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How to Store Your Lawn Mower for Winter

10/31/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Instructions for wi​​nterizin​g a zero turn mower

I​t’s that time of year again. Time to pack our lawn tractors and zero turn lawn mowers away for the winter. New homeowners or those new to outdoor power ​​equipment might not know much about fuel systems or gasoline engines, and that’s OK. We’re covering the what you need to do before putting your lawn mower into storage, why it’s important and how to do it.

​​Stabili​​ze th​​​​​​​e gasoli​​ne in the tank

Stabilizing ​​​your lawn mower fuel is the most important task to complete before putting your lawn mower into storage. If your mower sits idle longer than 2 weeks​ and it’s powered by gasoline or diesel, you’ll need to add fuel stabilizer. It sounds complex, but it’s very easy.

Why do I nee​​d to ​​​​​​s​tabilize gas in my lawn mower?

​Think of gasoline as fresh fruit. A mango is great after it’s been plucked from a tree and for a few days after, but it doesn’t take long for it to go bad. Same goes for gasoline. When gasoline is exposed to the air, it oxidizes and deteriorates. This makes it more difficult to ignite and, if left long enough, it could eventually render into a thick, jelly-like substance that becomes both useless and problematic. 

The same happens to the fuel in a lawn mower tank and throughout the fuel system when left untreated for long periods of time. When that fuel g​oes bad, it’s costly for more than one reason. Even the slightest amount of bad, gummed up fuel can clog the fuel lines and the super-tiny hole in the carburetor jet.

Lawn mower fuel clogs

​When this happens, it chokes the fuel flow and blocks it from reaching the engine, preventing the engine from starting or running.

How do I st​​abilize gas​​ in my lawn mower?

Stabilizing fuel correctly requires attention to a few easy-to-follow instructions. You can​’t simply pour an entire packet or an entire bottle of fuel stabilizer into a gasoline tank and call it finished. Refer to your operator’s and engine manuals for details on your lawn mower, but most zero turn mowers follow these simple steps:

  1. ​​​Determine ho​​​​​​​w long it’s been since the fuel in your lawn mower tank was purchased. 

Gasoline goes bad in as little as two weeks, and that clock starts ticking as so​on as it’s pumped at the gas station. And ​no matter what you try adding to old fuel, gasoline cannot be rejuvenated and brought back to a stable state if it has already gone bad. ​

If the fuel ​in y​​our lawn mower tank was pumped more than two weeks ago, either drain it and dispose of it responsibly, or use it up completely.

  1. Add Fuel ​Sta​​bilizer

If the gasoline is fresh or less than two weeks old, add a quality fuel stabilizer to the tank according to the instructions on the stabilizer packet or bottle. The amount of fuel stabilizer to be added depends on the amount of fuel left in the tank. Estimate the amount of fuel in the tank, look for the stabilizer-to-gasoline ratio instructions on the stabilizer packet or container and calculate how much stabilizer needs to be added.

​If old gasoline was drained from the fuel system, there could still be fuel residue in the carburetor, fuel lines and tank. If that’s the case, add some fresh fuel to the tank and stabilize it to help pr​event the residue from going bad and creating a clog.

  1. Start the engine a​​nd​ run the mower.

Starting the engine allows the stabilizer to fully incorporate with the fuel in the tank and the fuel lines. Be sure to wait long enough for that fuel to run through the fuel system. This only takes about five to 10 minutes, but it’s critical to allow the engine enough time to cycle the treated gasoline through the entire fuel system. After enough time has passed with the engine running, close the fuel tank valve, if equipped, and allo​w the engine to “run dry” and stop on its own. Then, turn the ignition key to the off position and remove it from the unit.​

​C​​onnect a battery t​​​ender to the battery

Life spans of batteries in cars and outdoor power equipment shorten when not used for lo​​ng periods of time. This includes your zero turn lawn mower or tractor battery while it’s sitting in storage.

