What ? Why are you talking about winter when we are still enjoying the delights of summer ?

By the time you read this, it will be autumn and I am sure you are still using your mower, strimmer, leaf blower etc at least once a week, which makes it the perfect time to start preparing to store them so they start first time in the spring.

While most of this article applies to petrol tools, you should always clean up your equipment before storing for any length of time. This avoids it rusting into holes due to the grass trapping moisture.

First, by far the biggest issue with petrol powered equipment is fuel and that comes from storing them over winter without any preparation. Over a relatively small timeframe, especially in the tiny quantities that exist inside your small engines carburettor, the fuel can separate into a murky mess causing blockages in the tiny jets inside. This means no matter how hard you try come summer, it will not start, even if you put fresh fuel in (petrol gets old very quickly and loses its energy with age).

It is very easy to avoid this, and the time is now. There is a product called Fuel Stabiliser which when added to your fuel, stops this degradation and the good news is you can just add it to all the fuel you purchase and forget about it. Next time you fill up your petrol can, simply tip in the correct amount (normally 5ml per litre of fuel) and you are done. This is not a winter only thing and should be used in fuel you store anywhere (inside a can or a mowers fuel tank, it keeps the fuel good for quite some time and stops the fuel separation issue).

So right now, next time you fill up, make sure you add this to the mix. Have a look on the interweb - Briggs & Stratton Fuel Stabiliser - a small bottle should last you a year or two and is a wise investment. Ensure you run the engine for at least 2 minutes after adding it so it can do its magic working its way through the system.

Another tip is to regularly run your equipment (once a month is enough for a couple of minutes) to cycle the fuel. This allows the fuel in the carburettor to be used and replaced with fuel from the tank and helps ensure those tiny jets do not get blocked. This is not really necessary if you use fuel stabiliser, but does not hurt.

The other thing that is very important is cleaning all the grass off from everywhere. Grass contains moisture and sticks nicely to metal surfaces causing them to rust rapidly. Before you know it you will have holes in your mower deck and it will be time for the scrap heap.

Turn your mower on its side (fuel tank / air filter towards the sky - ensuring no oil or fuel leaks out) and simply scrape away all the old grass from under the deck and every nook and crany. If you find any bits starting to rust or areas where the paint has flaked off, clean it up with a wire brush and spray on some Rust Eater - again found on the interweb. This magic paint turns the rust back to hard metal and stops it spreading, but get it on before it is too late.

Finally, a very light spray of WD40 on metal tools or blades before storing in your damp shed will keep the rust away for another year.

In short, to store garden equipment & tools for the winter, ensure the fuel has fuel preserver in it, cycle the engine regularly and keep it clean ! That way it should start right up come March time.

Good advice is not always heeded, or often arrives too late. Things do break down for all kinds of reasons, sometimes despite the best care and precautions. If any of your equipment needs a bit of TLC, or even urgent tough love, then please contact me and I'll be pleased to help.

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