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Take care of lawn tools now; spring will be a breeze

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By Ed Pfeifer
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

The vast majority of us associate November with culinary delights and football.

But somewhere between the gravy boat and the line of scrimmage lies the homeowners' lingering responsibility to his lawnmower, weed trimmer and other gasoline-powered equipment — which need to be prepared for the long, cold winter ahead.

Most folks use these tools deep into the fall, others already have put the equipment to rest.

But in my experience, few of us take the time to properly winterize the equipment.

Winterizing in the days of regular gas, simple engines and overbuilt bodies was fairly easy — empty the tank and toss the machine in the shed.

Those days are long gone.

Modern engines are more sensitive and gasoline is now a chemical blend that barely resembles its forebear.

The steel components are not what they used to be either. So winterizing has become different, but is still not difficult.

In recent years, I have embraced the following method for my stuff.

It is a minimalist's approach, but it works. So I offer it here as a guideline, but always check your owner's manual for specifics.

First, treat the fuel in your storage container with fuel stabilizer.

Most stabilizers are inexpensive and may be used in both two- and four-stroke engines.

This accomplishes a couple of things. It allows you to retain and use that fuel in the spring, and it gives you a freshly treated batch to run through your machines.

Next, dump a little gas in the equipment, use it for the last time of the season or just let the machine idle until it absolutely runs itself dry.

The infusion of treated gas will act as a cleanser for the fuel system. By running the machine dry, the carburetor will be able to expel all of the fuel from its ports and jets, thereby purging any impurities.

With the fuel and fuel system handled, it is time to move on to the body of the tool.

For the mower, start by disconnecting the spark plug wire and thoroughly cleaning all of the accumulated grass from the underside of the deck.

Trimmers, leaf blowers and tillers should be comparably cleaned so that any grass, leaves or dirt is removed.

Spray the cleaned deck as well as other metal and moving parts with a nice coat of a WD-40 or similar product to repel water, fight rust and lubricate.

Look for areas that might corrode or get stiff from sitting all winter such as the wheel adjustments, throttle cables and blade adapters.

Spray them liberally.

At this point, let the machine cool, put it in storage and, as a final touch, launch a preemptive strike against rodents by dressing the mower in a dose of mouse repellent.

When it comes to machines that require oil changes and additional work, I prefer to save that for spring.

But those things are imperative, so don't forget. As for the handheld equipment, come spring, just add gas and away you go.

Winterizing can mean the difference between a quick start and a rope pulling, arm numbing, cuss inspiring, unsuccessful exercise next spring.

So before the scents of roasted turkey and the sounds of televised gridiron action fade from your memory, head for the tool shed and get it done.

Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars. If you have any questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.

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