Maintain your lawn mower during fall and winter

Posted11/27/2015 1:01 AM

I'm sure we all are happy when lawn-mowing season is over with. It's nice to have a green landscape, but weekly mowing does get old. Am I right?

Storing away your lawn mower needs to be done properly, especially when you plan to use it again next year. If you wait until spring to do this, it's possible it might not be ready when the grass starts growing again. Here are the basic steps you need to follow in order to protect and prepare your mower for the next growing season. Of course, your lawn mower manual will give you more specific information on your mower.


• Removing the leftover gas that is inside your mower is important. You can drain it or siphon it out. To get rid of the last little bit, you can start the mower and let it run until it runs out of gas.

• You also should remove the old oil and, while the engine is still warm, it will be easier to do. Again, it can be drained through a standard drain plug, which most mowers have. You will want to refill it with fresh oil, but not just yet.

• Remove the sparkplug and buy a replacement. Again, you will be installing it later.

• While the plug is out, clean the underside of the deck. Make sure all debris and grass has been removed. This also is a good time to remove the blade for sharpening or replacement. If you choose to sharpen the blade, make sure to coat it heavily with grease to protect it from rusting while in storage.

• Clean or replace the air filter, and replace the fuel filter, too.

• Inspect other cables, cords and other parts and replace them as needed. Doing this now gives you the opportunity to order them and have them in house before you need them next spring.

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All of this does take some time, but it will take much less time than doing this next spring. Your mower will be ready to go as soon as the weather changes. And if you need any professional repair work done, there probably will be a very long line in the spring.

Avalanche of leaves

We all are dealing with an overabundance of leaves right now. The first clue usually is the backup that occurs in downspouts as they become clogged with them. Yes, you should have strainers in place to block them, but if you don't, the clogs will happen. I'm usually one to take care of a messy problem like this as quickly as possible. I highly recommend using a plumbing snake to clear a clogged downspout. You even can do it from the ground level. Just push the plumbing snake or auger up the downspout until the leaves come out the top. By the way, this would be a great time to add a strainer.

Efficient fridge

If your refrigerator just doesn't seem to be doing the job it used to, it might be helpful just to clean it. Cleaning around the door gasket can help the door seal better, keeping the cold air inside and the warm, moist air out. Another very important thing you can clean are the coils. These usually are located underneath the fridge and can get caked with dust over time, making it harder to cool the contents inside. The average vacuum can do the job, but the standard crevice tool just won't reach under and between the coils. If you fit a flattened cardboard paper towel core onto the end of your vacuum hose, it can be worked into these areas to suck all of the dust out. Do this monthly and your fridge will run more efficiently.

Super hints

• Bleach works great, but it comes with a lot of fumes and can be a little overpowering. Try vinegar on some stains. You might be surprised to find how well it works, and there are no fumes!


• With all the leaves we all have right now, you can use your mower to chop them up and then add them to your compost pile. Put them on your driveway and run your mower, with a mulching blade, over them. Now they can turn into compost much faster.

Q. I hung up curtains in our family room years ago. But lately, the screws used to mount them had started to work their way loose from the wall. What can I do to secure them again, before the drapes fall down?

A. If you want to do this once and for all, take them down and remove the screws. Install wall anchors or, better yet, molly bolts. Then reinstall screws and the brackets.

Q. I've been noticing a draft in my kitchen but wasn't sure where it was coming from. I finally figured out there is a leak under the stove where I keep my pots and pans. There is a gas line coming in through the wall, and the air is leaking in around this line. Every time I open the cabinet to get one, I can feel the draft. How can I seal it up?

A. This is the perfect place for Great Stuff, an expanding foam insulation product. It's made just for gaps like this. The can comes with a small hose that lets you squirt it right into the gap, where it will expand to seal up these areas. It should take care of the problem.

Q. I have an outdoor light on my patio that I have to replace the light bulb in about once a month. I have no idea what the problem is. I've tried CFLs, as well as incandescent bulbs. I'm not willing to pay for LED yet, especially if it only lasts for a month. What would you suggest?

A. There are several things that can cause this. Faulty wiring or high and fluctuating power can do it. An electrician can check this for you, and probably should just to be safe. The problem also could be within the light fixture itself. A replacement would resolve that issue, and as my dad would always say, will look good on your resume!

Reader tips

• OK, here's my paint tip for your column. I like to paint, and I do a different room about every other month. To make sure you don't miss any spots, work with a light source like a window or a good lamp. If you get close to the wall and look back toward the light, you will be able to spot any places you accidentally missed.

• I live in an area that doesn't get very cold during the winter. I still have to mow the lawn once a month or so to keep it looking good. I add fuel stabilizer to my gasoline can every time I fill it up. This keeps the fuel in good shape even when I'm not using it as much as I do during the spring and summer. This additive is available at hardware stores in the lawn mower department, and at auto-parts stores, too.

• We have a big dog, and he gets a little excited when there is a storm. He did a lot of damage to our laundry room door. I tried to paint it to cover the scratches, but it just didn't cover up the damage. What I finally did was switch this damaged door from the laundry room with a closet door from our bedroom. The closet door in our bedroom was in good shape and looks great. The laundry room door, not so much, but it's our closet door now, so that's OK. It was a simple but effective fix, and didn't cost us a dime!

• I painted the stair treads and trim around my stairs, and although they looked better, they just seemed kind of boring. I found some simple stencils and used these to apply accents to the stair treads and along the edges on the sides. Now, this did the trick! They look brighter and not so plain anymore. It was easy, too.

• I've had the same plain bedside tables in our bedroom for years, but I recently painted them along with our other bedroom furniture. They still looked plain and I wanted them to look a little more modern, so I added some stylish legs to these tables. This made them look a lot better and also raised them up to a better position on both sides of the bed. The legs cost only a few dollars, and when painted to match, really gave the tables the more modern look I was hoping for. This was much less expensive than replacing them.

• We had some hail damage to our lake house. The glass panes were easy to buy, but getting them all put into place in the windows was a little challenging. We used masking tape, rolled into loops with the sticky side out and attached to the glass, as handles while holding the glass in place with glaziers points. These "handles" really helped a lot.


• When you paint, use adhesives, work with asphalt or even chew gum, you can get it on your clothes, doorknobs, cabinets and even your hands. I always have a can of Goof Off nearby. This stuff has been around for years, and works better than anything else I've ever used. The Pro Strength is the one you want to buy, and it can be used to remove paint, glue, gum, markers, decals, tape residue, caulk, wax, tree sap and lots more. It can be used on brick, wood, concrete, fiberglass, metal, glass and lots of other surfaces, too. It comes in several sizes and dispenser types, including an easy-to-use spray bottle. Just about every hardware store and home center will have it. If you want to know more, just go to

• You know that you need to use a primer before painting over a stain. But if you have had a lot of peeling issues, there's a primer for that as well. Peel Stop Clear Binding Sealer is a low-odor, water-based formula that is highly recommended to stop peeling paint in its tracks. It is designed to seal paint cracks, chalky finishes and can even glue down some peeling paint. It can be used indoors and out. To find out more about this product, go to or check it out at your home center, hardware store or paint dealer.

• Write to Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit online at

© 2015, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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