What Happens if You Run a Lawn Mower without Oil

Oil is necessary for engines because it lubricates, cools, and protects the moving parts inside. The metal parts, in the absence of oil, would cause friction, which in turn would cause smoke and a variety of other problems. Oil is typically included with most lawnmowers, which is a fortunate feature. You should resist the urge to start your mowers without first adding oil to the engine.

If you operate a lawn mower without oil, it will not only spark and smoke, but it will also sputter and wear out more quickly. Lubrication is one of the most important functions of engine oil, as it helps to prevent a wide variety of mechanical problems. Change the oil after long-term storage to prevent coagulation from occurring. For optimal performance from your mower, you should always use new oil.

In the course of reading this article, you will also become familiar with the following information regarding what takes place when a lawn mower is operated without oil:


  • There are a few problems that will inevitably crop up.

  • How to find the right oil for your lawnmower and keep it running smoothly

  • There are three distinct kinds of oil systems.

Why does a mower need oil?

When it comes to the mower, oil is one of those things that people take for granted and don't give a second thought to until it's no longer available. I have personal experience with the devastation that can result from operating a mower without oil.

What exactly takes place, then, when the oil in a lawnmower runs out? Oil is essential to the functioning of an engine. It lubricates the moving parts and reduces the amount of friction, which in turn helps to keep the heat under control. If an engine is allowed to run out of oil, the resulting friction will cause the engine to overheat, which will eventually fuse the engine's pistons and cause the engine to stop working (seize). Additionally, this could result in irreparable damage to the engine.

Although most lawnmowers can be started without oil, some of the more recent models cannot, and if you notice and turn it off in a timely manner, you might be okay. Simply bring the level of the oil back up to the appropriate level, and then try again. A positive sign would be if the mower turned on by itself. Be sure to keep an ear out for any sounds that are out of the ordinary, such as the engine knocking. Should this occur, your engine will require maintenance work. If the lawn mower does not make any strange noises, then you may have narrowly avoided an accident.



How do I know if my engine is seized? 


Pulling the starter cord is the quickest and easiest way to determine this. If you are able to pull it out, this indicates that the engine is turning over and that the mower is not stuck. This, however, is not a failsafe method because there are times when the engine, even when it is hot, will not seize until it has cooled down.

There is also the option of checking it out to see if you can turn the blade. (remove the spark plug before doing anything else). If it does turn, then the engine has not completely frozen over. If you are unable to move it, the engine has likely become stuck.


How long can a lawnmower run without oil?


Whether you are using a domestic or commercial lawnmower, you will be lucky to get five minutes of use out of the machine before it seizes up. A domestic lawnmower will seize more quickly than a commercial mower because it is left sitting for longer periods of time between uses, which allows gravity to help the oil settle in the sump.

If you are extremely fortunate (and attentive), you might hear a knocking sound coming from the engine and be able to turn it off before it seizes. Even this strategy does not always work, as evidenced by the fact that I have witnessed workers turning off machines within a few minutes, only to have the engine seize up after it had cooled down.


Will lawn mower smoke if low on oil?


No, this is a misconception. A mower smokes if it has too much oil, not too little. The smoke is caused because the excess oil is being burnt off so low oil equals no smoke. 



Will my lawnmower shut off automatically if it is low on oil?


It will, but only if your mower has a low oil switch, and these switches are not found on very many mowers.

The pressure inside the engine is monitored by a low oil switch, which will turn off the engine if the pressure drops below a predetermined threshold. After that, all you have to do to get the engine started is add more oil to the reservoir. There are some newer mowers that come equipped with a low oil switch that will automatically engage if the oil level drops below a certain threshold; however, it is not a good idea to rely on this switch.

Relying on a low oil switch is comparable to only adding oil to your vehicle whenever the indicator light for the oil pan illuminates. Although it might seem like a good plan at first, you shouldn't put too much stock in it.


Will an engine start without oil? 


While some of the more modern engines are built to be incapable of starting in the absence of oil, the vast majority of engines are not. It is possible to start a standard lawnmower without oil, but it will not run for very long. The likelihood of hearing a knocking sound coming from the engine immediately after starting the vehicle is significantly increased. You will now have a window of opportunity of thirty seconds to turn it off without causing damage that cannot be undone.



How do I know how much oil is in my machine? 


If you have a four-stroke, the easiest way is to use the dipstick. It is better to do this when the engine is cold as it makes it easier to read the dipstick. Do make sure that your machine is level before checking the oil otherwise you may get a false reading. 


What do I do if my lawnmower engine has too much oil?


This is a simple problem to solve. All that is required of you is to take off the cap that covers the oil reservoir and pour any excess oil out of the mower. Be sure to check that the dipstick has been removed and that you are pointing the correct side toward the ground and not the side that contains the air filter. If you tilt the filter to one side, the oil will run into your filter, which will cause it to become damaged.

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