Changing oil is like changing diapers. It’s messy, smelly, but it’s a job that has to be done sooner rather than later or you’ll have a disaster on your hands.
If you’re wondering how to change oil in lawnmower engines then I’ll explain everything you need to know in this article.
Not changing your lawnmower’s oil can result in poor performance from your mower, and it could even prevent your mower from working all together.
Therefore, the maintenance of your lawnmower‘s oil is crucial for longevity and productivity.
Oil is the lifeblood of your mower’s engine and this is one piece of maintenance you can’t afford to ignore.
So, you need to know a few things:
- When is the best time to change your oil
- Which tools do you need to make an adequate change
- What are the steps to changing the oil for your type of lawnmower
- What do you do with leftover used oil?
In this article I’ll answer all of these questions so you learn how to change oil in your lawnmower.
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How to Change Oil in Lawnmower: When is it time to change?
Depending on how often you mow, the size of your lawn, and the type and age of your machine, when you should change your lawnmower oil can vary.
With that said, there are some basic rules of thumb everyone should follow, and that’s where I’ll start.
In general, make sure to change your oil after 50 hours of use or after every mowing season.
When You’ll Want to Change Your Oil More Frequently
For those facing warmer temperatures all-year-round, it could be that your mower will require an oil change as often as every three or four months.
When you purchase a new engine, make sure to change the oil after it’s first five hours of use. You can’t be sure how long the mower has been sitting on the shelf or in a warehouse, and once your oil has worked through that engine the first few times it’s good to give your new mower some nice clean oil for the balance of its first season.
After every heavy use, it’s best to be safe and check your oil. Nature, such as wet grass, heavy debris, high temperatures, and rough terrain, can add more frequent oil changes, so if you’re using your mower to knock down tall grasses with lots of seed heads, or to mulch leaves in the back yard … take a quick peak at the color of the oil to make sure it’s still running clean.
Equipment Needed to Change Your Mower’s Oil
As general safety and productivity measures always read your owner’s manual before working on your lawnmower.
Skipping on your manual’s directions can result in improper changes and may make matters worse, not better.
Here’s my list of recommended tools and equipment to make changing the oil in your lawnmower a breeze:
- Bucket and Lid – You need something that will contain the old oil when it spills over. Something large enough to hold all of the oil to prevent overflowing of oil. A lid, if present, should cap off the bucket to ensure that you don’t spill any oil when you move the oil or look to stash it away. For my small push mower’s oil I use an old Gatorade bottle. It’s the right size, seals tightly, and it’s clear so I don’t mistake it for a cold beverage on a hot day. Nicole Forsyth, a certified Horticulturist and member of our expert panel, recommends “an oil extractor pump. It takes away the mess of ‘overflow’ and ‘pouring’…you pump the oil out into a sealable container, then bring it to an auto parts store and dispose of it.”
- Oil or Wet Rags – Keep rags on hand to clean up and soak away the spills that may occur. Rags will help you clean around the valves, the dipstick, and make it easy for you to hold on to oily items. When you finish with the rags it’s always best practice to hang them up to dry and not leave them bunched up tightly in a pile.
- Funnel – As you’d expect, the funnel is to catch the oil as it’s poured in. This will make things easier and reduce any spillage that could occur. Funnels are reusable, so one funnel will last a long time and only costs a few dollars. A funnel with a flexible hose is great.
- Gloves – In almost all cases, when dealing with yard materials, keep a glove in hand. Especially when changing the oil in your mower, you need to keep the oil off of your hands. Prevent yourself from being contaminated by the oil and reduce your chance of harming yourself and others.
- New Oil Filter – Oil filters may need changing if your manual prescribes doing so when you change your lawnmower’s oil. Filtering keeps the oil clean and free of debris and will cut down on how often you need to change the oil. Oil filters don’t need to be changed frequently but they should be checked and changed at least once a year.
- Wrench and Pliers – Wrenches and pliers will come in hand to loosen and tighten filters. You never know when pliers will come in handy but have one handy. Better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.
- New Engine Oil – The purpose of changing your oil would be defeated if you didn’t have the specific oil needed for your lawnmower. Make sure you do some research on what’s best for your brand or model and always make sure to check your manual if there are any specific requirements needed. Most big box stores carry motor oil that’s specifically formulated for mowers, and comes in smaller bottles that are the right size so you don’t have to worry about over-filling your oil tank.