When ​​not in use for extended periods, batteries can discharge and lose their charge capacity. To keep your battery in good health for next season, connect the battery to a battery tender or trickle charger.

  • A trickle charger applies a constant, weak charge to the battery and will keep it fully charged through the offseason.
  • Battery tenders charge a battery, stop charging once the battery reaches a full charge, and will start charging again once the battery drops below a certain voltage.

Both options are good solutions for maintaining your mower's battery. Some resources suggest a battery tender is a better choice because a constant ch​​arge from a trickle charger can potentially damage a battery. In any case, give your battery attention while it’s being stored. If you choose, the battery can be removed from the unit and charged in an area close to an outlet.

Not su​re where to start? Check out our video on how to correctly disconnect a battery from a zero turn lawn mower.

​​Change lawn ​mower o​​​il and oil filter

Oil changes aren’t technically required before putting a lawn mower into storage. Oil left for a year or two won’t deteriorate or gel like gasoline,​ nor will it clog any narrow passages, so the system doesn’t need to be drained or treated. However, it’s extremely important to change your lawn mower oil and its oil filter at least once per year, or according to the maintenance intervals outlined in the engine manual for the unit.

How to change lawn mower oil

Oil changes are easy to perform, inexpensive, don’t take much time and are extremely crucia​​l to the health of your engine.

Why do I need to change​​​​​​ the oil in my lawn mower?

A lawn mower engine is a mower’s power plant. Without it, grass doesn’t get cut. And without regular oil changes, major malfunctions could occ​​ur long before the engine’s life cycle is over, costing you unnecessary repair bills and frustration.​

The metal parts inside an engine moving at thousands of revolutions per minute have friction, and friction is the enemy. Not only does friction wear those delicate parts (very slowly and over time, of course), friction​​​ also creates heat, and heat is bad for an engine. Over time, heat from engine combustion and friction deteriorates the lubricating values of its oil – making it less effective at protecting an engine.

​Oil degradation and contamination is unavoidable regardless of its use in light, norm​​al or extreme conditions, which is why it’s important to perform oil changes regularly. Running an engine with dirty or degraded oil can damage it. Changing oil regularly strengthens reliability, ensures strong performance and protects your investment.

Steps for Chang​​​ing Oil i​n a Zero Turn Lawn Mower

  1. Remove the engine oil drain plug and allow the used oil to drain into a container. Use a funnel if necessary.

  2. Once drained, reinstall the drain plug and tighten to the specification in the engine manual.

  3. Remove the oil filter, allow the oil to drain from the filter and dispose the filter.

  4. Dip the tip of your finger in the used oil and apply a thin layer of it around the rubber gasket of the new oil filter.

  5. Install the new oil filter and tighten according to the specifications in the manual. Ensure the filter is not cross threaded and is tight against all sides of the filter port.

  6. Remove the cover from the engine fill port and add the correct volume and type of engine oil listed in the manual.

  7. Reinstall the fill port cover.

  8. With the parking brake on, start the mower and visually inspect the engine to ensure oil isn't leaking. Stop the engine when complete.

​​​​​Change transa​​xle​​​ fluid and filter

Wh​at is transax​le fluid?​​

If you’re not familiar with a transaxle in a zero turn lawn mower, you might know it by another ​​name like hydros, hydrostatic transmissions, or pumps. However you prefer to call it, it’s the same component. If the hydros on your mower are maintenance-free, then you don’t need to touch them. If you have larger acreage and own a larger mower with serviceable transaxles, its oil and oil filter will need changing.

Like engine oil changes, this isn’t a maintenance procedure that needs to be compl​eted before storage, but it will be necessary at some point of the year.

Lawn mower transaxle oil change

How to change transaxle fluid​

This procedure is a bit more​ complex, which is why we suggest those who are inexperienced with maintenance to rely on the technical expertise of their local Ariens de​aler.

