Category Archives: Lawn Mowers

The Complete Guide to Lawn Mower Oil

Some people learn it from their dads.  Some from their shop class.  Others from reading the manual.

Me?  I learned it the hard way.

I figured it out on my own.  I should have known better because my car needed it.  But I never put 2 and 2 together.  It never clicked for me.

But maybe I should back up.

When I bought my first house I suddenly had all these extra responsibilities that I never when I lived in an apartment.  Things like shoveling snow off the side walk, raking leaves and mowing the lawn.

And with those responsibilities come other responsibilities.  Like buying gas for the lawn mower,.  Or bringing leaves to the dump.

But with my new home ownership and all the responsibilities it entails, I never once thought about regularly servicing my lawn mower.

As I said, I should have known better.  I take my car into the shop every couple thousand miles after all.  Cars need their oil changed.  And filters changed.  And tires checked.  So why wouldn’t lawn mowers need the same thing?  Like I said … it never “clicked.”

So my mower worked fine for a while but after a number of years I started having problems.  Some times the mower wouldn’t start well.  Or there would be puffs of smoke where I was pretty sure they shouldn’t be.

And the the mower stopped running completely.  After yeas of neglect, it breathed its last breath.

Since that time I’ve become almost religious in how I upkeep my lawn mower.   And the results are obvious.  Regular maintenance and servicing have allowed me to keep the same lawn mower for about 15 years and it is still running strong.  To be honest I sometimes wish I had a nice, new lawn mower like my neighbors.  But the fact that I haven’t had to drop $1000 or more into a new riding lawn mower makes up for that.

A lot of you are probably like me 20 years ago – with no clue what to do about lawnmower maintenance.

And because of that, I wanted to write a tutorial on lawn mower oil.  Oil is one of the most important parts of your lawn mower and one of the things that needs regular maintenance in order to keep functioning properly.  Changing your oil regularly is THE number one thing you need to do to keep your lawnmower running well for a long time.

Below you’ll find answers to most of your questions about lawn mower oil, including what it does, why it’s needed and how to change it.

Why does my lawnmower need oil?

Your lawn mower engine is basically a hunk of metal with smaller moving metal parts inside it.  When metal moves past metal, it needs some sort of lubricant to prevent it from over-heating and to allow the engine to run smoothly.

Oil actually does a number of different things.  It keeps your engine cool.  It prevents build up of gunk inside the motor.

When should I change my lawnmower oil?

This varies based on the type of lawn mower you have but most manufacturers recommend changing the oil between 25 and 50 hours of use.

If you only use your lawnmower for mowing during the spring, summer and fall, this means you can usually get by changing your oil once a year.  This is what I do.  I typically change the oil right away in the spring after I take the mower out to be used for the first time that year.

If you mow a lot, then you may need to change the oil more often.  Then I would just change it every 25 hours.

How do I change the oil in my lawnmower?

  1. Make sure your mower is on a flat surface.
  2. Run your mower for 5 minutes or so.  This will warm the oil up and allow it to drain easier.
  3. Remove the dip stick.  You’ll want to take a rag and clean up around the dip stick so that no debris falls in.
  4. Drain the oil.  Different lawnmowers have different ways to drain the oil.  A lot of push mowers are designed to have the oil drained through the hole you pulled the dip stick out of.  You just tip the mower on its side and drain the oil into your oil pan.  A lot of push mowers will have a drain plug under the mower as well.  It is located under the mower by the blade and you will need a wrench to remove it.  For riding lawn mowers, there is usually a similar drain plug on the side of the mower.  Just  use your wrench to remove the plug and drain the oil into the oil pan.
  5. If you removed an oil plug, put it back in.  If you tipped your mower over, tip it back up on its wheels.
  6. Using a funnel, fill the mower back up with oil.  You don’t need a funnel but it can make things less messy. The amount of oil you need varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and based on the size of your mower.  Check your user’s manual if you have one.
  7. Dispose of your oil.  Most areas don’t allow you to just throw oil in the trash.  You can often just bring it to a local auto repair shop and they will take it free of charge.  I like to poor the used oil back into the oil cans that I just used to fill up my mower.

Tools I use for oil changes

You don’t need a lot of tools to change oil but a few basics will make the job a lot easier.

