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I have a Honda lawn mower (HRX217K2VKA) and I want to drain the fuel for winter. How should I do this? Three options spring to mind:

  1. Run the engine until the fuel is gone.
  2. Tip the mower to pour the fuel out.
  3. Siphon the fuel.

The manufacturer's manual (see page 13) recommends option 1, but I was wondering if anyone could recommend an alternative that didn't waste the gas.

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One thing to think about with that wasted gas - what were you going to do with it? You shouldn't keep it until next spring. –  Steve Jackson Nov 18 '10 at 14:40
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Some people just leave it in and use Sta-bil. Others don't do anything. According to an engineer at Marathon that I talked to a few years ago, gasoline should be stable for 3-5 years unless left in an open container where it will evaporate quickly. Not sure I want to test that length, but I routinely leave half a tank of gas in my racecar that may not be driven for up to 6 months and so far have not had any issues. I guess it comes down to how fast it might evaporate from the mower as to if it's necessary (obviously you'll follow the owner's manual if it tells you what you need to do). –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 18 '10 at 15:03
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@Brian - the trouble (from what I've always heard) comes from a few different spots, and a main one these days is that without stabilizers, in blended gasolines (which more and more are these days), you run the risk of phase separation. That site claims a shelf life of only 3 months - definitely shorter than a lawnmower's winter downtime. Then you have the problem that some gas stations dilute their gas - also leading to separation (often leading to a ruined engine). Evaporation is usually not the primary problem. –  Nate Nov 18 '10 at 15:31
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@Nate good info. I hadn't run across that before. Best to try and avoid any ethanol when possible I guess. I know that my older car (1991) hates ethanol (10% MPG loss and had to go from 87 to 94 octane to control spark knock ever since our local stations switched). –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 19 '10 at 15:10

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I have always just had a "last mow of the year", where when I run the mower dry, and I've never had a problem. Then you're not really "wasting" the gas.

Depending on your model (and it looks like the one you specified ought to manage this), you may be able to do option 2 if you have a really full gas tank. Then, after emptying, you still ought to run it dry for what little remains.

I personally would not recommend siphoning it. Unless you wanted to go to the trouble of buying extra equipment to do it (and think about that - how often are you going to be siphoning gasoline? Enough to justify a special purchase?), that means a distinct risk of drinking a little bit of gasoline... not exactly a pleasant experience, nor good for you.

from this site:

Many adverse health effects of gasoline are due to individual chemicals in gasoline, mainly BTEX, that are present in small amounts. Breathing small amounts of gasoline vapors can lead to nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and breathing difficulties. Symptoms from swallowing small amounts of gasoline include mouth, throat and stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headaches. Some effects of skin contact with gasoline include rashes, redness and swelling. Being exposed to large amounts of gasoline can lead to coma or death.

So, siphoning probably won't kill you, but I certainly wouldn't endorse it.

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Yeah, I don't like siphoning as a first option. It's nasty. I figured the "running dry" was my best option. Thanks! I think I'll mulch the last leaves with it this weekend. :) –  Jeff Yates Nov 18 '10 at 14:00
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There are handheld siphons that work on gasoline. The problem is, no siphon will get out the last of the gas. I siphon out what I can in these cases, then run it dry. –  user558 Nov 18 '10 at 14:10
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Regarding siphonioning not getting all the gas out: Does it matter? When you go to start the mower in the spring there will be a few ounces of old gas and you'll add a 1/4 gallon or so on top of it. Might be a little hard to start or run rough, but it should be fine. –  Freiheit Nov 18 '10 at 17:24

IMO run it dry, most of my neighbors and I do this by mowing our leaves. Either bagging or mulching actually helps.

Alternately look for the line that runs from the bottom of the fuel tank to the carburettor. If this is easy to get to and remove you may be able to remove the line and use that to drain it.

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The problem with siphoning the gas is that you probably won't be able to get it out of the fuel line and carburetor, which is honestly where stale gas is going to cause the most problems. Running it dry seems like the safest bet. Drive it down to the corner store next time instead of your car maybe to use up the gas. –  JohnFx Nov 18 '10 at 16:39
    
JohnFx - Thats why I'm suggesting using the fuel pickup tube. It should be at the bottom of the tank and it should just drain out so there isn't a need to siphon. –  Freiheit Nov 18 '10 at 17:23

I bought a little gas siphon with a squeeze bulb from home depot for $5. I use that to empty the tank. I then run the mower to pull the remaining gas out of the system (runs for like a minute).

Oh, and +1 for using Sta-bil. Even if you don't leave gas in the mower, you should put a fuel stabilizer in your gas can. Unless you use up the fuel in your gas can every 2-3 weeks, it needs some kind of stabilizer or the gasoline will start to break down.

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Either run it until it's dry or put sta-bil in it. Definitely don't just leave gas sitting in it.

Depending on how yours is setup, you might be able to unhook the hose that goes from the tank into the carb. They usually have those spring clamps you can pinch with pliers to get off, but really, that is more work than you need to do. And you can't reliably save the gas, and letting it run off on to the ground isn't a great idea.

I usually mulch down my leaves until it runs out of gas and then put it up for the year.

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