Reader asks about a no-oil-change lawn mower engine


Steve C. asks: “I purchased a new Toro self-propelled lawn mower, and on the box, and in the operating instructions, it states that no oil change is required. It says to simply ‘top off’ the oil using a specified SAE 30 engine oil whenever the oil level is low. I assume that the engine does not come equipped with a drain plug. Is this just a way to reduce their cost, or this something new that engines are now being built that don’t need to have the oil changed?”

Halderman: This is new one on me too. I asked several automotive experts for their comments and here are some of what I heard:

  • CW said: This is not realistic. The oil should be changed based on the hours used. The reality is that many people will simply buy a new mower instead of having the blade sharpened or the oil changed.
  • JT said: Seems ignorant to me and against all wisdom. Changing the oil in a small engine is cheap and easy.
  • BH said: Huh? That seems crazy. I’d still suck it out and refill. Maybe the mower won’t last as long as the engine.
  • CB said: Wow. Neat, but scary.

I tend to agree that this is a bold move by Toro, but apparently, they have done the research and found that as long as the oil level is at the proper level and that the correct oil is being used, it does not need to be changed on a regular basis. Unlike a car or truck that is operated under a wide range of temperatures, most lawn mowers operate at a temperature that ranges from about 65 to 95 degrees. This temperature range does not include cold weather starting or a lot of moisture due to condensation, etc. Even today’s cars and light trucks that use an oil life monitor (OLM) signal the owner to change the oil based on use. Highway driving during warm weather means that oil does not need to be changed as often compared to freezing weather and short trip conditions.

I have always recommended that vehicles should be maintained and use the specified oil as recommended by the manufacturers. Therefore, Steve, I think you should get a long service life out of your new mower as long as the oil level is checked regularly and topped off using the specified oil.

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