Can Lawn Mowers Get Wet? Troubleshooting a Wet Lawn Mower

Weeks of endless rain may have you wondering if lawn mowers can get wet. Or, perhaps you’ve stepped outside in the morning to realize an unexpected rain shower came down the night before, right onto your unprotected mower.

You may be wondering if your electric lawn mower can get wet. Or, just how dangerous mowing wet grass with a gas or electric mower can be and how long you should wait to cut grass after it rains.

Realizing your lawn mower may have water damage can be intimidating. Lawn mowers are expensive, but the good news is that often you can easily fix a water damaged lawn mower at home.

Sometimes, fixing a lawn mower exposed to water is as easy as letting it dry in the sun. Other times, it involves drying out specific parts. You may even find that water crept into the gas or oil and needs to be changed.

In this article, we’ll walk you through when it’s safe to mow a wet lawn for you, your mower, and your grass’s health. We’ll give you plenty of tips for what to do if your lawn mower gets wet and how to fix a mower that appears water damaged.

Can You Use a Lawn Mower in the Rain?

A picture of a red, push lawn mower that appears to be wet.
Wet Lawn Mower

You should avoid using a lawn mower in the rain, especially if there’s heavy rain or if the ground is already soggy before you start mowing. You may encounter the following issues if you mow in the rain:

  • Uneven grass cut
  • Damaged lawn mower
  • Divoted lawn
  • Accidents from slippery grass

Rain pushes grass down, meaning that if you mow in the rain, there’s a good chance that your lawn will be cut unevenly. And given other repercussions that can happen if you use a lawnmower in the rain, this is the best-case scenario.

Mowing in the rain can wreak havoc on your lawn mower. The wet grass can cause the engine to stall or overheat since it clumps and weighs down the mower’s parts.

Your lawn mower is susceptible to getting stuck in the mud if you mow in the rain. Such situations will create ruts in your yard and potentially damage your mower when you remove it.

The cut grass will land in large, heavy clumps in your yard by mowing in the rain. Clumping makes it challenging to blow or rake away grass and present the possibility for dead spots to appear in your yard.

Can lawn mowers get wet and still work? Yes, provided that they only get a little wet. But it would be best if you always aimed to use your lawn mower in dry weather.

Most people don’t think of lawn mowing as dangerous, but it can be, especially if you mow in the rain. Grass becomes slippery when it rains, and, as a result, people have had unfortunate run-ins with lawn mower blades.

According to the United States Department of Labor, death by a lawn mower is a yearly occurrence. Some of these deaths were instigated by using a lawn mower in wet, slippery conditions.

How Soon Can You Cut Grass After It Rains?

How soon you can cut grass after it rains varies depending on the amount of rainfall and how porous your lawn is. When you want to mow your grass after it’s rained, take a walk through your yard, making sure to check low lying areas that take the longest to dry.

If your shoes don’t get wet, you’ll know it’s safe to mow. However, this can feel like an impossible benchmark for people living in rainy regions.

In this case, wait until your lawn is relatively dry—a light dusting of water on your shoe versus a soaked shoe. Then, check to make sure your mower blades are sharp and set your mower height to a higher level. Mowing at a slow speed will also help spare the engine.

While it’s okay to cut grass after it rains when your lawn is a little wet, you should do so sparingly. By mowing when your lawn hasn’t fully dried on a frequent basis, your lawn mower will undergo damage over time.

Furthermore, even a partially wet lawn is subject to ruts and dead patches of dry grass from the impact of cutting your grass too soon after it rains.

Can Electric Lawn Mowers Get Wet?

A man cutting tall grass with an electric lawn mower.

Electric lawn mowers are water resistant but not waterproof, meaning they should never be exposed to a lot of water. Plastic or metal casings will deter small amounts of water accumulated during the regular cutting of dry grass.

You should never leave your electric lawn mower out in the rain. Water can seep in through openings in electric lawn mowers that can cause connectors and the battery to malfunction and erode.

Like gas-powered lawn mowers, you shouldn’t mow wet grass with an electric mower. If you walk around your yard and your shoes get wet, this is an indication that you need to give your yard more time to dry. According to Southern Living, electrical shock is possible if you mow wet grass.

Rain isn’t the only form of water that can damage electric lawn mowers since condensation can ruin an electric lawn mower over time. Condensation occurs in areas that are prone to temperatures that fluctuate.

To prevent your electric lawn mower from getting wet, you should always store your mower in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

If your electric lawn mower gets wet, do not turn it on. Keeping your lawn mower turned off is for your safety and the lawn mower’s well-being since water can affect the wiring, causing short circuits. A short circuit can make your electric lawn mower overheat and burn out the motor.

What Parts of a Lawn Mower Can Get Wet?

Even though lawn mowers shouldn’t be used in the rain or when the grass is wet, most lawn mower parts are designed to withstand some water exposure.

The outer parts of a lawn mower hold up the best against wet conditions. These include the deck, push handle and wheels. When it comes to your lawn mower’s outer parts, the most you’ll have to worry about with water exposure is a little rust over time.

Lawn mower blades are designed to get wet for short periods. However, for optimal performance, the Oregon State University recommends keeping your lawn mower blades sharp at all times.

Air filters, carburetors, fuel tanks, and spark plugs are interior parts of lawn mowers that are more sensitive but subject to getting wet. Therefore, minimal moisture must reach these lawn mower parts.

