Metal flake in oil from small engines

It seems that Briggs engines hold up to abuse/neglect a lot better than Tecumsehs plus the carbs are pickier as someone mentioned. I am still amazed that mower engines do hold up as well as they do considering their crude design. I doubt they last longer than car engines but it seems that way. Many of use drive for hours each week in order to work and play while mowers are used a lot less than that. Now, if you were a commercial lawn service, THAT would be the test. I know that engines meant for everyday use are built a lot tougher than the consumer grade stuff. They also cost a LOT more.

I think my plan is to stick with synthetic and change it once or twice a year.

It seems that Briggs engines hold up to abuse/neglect a lot better than Tecumsehs plus the carbs are pickier as someone mentioned.

I don’t know about that. While I never had any major problem with either engine…my wifes uncle has a 40yo+ Ariens snowblower with an original Techumseh engine.

My experience with small engines on lawnmowers has been that the engine will outlast the mower deck. After replacing lawnmowers because the deck rusted, the mower I bought in 1988 has a cast aluminum deck. However, I don’t think that the cast aluminum deck meets national safety standards as it could shatter if the blade throws a rock against the deck.
I’ve had mowers with Briggs and Stratton engines, Tecumseh engines and a 2 stroke LawnBoy. None of the engines ever gave me trouble.
I once had a lawn mowing company and we had a very trouble free mower. It was a push type reel mower (no engine). There were three of us in elementary school at the time and we mowed yards. We had a rope tied to the front of the mower–two kids pushed while one pulled. We each got 25 cents for each yard that we mowed. It wasn’t until we disbanded the company and went out of business that our parents and other people in the neighborhood bought power mowers.

I’ve had and have both and don’t see much difference in the two inside. I do tend to like the Techumseh carbs better but with the primer bulbs now, that helps a lot. The only problem I’ve had is with a 30 year old Tech snowblower engine that finally siezed up on the case. Seems to me another $5 dollars in ball or roller bearings on the case and a couple actual bearings on the piston rod would double the life expectancy. Its all academic anyway since the Chinese now have the tooling for the Tech.

I don’t use synthetic oil in the small engines but I may have to reconsider I guess. They do take quite a beating. The B&S oil is very expensive and they don’t even say what it is. I did use it once in an 8 hp used and abused rider that sat out all winter and trying to pull start it was a bear. It was much easier to pull start it with the synthetic oil in it.

AS you state, $5 in parts would double the life expectancy. There are so many things like this being made nowadays. While I don’t expect a $100 mower to be built from anything but the cheapest parts, something in the $400-500 range should have bearings and such. I don’t believe that many engines have roller or ball bearings. Most have some type of journal bearings from what I have seen, even the good ones.

I will say that I have a BS Vanguard engine on a generator. IT is a 15HP and doesn’t have a spin on oil filter so I assume it is still splash lubrication. I changed the oil the first time after a few hours of running and there was much less metal flake than what you see in a basic push mower engine. I know this is considered the premium or commercial grade line of engines so maybe the machining tolerances are better and/or better materials are used. I also bought this for a $700 discount as a refurbished unit. Maybe the oil was changed during whatever repairs were done and all the metals from the initial break-in were changed.

Regarding lawn mowers…This discussion leads me to believe that using expensive synthetics in filter less small motors is pretty much a waste of resources. You can get 20 years out of a lawn mower using standard oils and you can get 20 years out of a mower using synthetics. Unless synthetics have some magic quality I am not aware of, you seldom use their benefits in lawn mowers. Now, if grass grew in sub zero temperatures, perhaps. IMHO, another case of oil change fetish. Dealing with the carburetor and ethanhol while following the owner manual instructions get you the max life out of these things.

