Does My Mower Need Oil?

Engine oil is the most important item to check on your  mower. Nothing kills an engine as quickly as a low oil level, but it’s important to get it right, too much oil is also bad for the motor. 

A mower engine requires oil if the oil level reads below the low level oil mark on the dipstick. A dipstick has two oil level indicating marks, upper mark indicates the full level and the lower mark the low oil level. Add oil until it reaches the upper oil level mark on the dipstick. 

In this post you’ll learn how to check your mower oil level and also how to add oil including oil type and quantities.

Mower dipsticks

Upper and lower marks

Checking Mower Oil Level

Checking the mower oil level should be undertaken before every use, it only takes a moment of your time and could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.

Oil lubricates and cools your mower engine, when a mower runs out of oil the engine builds so much heat it fuses the internal components together, it’s a condition known as seizing the engine and it’s terminal.

Checking the oil should be performed while the engine is off and the mower is parked on level ground.

To check mower engine oil level, follow these simple steps:

  1. Locate the dipstick
  2. Remove dipstick
  3. Wipe dipstick clean
  4. Refit dipstick
  5. Remove and read dipstick level
Mower oil filler

Locate dipstick/Oil filler

Locating dipstick – The dipstick is usually located on the side of the mower engine. The dipstick cap is generally marked with the word oil or an oil can symbol.  The dipstick is also the oil filler location.

Remove dipstick – To remove the dipstick, turn it anti-clockwise.

Wipe dipstick clean – Using a clean cloth, clean the dipstick.

Remove dipstick and read oil level – Remove the dipstick and hold it vertically. The dipstick has two marks, an upper mark and a lower mark.

Mower dipstick low oil level

oil level low - add oil

Mower dipstick low high level

Too much oil - Remove some

Mower dipstick correct oil level

Correct level - Nice work!

The upper mark identifies the full level and the lower mark the low oil level. The upper and lower marks may be letters, words, holes or stamped lines.

Between the high and low marks, you may see a hatched area. This area denotes an acceptable oil level, however it is always best to have the oil level reach the upper dipstick mark.

Adding oil

Adding oil is simple, fill the oil through the dipstick tube. Some dipstick tubes may be small and awkwardly located, if that’s the case you’ll need a funnel.

When filling oil just remember to add a little and recheck oil level and repeat until the oil level reaches the upper mark on the dipstick.

Adding too much all at once will cause the dipstick to read over the full mark. Overfilling is a common error and most think it can’t hurt any, but they are wrong.

Adding mower engine oil

Add a little and check

While too much oil is better than too little, too much can still cause some problems.

From empty most mower engines won’t hold more than .50 quart.

Ideally a mower should get a tune-up once a year, that includes an oil change. I wrote a complete post with pics and instructions on the subject and you can check it out here.

You’ll also find a detailed video on the subject in the video library.

Symptoms associated with too much oil include:

  • No start
  • Pull cord hard to pull
  • Starts and stalls
  • Runs with lots white smoke
  • Oil leaking from muffler
  • General oil leaks
Removing mower engine oil

Tilt mower to remove oil

Removing Oil

The first task before working your mower is to remove the spark plug wire, this prevents accidental starting.

Removing oil can be a little messy, especially if you’ve just added a little too much. Knowing how much to remove is hit and miss.

Most modern mowers will allow oil to drain by tilting the mower on its side, engine oil flows out through the dipstick tube.

Older mowers will have a regular oil drain plug under the mower where the blade is located. I prefer to use a siphon, makes the task simple and you use it on other jobs like draining the gas tank.

If you need a siphon, I recommend the Briggs & Stratton oil and gas siphon, it’s good quality at good price. You can check out price and delivery here on Amazon.com. 

Removing mower engine oil with siphon

I prefer to us a syphon

Mower Oil Type

Mowers will run perfectly well with car engine oil. It is of course better to use the oil type specified by the engine maker.

5W30 or 10W30 works great for mower engines.

  • Briggs and Stratton oil type – 5W30
  • Honda oil type – 10W30
  • Kohler oil type – 10W30
  • Tecumseh oil type – 5W30
  • Kawasaki oil type – 10W30
Mower oil chart
Auto Technician and Writer at | Website

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Lawnmowerfixed.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write "How to" articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of mechanical repairs, from lawn mowers to classic cars.