How to Winterize Your Zero Turn Riding Mower

This step-by-step guide offers clear instructions on preparing your Zero Turn Riding Mower for the winter season. It outlines essential procedures that help in the preservation of your mower’s integrity, leading to longer life and optimal functioning come spring. Actions include thoroughly cleaning your mower, checking and changing the oil, inspecting spark plugs, protecting the fuel system, and properly storing the unit. These steps collectively contribute to the effective winterization of your mower.

Top-Performing Zero Turn Mowers


Clean the Mower

Begin your mower cleaning process by inspecting the entire mower meticulously. Look for clumps of grass, patches of dirt, and any other debris that may have become attached to different parts of the mower. It’s essential to pay particular attention to the deck, the blades, and the engine as these are areas where dirt and debris tend to accumulate. Use a brush or a hand tool to scrape off any stubborn, dried grass or dirt.

Proceed to the undercarriage of the mower and remove any adherent dirt or grass using a firm hand brush. The blades should also be cleaned carefully, using a soft cloth to wipe off any grass and dirt. Ensure that the mower is switched off and that the spark plug is disconnected before starting this process for safety reasons. The engine, known as the heart of the mower, should also be cleaned making use of a dry cloth or a paintbrush. Remember, regular cleaning not only maintains the efficiency of the mower but also prolongs its lifespan.


Check the Belts

Begin by examining the mower’s belts carefully. Look out for signs like fraying, cracking, or stretching that indicate wear and tear. These elements are often a clear sign that a belt needs replacement. Additionally, check for any visible damage on the belts such as tears, cuts, or visible cords. Damaged or worn-out belts can snap unexpectedly during operation, resulting in significant damage to your mower.

If you notice any signs of wear or damage, proceed immediately with replacement. The process will involve unscrewing the housing that protects the belts, removing the old belt, and installing a new one in its place. Always remember to wear appropriate safety gear such as gloves and protective eye-wear while doing this. Refer to the instruction manual of your mower for specific steps on how to replace the belts. Following these recommendations will help ensure your mower’s longevity.

To reduce the chances of unexpected belt failures, make a habit of regular belt inspection as part of your mower’s routine maintenance. This could help you detect potential problems early and prevent costly repairs in the future. The condition of the belts directly affects the performance of your mower. Thus, keeping them in good shape is an essential step towards maintaining optimum performance.


Change the Oil

Begin by locating the oil drain plug of your mower. It is often situated underneath the mowing deck and may be covered by a protective shield. Ensure the mower is cold to prevent the risk of burns from hot oil. Put on appropriate safety gear such as gloves and goggles and keep an oil drain pan ready. Unscrew the plug using a suitable wrench, and allow the old oil to drain completely into the pan. Dispose of this oil responsibly following local disposal regulations.

Replace With Fresh Oil

Once drained, it’s time to refill with fresh oil. Consult the user manual to verify the oil grade recommended by the manufacturer for optimal performance. Open the oil fill cap, usually located on the top side of the mower engine. Fill with the fresh oil slowly, checking the dipstick periodically to ensure you do not overfill. Screw the fill cap back on securely once you have filled to the recommended level.

Here are the steps for quick reference:

  • Locate and unscrew the oil drain plug.
  • Drain the old oil into an oil drain pan.
  • Dispose of the old oil responsibly.
  • Consult the user manual for the recommended oil grade.
  • Unscrew the oil fill cap.
  • Fill with fresh oil, checking the level frequently.
  • Screw the fill cap back on securely once the oil reaches the recommended level.

Replace Air Filter

Ensure that your engine receives optimal airflow by replacing your air filter regularly. A clean air filter contributes significantly to fuel efficiency and enhances the overall performance of your mower.

Follow these steps:

  • Locate the air filter: On most mowers, the air filter is situated in a clearly marked area for easy access. Consult your machine’s manual if you can’t find it.
  • Remove the old air filter: Typically, air filters are secured by a metal or plastic clip. Release this clip and gently remove the old filter.
  • Clean the air filter housing: Before installing the new filter, wipe out the filter housing with a clean, dry cloth to remove any dust or debris.
  • Install the new air filter: Slide the new filter into the housing, making sure it fits snugly. Secure it with the clip.
  • Check the air filter regularly: It is recommended to check your air filter after every 25 hours of operation. If it appears dirty or clogged, it’s time to replace it. Consider changing it at least once a season or more frequently if your mower operates in dusty conditions.

Regular replacement of the air filter will help maintain engine health and maximize performance and longevity. Keep an eye on your mower’s operation and, if you notice a decrease in power or efficiency, check the air filter as one of the first troubleshooting steps.


Drain the Fuel

Start the mower and let it run until the fuel tank is completely empty. This method is preferred as it allows the carburetor, a vital engine component, to run out of fuel and clear any potential residual fluids. This not only prevents fuel stagnation but also protects the mower’s internal parts.