For those who are comfortable doing the procedure themselves, we provided basic steps to a hydro oil cha​​nge procedure below, but always refer to your operator’s manual for the safety information and instructional details when doing the procedure.

  1. Operate the unit for a few minutes to warm the fluid.

  2. Stop the unit and wait for hot parts to cool.

  3. Remove the transaxle filter guards, if equipped.

  4. Remove oil filters, drain filters and dispose.

  5. Remove the fill plugs from transaxles.

  6. Wipe the filter mounting surfaces clean.

  7. Lubricate rubber gasket on new oil filters with hydraulic oil.

  8. Install filters onto transaxles and torque to specification.

  9. Reinstall filter guards with original hardware and torque to specification.

  10. Add the correct type of hydraulic oil to the transaxles until oil appears at the bottom of the oil fill openings.

  11. Reinstall oil fill plugs and torque to specification.

  12. Add hydraulic oil to the expansion tanks until fluid level meets the cold fill line.

  13. Purge the hydraulic system according to instructions in manual.

​​​Change lawn mower air filter

Engines intake air to create t​he combustion that powers them. And just like humans, engines breathe the same air we breathe, but not without filtering it first. Dust, dirt and other debris sucked in through an engine’s air intake can damage its delicate parts, which is why each engine comes equipped with an air filter. As the engine ‘inhales,’ the filter catches that debris and prevents it from entering the engine.

​Even the smallest airborne particles can damage an engine. And while the engine air filter does its job catching these particles, over time it collects mo​re and more debris until it gets so full that it becomes less effective. Additionally, restricted airflow because of a clogged filter makes an engine work harder and reduces its efficiency. This is why it’s important to check the filter regularly and replace it when needed.

Engine air filter replacements are not necessary to complete before seasonal storage, but it’s a good practice to do it now so it’s not forgotten later.

​Other lawn mower storage m​​aintenance

The information above is the bulk of the heavy lifting, but there are other maintenance points deserving of your attention before putting your mower into storage. ​Though they aren’t critical to complete now, it’s smart to check these off the list today so you’re ready for next season:

  1. Applying lubrication to all grease fittings (usually on caster wheels and hubs), pin points and other connections

  2. Checking lawn mower belts and replacing, if necessary

  3. Checking lawn mower blades and sharpening or replacing, if necessary

  4. Cleaning underneath a lawn mower deck for good airflow and a superior cut quality

  5. Adjusting the deck level and pitch

For other zero turn lawn mower maintenance tips subscribe to the Ariens channel on YouTube and sign up to receive emails from ariens at

Want a quick rundown on winter storage? Watch our lawn mower storage video here for a brief overview of how to store your mower.​

2019-2020 Winter Forecast

10/29/2019 5:00:00 AM

​​Though many parts of the country have experienced a rather mild fall, it’s inevitable that winter is coming. Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released predictions for the upcoming season; they anticipate “wetter-than-average” conditions for the Northern Plains, Upper​​​ Mississippi Val​​ley, the Great Lakes and parts of the Northeast region.​​​

The teal/green color on the map below indicates a​ higher p​ercent chance for a wetter than normal winter season.​​​​​​
Winter 2019 U.S. Snow Forecast ​

The Old Farmer’s Almanac had similar predictio​ns for this winter, for​​ecasting a “wet and wild” winter season in the Northeast region of the United States marked by “shivers, snowflakes, and strong storms”. 

When will it ​​​snow​​ near me?

With multiple long-range forecasts calling for a stormy winter, you may be wondering, when will you see the first snowfall in your area? The National Weather Service releas​ed a map indicating the likely first snowfall for locations across the country​. ​The colored dots on the map below show the date by which there's a 50% chance that at least 0.1 inch of snow will fall, based on each location's snowfall history from 1981-2010.​

​ First day of snow by region

Althoug​​h the date of the first snowfall varies from region to region, historic records predict that it will snow first at high altitudes such as the Rocky Mountains before hitting the Midwest and Northeast. Use the map above to determine when you can generally expect the first snowfall near you.

