Preventive maintenance shouldn’t be saved solely for the winter months, but it is a great time to take care of your lawn and garden tools. Yard work slows down and so do busy schedules, giving you the perfect opportunity to focus on winter equipment maintenance. It’s also an especially important time to consider how you store tools, due to a portion of the country seeing a drastic drop in temperatures. Let’s get into it.
Properly cleaning and storing your garden tools is crucial to protecting their longevity and effectiveness. Nobody wants to buy new tools every spring, and as long as you take care of your current tools, you shouldn’t have to.
Garden tools put in a lot of work since they’re extremely versatile and downright handy. This means they’re probably ready for a good, deep cleaning. Depending on the tool’s condition, you may need a coarse metal brush, several rags, sandpaper, or all of the above, to achieve that like-new appearance.
The various cleaning supplies have different, but equally important purposes. The coarse metal brush, similar to what you’d use on a grill, removes dried dirt from the metal portion of tools. If any dirt remains, wipe the metal down with a dry rag, or a damp rag, if needed. If you notice any rust, use a piece of sandpaper to remove it. Once you’re satisfied with the metal’s appearance, use a rag to coat it in motor oil or vegetable oil to prevent rust formation over the winter.
The wood handle of the tools requires different cleaning and maintenance techniques. Use sandpaper to smooth any rough spots, then wipe the handle with linseed oil to bring life and moisture back into the material.
Store your tools on a clean, dry shelf away from soil or cement to protect the wooden portion of the tools from rotting.
Oftentimes, a larger investment is put into power tools, which gives homeowners even more incentive to take care of them. Thankfully, the methods are still very easy and minimal.
Many of the same methods used to clean garden tools can be applied to power tools, as well. Compressed air, a damp cloth, a little soap when necessary, and a bristled brush should get the job done.
Another part of the power tool maintenance checklist is replacing the most overworked components of the tool. To get the most life out of your drill, for example, make sure you’re always using a sharp drill bit. If it’s not sharp, the tool will be forced to work harder, potentially overheating and leading to further damage. If you’re unsure of which parts need to be replaced, or how often they need to be replaced, find an expert at your local rental store to assist you.
The main tip regarding storage is to ensure tools are stored in a dry area. Exposure to elements such as snow, rain, or ice, increases the risk of mold or rust formation. For most people, it works well to keep power tools in a garage, storage shed, or basement — as long as the space is free from leaks and doesn’t have cracks in the roofs or walls.
If your power tools use batteries, remove and charge the batteries before winter storage. If you live in an area with extremely cold temperatures, consider storing the batteries and charger indoors to preserve their charging ability.
Larger lawn tools such as mowers and chainsaws come with specific maintenance instructions. A common preventive maintenance plan is outlined here but refer to the user’s manual for product and brand-specific maintenance advice.
If you’re looking at buying a gas-powered tool for an upcoming project, remember most tools are also available to rent at a much lower cost. Aerators, log splitters, and dethatchers are a few of the tools that are commonly available to rent, but only the beginning of a long list.
Before putting gas-powered tools away for the winter, run them out of gas completely or add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Leaving fuel in the tank can create unnecessary wear on your machine, gum up the carburetor, and even corrode unlubricated engine parts.
For lawn mower maintenance specifically, it’s recommended to clean out any grass or dirt, sharpen and oil the blades, seal the fuel cap, and disconnect the battery and spark plugs.
Chances are you keep these larger tools in a garage or shed over the winter. If you need to use a gas-powered tool before spring, warm it up to a temperature above freezing. Most tools require an above-freezing temperature to operate well, so either bring the tool indoors or use a portable heater to warm it up.
Take inventory of the tools you don’t own, but would be helpful for certain projects throughout the year. Then, when you start a new project contact your local, ARA-affiliated, rental store for information on available rental tools. You may be surprised by the variety of items available for rent. To locate the rental store nearest you, use the Rental Store Quick Locator above.
Frequently Asked QuestionsHow do you prepare tools for winter?
Garden and lawn tools only need a small amount of maintenance before being stored for winter. Coating the metal portion of tools with light oil or lubricant, along with adding linseed oil to wooden handles, will add life to your tools and ensure they’re ready to use come spring.
Should you run the gas out of a mower before winter?
Absolutely. If unused gas is left in a mower over winter, it can get stale, gum up the carburetor, and lead to rust formation. Run the mower until it stops and repeat that process until the engine no longer starts. That way, you can guarantee the fuel lines are empty.
How do you maintain a power tool?
First, clean your power tools after each use with compressed air and/or a cleaning cloth. On occasion, lubricate, sharpen, and calibrate the tool per manual instructions. Lastly, store power tools in a dry, clean environment to avoid electrical issues and corrosion.