Lawn Mower Oil Type
The Down ‘n Dirty on Oil For Your Push Lawn Mower
Your mower puts in long hours in one of the dirtiest, dustiest environments imaginable. And like any other internal combustion engine, it relies on engine oil in the crankcase to keep everything lubricated.
While it’s easy to forget about the oil that’s in your mower, it’s not a good idea. All of its dirt and contaminants can cause a buildup of sludge and carbon on bearings and other parts and will wear down your engine. You don’t neglect oil changes in your car for that very reason; why do so in your mower?
What’s the Best Motor Oil For Your Mower?
The good news is, you don’t need a special oil for your lawn mover—ordinary automotive engine oil will do. (NOTE: This does not apply to weed-whackers or other lawn care equipment that use a two-cycle engine and needs an oil/gas mixture. They should only be used with a specially-formulated two-cycle oil.)
For most applications, straight 30W or a multi-grade engine oil such as 10W-30 will work just fine. If you are in an extremely cold area, you might consider a thinner viscosity multi-grade motor oil such as 5W-30. A thinner oil can circulate through the engine more quickly in cold weather, whereas thicker oil might become more viscous in extreme cold.
Just make sure the oil you choose is of good quality with an SF, SG, SH, or SJ rating and that it’s a detergent engine oil. There’s no need to use any kind of additives—straight oil will be fine.
Can I Use Synthetic Oil In a Mower Engine?
The answer to that one is an unequivocal yes. A small engine can get all the same benefits from synthetic oil as an automotive engine.
Synthetic oil is more stable across a wide range of temperatures and won’t thin out in extreme heat or thicken in cold weather like conventional oil. It also offers better engine protection all the way around and can go for longer intervals between oil changes.
Still, considering how dirty a mower’s working environment is, it’s a good idea to change the oil at the beginning of the season even if it’s a synthetic.
Changing the Oil in Your Lawn Mower
This is going to be a pretty simple task, since lawn mowers generally don’t have oil filters nor a drain plug. Start the mower and let the engine run for about 60 seconds to circulate any sludge and dirt that might be in the oil (rather than leaving it in the bottom of the crankcase). Tip the mower over on its side and remove the filler plug and dipstick.
Let the oil run out until the crankcase is empty, then refill. Be sure to drain it into an oil-safe drain pan, and don’t let any used oil drain onto the ground. Dispose of the old oil properly.
Most one-cylinder mower engines will require about a quart of oil. Check the oil level with the dipstick, and you’re ready to go with a crankcase full of the correct oil for your mower.
QA : What Kind Of Oil Does A Lawn Mower Use? Questions
We answer a range of lawn mower oil questions, such as : What kind of oil does a lawn mower use? Can I use synthetic oil in my lawn mower? What type oil for my push mower? Can you put motor oil in a lawn mower?
Want a quick answer to the type of lawn mower oil you should use? Follow the recommendation of your manufacturer oil which you will find it in the user/service manual. If you don’t have the physical manual, use Google and type “ mower brand model PDF.” You could also check the manufacturers website for information and answers in the FAQ section or download manuals. It’s that simple. We discuss this in more detail later in the article.
So, why all the hype about special oils and additives, using/not using car engine oil, etc. I’m about to investigate all that and give you straight answers to most of the more common questions people ask.
- 1 What kind of oil does a lawn mower use?
- 1.0.1 Viscosity rating of oils (SAE)
- 1.0.2 Mono grade oil (SAE 30)
- 1.0.3 Multi-grade oils (SAE 5W-30)
- 1.0.4 Service rating of oils (API)
- 1.0.5 What kind of oil does a lawn mower take?
- 1.0.6 Can you put motor oil in a lawn mower?
- 1.0.7 Can I use synthetic oil in my lawn mower?
- 1.0.8 How much oil does a lawn mower take?
- 1.0.9 I put too much oil in my lawn mower. What do I do?
- 1.0.10 What type oil for my push mower?
- 1.0.11 What kind of oil does the Ride-on mower use?