What cause​​​s sn​​ow?

According to an articl​e posted by DailyMail, " explains that there are three basic ing​​redients needed for snow. The air needs to be moist, it needs to be below freezing, and the air needs to rise in order to turn moisture into​​ snowflakes. Being close to large bodies of water can help generate snow showers. But the places that get the most snow are usually those that consistently get cold, rising air, such as in the northern latitudes.The NWS map shows how these three ingredients are combining on a regional level."​

How do I prepare for the winter​​ se​a​​son?

One of the first steps in preparing for the winter season is making sure your snow blower is ready for winter. Don’t wait until the first snowfall to start your snow blower, instead, take it out of the garage today and start the engine. It may sound silly to start your snow blower on a fall day without snow, but you cannot know the status of your snow blower until you start its engine. For a more detailed list on getting your snow blower ready for winter, rea​​d our blog post linked here. ​

Interested in purch​asing a snow blower for the upcoming winter season? Head to your local Ariens dealer to shop this year’s  snow blower lineup. To locate your nearest dealer, click here

Getting a Snow Blower Ready For Winter

10/8/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Why it's important to​​ start your snow blower long before the first flakes fly.

We're approaching on one of our favorite times of the year, snow season! Maybe not the favorite for those who prefer warm temperatures, but for the Ariens® team, it's an opportunity to share our knowledge to help ensure y​ou have a fun, safe and hassle-free winter. Part of that is getting you prepared for the snowfalls ahead, and if the Farmer's Almanac is anywhere near close to its prediction, getting your snow blower ready ​for winter is going to be more critical right now than ever before.

How to start a snow blower

​Start your snow blower now. Seriously, TODAY.

No matter how silly it may seem to drag your Ariens snow blower into the driveway and start it up on a mild fall day, you'll thank us for this advice. The first step in preparing your snow blower for winter is starting the engine. Far too often, homeowners don't discover that their snow blower has​ an issue until it's needed most – in the middle of a blizzard. It's the biggest reason why we urge our customers to start their snow blowers right now. Knowing the status of a snow blower's working condition today, before it starts snowing, guarantees you're ready for the first snowfall. Because if you happen to uncover an issue with your unit today, you still have plenty of time to get it repaired by your authorized Ariens dealer without fighting the rest of your neighborhood for an available mechanic.​


Why won't my snow​​ blower start?

If the above warning proved worthwhile and you discover that your snow blower won't start, there's a few things you can do. First and foremost, tha​nk us for warning you. Second, don't worry too much. This could be due to one of several easy-to-fix issues – especially if your engine was running just find at the end of last season. For whatever it is, let's troubleshoot this together and fix the issue now so your snow blower is ready for the snowfall in the coming weeks.

​How to start a sno​​​w blower

The sky is falling just because your snow thrower won't start. Again, it could be one of a few small issues:

a.     How to start a snow blower
Your snow blower might not start because you simply forgot a step in the starting procedure, which is really nothing to be embarrassed about. There's no shame in a refresher course in learning how to start your snow thrower. After all, you haven't used it in a while, so let's make sure you're doing what you need to do:

H​​​ow to start an Ariens carbureted / non-EFI (electronic fuel injected) snow blower:

  1. Move the unit to a well-ventilated area.
  2. Turn the fuel valve on the engine to the on position.
  3. Turn the engine key on the engine to the run position.
  4. If equipped, move the throttle control lever or knob to the on position.
  5. If the engine is cold (hasn't run in the last 30 – 60 minutes), push the primer bulb on the engine two to three times.
  6. If the engine is cold, turn the choke to the on position.
  7. Pull the recoil starter handle or connect a power cord between the electric starter and a 120V, 3-wire grounded outlet and push the electric starter button until the engine starts.
  8. If the engine starts and you used the choke, gradually return the choke to the off position.

