5 Steps to Prepare Your Garden Tractor for Winter

Is your garden tractor ready for winter? You might not need it for mowing, but the value of a garden tractor doesn’t diminish with the arrival of winter.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

If your garden tractor ready for winter? You might not need it for mowing your lawn, or hauling compost, but the value of a garden tractor doesn’t diminish with the arrival of winter.

When equipped with a snow plow or snow blower attachment, a garden tractor can transition into a lean, mean, snow-moving machine.

But preparing a garden tractor for winter isn’t as simple as slapping on an attachment and setting off down your driveway. Follow these five steps to help ensure your tractor handles snowy conditions without issue.

Read more: Here are 4 garden tractor types to consider for farm use.

1. Remove the Mower Deck

If your garden tractor has a mower deck attached, remove it before winter and store it in a safe location. This will give you a little extra clearance underneath the tractor and make it easier to negotiate challenging terrain.

You don’t want to be plowing snow with a mower deck jutting out from either side of your tractor, catching on snowdrifts and reducing maneuverability.

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2. Change the Oil

Even if your garden tractor isn’t due for an oil change, you might still want to drain your summer season oil and replace it with low-viscosity oil (such as 5W-30) suitable for use in cold weather.

Using appropriate winter oil will make your tractor easier to start and help the engine run smoothly even when cold. Check your tractor’s manual for recommendations on seasonal oil changes.

Read more: You’ll need these 7 things to perform an oil change right.

3. Keep the Engine and Battery Warm

Ideally, you should keep your garden tractor parked in a heated garage all winter long. This will keep the engine oil warm and the battery running strong, facilitating easy starting.

But if parking your garden tractor in a heated location isn’t an option, consider having a mechanic recommend a dipstick heater or magnetic engine block heater appropriate for use with your tractor. Also, consider bringing the battery indoors when not in use, since batteries suffer major performance hits in sub-freezing weather.

4. Install Snow Tires and/or Tire Chains

Check out the tires on your garden tractor—are they turf tires (known as “R3” tires) designed to minimize damage to your yard?

These tires feature shallow treads that can quickly get packed with snow, reducing traction until your tractor slips and slides. If you’re able to replace your turf tires with R1 (agriculture) or even R4 (industrial) tires, you’ll likely gain a performance boost.

Even better, consider installing tire chains to dramatically boost traction. Assuming they’re properly sized and tightly installed, you’ll be able to negotiate challenging terrain with much less risk of getting stuck.

5. Add Ballast and/or Wheel Weights

If your garden tractor is a lightweight model, you may have trouble gaining enough traction to traverse snowy conditions. Adding ballast (in the form of suitcase weights, a ballast box, etc.) or wheel weights (installed directly on the wheels) will help your tractor dig in and gain solid footing.

Once your garden tractor is properly prepped for winter, taking it for a spin in the snow will be much safer and more effective. Have fun!

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