning the mower

These additives help preserve the life of the fuel at any time of year. But this alone is not enough. As the end of the gardening season approaches, I use the highest grade of gas treated with Startron in my lawn tractor. The advantage here is that premium gas contains less ethanol than regular-grade, so this reduces ethanol’s negative effects and helps get the engine ready for winter storage. For smaller tools, such as my chainsaw, string trimmer, and hedge cutter, I go even further and use only pre-treated gas at the end of the season. This pre-treated gas (such as ethanol-free TruFuel or Stihl’s MotoMix. Trufuel is available at Walmart, MotoMix from any Stihl dealer), tends to be expensive, but it’s well worth the price for the benefits gained in cleaning out the engines. I run all my tools completely out of gas in late autumn and then empty the carburetors too, making certain that no gas remains in the tool.

Another way to avoid problems is to run your power tools every week or two to ensure that they start, but with a number of small power tools this can be a chore on a freezing cold day.

On four-stroke engines clean the air filters, clean and sharpen mower blades, change the oil in sump and wash off any lingering grass or leaf residues. All this may sound like a fairly long to-do list, but it’s guaranteed to pay dividends when you take your tools out of storage next season.