2006-09-28 / News

Now is the time to get your tools ready for spring

By Roger Marshall

What do you do with your garden tools each winter? Put them in the shed or garage and leave them until spring? This winter make a difference, drag your small power tools into your shop and maintain them properly.

First, take a garden hose, air compressor, or pressure washer and clean each tool thoroughly. If your tools are not clean, you may not be able to find the problems under the grime. There are a few things you should do to every tool with an engine. First, drain all the gasoline out of the fuel tank. If it is unadulterated gas (no oil), use it up in your car. Then undo the drain plug on the carburetor and let the gas in the carburetor drain out. Make sure you have all the gas disposed of before starting to work on your engine. If you decide to replace the fuel, make sure you add an additive such as Startron Enzyme Fuel treatment. Especially use an additive if you use fuel containing ethanol. Today's fuels only last about six weeks.

Two stroke engines don't have an oil sump, they use a gas/oil mixture, but on four stroke engines you need to change the oil. Why? Because carbon combustion residues get in the oil and make it acidic. Acidic oil eats into the machinery, eventually causing failure. To change the oil, undo the sump nut and let the oil drain out into a pan. Dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way. Do not pour it down a drain. Ideally, you should flush the engine with flushing oil before putting new oil in. Most mechanics don't flush the engine, but that's another story.

Next, remove the air filter. If it is one of the sponge type, wash it with warm soapy water lightly oil it and replace it. If it is a paper filter get a new one and replace it. While you are replacing the filter, replace the spark plug, too. When

you replace the spark plug, you might check the ignition by laying the spark plug on the cylinder head and pulling on the starting cord. If the spark that jumps across the plug gap is strong you should have no problems. A weak spark may indicate that the tool's electronic ignition is awry, or if it is an older tool, the points are worn. Either replace the points or have a shop look at the electronic ignition.

Visually check all the wires and cables on your machine to make sure they are not worn or corroded. Check the starting chord to see if it is frayed. If it is, you can replace it yourself with patience, but it's a lot easier to have a shop with the right tools do it. On a string trimmer reload the trimmer, head with new string. On a lawn mower, remove and sharpen the blade. On a chain saw, sharpen the chain and top up the oil reservoir. On a pressure washer, remove the hose and drain all the water from the pump. Shredders need to have the blades sharpened, and on rototillers, you can check to see that the tines are not bent or broken. If you have a hedge trimmer, sharpen the blades to ensure that they cut easily. Each tool has specific maintenance steps, and you should refer to your owner's manual to make sure that you cover everything.

If you can't do the work yourself, take your tools into the shop over the winter rather than waiting

until the spring rush to get them repaired. With your power tools clean and sharp, gardening chores should be much more pleasurable next season. Plus you won't have any downtime when a tool has to go into the shop.

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