How to start an Ariens EFI snow blower:

  1. Ensure the battery is connected and fully charged.
  2. Turn the key on the dash panel to the on position.
  3. Pull the recoil starter handle or connect a power cord between the electric starter and a 120V, 3-wire grounded outlet and push the electric starter button until the engine starts.

For more details on starting an Ariens snow blower engine, refer to the instructions in the Operation section of your operator's manual.

b.    The unit may not have fuel

You'd be surprised, but this happens to the best of us. You possibly forgot to add fuel to the tank after running it dry last season, so open the tank to check that it has stabilized fuel. To check your fuel tank correctly, remove the fuel tank cap, move your unit back and fourth and listen for fuel sloshing around the tank. Never put your nose up to the fuel tank opening to smell for fuel.

c.     The spark plug may be bad

Do you know what the spark plug does? It's the small mechanism in your engine that creates a spark, igniting the fuel that creates combustion in the engine, which makes the engine do its thing: work. If your spark plug is "fouled" with oil or carbon deposits, it could prevent a spark from being generated, keeping the engine from starting.

Checking a snow blower spark plug

Accessing a snow blower engine spark plug is easy. As always, stop the unit, remove the key from the ignition and wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool before attempting service. Also, review the safety information in the operator's manual for your unit and its engine manual. Then, locate the wire, or the spark plug "boot" on the engine and pull it away from the spark plug and unscrew the spark plug from the engine.

Ariens snow blower spark plug

If your snow blower spark plug is fouled, or coated with oil, the spark plug will need replacement, but there's also a greater issue at hand. This could be an indication that oil is getting into the combustion chamber or that the fuel mixture is too rich. In either case, this will require you to take your snow blower to your nearest Ariens dealer to get the issue resolved. Again, be happy that you caught it early so you can fix it before it snows.

If your spark plug looks clean, a no-start issue could be a result of a faulty spark plug or one that isn't "gapped" correctly. Try replacing it with a brand new one from your local Ariens dealer or the Ariens parts site online. Remember, spark plugs are different sizes for different engines and are not a one-size-fits all component. If a new spark plug doesn't resolve the issue, check the next item in our list.

d.    Snow blower has a clog in the fuel line

Unfortunately, this is the most common reason for a snow blower to not start. Snow blowers of any brand that didn't have their fuel systems drained and / or stabilized at the end of the last season have a high risk of not starting because old fuel can either:

  • Det​eriorate and lose its flash point – meaning it won't ignite
  • ​Oxidize, causing it to gel and clog the fuel lines and the carburetor

Though old fuel can easily be drained from the fuel system, clogs can't be resolved as easily.

Fuel in carbureted (non EFI) snow blowers passes through the microscopic hole shown in the photo below. It doesn't matter what brand of snow blower you use – if there's even the smallest particle blocking the carburetor jets or the fuel lines, it prevents fuel from reaching your engine and will keep an engine from starting or running.

Snow blower carburetor jet

Use of ethanol-blended fuels and emissions regulations in outdoor power equipment has made clogging issues more frequent in recent years. Though E10 is technically the highest acceptable ethanol blend (90 percent gasoline / 10 percent ethanol) for use in small engines, its characteristics increase the possibility for clogs.

Ethanol is a solvent. When used in older engines that have varnish buildup, ethanol can dissolve those varnish deposits, which can clog fuel lines and carburetors. Additionally, ethanol contains a higher oxygen content than pure gasoline, meaning ethanol-blended fuels can deteriorate more quickly. When left untreated for long periods of time, oxidized fuel can leave gummy deposits in your fuel system and clog it.

If your unit is experiencing starting issues and it wasn't drained or stored at the end of last season with a fuel stabilizer or ethanol treatment, it's quite possible the no-start issue you're experiencing is a result of a fuel clog. If that's the case, you will need to take your unit to your local Ariens dealer for diagnosis and repair.

