Homes and Gardens: Maintain your lawn, garden equipment

etter for less cost and effort next spring, you need to properly maintain and store it now.

Here are some tips that can help:

• Collect your outdoor power equipment.

This might include a lawn mower, generator, string trimmer, chain saw, edger, power washer, blower, chipper, splitter or any other tool that uses a small engine to do outdoor work.

• Make sure the equipment is turned off.

Before servicing or repairing any outdoor power equipment, disconnect the spark plug and battery cables.

• Inspect the equipment. Make sure safety guards are not disabled or missing.

Check for loose belts or missing or damaged guards. Check and tighten all screws and nuts.

• Clean the equipment. Remove any ac-cumulated grass, leaves and dirt. Use a soft rag or cloth to clean grime and dirt.

• Drain the fuel. Many fuels today contain ethanol, which absorbs water and may phase separate, causing operating problems later. If there is fuel in the tank, remove what remains. Run the engine until it stops to use up all the fuel.

• Store leftover fuel properly. Gasoline should be stored no more than 30 days unless it’s treated with a fuel stabilizer. Use a sealed container approved for fuel storage.

Always keep fuel out of the reach of children and away from heat sources or flames.

• Lubricate, sharpen and charge as needed. Check the oil levels and blade conditions. Change the oil if necessary. Sharpen lawn mower blades. Inspect the spark plug, replace it and add clean engine oil.

Check the air filter and clean or replace as needed. If equipment has a removable battery, take it out and store it in a warm spot. If you have a battery charger, charge the battery before storing it.

• Service equipment. If you are not comfortable performing some of these tasks or think that your equipment needs additional servicing, take it to a dealer or repair shop.