Wouldn’t it be great if gas-powered lawn and home equipment had dashboard lights, like cars, to warn you of potential maintenance problems? That might help you avoid breakdowns and hundreds of dollars in repair bills for equipment ranging from lawn mowers and snowblowers to leaf blowers, trimmers and chain saws. In the absence of such warning lights, here are some key steps to take to extend the life of your gas-powered equipment and avoid costly problems…

• Store equipment with a full fuel tank in the off-season. Some people run all the fuel out of a tank and engine at the start of a period of nonuse because gasoline can degrade in just a few months, resulting in poor engine performance. But allowing fuel tanks and fuel lines to sit empty for an extended period increases the odds that rust will develop on metal engine and fuel-system components. Better: Leave the tank full of fuel, but add a fuel stabilizer, such as STA-BIL, which can keep fuel fresh for up to 24 months.

• Use ethanol-free fuel. Unlike modern cars, which are designed to run effectively on gasoline containing 10% to 15% ethanol, small engines in most gas-powered equipment are likely to run better and last longer if given gas that does not include any biofuel. (The ethanol in gas is made from corn or other starch-based crops.) Pure-Gas.org can help you locate merchants in your area that sell ethanol-free fuel. It’s more expensive than ethanol-containing fuel but worth it to extend the life of your equipment.

• Tackle oil changes at the end of the equipment’s usage season. Old, used oil can damage engine components, and allowing used oil to sit in an engine for months lets any dirt and debris in that oil settle more deeply, which can be bad for the engine as well. When storing equipment for an extended period, make sure that it contains fresh oil.

• Clean away dirt and grass clippings. Caked-on dirt and grass can trap moisture and lead to device-destroying rust. Don’t just hose away obvious dirt and grass—clean off the undersides of power equipment, too…and remove any covers and clean underneath them if there’s a chance that dirt and debris could have worked their way inside. If rust already is forming, use a grinder or sander to remove it, then apply a primer followed by a rust-inhibiting spray paint.

• Lubricate cables, pulleys and other moving parts. Apply silicone spray lubricant to all moving metal parts at least once each year, and then work these parts back and forth a few times to spread the silicone.

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