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Will A Snowblower Start Without Oil? Warning, read this first!

Oil as you know is super important to your snowblower’s engine. Without oil, your engine is at serious risk of catastrophic damage. You’ll often hear oil referred to as “an engine’s life blood”, it’s true. I’ve been a mechanic for twenty-five years and an engine that’s had regular oil maintenance is more reliable, produces more power, is more efficient, and works harder for longer.

Snowblowers that are fitted with a low oil cut-off switch will not start when the engine oil level is critically low. This is an engine protection feature, however, most snowblowers are not fitted with the cut-off switch and will therefore start without oil.

In this post, you’ll learn why some snowblowers won’t start when the oil level is low. You’ll learn how to identify if your snowblower employs an oil cut-out switch. You’ll learn how to check the oil level and what type of oil to use. I’ll also include a fast method for diagnosing why a snowblower won’t start including links to relative articles.

Checking & adding Snowblower Engine Oil

Not many snow blowers are fitted with an engine protection sensor, so assume yours isn’t fitted with one. The low-level oil cut-out switch is a clever and simple system that won’t allow the engine to start or cut power to a running engine should the oil level reach a critically low level.

I advise my customers to check engine oil at least once per week during the snow season and whenever they fill the gas tank. These engines work hard and they won’t run without oil.

To check the oil level follow these simple steps:

Cold engine

Check when engine cold – ensures oil is drained to the crankcase for truer read

Snowblower on level ground

Park snowblower on level ground – more accurate reading

Snow blower oil dip stick location

Locate dipstick – marked with oil symbol often in contrasting color


Remove stick and clean

Oil dipstick check

Remove and read – upper mark on the dipstick is full, the lower mark is low (below lower level is critical) hatched area in between represents an acceptable oil level

When adding oil, add a little at a time and recheck. These engines are small and are easy to overfill. Overfilling will cause the engine to smoke and may cause spark plug fouling.

Snowblower Engine Oil Type & Quantity

Most snowblowers are happy to run 5W30 or 10W30. But oil type is important to snowblowers. Obviously, they are used in cold conditions, and using the wrong oil grade could cost you an engine. Oil as you know has a harder time flowing in colder temperatures. Warm oil moves far more freely and that’s partly why warming a snowblower up by idling before putting it to work is advisable.

An engine needs protection at cold and warm temperatures. A thin oil is great for cold starts, the oil moves to where it’s needed, quickly. But as the engine warms, the oil gets even thinner, not great for engine protection. A heavier grade oil is better for higher engine temperatures and that’s why oil is blended.

Blended oil also known as multi-grade oil is used in all snowblowers. 5W30 or 10W30 are common types. The W means winter-grade, the lower the number preceding the W the thinner the oil. So for example, 5W30 offers better cold start protection than 10W30 as 5W is thinner than 10W.

Oil type is mostly dependent on a couple of factors, the manufacturer’s recommendations, and the typical ambient temperatures where the snowblower works.

How To Identify Low Level Oil Cutout Switch

Low oil level sensor

As you know most snowblowers won’t have a low oil level cut-out switch. If your snowblower does, it will have a single wire sensor (typical) fitted towards the base of the oil pan.

Check your owner’s manual or check the spec on the manufacturer’s website.

Check out this post for oil sensor troubleshooting “Oil change now won’t start.”

Mechanics Hack For Fast No Start Diagnosis

Checking the oil level and topping up as necessary is obviously a great place to start your diagnosis.

An engine needs 3 things to start and run:

  • Fuel mix
  • Spark
  • Compression

In general, when an engine won’t start, it means there’s a problem with one of these systems. In my experience, it’s commonly a fuel or a spark issue. In the workshop where time is money, we’ll run the following test to check which system is at fault.

Two outcomes are possible: