Taking spring and summer equipment out of storage

Checking the oil in a lawn mower.

When it comes to the question of whether an engine tank – such as those found in a lawnmower or weed whacker – should be left filled or kept empty before it’s stored for the winter, everyone has an opinion. For example, I had always been told that leaving a tank full could loosen up deposits in the tank, creating performance problems when it’s taken out again, or even pose a safety hazard.

I now side with leaving my tank full. Last year, I left my push lawnmower’s tank empty for the winter, and before I could cut the lawn during the first weeks of spring, I had to make a tough decision: spend an hour and half (under best circumstances) fixing my carburetor or spend $80 for a cleaning at my local shop.

After researching the matter, I found that experts say that draining the fuel can actually be a safety hazard, as a topped-off tank minimizes the explosive fumes that can remain in an empty tank. (The National Fire Protection Association calls for tanks to be topped off to minimize explosive vapors, according to a recent article from Soundings Online). In this case the resulting damage could be far more substantial than a slight performance hiccup.

Similarly, leaving the tank dry can cause rubber hoses, seals and gaskets to dry-rot and crack. This in turn could lead to other safety risks, such as leaks and fires. Condensation has also been known to collect in empty tanks, which can result in rusting and corrosion.

Since I ended up spending an hour plus and the $80 at the shop on repair, from now on I’ll make sure all the tanks are filled with 95 percent fresh fuel and the right amount of STA-BIL® Fuel Stabilizer to avoid the same headache next year.  And now I know I could have saved myself over $70 with Start Your Engines! as well…

Although we had a shorter winter than anticipated, I’m wondering how you stored your classic car or outdoor power equipment? What did you do, how long did you let it sit for and how well did it start after storage? As of now, my freshly repaired lawnmover is working good as new.