Whatever energy powers your lawn mower, it still requires that it be oiled. Oiling is one of the underestimated parts of using a lawn mower. Fueling the lawn mower is important but oiling is even more so important.

This is where proper fueling is talked about. With the right mixture of fuel and oil, an engine runs smoothly allowing a proper and easy mowing experience.

Can a Lawn Mower Run Without Oil?

Oil lubricates the internal parts of a lawnmower, allows easy movement, and makes mowing smooth and enjoyable. But to quench your curiosity, yes a lawnmower can run without oil. Although it is possible to do that, it could result in very heavy consequences that would cause regrets. So you should run your lawnmower with oil.

Anyways, in some lawnmowers, there is an indicator that shows that the oil in the engine is not enough and so stops the engine from starting. It stays that way until you put enough oil in the lawnmower. While these lawnmowers do not start running without oil, other lawnmowers will start but with a knocking jerky noise.

This noise tells you that there is not enough oil and as a yard owner who knows how to properly use a lawnmower, you would turn it off and oil. Using it for more than 30 seconds will cause it to wear down, go off, overheat and even emit smoke.

Oil serves two main purposes for engines:

  • It lubricates the metal parts of the lawnmower including the engine, crankshaft, piston, etc.
  • It also maintains the temperature and controls the heat of the parts inside the lawnmower. This prevents detonation and keeps the metal paths of the lawnmower from getting too hot to burn the plastic parts of the mower.

What Happens if You Run a Lawn Mower Without Oil?

What Happens if You Run a Lawn Mower Without Oil?

Running a lawn mower without oil can only result in a lot of damage that would most likely cost you more money than purchasing a new one.

Here are some of the consequences of running a lawnmower without oil.

  • Engine wear out:

Since oil allows the metal parts of the lawnmower to run smoothly against each other, free of friction, the absence of oil causes the metals to grate against each other. The friction between the metals causes breakage and pieces of the metals to become weak and fall off.

If the lawnmower is used continuously without oil, you might need to replace the part with a new one.

  • Engine seizure:

A seizure happens when parts of the engine get stuck to each other. When this happens, the piston or crankshaft moves with difficulty causing resistance. This causes the lawnmower to stop in the middle of use.

  • Smoke:

Although this mostly happens when an oil tank is overfilled, it also happens when the engine comes in contact with parts of the lawnmower that is not made of metal. It is the burning of the plastic parts of the lawnmower. If the lawnmower engine is properly lubricated, this will not happen.

  • Overheating:

This happens as a result of friction. When non-lubricated metal parts of the lawnmower grind against each other for so long, it spikes up the heat inside the lawnmower. This causes detonation and results in what is popularly known as an engine knock.

Related Guide: Are Lawn Mowers Waterproof?

Will the Lawn Mower not Start if Oil is Low?

Well yes, a standard lawnmower will run. But not without a jerky and uncomfortable sound to indicate that the oil is not enough. The noise is a result of the friction caused by the metals inside the lawnmower rubbing against each other.

After 30 seconds, the lawnmower begins to misbehave. If you allow the lawnmower to run for more than a minute without adding oil, it will automatically go off. Some mowers, however, will not come on if the oil is low.

How Long will a Lawn Mower Engine Run Without Oil?

You might forget to add or check for oil in your lawnmower before starting it. It happens. Lawnmowers these days have been designed to stay shut if there is no oil in them while older engines might start up. If however, the engine starts, it cannot run for up to 3 minutes.

Within 30 seconds to 1 minute, the lawnmower begins to emit smoke or signals showing that it is low on oil. For some lawnmowers, the effect might start earlier than that.

Although the engine will not explode, the engine will seize. This will cause the lawnmower to stop working and cause damages to other parts of the lawnmower which will require repairs or replacements.

How Can I Tell if my Lawn Mower Needs Oil?

It’s not hard to tell when or check if your lawnmower needs oil. Now there are two types of lawnmower engines. There is the four-stroke mower and the two-stroke mower. Some lawnmowers require that you mix the fuel and oil before pouring it into the fuel tank while some have separate tanks for the fuel and oil. So for a four-stroke lawnmower or a two-stroke lawnmower, it could be any of them.

It is most possible that for a four-stroke lawnmower, there are different tanks for fuel and oil. While for a two-stroke lawnmower, it is possible that you have to mix the oil and fuel.

But either way, the dipstick method is a very sure and effective way of telling if your lawnmower needs more oil or not.

Step-by-step process:

  • The oil dipstick and the oil cap of most lawnmowers are in the same place so it is easy to find. All you have to do is to locate the oil cap. To find the oil cap, try to pay attention to the writings on the body of the lawnmower. Some lawnmowers have “oil” written on the cap while some have an oil symbol drawn on the cap.
  • Remove the oil cap and detach the dipstick from it. Clean it with a clean rag and put it back into the oil. The rag should be clean to prevent impurities from entering the oil.
  • Cover the oil cap back and wait for some seconds. Before you check your lawnmower for oil, be sure to keep the lawnmower in a levelled position. Any position other than this is most likely to provide a wrong reading.
  • Unscrew the oil cap again and bring out the dipstick. On the dipstick, two indicators are marking the full level and the additional level. On some lawnmower dipsticks, the indicators could be two holes while on some, it could be “full” Or “add”. If the oil level is between full and add, then the oil in your lawnmower is enough. But if it is below or on add, you should add more oil or if it is on or above full, there is too much oil in the lawnmower and you might need to reduce it.

Some people might think that leaving the extra oil in the tank is a good idea. No, it is not. An overfilled oil tank can cause smoke and damage the engine.

And too little or not enough oil can also cause smoke and other damage. So you want to put just the right amount of oil, between or just below the full signature.

Can I Use Car Oil for the Lawnmower?

The answer to this question is yes but not without a “But”. You can decide to use low-quality oil for your lawnmower but you will just be reducing its life span by doing that.

Lawnmowers require high-quality oil to run smoothly and live up to their lifespan.

The oil used in lawnmowers is most times the same as those used in cars. But while you can use your car oil for your lawnmower it has to be a high-quality oil.

Oil such as the SAE 30, SAE 5W-30, Vanguard 15W-50m, and a couple more are the best oils that are used for cars and also lawnmowers.


One major tip to adding oil to your oil tank is to add the oil in little quantities until it gets to the right level. Pouring it anyhow could overfill and spill over the oil tank.

Fuel on its own is never going to lubricate the engine or metal parts of a lawnmower it only energizes and provides a boost for the mower to function.

So a lawn mower filled with fuel but without oil is useless and vice versa. They need each other to make an engine work. But whatever you do, do not start your lawn mower without checking to see if there is enough oil in it.

Victoria Peterson

I am a passionate gardener who wants to help you create and maintain your dream yard. I know that it can be daunting to take on a project like this, but I am here to help. I have been gardening for years and have learned a lot along the way. I want to share my knowledge with you and help you create the perfect yard for your home.

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