Oil has been in the ground for millions of years, so what’s a few more in a lawn mower? Indeed, one wonders if a lawn mower oil change is even necessary. If so, when and how do you change the oil in a lawn mower? Let’s start by debunking that first statement.
When to Change Lawn Mower Oil
Oil life in a tiny lawn mower or a monster V8 engine is vastly different than life underground. Repeated heating and cooling shortens its useful life. For small engines, this is around 50 hours of operation. Some range from 25 hours to 100 hours. When do you need a lawn mower oil change?
- Dipstick – After the engine has run a few minutes, check the oil level and wipe it on a white paper towel. If it looks dirty or has stuff floating in it, it’s time for an oil change.
- Hour Meter – Lawn tractors and riding mowers might be equipped with an hour meter. Follow an oil change schedule that follows the hour meter on your lawn mower.
- Estimate – Most push mowers and some walk-behind mowers don’t have hour meters, but an estimate will do. If the lawn takes four hours to mow every week, 50 hours is about three months.
- Annual – At the end of the mowing season, follow these tips to clean it, tune it, sharpen the blades, and change the oil. Then, it’ll be ready for a fresh start next season.
Lawn Mower Oil Change How-To
Basic tools are needed, like a drain pan, rags, funnel, and hand tools. An oil extractor can save time and mess. Engine oil choice varies. Most small engines use straight SAE 30, like this Champion 4 Cycle Lubricant, while others specify multi-grades, like 5W-30 or 15W-50. Some lawn mower engines are equipped with oil filters, too.
- Warm up the engine to get the oil moving and kick up any debris so you can get it out. This can take 5 to 15 minutes.
- Turn off the engine. Disconnect the spark plug wire and tape it out of the way.
- If you need to tip the mower to access the drain plug, prevent fuel spilling: remove the fuel tank, empty the fuel tank, or seal the fuel cap with a plastic bag.
- Note: Skip this if you have an oil extractor. Clean around the dipstick port to prevent contamination. Extract the oil and skip to Step 6.
- Locate and clean around the drain plug. On push mowers, it’s usually under the mower deck, caked with grass clippings. Cleaning prevents contamination and premature wear.
- Remove the drain plug and drain the old oil into a drain pan. Once the oil has run out, clean and reinstall the drain plug. Move the drain pan under the filter, if equipped, and replace it.
- Refill with new oil. Use the funnel, adding a little oil at a time and checking the dipstick. Do not overfill the engine.
- Reconnect the spark plugs, run the engine for a couple of minutes, then shut it off. Check for leaks and check the dipstick for proper oil level. Add oil to reach the full mark, if necessary.
By changing your lawn mower oil regularly, you’re taking care of your investment, which will pay you back with years of reliable lawn care.
Check out all the lawn and garden products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine automobile maintenance and repairs. For more information on completing a lawn mower oil change, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.