Steps to Take When Changing the Oil in a Lawnmower
Find a safe place to change your oil before you start.
Keep away from children and any flammable materials and make sure you’re away from grass or other plants that could die if oil is accidentally spilled onto them.
Find a hard, flat surface, and use your drop cloth to ensure leakage doesn’t escape and to grab any quick messes that might occur.
I change my mower’s oil in my garage.
General Lawnmower Oil Changing
Changing your oil is a process that doesn’t vary much from lawnmower to lawnmower, but use your manual to get specific details about your model or brand.
The size of your lawnmower may prevent you from being able to readily tilt it over, so exercise certain steps with caution.
How to Change Oil in Lawnmower Engines
- Getting Started – Gather all of your tools and make sure they’re within reach. Your equipment is important, but what’s more important is finding a comfortable and flat surface to begin your oil change.
- Turn off the engine – Run the engine to use up some of the oil and then shut it off. To make sure your mower doesn’t accidentally start up disconnect the spark plug. On push mowers this is right on the front of the machine … a black rubber hose. Then allow the mower to cool down for 10-15 minutes, to avoid potentially burning yourself.
- Drain the oil – Find the drainage plug located on the bottom of the motor. Some will be placed on the right or left side. This can be found in your manual if you’re not having luck. For most walk-behind or push mowers you will tilt the mower on its side to drain the oil out of the hole where oil is added. If you don’t have a twist cap you can use a wrench to loosen the valve. At this point, you can tilt the mower over to its side. Grab your funnel and patiently direct the liquid to the oil pan (or Gatorade bottle!). Open the oil cap to allow the old oil to pour steadily.
- Check the Spark Plugs – Whenever I change my oil I disconnect the spark plug for safety. I also check the plug(s) to make sure they don’t look worn or damaged. Your motor won’t run efficiently if they are damaged. Whether you need them replaced or not, just ensure that they’re clean and free of debris and anything that might keep the spark plug(s) from functioning properly. These only cost a few bucks, so it’s good practice to replace them every year or every other year.
- Change the filter – If your lawn mower has an oil filter and it’s dirty (you’ll know), replace it. Not changing or replacing the filter can result in potential engine damage, so when in doubt, just replace it. Mowers with an oil filter on the engine’s side can be loosened with a wrench. Twist the oil filter and clean it off with a wet rag to prevent debris from piling up. With the new engine oil, polish the gasket of your filter with new oil and ensure it’s lubricated (this is an important step whenever you change an oil filter on any type of machine). Lastly, attach the new oil filter to the filter adapter and tighten it back into place.
- Change your fuel filter – Nicole Forsyth, a member of our expert panel, recommends changing your fuel filter when performing this maintenance, “especially if you are putting the mower away for the winter.” This will help you make sure the fuel sitting in there isn’t dirty.
- Add the new oil – Wipe off any of the residual oil and grime that you might have forgotten behind. Using the same funnel you used to drain the old oil? Clean it off first so the new mower oil doesn’t get contaminated. Then pour fresh oil into the port and make sure to add only what is specified by the manufacturer. If you aren’t sure how much to add, go slow. Use the dipstick to check the oil level, adding more a few times until you get to the right level.
Related: Can You Use Car Oil in a Lawn Mower?
Disposing of Dirty Lawnmower Oil
Disposing of oil properly is the last step of the oil changing process.
Recycling old oil is crucial. It’s good for the environment, and it is the right thing to do.
You don’t want to do this yourself. Chances are, you might run the risk of harming the environment or people and animals around you.
Oil is a strong pollutant if not disposed of properly. It will find its way into groundwater, rivers, or streams.
If you have a mechanic that works on your car, give them a call or stop by their shop. They’ll probably just take the old oil off your hands since it won’t be much, and dispose of it properly for you.
Your Product, Your Care!
Keep your products maintained and in tip-top shape.
Whether you can afford a new lawnmower or not, it’s better to know how to change your oil. It’s a lot cheaper and better for the landfills.
You care about your car’s oil so take care of your lawnmower’s oil too. Longevity for your lawnmower depends on the care you put into it.
Be smart, be safe, and if possible, do what’s best for the environment. Dispose of your oil into the right hands (those of a professional).
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