Store garden tools properly during the winter months

There’s a chill in the air and your gardening activities are likely slowing down. It’s time to get those small engine tools properly stored for the winter so you’ll be able to hit the ground running next spring.

It’s always a good idea to change the oil and filter in your gas-powered tools before storing it for an extended period of time. Here’s a little tip – run the piece of equipment for a bit first. This will warm the engine and you’ll get better oil flow when you drain it. Additional, the warm oil will much more easily remove any dirt suspended in the oil. Don’t forget to change the oil filter meanwhile. Check the owner’s manual to ensure you use the recommended amount, quality and viscosity of the oil.

If you notice the spark plugs are worn or burned, now is a great time to replace them. Gap the plugs based on manufacturers’ recommendations using a gap tool. Be careful not to over-tighten when replacing the plug. Using a torque wrench and correct torque to reinstall the plug will help avoid the possibility of stripping the threads in the engine block.

After changing the oil and filter, take the time to clean the engine. Most small engines are air-cooled and have cooling fins on the engine block. Keeping those fins clean will help prevent overheating the engine. It also is a good time to inspect the air and fuel filters and replace them if necessary.

It’s never a good idea to store a piece of equipment with gasoline in it. Old, stale gas can evaporate over time and leave a buildup in the carburetor. This buildup will make the engine more difficult, or impossible, to start next spring. The easiest way to empty the tank is to simply run the engine dry. The tank will be ready for fresh gas next year.

Another way is to fill the tank with fresh gas having a gasoline stabilizer added to it. You must use fresh gas as the stabilizer only stops deterioration; it can’t reverse it. Mix the stabilizer with at least a gallon of fresh gas rather than trying to decide how much to add to a small tank. Storing an engine with stabilized gasoline in the tank will prevent the problem of seals drying out.

Taking that little extra time to properly maintain and prepare a small engine in the fall will help get your spring gardening activities off to a great start.