Step 2: Use a Fuel Extractor

In case the mower cannot run down the fuel or if you are dealing with a non-operational mower, a fuel extractor becomes indispensable. It’s an essential tool that works by creating a vacuum to siphon fuel. Insert the extractor’s tube into the fuel tank and pump to remove any remaining fuel. For instance, you could use an Arnold Siphon Pump Kit for this task; it’s affordable, user-friendly, and efficient.

Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines and wear appropriate protective equipment like gloves and safety glasses throughout this process to protect yourself from accidental spills and harmful fumes. Dispose of the extracted fuel following your local environmental regulations.

Step 3: Clean the Fuel Tank

After draining, clean the fuel tank to remove any remaining fuel residue. An old toothbrush or small brush is an excellent tool for scrubbing off stubborn residues. You can also use a fuel system cleaner like the Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus to rinse and clean the internal sections of your mower’s fuel system. This product not only cleans but also protects and maintains your fuel system’s efficiency.


Check the Battery

Remove the Battery and Clean the Terminals

Start by powering off your device to ensure you remove the battery safely and prevent any potential electrical damage. Identify the battery hatch or compartment, which is typically found on the backside of most devices. Open it, gently remove the battery, taking care not to touch or damage other components. Once the battery is out, get a clean, lint-free cloth and mildly damp it in alcohol or a battery cleaning solution. Wipe clean the battery terminals – those small metal contacts on the battery and device. Make sure to clean off any visible dust, corrosion, or mineral deposits which can impair the battery’s performance.

Store the Battery Properly

Following the cleaning, when not in use, store the battery in a cool and dry place. Extreme temperatures can cause battery leakage or shorten its lifespan. Keep the battery away from your household gas appliances like stoves, heaters or gas canisters. They release tiny particles that could harm the battery over time. Also, it minimizes the risk of any accidents caused by leakage of the battery gases being ignited by gas appliances. For instance, dedicate a drawer away from such appliances, preferably in room temperature, to store your device’s battery.

Remember to also store your battery in a non-conductive storage container to protect it from moisture and conductive materials. A plastic container is a good example. This would further enhance its safe-keeping, ensuring a longer lifespan for your battery.


Store Your Mower

Secure a dry and safe location to stash your lawnmower for the winter months. This may be a garage, shed or any other area, preferably enclosed, which is guaranteed not to flood or accumulate dampness. Storing your mower in a dry location prevents the metal components from rusting and the rubber parts from rotting due to exposure to water or extreme humidity.

Cover your lawnmower with an appropriately sized tarp. Ensure that the entire mower, from the handlebars to the wheels, is properly veiled under the tarp. This measure keeps dust particles from accumulating in the mechanical parts of the machine and wards off moisture that might creep in. Fasten the tarp securely so that it remains intact throughout the storage period, protecting your mower and keeping it ready for use once the winter is over.

Concluding Winterization Steps

Regular maintenance and winterization are essential aspects of owning a zero turn riding mower. By adhering to the suggested procedures in this post, not only can you safeguard your mower during the harsh winter months, but you will also push it towards a longer, more efficient service life. Thus, when spring arrives, your machine will be ready and operational, saving you time and money on potential repairs.

Essential Equipment Checklist

  • Garden hose
  • Cleaning brushes
  • Soap/Detergent
  • Soft cloth
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench set
  • Protective gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Belt tension gauge
  • Replacement belts (if necessary)
  • Oil drain pan
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Funnel
  • New engine oil
  • Replacement air filter
  • Fuel stabilizer
  • Siphoning tube
  • Battery tester
  • Multimeter
  • Battery charger (if necessary)
  • Storage cover for the mower

Optimizing Mower Winterization

  • Clean Your Mower: Start by removing any dirt, grass clippings and other debris from your mower. Cleaning it will minimize the risk of rust and other damage
  • Change the Oil and Filter: Drain out the old oil from your mower’s engine and replace it with a new winter-grade oil to ensure the effective lubrication of moving parts in cold conditions
  • Add Fuel Stabilizer: Empty your mower’s gas tank or add a fuel stabilizer to the remaining gasoline. This prevents the fuel from deteriorating and causing potential damage to the engine
  • Inspect and Change the Spark Plug: The spark plug is essential to the mower’s ability to start. Ensure its good condition by replacing it if necessary
  • Sharpen and Balance the Blades: Make sure your mower’s blades are sharp and well balanced to avoid causing unequal wearing on the engine
  • Check Tire Pressure: Ensure the tires have the correct tire pressure for a smooth ride when you use the mower again in spring
  • Lubricate Moving Parts: Apply lubricant to exposed metal surfaces, moving parts and any cables to prevent rust and corrosion during storage
  • Disconnect the Battery: To prevent potential damage or accidental start, disconnect the battery if you’re storing your mower for an extended period
  • Store in a Dry Place: Find a place to store your mower that’s out of the elements and off the ground to avoid rust, corrosion and other potential damage
  • Cover it Up: If you don’t have indoor storage available, make sure to use a weatherproof cover to protect your mower from the elements