- 1.0.12 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke lawn mower oil — How are they different?
What kind of oil does a lawn mower use?
What kind of oil does a lawn mower use is a popular question, and it unrelated to one type of lawn mower. Owners of push and riding mowers have the same concerns. Anyone who ventures out to buy oil need to understand that all oils are not equal. If you buy the wrong oil it can damage your engine. It applies equally to oil for your vehicle, lawn mower, or any gas or diesel engine.
When buying oil for the lawn mower you will find two rating codes you must consider. The viscosity rating system created by Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the service rating set by the American Petroleum Institute (API):
Viscosity rating of oils (SAE)
What do 10W-30 or SAE 30 and synthetic 5W-30 oil mean? SAE is a numerical code system for grading motor oils according to their viscosity characteristics established by The Society of Automotive Engineers. It shows the viscosity, or thickness of the oil, at a specific temperature, because the viscosity of oil changes with temperature. We call this the SAE, they print it on every bottle of oil and will also show whether the oil is synthetic.
But what is the real meaning of the viscosity numbers on a bottle of motor oil. Viscosity is an oil’s speed of flow through a device known as a viscometer. The thicker the oil is, the higher its viscosity and the slower it will flow.
VIDEO | Understand Oil Viscosity in General
Mono grade oil (SAE 30)
A rating of SAE 30 is a single or mono-grade oil, they only test it at engine operating temperatures of 210°F. An air-cooled lawn mower engine runs at oil temperatures slightly higher than automotive engines. This is because of the better cooling used in those engines, yet, the recommended oil viscosity is the same for automotive engines and gas-powered mower engines. Manufacturers recommend SAE 30 for most small engines used in mild climates ranging from 40°F to 100°F. Using SAE 30 below 40°F in a lawnmower engine will cause hard starting.
Multi-grade oils (SAE 5W-30)
A “W” in a viscosity rating means the oil viscosity was tested at a colder temperature too. The numbers after the W, (SAE 10W-30) are as tested at 210°F. Which is considered approximately the same as an engine’s operating temperature. Therefore, at 210°F the SAE 30 motor oil has the same viscosity as a 10w-30. It performs the same as an SAE 10 motor oil at the cold temperature but still has the SAE 30 viscosity at 210°F.
The advantage of using a Multi-grade oil like 5W-30 is that the oil flows well when starting the engine from cold. Meaning there is no metal to metal contact. Lawnmower engines do not have the forced oil circulation used in automotive engines. It scoops the oil in the crankcase up with the connecting rod and splashes it into the engine. If the oil is too thick, it does not splash well enough and the components run dry. Causing them to overheat and wear out prematurely.
Multi-grade oils such as SAE 5W-30 and 10W-40 are widely available and used in cars and commercial vehicles. Some small engine manufacturers like Briggs Stratton recommend synthetic SAE 5W-30 oils for lawn mowers fitted with their engines. Thin enough to flow at air temperatures of.31°F and thick enough to perform satisfactorily up to 86°F. The viscosity you choose depends on where you live, SAE 30 is too thick for Alaska but good for most warm climates.
Invest in an oil extractor to make changing oil easy and mess-free
Service rating of oils (API)
The service rating of oils is classified by the American Petroleum Institute (API). It certifies that a motor oil meets certain Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) quality and performance standards. On the oil container product label, you will find the service rating in the API “Service Symbol Donut”.
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They also indicate the viscosity of the oil in the center circle of the service symbol donut. in the top half of the outer ring of the donut, you will find the API service rating. The API service classification is the two-letter code. The code starts with either an “S” for gasoline engines or a “C” for diesel engines. This is your first important distinction, do not use any oil with an API code starting with “C” in the gas lawn mower! Also, do not put oil with an API code starting with “S” in your Diesel vehicle.
The second letter in the API service classification is strongly related to motor vehicles. Yet it is very important as it shows the model years they formulated the engine oil to serve. The first API service classification was “SA”, showing it is suitable for cars built prior to 1930. The API service classification codes following on that first SA code are in alphabetical order, and its current level is API SN.
