Why so many different kinds of 2 cycle motor oil?

It seems like the last time I purchased two cycle motor oil there was only one kind. Right there on the face of the package, “2 cycle motor oil”. The only decision to make was which brand and whether in one 32-48 ounce bottle or a 6 pack of 8 ounce cans.

The other day I ran out, and I was in the auto parts store to purchase some more for my leaf blower & string trimmer. There were 4 or 5 different kinds. Each one saying they met such-and-such spec, but none of them mentioned the same spec as the other. One was advertised for marine applications and for small engines like leaf blowers that called for a marine-use spec, $4.95 for 32 ounces. (I still don’t know why a leaf blower would need a marine spec for the oil, anybody here use their leaf blower underwater???) … Another was advertised for motorcycle use, but not for anything else, $4.49 for 32 ounces. Another was synthetic, for all applications apparently, $9.95 for 32 ounces. It said it “wouldn’t clog the air filter”. (I’ve never had a problem with the oil clogging the air filter.) Another was a synthetic for string trimmers, a 6 pack of 3.2 ounces each, $9.49.

I purchased the marine-use one, b/c it said it works for small engines too, and was reasonably priced at $4.95 for 32 ounces, compared to almost $10 for 6- 3.2 ounce servings. That one was the store brand, there was a name brand for $6.95 that seemed similar in the claims made.

Anyway, what’s the deal with all these different versions of 2-cycle motor oils? What brand/type of 2 cycle oil do you folks use for your 2 cycle small engines like for string trimmers and leaf blowers and the like?

I always used the marine grade approve 2 stroke oil when I had a two stroke outboard. Never had a problem with my two stroke lawn mower. I no longer have the mower or the outboard so I use premixed Trufuel without ethanol for trimmers and chainsaw. I don’t like to use ethanol laced gas and I don’t have to worry about letting these tools sit. Otherwise, for lawn mowers and anything else, two stroke marine works well. But if you don’t have an outboard, any name brand has worked with for me in all my tools if you don’t want to buy premix ethanol free gasoline. Any name label like .Pennzoil etc. is fine. IMO been doing two strokes for 40 plus years and the only problem I have had is with the ethanol laced gasoline and never the brand of two stroke oil.

What’s with? Three-letter organization, beginning with “E” and ending with “A.”

Given that all on-road sources of pollution have been 95+% mitigated, off-road sources have come under greater scrutiny.

The general policy has been to set emission standards so low that 2-strokes are impractical for non-handheld small engines (killing off Lawn-Boy; Toro bought the name and sells 4-stroke mowers with it.)

Handheld equipment is more troublesome–can’t use a wet-sump 4-stroke at any angle you want to hold it, after all–so they set standards that can (just barely) be met with a 2-stroke.

The new emissions means the smallest amount of oil in the fuel must be specified; which means the highest quality oils must be used to avoid lube issues.

Also, water-cooled marine engines run cooler than air-cooled weedwhackers.

There are 2 types of 2 cycle oil. One is TC-W which is for water cooled engines which means a typical outboard motor. This might also be called “Marine” use somewhere on the label but the designation of TC-W should be easy to see on either the front or back label on the container.

The other type of 2 cycle oil is for air cooled motors, which is leaf blowers, string trimmers, chain saws etc. On this type of oil the label lacks the TC-W notation.

Air cooled motors tend to run hotter than water cooled motors and that is why the oils are formulated differently. A TC-W oil might harm an air cooled motor by not providing enough lubrication. And a regular 2 stroke oil might gum up and otherwise harm an outboard.

Another issue is some 2 stroke motors use an oil pump to mix the oil into the gas. In this case you put the 2 stroke oil into a separate tank on an outboard or a motorcycle. In these applications the thickness of the oil can affect the oil flow and therefore lubrication. Hence you might have a “motorcycle” oil. A 2 stroke oil that is mixed directly into the gas can has no issues with “flow” characteristics.

A chain saw, leaf blower, and trimmer are set up so the exhaust is very close to the human operating the machine. An oil that smokes a lot might be hard on the operator - so some 2 stroke oils are formulated for less ash and no smoke. So, now you have specific oils marketed for chain saws etc.

All my 2 stroke motors are air cooled and the oil is mixed directly into the gas can. I buy a house brand non TC-W 2 stroke oil and see how it works. If I get smoked out I might use a special oil in a particular motor, say the leaf blower. I buy the quart bottle and mix the gas to the appropriate ratio for the motor. Lots of bottle sizes are on the shelf to make the mixing more convenient.

All this leads to a lot of options when you shop for 2 stroke oil at a big store.

Thanks to all, I think I understand this topic a little better now. I’m pretty sure it does, but I’ll double check that the marine house brand version I purchased also specs for use in air cooled pre-mix engines.

Years ago I had a 2 stroke motorcycle – which was a heck of a lot of fun I might add; 2 strokes rev like crazy, easy to pop a wheelie and, from a complete stop, goose the gas and head up a very steep dirt road. (I’m not recommending any of these things btw… lol …) Anyway, back in those days if I ran out of 2 cycle oil I’d just put in 10-30 motor oil, except for some occasional minor spark plug fouling, and maybe a little extra smoke out the exhaust, never had a problem.

