best type of oil for lawn mower - man adding oil in lawn mower

Best Type of Oil to Use for Your Lawn Mower

Unless you’re the type of person who loves buying the newest model, chances are you probably want your lawn mower to last a long time. Arguably one of the most important (but easy) ways to do this is with motor oil! By selecting the proper type of oil for your machine and adhering to a regular oil change schedule, you can easily extend the life of your machine while ensuring it operates at optimum efficiency.

If you’re unsure which type of oil to buy or simply don’t know when to change it, then this is the article for you. Read on the basics you’ll need to know to keep your mower in the yard and out of the shop!

Engine Type


When it comes to small motors, there are two main types: two-stroke and four-stroke. Also referred to as two-cycle or four-cycle motors, these engines both require fuel and oil to run, but the main difference is where the oil is mixed with the fuel. In a two-stroke engine, oil is mixed in with the fuel before it’s poured into the gas tank.

The ratio of fuel to oil can vary per engine, but 32:1 and 50:1 are two common ratios. For the best results, consult your owner’s manual for their recommendations. Four-stroke engines have a separate tank for the oil and the fuel; the engine mixes the two as it runs. It’s important to identify which type of engine your equipment uses before attempting to operate your machinery.

Synthetic vs. Conventional Motor Oil

Whether you use synthetic oil or not is up to the manufacturer’s recommendations and your personal preferences, but here’s a quick comparison between the two options.

Synthetic Oil:

  • Provides superior lubrication compared to conventional oil
  • Works in a wider range of temperatures
  • Costs more than conventional oil

Conventional Oil:

  • Is cheaper than the synthetic alternative
  • Is recommended during the break-in period
  • Has a smaller range of optimal operating temperatures

While you’re picking out an oil type, it’s important to remember that automotive oil is NOT the same thing as small engine oil. Avoid using automotive oil in your machines. Stick to using an oil designed for use in dirty & dusty environments instead. 

Oil Rating: Which One Should You Use?

After you’ve decided whether you’re using synthetic oil or conventional oil in your lawn mower, the next thing you’ll have to determine is the proper oil viscosity rating for your machine. The owner’s manual will have the recommended oil rating listed, but just in case you’ve lost the manual, here’s a quick overview of the common ratings and their ideal operating conditions.

  • SAE 5W-30 – This type of oil is perfect for use in colder-to-mild environments (as low as -22℉). 
  • SAE 10W-30 – Although this oil will work in winter temperatures, it will perform the best in mid-to-high temperatures (up to 86℉).
  • SAE 30 – This oil is ideal for mid-to-high temperatures.

When to Change Your Engine Oil

changing oil

Knowing which type of oil to use is important, but so is knowing when to change your oil. If you don’t routinely change your engine oil, you risk increased wear and tear, internal damage, or even complete engine failure!

Some people may tell you that you don’t need to change your engine oil if you use synthetic oil: ignore them, because this simply isn’t true! While it is possible you may be able to go a greater length of time without changing your oil, it’s still important to change your oil on a routine basis.

Your owner’s manual should list the recommendations for when to perform an oil change. However, if you’ve lost the manual then you can simply follow these general guidelines! Remember to change your oil at least once per year.

  • For push lawnmowers, it’s recommended you change the oil every 50 hours.
  • For riding lawn mowers, it’s recommended you change the oil every 100 hours.

These general recommendations should work fine if you’re running an older machine, but what if you’re using a machine for the first time? If that’s the case, you’re actually going to want to perform the first initial oil change within the 3-5 hours of use. After that, you can follow your owner’s manual or the general guidelines listed above.

Wrapping It Up

There you have it, the guide on which oil to use and when you should change your engine oil. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below in the comments!

Do you own a lawn business? Check out our resources page for a complete list of all the lawn care tools/resources every lawn business owner must have!

Happy mowing!

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