Oils with a rating of API SA through SD (SA, SB, SC, and SD) has no additives to protect your engine. It may harm modern gasoline-powered engines built since 1971. Only California has laws to prevent the sale of API SA engine oil. You can easily pick up the wrong oil. This classification is your guide and you can ignore names like Premium oil that sound like quality.
Besides an API Service Classification, it may specify an International Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) requirement in your owner’s manual. These include codes such as GF-3, GF-4, and GF-5. ILSAC GF-5 is the latest standard that applies to Multi-grade oils.
This is enough information to enable you to buy engine oil for any of the engines you own, including motor vehicles and farming equipment. You need your owner’s manual to find which oil they recommend for your engine. If you don’t have it, you can find it online, simply type “ your mower brand model PDF ” in Google and your manual should show up in the results. For example, type : “Lawn-Boy 17730 PDF”
On the website of The Petroleum Quality Institute of America you will find an excellent pictorial guide indicating the API service classification. It also shows examples of the API donut and other certifications.
How have oil standards changed over the years? View this visual history of API motor oil standards.
What kind of oil does a lawn mower take?
I recommend using SAE 5W-30; it offers the best protection at all temperatures. You will experience improved starting and less oil consumption. When you choose your lawn mower oil, you must make sure you use the API ratings recommended by the manufacturer. I do not recommend special additives; buy the correct oil and change it as recommended and your engine will last a lifetime.
Can you put motor oil in a lawn mower?
Yes, if you have a 4-stroke lawn mower — it’s the same type of oil used in your motor vehicle as you would use in your 4-stroke lawn mower. Although, you must be sure that the SAE viscosity and API codes are the same as specified in your lawn mower user’s manual. YOU MUST REFER TO YOUR MANUAL. Small four-cycle engines and all four-cycle engines need lubrication to keep the moving parts cool and free running.
The oils we use are the same. Do not add additional additives, you will not improve the lubricant. The additives in engine oil are chemical compounds that improve the lubricant performance of base oil. The additives enhance existing base oil properties and include antioxidants, corrosion inhibitors, anti-foam agents and emulsifying agents.
Is your lawn mower a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke engine? This is very important as they both have completely different engine oil requirements. We answer this question late in the article.
VIDEO | How to Change Your Lawn Mower Oil?
Can I use synthetic oil in my lawn mower?
Briggs Stratton, Honda, Toro, and Kohler recommend synthetic oil in their engines. But you must use standard, 10W-30/SAE 30 or 5W-20/5W-30, the first time you use new or rebuilt engines. It’s used to run in the engine for the first 50 hours of use before switching to synthetic oil. The viscosity mostly recommended for synthetic oil is 5W-30. I still urge you to check the owner’s manual for the SAE and API ratings of the oil.
How much oil does a lawn mower take?
You will find that most small engines need 20 to 24 fluid ounces of oil. The manual will tell you and in the specifications of the engine, they normally show it. Fill the engine slowly and check the oil level as you proceed so you can get a feeling for your progress.
I put too much oil in my lawn mower. What do I do?
Don’t start the engine to see if it will run! You must drain the excess oil just like you drained the old oil, but this time into a clean container so you can use it again. Proceed slowly when you drain and measure periodically till you get it just right.
Don’t put too much oil in your lawn mower
What type oil for my push mower?
Read the manual; and if you do not have one, your mower is too old or not marketed anymore, it most likely uses SAE 30. Use API rated oil SJ or better. On the Briggs Stratton website, they provide a good visual guide to the oil grades. They recommend using SF, SG, SH, SJ or higher. All oil distributors have guidelines available on their websites and literature. Your local lawn mower supplier will also be able to suggest a good oil for your mower. Many push mower manufacturers recommend using synthetic oil in any of their machines after the first oil change and 50 hours of use.
What kind of oil does the Ride-on mower use?
