How to Put Oil in a Lawn Mower

How to Put Oil in a Lawn Mower (Step-by-Step)

Putting new oil in your lawn mower is an essential task. If you’re a new homeowner or just have never had to do this before, then you are probably feeling a little confused. Every lawn mower can be different and it’s important to read the instructions that come with your model. In this article, we will talk about how to put oil in a lawn mower.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

Fresh oil that has just been put into the mower’s crankcase is amber or golden in color. After it’s been in there for too long, it becomes dark and dirty.

Clean Motor Oil
Clean oil looks like this, dirty oil in your mower will look black

This is because of the dirt, heat, and agitated air that makes its way into the crankcase. These factors make the oil dirty and take away the oil’s ability to coat (and protect) the components of the engine.

Changing your lawn mower’s oil on a regular basis is an important part of making your lawn mower operate at its maximum potential for the maximum number of years.

I recommend that most homeowners change their lawn mower’s oil once a year.

Safety Warning

It’s essential that you thoroughly read your owner’s manual before you start any sort of oil test or oil change procedure.

You may put yourself at risk of personal injury or perhaps property damage if you fail to do this. is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Things You Will Need to Put Oil in a Lawn Mower

The exact items you will need in order to change the oil in your mower depends on the type of mower you have and the model.

Make sure to carefully consult with the instructions that come in your model manual.

In general, these are the bare minimum items you will need to change your mower oil:

You may also want a simple siphon like this one from Amazon.

If you have a large riding lawn tractor or zero-turn type of mower, you may need a special mower lift. A lift will let you properly secure your large mower while you prepare to change the oil and go through the process.

This kind of lift will also be essential when you carry out tasks such as replacing belts, getting rid of debris, and sharpening blades. I like this one on Amazon from MoJack, which my dad uses for his zero-turn mower.

How Often Should You Change Oil?

You need to change the oil in your mower once for every 50 hours you operate the machine.

Many people find this is once each mowing season. If you have a new mower, you should change its oil after you have operated it for five hours.

Checking Lawn Mower Oil

It’s also important to check your mower’s oil after every use of the machine. This is because conditions such as hilly terrain, hot temperatures, significant dust, and wet grass can make the oil dirty more quickly.

You will obtain the best accuracy in your reading of your oil level by checking it when the engine is cold.

How to Change Your Mower’s Oil (Step-by-Step)

Step 1

To begin the process of changing your oil, check the level of oil on your dipstick.

Steps to Put Oil in a Lawn Mower

There are generally two lines toward the bottom of the dipstick, and the oil level registered on the dipstick needs to be between them.

You must avoid overfilling your mower’s engine. This is because doing so can cause effects as bad as using old, dirty oil.

Step 2

After checking your oil level, you will need to determine how to drain the oil on your mower. There are three ways this is typically done:

  • You can use an oil extractor tool (any mower),
  • remove your oil pan drain plug (large riding mowers), or
  • tip your mower and let the oil flow out of the dipstick tube (walk-behind mowers).

After that, you need to drain the oil. The steps usually include:

  • Warming up the oil by running the mower for 15 minutes.
  • Turning off the mower’s engine and disconnecting the spark plug wire
  • Draining the gas OR putting a plastic sandwich bag on top of the gas tank and then putting on the cap to stop leaks
  • Draining the oil by one of the three methods outlined above.

Step 3

After you have taken out all the old oil and put it in a container, put the container aside.

Side note – I really like (and recommend) this drain pan from Amazon because it seals up like a briefcase and is an easy way to store and transport old oil to your local mechanic for recycling or disposal.

Once you’ve done this, you can put in clean oil.

You must consult your machine’s manual to find out the most effective oil for your mower’s engine. There are many different types of oil, so it is essential to choose the one the manufacturer recommends, but in a pinch most mowers will do fine with the same oil you use in your car.

Step 4 (final step)

After you have put in the new oil, use the dipstick and make sure that the oil is up to the proper level. Again – don’t overfill. Add a little, check, add a little more, check again.

Do Not Overfill Your Lawn Mower When Adding Oil

I find that most mowers take less oil than people think, so go slow the first time as you learn how much oil your mower needs.

Once that is accomplished, screw the dipstick cap back on and insert new fuel if you took it out.

After that, reconnect the machine’s spark plug wire and you’re good to go!

My Tips for Changing Lawn Mower Oil

Remember that the specific steps for changing the oil in your lawn mower will depend on the specific kind of lawn mower you have and the particular model.

The tips below, however, are usually a useful guide you can use when changing the oil in most mowers.

Use a Flat Surface

As I mentioned, having the oil warm (but not hot) is ideal, so when you’re done mowing, put the mower on a flat surface to cool for 15 minutes or so. I use the front of my garage with the door open.

This allows you to get an accurate reading of the oil level in your mower, and makes changing the oil safe and comfortable.

Disconnect the Spark Plug

Once you’ve done that, remove the spark plug wire.

This sounds technical, but it isn’t. Simply disconnect the wire for the spark plug and make sure to keep it away from the spark plug. On most walk-behind mowers it’s a black cable that goes to the front of the machine.

Lawn Mower Spark Plug Cable / Wire
On most walk-behind mowers this is where you’ll find the spark plug wire – disconnecting it is easy, just pull it straight away from the mower with your hand

This is an important safety step, so that you don’t risk the mower starting.

Then clean the area of the mower’s oil tank. Clean off the oil fill areas and make sure all debris is wiped away.

Emptying the Old Oil

Take out the dipstick and get ready to drain the oil. If you need (or want) to use the siphon method, I recommend this simple hand pump siphon. It’s what I have and it works really well.

Put the pump or siphon tube within the dipstick tube. It should get to the bottom of the engine. Put the other end of the siphon/pump tube in your oil pan.

For draining the oil, if you’re using the siphon method, then you will need to manually siphon the oil out using the pump handle.

Exercise care as you do this, remembering that the oil may still be hot. You don’t want to burn yourself.

For my Honda mower letting it cool about 15-20 minutes in the open air after running is usually about right. This way the oil is still warm enough to easily drain with all contaminants, but cool enough to not be dangerous.

Draining Old Oil from a Lawn Mower
Using a drain pan to catch old, dirty oil from a lawn mower with a drain plug

If you need to use the tilt method instead, position a container made to catch and store the used oil beneath the dipstick tube. Additionally, ensure that this is placed across from the air filter so that the old oil won’t contaminate it.

If you’re using the Tilt method, gently tip your mower towards where the catch container is located. I use a flexible funnel for this to ensure I don’t spill any oil.

Continue to tilt the mower, ensuring that the oil is making its way into the catch container. Continue to hold it in this way until there is only a tiny bit of oil coming out.

After this, put the mower back into an upright position. You should gently tilt the unit backwards so that it again rests on its wheels.

If a siphon pump was used during the process, take it out of the dipstick tube at this point.

Put Oil in The Lawn Mower

Once all this is done, you need to put fresh oil in your mower.

How to Put Oil in Your Lawn Mower (step-by-step)

Remember to carefully read the mower’s operator’s manual, as this will tell you what kind of oil you need for your mower and how to do the refill.

After the type of oil you add to your mower, the most important thing I should stress is not to overfill your mower with oil.

Add a little, then use the dipstick to check before adding more.

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Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

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