  • Oil pan – You need something to drain the oil into. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t have an oil pan already, you can get one for under $10. There are fancier ones, of course, but the simple one I linked to here is all you really need.
  • Funnel – As I said above, you don’t need a funnel but it can make things a lot less messy.   You can get a set of 4 different sizes for about $5 dollars.
  • Shop Towels – I use these Scott shop towels all the time when I’m working in the garage.  They are very heavy duty and rarely rip. Seriously, I couldn’t live without these.
  • Wrenches – You probably have a wrench already.  If you don’t, you can buy a nice set of wrenches for around $25.   The sizes you’ll get in that set will cover you fro 99% of the projects you would need them for.

That’s it.  You can get set up with all of these for less than $50, which is way cheaper than bringing your mower into somebody to change the oil for you.

What do the numbers on an oil bottle mean?

Oil manufacturers make all different types of oil.  The numbers on the can of oil tell you what type it is.  The numbers usually look like 10W-40 or SAE 30 or something similar.

These numbers refer to the viscosity of the oil.  Viscosity has to do with how thick a liquid is.  So water is less viscous than honey.  And chocolate syrup is less viscous than peanut butter.

So if you see oil that says SAE 30 or SAE 40 on the side of the can, that is just a number referring to the oil’s thickness.  SAE stands for Society of Automobile Engineers.  They’ve come up with standards for how to rate oil viscosity so that you can compare one brand of oil to another.

So what does the “W” mean?  It has to do with temperature.  You may have noticed that if you heat up chocolate syrup or spaghetti sauce that they get a lot thinner.  Heat tends to make liquids less viscous (thinner) and cold tends to make liquids more viscous (thicker).

So when you see oil that says “10W-30”, its telling you something about how the oil acts in hot and cold temperatures.  “W” actually stands for “winter.”  A 10W-30 or a 5W-30 will act like a SAE 30 at warm temperatures.  But at cold temperatures a 10W-30 will act like an SAE 10 and a 5W-30 will act like an SAE 5 oil.

What kind of oil should I use in my lawn mower?

This is a complicated question and depends on a lot of factors.  If you have your users manual for your mower, you should always use what they recommend.  But it will also depend on where you live and what the climate is like when you use your mower.

For example, if you use your mower with a snow blower attachment in the winter, you will probably want to use a winter grade oil.  But if you only use the mower during the spring, summer and fall to mow the lawn, then you might get buy with a non-winter grade.

SAE 30 is usually a safe bet if you don’t have a manual and you only use the mower during warmer whether.  If you use your lawnmower all year round, then 10W-30 is usually what you want to go with.

2 cycle engines vs 4 cycle engines

One last thing I should talk about before I end this post.  Not all lawn mower engines require oil changes.  A lot of smaller engines require you to mix the oil in with the gas every time you fill your gas tank up.

The type of engine I’ve been talking about throughout this post was the 4 cycle engine.  The gas and oil are separate and shouldn’t be mixed.

On the other hand, 2 cycle engines will require a mixture of oil and gas to be put in the gas tank.  The mix ratio for these motors is usually something like 50:1 or 30:1.  It varies by type of engine and should be found in your user’s manual.

For 2 cycle engines, you should make sure you buy a 2 cycle oil.  This type of oil is specially made for 2 cycle engines.

This ratio is the gas to oil ratio that your engine needs.  So 50:1 requires 50 parts gas and 1 part oil.  Most 2 cycle engine oils will tell you how to mix different ratios on the oil can.

 

Conclusion

That’s it for my tutorial on lawnmower oil.  The main thing to remember is that oil changes are a very important maintenance item that everybody should perform regularly.  If you’ve never changed oil before, I hope the steps above will help you out.

Also, let me know in the comments if you found it useful or if you have any questions.

 

 

The Ultimate Robot Lawn Mower Review

I’ve been planning on buying a robotic lawn mower this spring and I’ve been researching various mowers furiously.  Besides the coolness factor of these things, who wouldn’t want to buy something that mows the lawn while you do something else?

Because I’ve put so much time into this, I thought I’d make the ultimate robotic lawn mower review so that anybody else looking at these things wouldn’t have to repeat all the research I did.

So, here we go…

How Do Robot Lawn Mowers Work?

Robot lawn mowers don’t mow the lawn in the same way that you or I would.  If you didn’t know any better you would almost think they were mowing randomly.

However, there is a method to their madness.