Snow blower maintenance for winter

Since you already have your snow blower out of storage, maximize the task by completing a few other maintenance checks that will help ensure strong operation all winter long.

​Everyday snow blow​​​er maintenance

  • Check that all nuts, bolts and screws are present and tight
  • Check the tire pressures
  • Check the engine oil level

Lubricating a snow b​lower tractor

Before lubricating the snow blower tractor, or the inside of the snow blower, drain the fuel from the fuel tank and the carburetor, tipping the unit onto its housing and remove the bottom cover. Click here to watch the video that shows much of this procedure.

  • Apply a thin layer of grease to the gears and the hex shaft
  • Apply a thin layer of oil to the chains
  • Remove the wheels and lubricate the axles

If rust is present on the axle shafts, remove it with sandpaper and wipe clean with a thin layer of oil and a rag.

Lubricating a sno​w blower

  • Pump grease into the fittings on the auger shaft and rotate the augers by hand

Snow blower engine ma​intenance

  • Change your snow blower engine oil regularly according to the maintenance schedule in its engine manual and with the correct oil weight and volume listed. Click here to watch how to change the oil in an Ariens snow blower.
  • Check the spark plug as scheduled and replace as necessary.​

Fuel to use in a snow b​​​lower

As we talked about earlier, outdoor power equipment today is especially sensitive to the fuel that feeds it for two reasons. We can't stress enough how important it is to be aware of the fuel you're putting into your outdoor power equipment. Inexperience and lack of awareness with fuel-related issues could lead to problems and frustration, but knowing about these issues and getting in front of them will give you a better chance of going through the season without any issues. Continue reading to learn what you need to know about gasoline.

​Ethanol-blended fuels in snow blowers

Arounds 20 years ago, ethanol blends started quietly mixing into the gasoline at gas stations. For the most part, construction of small engines stayed the same, but the fuel put in them was different. This is fine if you're pumping E10, which is a weaker, 90% gasoline / 10% ethanol fuel blend, but anything greater, such as E15, E20 etc., can do serious harm to a snow blower or lawn mower engine. That's not just our engines – that's engines across the board of the outdoor power equipment industry. This certainly doesn't mean the sky is crashing down, but it requires greater awareness when filling up at the pump.

Stay away from single-source pumps at gas stations. These are pumps that use one single hose to pump a variety of fuel types. Avoid these if possible because their hoses can hold high volumes of fuel selected by the last person to use that pump. Did they use 100% gasoline, or did they use an ethanol blend? You'll never know, and because of that, you risk adding an unacceptable fuel blend to your power equipment when using that pump.​

Know you're always in the best shape pumping E10 or 100% gasoline from a hose that's dedicated to that type of fuel.

Stabilizing snow blo​wer gasoline

Gasoline doesn't stay fresh forever. In fact, gasoline can deteriorate in as little as two weeks from the time it was pumped into a fuel container. Fuel that goes bad is less efficient and could deteriorate so much that it clogs the fuel lines. And though putting your snow blower into storage is a long time away, always add fuel stabilizer to a snow blower fuel tank or to portable fuel tanks used to fill your snow blower tank during the season. Reason for this is because you don't know how often or how little that fuel will be used up. Could be a month where it snows every other day, or January could be dry as a bone. If that's the case, having stabilized gasoline in all your winter fuels provides the assurance that the fuel is fresh, greatly reducing the possibility for engine issues that arise from using bad fuel.

Snow blower fuel stabilizer

To protect the reliability of your Ariens snow blower, always add a quality fuel stabilizer or an ethanol treatment to each fresh tank of fuel. That's the external fuel tanks in your garage or the fresh fuel that was just poured into your snow blower fuel tank. Just remember that bad fuel can't be rejuvenated. The only way to keep fuel fresh is by adding stabilizer right after it's pumped.

For more details on snow blower storage and adjustments, maintenance and more, subscribe to the Ariens channel on YouTube.​

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