Signs that parts of your lawn mower are too wet include: 

  • Stalling
  • Functioning at a slower speed
  • Lawn mower not starting up

Both electric and gas lawn mowers are designed to be water-resistant. Therefore, there’s no need to worry if parts of your lawn mower become a little wet on occasion. However, frequent and heavy water exposure must be avoided.

Related: How to Amend Clay Soil Without Tilling

Troubleshooting a Lawn Mower That Got Wet

Can lawn mowers get wet and recover? Yes, they can.

Before you write off your wet lawn mower as permanently damaged, try some of these troubleshooting tips. Provided that your lawn mower hasn’t undergone excessive time in a wet environment, you’ll likely get it back up and running.

Below is the troubleshooting advice we’ll offer in this section:

  • Drying out your lawn mower
  • Put starter fluid into the carburetor
  • Drain and refuel gas and oil tanks
  • Clean the air filter
  • Install a new spark plug
  • Rust prevention

Our first recommendation is to dry out your lawn mower. In the next section, we’ll talk about best practices for doing so.

Another easy solution for wet lawn mowers is to put starter fluid into the carburetor. If your lawn mower turns on after you’ve done so, set it running in neutral. Leave it on for a while, even if it makes unusual noises, as running the motor will help dry the inside of your mower.

Sometimes, too much water seeps into the gas and oil tanks of a lawn mower. In this case, you’ll need to drain and refuel them. We’ll talk more about this shortly.

You can also try cleaning and drying out the air filter. Most likely, this alone won’t fix a wet lawn mower, but it’ll supplement your other efforts.

If your lawn mower still isn’t working, consider purchasing and installing a new spark plug. You should also check your lawn mower for rust. The coil is particularly susceptible to rust and can be cleaned with a wire brush.

Hopefully, by now, you’ve got your lawn mower running again. In this case, make sure to apply a rust protectant. Should your lawn mower ever get wet again, the rust protectant will prevent even more water from accessing water sensitive areas.

How to Dry-Out a Wet Lawn Mower

Two pictures of lawnmowers in grassy areas. Text reads can lawn mowers get wet? Troubleshooting a wet lawn mower.

If your lawn mower gets wet, it’s important to dry it out as soon as you discover so. Start by wiping off all excess water you can reach and, if possible, put your lawn mower in the sun.

From there, you’ll need to be comfortable with dismantling parts of your mower. Below are some parts you should consider removing to dry off: 

  • Spark plug
  • Gasoline cap
  • Carburetor
  • Air filter

Pat dry the parts you take out but don’t put them back in right away. Hoses and other hard to reach areas inside your mower need time to dry too.

You might be wondering—can lawn mowers get wet and then dry out without having to do so much dismantling? Absolutely.

If your lawn mower is wet but still starts up, dismantling it to this degree isn’t necessary. It’s a good idea to dry the spark plug and air filter regardless, but then try turning your mower on and running it.

Don’t be alarmed if your lawn mower makes rattling noises for a while. It’s normal and will fade as the running engine naturally dries the inside of your mower.

If your lawn mower has been out in wet conditions for a long time or exposed to a short but torrential downpour, the fuel and oil are likely water contaminated. In the next two sections, we’ll show you how to manage this.

How to Fix Water Contaminated Lawn Mower Gas

Water contaminated lawn mower gas is a fairly common issue. Not only does contaminated gas occur if a lawn mower has been left out in the rain, but gas can also accumulate water via condensation if the lawn mower hasn’t been used in a long time.

You’ll know your lawn mower gas has been contaminated if you see bubbles in the gasoline. In this case, you’ll need to drain the gas tank.

To do so, disconnect the fuel line and empty the tank. Then, dry the tank with a cloth, WD-40, or by air drying.

Once you’re sure the tank is dry, reconnect the fuel line and pour new gas into it.

As Bob Vila explains, once you’ve changed your gas, make sure to dispose of the old gas properly by taking it to a designated disposal center.

How to Fix Water Contaminated Lawn Mower Oil

If your gas tank has been contaminated with water, chances are your lawn mower oil has the same issue. Lawn mower oil is vital for lubricating the engine and is something that needs to be changed regularly, water contamination aside.

Lawn mower oil that has been contaminated with water has a milky appearance. Fixing water contaminated lawn mower oil is similar to a routine oil change.

You’ll need to drain the oil into a draining pan and dispose of the water contaminated oil at a disposal center. Replace the oil filter, if your lawn mower has one, which will keep debris out of the oil.

Then, refill the oil with an oil funnel using new oil, which should have a clear, golden brown hue. Make sure not to fill the oil beyond the recommended amount and double-check the oil level with a dipstick.

The Wet Lawn Mower Conundrum

Can lawn mowers get wet and still work? In short, yes, they can. Nonetheless, it would be best if you did everything possible to keep your lawn mower dry.

Occasional water exposure isn’t likely to negatively impact your lawn mower long term. But you should avoid mowing your lawn in the rain, mowing when your grass is still wet, and storing your lawn mower in a place that isn’t sealed off from the elements.

If your lawn mower has water damage, you’re now equipped with knowing how to dry out mower parts and how to change water contaminated gas and oil.

Knowing this, coupled with actively preventing water exposure, should leave you with a high functioning lawnmower with a long lifespan.

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