@cwatkin–back in the old days, many automobile engines were splash lubricated. The Chevrolet stovebolt 6 was splash lubricated until the 1953 when the engine was revised with pressure lubrication and then it was only used on the models equipped with the PowerGlide automatic transmission. In 1954, all the Chevrolet engines had abandoned the splash lubrication.The Hudson engines were splash lubricated. The new 6 cylinder engine, introduced in the 1948 models was pressure lubricated, but the straight 8 continued on with splash lubrication until it was phased out around 1953. At any rate, we did just fine with the old splash lubed engines and apparently lawnmowers seem to make it with splash lubrication.

.This discussion leads me to believe that using expensive synthetics in filter less small motors is pretty much a waste of resources

How much are you wasting??? $3/year. WOW!!!

Well, you rich folks can just spit at $3.00. Personally, I would rather another beer. $3 here, $3 there… I like many, have used a whole bunch of 4 stroke small engines from my generators, out boards, lawn mowers, power washer, splitter, tiller etc. That’s a significant amount of money and wasted resourses over time I would rather put into my other more healthy fetishes instead of the oil change useless one we all seem to be talking about. Now multiply that by the number of others who feel same way. Heck, with the small 4 strokes I have, I’m to $24 year, not counting tractors and trucks !!
WOW !!!
The oil industry feeds off misconceptions about proper intervals and use of synthetics in all motors…making millions upon millions…just $3 at a time…another WOW !!!

If it were just $3 for one little push mower that would be one thing but geez I’ve got about 3 mowers, two blowers, and a generator. Plus need winter and summer grades for one of the riders, and need to keep a stock on hand so just not sold on the idea yet.

How long did the engines of that time last until they needed a major overhaul? I always hear older people people tell me that no matter how much you complain about the complication of modern technology in cars, that cars are far more reliable and longer lasting than in the days of old. They say that the odds of making it to 100k with just routine maintenance like oil changes was unheard of at that time. I am sure this is related to better oils, better materials, and better designs. They also tell me that tires, belts, hoses, etc. are much better today. You get longer life and more miles from all. Flats are not nearly as common due to faults in the tire itself. You need to have something more like a nail, screw, rock, or an old sparkplug (had this happen once) driven through the side of the tire.

I am sure that splash lubrication works just fine but it seems that modern engines with pressure lubrication and filter would hold up a lot longer than a modern engine under the same conditions. I know people with 15 year old cars and around 300k on them. They tell me that the engines do not use any oil between changes and most do not use synthetic but do change their oil several times a year. I do not know if this makes a difference but most mowers have a vertical shaft engine with horizontal cylinders. Some of told me that this enhances lubrication to the cylinder a great deal. I don’t know if this is true but most car engines, with the exception of opposed models, are not made this way.

Using synthetic in a mower may be overkill but it costs me like $3 more per year so I really don’t care. I figure that the hot running conditions of a small air-cooled engine are just those that benefit from the better thermal stability of these oils. I also figure that changing the oil once or twice per season, especially before putting it up for the winter, will help remove acids and moisture from the crankcase that might cause corrosion or other issues during storage. This, in combination with wear metals and dirt, seem to make routine maintenance as important or even more than on a car engine.

I too have multiple small engines.

Three lawn mowers…2 snow blowers and a power washer. Since I only change the oil once a year…it’s NOT a big deal using synthetic. Is it a waste…maybe…I can probably walk into your house and show you things you are wasting 2-3 times more on every year.

I can’t argue the point that using synthetic is going to save you money or years on a $200 lawnmower…but on my big mower…where the cost of replacing the engine is north of $1000…the $3/yr is cheap insurance.