By now you know what the answer is. Find your riding mower user’s manual, skip to the lubrication section and determine what SAE viscosity and API code oils they recommend. If, not, use the internet to find the information or contact your local dealer or small engine specialist. Do not use old engine oil you drained from the farm truck or any other vehicle.
2-stroke vs. 4-stroke lawn mower oil — How are they different?
Two-stroke oil differs from four-stroke oil. DO NOT use a four-stroke oil in a 2-stroke engine and NEVER use 2-stroke oil in a 4-stroke engine.
Four-cycle or 4-stroke engines are the most abundant lawnmower engines. But many lawn mowers, weed whackers, and chain saws use 2-stroke engines. A 2-stroke engine does not have a sump containing oil, it has no oil reservoir. You add the oil directly to the fuel and it burns in the combustion chamber along with the fuel.
Therefore, it must be more refined than 4-stroke oil, and it contains additives like:
- Detergents to remove varnishes and carbon deposits from the combustion ports.
- Anti-wear agents to protect moving parts,
- Biodegradability components and antioxidants.
Four-cycle oil also contains additives, but different. If you run a 2-stroke engine with a 4-stroke oil in the gas, it will damage the engine and significantly shorten its life. 4-stroke oil does not contain the required additives to make it clean burning. It is not what they designed it for. 2-stroke oil is too thin and not designed to withstand the conditions in a 4-stroke engine and will permanently damage the engine.
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Proper maintenance for your mower is key to a working machine and a healthier lawn—and it all starts with the right refill. Get to know your lawn mower engine oil options here.
By Amy Lynch and Bob Vila | Updated May 27, 2021 10:13 AM
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Q: I haven’t changed my lawn mower’s oil since last season, so I’m feeling rusty. Remind me: What type of oil can I use in my lawn mower?
A: You’re not alone. In fact, this bit of lawn mower maintenance happens so occasionally that some people forget to replenish lawn mower oil in the first place. It needs replacing after every 20 to 50 hours of operation, depending on your mower’s specifications. If your yard is small, that might mean as few times as once a year! But, while this task is infrequent, it’s also important to change the oil properly—starting with the correct type of oil for lawn mowers—to keep your machine running.
Two types of oil can go into operating lawn mowers, but your mower’s size, type, and capacity might help determine which of these two is the better option. Even the climate you live in can make a difference when the time comes to change or add oil, since each type of oil for lawn mowers has its own recommended temperature range. If you live in a place that frequently heats up to more than 100 degrees, for example, it might be wise to choose an oil made to withstand a wide range of temperatures.
Different Kinds of Lawn Mower Engine Oil
According to a survey of consumers conducted by Briggs Stratton, the world’s largest producer of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment, 48 percent of those who buy automotive oil for their mower believe that automotive oil and small engine oil are one and the same.
In fact, lawn mower engine oil (as well as oil for other small engines) might actually be the only type your mower can tolerate. Using motor oil meant for a tractor or car can clog and disable some units completely due to its higher viscosity.
Always check your manufacturer’s specifications first. No owner’s manual handy? If yours has a Briggs Stratton engine, you can use the company’s interactive tool to determine the best oil for your specific lawn mower’s engine based on its make and model, motor type, and local climate. Talk about a shortcut! Otherwise, at a minimum, it’s important to keep a few guidelines in mind.
Lawn Mower Oil Types
Not all oils are equal, and it helps to get to know the subtle differences to determine the best oil for a lawn mower and avoid a costly mistake. In general, there are two main types of oil: motor oil and small-engine oil. Brands vary in their formulas, with some being regular oil, some a mix of regular and synthetic and some fully synthetic. Older oils typically were one weight or grade only, but newer oils have a viscosity rating added.
- SAE 30 is a single-grade, or straight weight, oil with a viscosity rating of 30 and is safe for small, air-cooled engines, typically older models.
- SAE 10W-30 is a multigrade engine oil that can work in cold temperatures, as well as hot, for a fairly balanced temperature range.
