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It's almost time to store your lawnmower

October 18, 2008|By BOB KESSLER

I've found that taking a little time to store my lawnmower properly in the fall saves a good bit of frustration at the start of the next growing season. It can also improve performance, add life to the machine, and help avoid costly repairs.

To winterize your lawn mower, Dan McFarland, ag engineering educator from York County Extension, suggests these simple steps:

1. Empty the fuel tank. Gas that sits in the engine during colder winter temperatures can gum up and clog the carburetor. The simplest way to empty the fuel tank is to run the engine until it runs out of fuel. It can also be siphoned into a suitable storage container.

If you insist on keeping fuel in the tank during storage, fill the tank completely (to avoid condensation) and add fuel stabilizer. Run the engine for about 5 minutes to allow the stabilizer to work through the carburetor.

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2. Clean debris from the mower deck and engine. Empty the oil reservoir, then sweep or used compressed air to remove grass clippings and debris from around the engine cowling and mower deck.

Next remove the spark plug wire to prevent accidental starting, and turn the mower on its side.

Soften the grass build up and dirt with water to make removal with a putty knife easier. A soft brush and/or pot scrubber can be used for further cleaning. Steel wool can be used to remove rust spots. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Let the deck dry completely then use a spray silicone or other protectant to reduce rusting.

3. Check the spark plug. When was the last time you replaced the spark plug? If you can't remember, invest in a new one. Spark plugs typically need replacing every 100 hours.

If the plug shows evidence of corrosion, replace it. If it looks OK, pour an ounce of motor oil into the cylinder, slowly crank the engine a few times and reinstall the spark plug.

4. Replace or service the air filter. Paper air filters can be cleaned using compressed air, but it is best to replace them annually.

Foam filter inserts can be cleaned using warm soapy water. Allow them to dry thoroughly, then work one or two tablespoons of clean motor oil evenly into the filter. Wipe the air filter mounting hardware clean and install the filter.

5. Empty and refill the oil reservoir. Routine oil changes extend the life of the engine by removing impurities. (If you own a mower with a two-cycle engine you can skip this step.) Drain the oil reservoir to a container and properly dispose of the used oil at a local service station or recycling center. Refill the crankcase reservoir with fresh oil specified by the engine manufacturer (typically 30W or 10W30). Be sure to fill the reservoir to the "full" mark on the dipstick, keeping in mind that too much oil can be as bad for the engine as too little.

6. Sharpen or replace the blade. Wear gloves when handling and checking the mower blade. If there are large nicks on the cutting edge or the blade is distorted - replace it with a new one. If it can be reused, sharpen it yourself or take it to a professional sharpener.

7. Keep rodents away. Place a cup of mothballs near the engine to discourage rodents from making their winter home in the engine cowling and chewing wires.

8. Store mower in a cool, dry place. When spring arrives and the grass is ready to cut, your mower should be in good shape. Just fill the gas tank with fresh fuel, check the oil reservoir - to make sure you refilled it in the fall - and away you go.

Forest tax workshop

Understanding forest taxes can save forest landowners money. There are numerous tax incentives and tools that are often unknown not only to landowners but their advisers such as accountants, attorneys and forestry consultants.

On Monday, Nov. 10, Penn State's School of Forest Resources will host a one-day workshop on forest taxes at Cumberland County Extension, 310 Allen Road, Carlise, Pa. The workshop will be led x Dr. Michael Jacobson, an associate professor and extension specialist in the School of Forest Resources, and Lloyd Casey.

The forest tax workshop is geared toward accountants and financial advisers, but anyone involved in owning, managing or advising on timberland management would find this workshop useful.

Specific topics covered in the tax workshop are cost basis, passive losses, operating and management expenses, capital gains on timber sales, depreciation methods, cost-sharing expenses, reforestation expenses, casualty losses, conservation easements, estate planning and Pennsylvania inheritance taxes.

The forest tax workshop is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $95, which includes refreshments, lunch and course materials.

For more information, call George Hurd at Franklin County Extension at 717-263-9226 or e-mail grh5@psu.edu.

Boxelder bugs

The recent warm weather has encouraged insects like stink bugs and now boxelder bugs to invade our homes. The black-and-orange boxelder adults may also be joined this year by red-orange nymphs as they congregate on the side of your house.

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