When you first get a robotic lawn mower, you need to set up the perimeter of your lawn.  This means pegging a perimeter wire around the outside of your lawn and around any major obstacles in your lawn mower’s way.  Many robotic lawn mowers also allow you to set up different “zones” in your yard, which basically breaks your yard up in to different chunks.

Once the perimeter is set up, the mower takes care of everything itself.  It goes out by itself and mows until it needs to recharge.  It uses the wire around the perimeter to determine its location.

What Features Should I Look for?

There are a number of different features that different robot lawn mowers have.  In order to pick the best mower for you, it’s important to know what these features are.

  • Power – All robot lawn mowers are powered by batteries.  Some are charged up at a charging station that is connected to your home’s power outlet.  Others can be solar powered.  The type of battery can vary depending on the motor
  • Lawn Size – every mower is made for a maximum lawn size.  Popular lawn sizes are half acre, 3/4 acres and 1 acre.
  • Type of cut – most robotic lawnmowers are mulching, which means the grass is cut so that the clippings are very short and can be left on the lawn.  The main difference here will be the type of blade used.
  • Direction of travel – some mowers move around the lawn clockwise, others move around counter-clockwise
  • Pattern – some mowers mow randomly while others mow in a pattern
  • Zones – mowers have different number of zones that can be programmed into the robot.
  • Safety – most robot lawn mowers have sensors to tell it if it bumps into things.  Most of them also have tilt sensors that turn the mower off if it flips over.  I recommend not buying a mower if it doesn’t have safety features like this

Who Makes Robotic Lawn Mowers?

There are a number of companies that make robotic lawn mowers.  Some of the major brands are Lawnbott, Robomow, LV Robot, and Wolf Garten.

Lawnbott LB1500 SpyderEVO Review

lawnbott-LB1500The Lawnbott LB1500 SpyderEVO is a great mower to use for smaller yards.  It uses wire and pegs around the perimeter of your lawn.  It comes with 300 ft of wire and 200 pegs.  This is generally sufficient for yards that are 10,000 sq. ft or less.  It weighs about 25 lbs.The LB1500 is very easy to use.  Once the perimeter wire is installed, all you have to do is press start and it will start mowing automatically.

There is no display on the LB1500.  Instead, the mower uses beeps to communicate what mode it is in.   Safety features on the mower include touch sensors on the handles that automatically stoop the blade or the wheels.

The LB1500 is very quiet, especially compared to traditional internal combustion engine lawn mowers.  The manufacturer claims the mower can run at night without disturbing neighbors.

The LB1500 uses a lithium ion battery, which makes it very light compared to a lead acid battery.

One downside to the Lawnbott LB1500 is that it only has one mowing zone.  This means that if you have more than one section of lawn you will probably have to manually move the mower from section to section.  More advanced mowers can do this automatically.

Lawnbott-LB1500-button

 

Lawnbott LB3510 Review

lawnbott lb3510The Lawnbott LB3510 is the perfect mower if you’ve got a larger yard.  This mower is made for yards with a maximum size of 1.5 acres.  It comes with 660 ft of wire and 200 pegs to allow you to stack out the entire outside of your yard.  Like the other robotic mowers in this post, the LB3510 is meant to keep the grass looking like it was just mowed.

This mower is powerful enough to work on slopes that have an incline of up to 25 degrees.   The manufacturer recommends not mowing grass that is any longer than 4 inches long, but I’ve heard of people have had no issues mowing much longer grass.

It uses a back lit, 2-line LCD screen to display information and to allow you to easily program the mower.  The LB3510 can handle up to 4 zones or areas of the yard.  The mower will follow the perimeter wire until it reaches the zone it needs to mow and then mow that area.  If it finishes before the batteries are low, it will move on to the next zone.

One of the great things about robot lawn mowers like the LB3510 is that because your lawn is mowed from all different directions, the quality of the cut is very good.

The safety features of the LB3510 are similar to the safety features found on the LB1500.  There is a sensor on the handle that sense when it is touched and automatically shuts off the mower blade.  There is also a “tilt” sensor that will shut off the blade if the mower flips over.

Lawnbott-LB3510-button

 

I plan to keep adding mowers as I research them.  I have plans to review lawn mowers for LV-Robot,  Robomow and Wolf Garten.  If you are interested in any of these, click the links below and they will take you to the Amazon page for each of those companies.

wolf garten button LV robot button robowmow button