- SAE 5W-30 is a multigrade engine oil with a low viscosity to flow better at colder temperatures (than 10W-30), but protect the engine enough in heat.
- Synthetic SAE 5W-30 is a synthetic (artificial) lawn mower oil that works for both cold and warm weather. Synthetic oils tend to be more stable across temperature ranges than conventional oils.
- Vanguard 15W-50 is a brand of fully synthetic engine oil designed for commercial applications that operates at temperatures ranging from 20 to 130 degrees.
Motor Oil SAE Viscosity Grade
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) grades motor oils by viscosity. Viscosity loosely relates to weight, or thickness, and more accurately as a measure of how the oil flows at specific temperatures. In colder temperatures, thinner single-grade oil performs better in engines.
It gets a little more complicated with multigrade engine oil. Look at the first number, with a W (10W, for example) as a measure of flow in cold temperatures. The W stands for winter (not weight). The lower this number, the less viscosity an oil will have at colder temperatures, and the better it will flow. Too thick when the engine starts, and it won’t flow through and protect those critical engine components.
The higher number that follows (the 30 in 10W 30) refers to viscosity at higher operating temperatures and in hot weather. Multigrade oils typically are designed to flow in a range of temperatures to match conditions. Some oils have additives that also keep viscosity steadier in cold or heat.
How to Choose the Best Oil for Your Lawn Mower Engine
When choosing the right lawn mower oil type for your mower, your best bet is to check the manufacturer recommendations. Also consider the engine type (such as 2-stroke engine), oil viscosity, and average temperatures where you live.
Motor Oil for Four-Stroke Engines
Four-stroke engines tend to power heavy-duty equipment, but are reliable and your best bet for larger lawns. These engines are common in large and/or riding lawn mowers as well as some push mowers. Even so, be sure to check your manufacturer’s manual or website for specific instructions on which grade of motor oil to use, since—much like a car—the engine might be sensitive to certain additives.
Oil and gas are kept separate in a four-stroke engine. Oil with a grade of SAE-30 is often a safe bet, but it’s still worth confirming since a lawn mower is no small investment. You can buy SAE-30 motor oil online (view example on Amazon), at any auto parts store, from most gas stations, and in the automotive section of a hardware store.
Small Engine Oil for Two-Stroke Engines
This type of engine is most commonly found in smaller and older push mowers, plus other small engines, like on weed trimmers and chainsaws. Its popularity as a preferred lawn mower engine has decreased some over the years as four-stroke units have become more common. Louder and smokier than their four-stroke counterparts, two-stroke motors can keep running no matter how steep an angle you’re trying to tackle (think: hilly or sloped terrains).
Two-stroke engines are lighter and cost less, too. And, since they use the same fill port for both gasoline and small engine oil, two-cycle motors require owners to mix them together in a specific ratio such as 32:1 or 50:1—refer to your operator’s manual for the correct gas-to-oil ratio.
These oils typically have additives to help clear carbon deposit and minimize wear, among other tasks. Find small engine oil online (view example on Amazon) or in the lawn and garden section of any hardware or auto parts store.
Know when to change your lawn mower’s oil.
A brand new mower might need an oil change after the first 5 hours of use; refer to your unit’s manual. Beyond that, small motors might need an oil change every 25 hours of use or thereabout, while larger motors typically can last up to 50 hours before requiring oil replacement.
A handful of factors can increase the frequency of oil changes, including extreme dust and dirt, rough terrain, frequent mowing of wet or muddy grass, and even a hot climate—conditions in which the engine is forced to work harder. If you have a large yard (or if you mow a small yard frequently), use a dipstick or clean cloth to check the lawn mower engine oil level before each use once it’s run beyond 20 hours or so.
Even if the mower hasn’t hit the 20-hour mark at the end of a season, make a point of changing your oil each spring, before your first mow. Avoid overfilling the mower by checking the oil level with a dipstick.
FAQ About Lawn Mower Oil
What kind of oil do you use in a lawn mower?
