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How to Maintain Your Outdoor Power Tools

Lucy Mercer
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Outdoor power tools like chainsaws, string trimmers, hedge trimmers and leaf blowers are time-savers, allowing you to power through tasks that would take much longer with just hand tools. But when power tools are not stored properly and need repairs, those time-savers become time-wasters.

The majority of repairs to gasoline-powered outdoor power tools are brought about by fuel that has gone bad. The very best practice to maintain the life of your outdoor power tools is to drain the engine of gasoline when you’re through with the job.

Ask yourself, “When will I use this next?” And if the answer is more than a month away, go ahead and drain the gasoline.

The culprit for small engines is the biofuel additive ethanol. Ethanol is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water from the air. Even the air in a half-empty gas can or engine, over time, is enough to contaminate the fuel and damage the engine. Contaminated fuel gums up the carburetor, hoses and engine. Water oxidizes and breaks down the gaskets and fuel lines.

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Be smart about the amount of fuel you need. Unless you have a riding lawnmower, there is no need to keep a 5-gallon gas can around.

As a rule of thumb, expect a can of gasoline to remain fresh for between one and three months.

If you’re using gasoline-powered tools frequently, this isn’t a problem. But consider tools like tillers and cultivators that may not be used for six months at a time.

The best practice is preventive maintenance

  • Buy only as much fuel as you anticipate using over the next few months.
  • Don’t store gas for more than three months.
  • Align your fuel needs with the seasons. On the first day of spring, and the first day of each subsequent season, empty the gas can and replace the fuel. This is a good time to drain the engine of all gas-powered outdoor tools.

Excess gasoline in good condition can be poured into a gasoline-fueled truck or car. For guidance on safe disposal of other fuel mixtures and products, contact your local community’s fire department, recycling center or hazardous waste disposal center.

In fall and winter, put away equipment in good condition so that when the weather warms up in spring, you’ll be able to handle tasks quickly and not wait for expensive and time-consuming repairs.

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More winterizing tips for outdoor power tools:

  • Run a lawn mower to use up the last of the fuel. Crank it up and let it run until it stops.
  • Leave gas caps off power equipment so that the last bits of fuel will evaporate.
  • Replace spark plugs.
  • For chain saws: Remove the cover and clean the chain. Replace chain every 8 to 10 cuts. Scrape out all debris and wipe down with WD-40.
  • For cordless chain saws, take the chain and bar off and clean.
  • Hedge trimmers can be cleaned with WD-40.

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Did you know that The Home Depot repairs all tools that we sell? Many repairs such as cleaning fuel systems and replacing lawn mower blades are handled in store by certified technicians. For more information, check out Tool Repair at The Home Depot.

Learn more about chainsaws in The Home Depot’s Chain Saw Buying Guide.

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