I have never had a motor failure associated with regular oil use in a small 4stroke motor. My motors had peripheral issues, like rusting decks, lower units in outboards and other issues that just made them too expensive to repair. Like cars, motor issues are way over rated as causal factors for overall failure and oil change intervals beyond what is recomended or use of oils beyond what the manufacturer recommends often at the expense of time spent dealing with the peripherals of the small motor, is misplaced maintenance. Instead of spending the extra money on synthetics, run a can of ethanhol free gas prior to any storage, through your small motor, 4 or 2 cycle. That is the best advice I ever got to save my sanity dealing with small mortor issues. Use it if you must, cause I don’t care if you don’t care, but a least i would do what really matters and maintain the peripherals including the fuel system. Changing small motor oil regularly IS important…it’s just the idea of using a synthetic times the number of small 4 strokes I have that makes it wasteful for me. I spend the extra bucks on Trufuel or equvelant which is oh, $30 dollars a year, just about the same I save not using synthetics.

Right now I am looking at a power washer with a clogged pump. The local small engine repair man said he could rebuild my motor for a song but can’t do anything with the pump as it will cost so much to repair, it’s worth buying a complete new one. Now, you tell me if using synthetic motor oil is of any help ! My motor runs still runs perfectly on standard oil turning a pump that won’t pump water.

I have seen lawnmower engines destroyed when one uses multi-viscosity dino oil. 10W-30 is not a 30 weight oil when the oil is not synthetic. Synthetic oil of multi-viscosity apparently does not break down under extreme heat at the higher velocities. My generator with an 8 horsepower Briggs and Stratton calls for 5W-30 synthetic if the engine is run in cold and hot weather conditions. If the generator is used in the summer, then straight 30 weight non-synthetic is recommended. Since a power outage can occur in the dead of winter or in the middle of July or August, I use the recommended 5W-30 synthetic oil. However, I only run my mower in the summer, so the straight 30 weight I think is sufficient. My snowblower is a 2 stroke, so there is no problem here.

As I said…$3/year is NOT worth worrying about. Or even $20/year if you have multiple engines like I do. My wife will spend $20 extra on toilet paper because she likes a certain brand. The $3 extra a year is a very very cheap insurance policy.

My concern with the synthetic oil is that it only comes in multi-viscosity. If 5W-30 synthetic truly retains its viscosity of 30 weight at high temperatures, that’s great. I’ve seen two small engines throw the connecting rod through the block when 10W-30 non-synthetic oil was used. Back in the 1950s, many small air cooled engines were lubricated with non-detergent 30 weight oil. We didn’t have any engine failures.
However, I am sure that using synthetic oil in my mower would cost less than having a 2 stroke mower and the amount necessary to spend on the 2 stroke oil to mix with the gasoline. In my first LawnBoy with the two stroke engine, the requirement was a half pint of non-detergent 30 weight per gallon of gasoline. Later, 2 stroke oil was required. Now, the more expensive 2 stroke oil is synthetic. I just paid $4.80 for a quart of 50:1 ethanol free gasoline/synthetic oil mix for my 2 stroke rototiller so that it wouldn’t give me fits on start-up.

Now I’m the one that buys the TP in my house and I don’t scrimp on that.

My engines call for straight 30 in the summer and 10w30 for the winter. B&S makes the 30 weight which I assume is a synthetic but I don’t know. When I looked at the B&S stuff, it seemed the container sizes were a little screwed up instead of just a quart.

A word in defense of Tecumseh engines, My 8 hp Ariens snow thrower has one and ir is a 1972 and the only things it has needed are oil,grease and plugs. I would not swap it for a brand new one. With the drift bars on it will go through 5 foot, wind packer, drifts. The new ones are smaller displacement and don’t have the grunt, and most of them lack a locking differential.

I have a 22 year old craftsman lawn tractor with a 14HP B&S engine and still going strong…use straight 30W oil, change it once a year as mowing the lawn here in Florida is about 9 months out of the year. Only maintenance I have done in the past is new deck blades and changing the drive and deck belts…So far no problems with the carb using the ethanol mix fuel…Just changed the spark plug after 5 years.Starts on the first try.

Those were the best snow engines around. Just have to make sure to keep the oil filled. Most of the new ones don’t really have a differential but just that rotating disc like a Snapper. You lock the drive with a pin in the axle. So when the time comes . . .