The oil type depends on the engine type, typical operating temperatures, and especially the recommendations of the lawn mower manufacturer. In general, small-engine oil that is a mix of oil and fuel works in two-stroke engines, and straight oil typically works for four-stroke engines. Factors such as temperature affect which grade to choose.
Can you use regular motor oil in a lawn mower?
Lawn mowers with four-stroke engines might do fine with regular motor oil, but always check the manufacturer documentation to make sure. Some automotive oils are too high in viscosity and meant for larger engines, so don’t assume that more is better. Many deluxe models of push mowers and riding mowers use regular motor oil. Two-stroke engines cannot use motor oil; they need a mix of fuel and oil specially designed for small engines.
What’s the best oil to use in a lawn mower?
The best oil to use in a lawn mower is the one recommended by the manufacturer. Viscosity and whether the oil is synthetic or regular oil can vary based on climate, conditions, and engine type.
Can I use 10W30 instead of SAE 30 in my lawn mower?
No, it is not recommended. Most engines that call for SAE 30 are older models of mowers with engines designed for straight weight oil. These models were designed before multigrade oil became available, so you should not substitute with the multigrade option.
Lawn mower oil is essential to keeping your mower running efficiently and effectively, and use of the right oil, plus regular oil changes, can protect the life of the mower’s engine. Take the time to find out the best oil for your lawn mower based on the mower’s model and recommendations of the manufacturer. Also consider operating conditions, viscosity, and type of engine.
A little prep avoids irreversible damage caused by forcing the wrong oil through your lawn mower’s engine.
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There’s a real satisfaction when you’ve finished mowing the lawns. You look around and your yard looks magically awesome, it’s the best feeling.
This can be the most rewarding part but for this ‘lawnman’, the best part is doing maintenance and doing stuff like changing spark plugs and adding oil to your ride on.
There’s something really satisfying about filling oil into an engine.
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It’s like you know you are doing something worthwhile, something that says to your mower, I love you and when I ride on you, I know you’re not going to let me down.
OK, now let’s cut the crap and get on with what you want to know:
What is the best oil for a ride on lawn mower?
First up, you need to appreciate that ride on mowers (and garden tractors) have a larger oil capacity than push mowers. Their capacity is typically 48oz or 64 oz to bear that in mind when purchasing your oil. You may need to purchase two bottles, depending on their size.
Here are three great options that are excellent choices for you to use in your grass cutter. Let’s start with one of the most popular lawnmower brands in the world, Briggs and Stratton.
Briggs and Stratton’s oil will keep your mower’s engine running strong with this oil specially formulated for use in higher operating temperature ranges.
SAE 30 oil is a stock standard ‘weight’ which means that this oil will work a treat in 40°-100° F temperatures. Make no mistake though, Briggs and Stratton’s version of SAE 30 oil is the ‘top shelf’ of oil products.
Naturally, it suits all 4 stroke or 4 cycle engines, so don’t use it in a chainsaw (use two stroke oil!). Oils like Pennzsoil are designed for more modern mower engines.
Amsoil oil is a small engine lubricant full of chemical compounds that are artificially made using chemically modified petroleum components.
Pennzoil Ultra is synthetically developed. This means that if you regularly use it in your lawnmower (over the long term) then you greatly increase the chances of long service life and reduce the need to replace your lawnmower at year 7 instead of year 7.
This is of course hyperbole and you absolutely need to regularly maintain your engine to lengthen its lifespan!
Can I use synthetic oil in my ride on lawn mower?
You sure can use synthetic oil in your ride on mower. It’s really important to understand that your use of synthetic oil does not absolve you from performing regular lawn mower maintenance.
Toro, is a tried, true and trusted brand amongst many consumers and their synthetic oil is considered a good standard.
What makes synthetic oil so good is that it in terms of characteristics it is more ‘oily’ than most mineral oil compounds. They lubricate engines better which results in the oil being consumed more efficiently.
How often should I change the oil in my ride on lawn mower?
The oil should be changed approximately every one hundred hours of use and at the very least you should change it once a year.