Just make sure you use two stroke oil, and not just any oil. But IMHO, it will run fine on ANY name brand two stroke oil. But in general, I agree with Unle turbo and tend to use oil made for each machine type. Let’s face it, how much gas does a weed wacker use. Might as well be safe and use what the manufacturer asks for.

I ran into a new one last year, not sure how many ounces, but claims to work for 16 to 1 to 50 to 1 ~ 2 cycle engines, and it did not seem to bother my 89 snowblower.

Get stihl or jonesered oil in the right size bottles and forget about it,regular motor oil creates too much ash-Kevin

I suggest that you use an oil that meets the recommendations in the instruction manual for the motor you will be using the oil in.

One of the reasons I posted about this is b/c of sticker shock. $10 for 19.2 ounces (6 X 3.2)? That is just too much money in my opinion. It seems like what I purchased in the past – Valvoline’s 2 cycle product I think was what I used before – was priced around $3-$4 for 32 ounces. None of the vendors I have used in the past – several home product stores and several retail auto parts stores – seem to carry the Valvoline 2 cycle product any more.

Responding to JEM above. … Instruction manual? What’s that? … lol!! … Both my 2 cyclers – a string trimmer and leaf blower are over 20 years old. I imagine the oil specs have changed since then. I don’t think the manuals say anything more than “use 2 cycle motor oil”. But I will look up what is says in the manuals anyway, excellent idea.

I have to admit I take some maintenance liberties with these “small appliance” engines. For example one calls for a 32:1 mixture, the other calls for a 16:1 mixture. I’ve always just made a batch of 24:1 and call it good for both. Worked for 20 some years so it must at least be in the ballpark at affording the proper protection for each of them.

ECHOs with the new catalytic exhausts run 50:1 oil to fuel mixture. Its the best two stroke engine I ever had. Clean, powerful and reliable.

I have also used motor oil in an old 2 stroke atv, It smoked worse than usual but it didn’t hurt it.

The Echo line has the best rated engine for durability,started to buy one,but the price monster got after me,so a catalyst? sounds great to me,wonder how many people will ruin theirs.
Non detergent oil could be used in older two strokes in a pinch-Kevin

I remember back in 1955 when my dad bought a new LawnBoy mower with the 2 stroke engine. The instruction manual said to mix 1/2 pint of non detergent 30 weight oil with a gallon of gasoline, which would be a 16:1 mixture of gasoline to oil. The manual was very specific about not using detergent oil. I do remember having to remove the muffler and cleaning out the ports every 20 hours or so. The engine did smoke on start-up. The engine was started with full choke, and after it fired, the choke was pushed to the halfway point and the engine idled for 2 minutes and then the choke was opened fully and the mower was ready to go. We also mixed the same ratio for our 2 stroke Evinrude Lightwin 3 horsepower boat motor.
I’m sure that the 2 stroke oils today are much better for the engines as far as carbon deposits and eliminating much of the smoke. Also, the 50:1 is certainly better for the environment than the 16:1 ratio of the old days.

Tridaq, I also had a 2 cycle Lawn Boy lawnmower back in the 1970’s. I bought it used – already 5 years old when I bought it – and it lasted another 17 years. And it had a big job, the lawn area was huge, hilly, and rocky, it took me more than an hour to mow it all each week. That was one tough lawnmower.

Eventually, at the 15 year mark , I noticed the compression was getting “iffy”, pulling the pull cord was more like unwinding a yo-yo, very little resistance, and it was getting hard to start. So I took the engine apart, and the piston rings were about as thin as metal could be and still be in one piece. They were thinner than a shaft one of those pins that come with new dress shirts. So thin, when I tried to remove the rings from the piston they broke into a dozen pieces.

So I installed new rings – the whole thing, taking the engine apart, installing new rings, and putting it back together couldn’t have taken more than 1 1/2 hours – the compression returned to normal, and that old Lawn Boy served me fine another couple of years, never failed to start, and had the same power as always, then one day the magneto pickup cracked. I couldn’t find a reasonably priced replacement, so I threw in the towel.

I’ve always been very impressed by how rugged and reliable that old Lawn Boy lawnmower was though.

There factory near me stopped production of the 2 stroke lawn mower engine several years ago and it was said that they attempted to put a blower on the engine to eliminate the emission problem but the upgrade was cost prohibitive.

@RK,that(hee,hee) and you cant sale new ones if the old one doesnt break-Kevin

The nice thing about the Lawnboys is when you used them on hills you didn’t shorten the life of the engine. A guy at work bought a new craftsman 4 stroke splash lubricated mower after his lawnboy became very hard to start, he used it on a steep hill and it lasted 2 years until the motor died from oil starvation while using it on grades. All his lawnboy needed was carb work. He went back to the lawnboy and is still using it to this day.

A 2 stroke mower still has its place for some people.

I do miss the sound of the old 2 stroke lawnboys, but I have to admit, I like my 2003 honda push mower with a plastic deck much better. No that wasn’t a typo, it has a plastic deck, and its awesome, its light, wont rust and has held up 10 years of mowing a ditch and various small yards in town I have helped mow. It has many hours on it, I helped mow an old cemetery that was about an acre in size and used the honda a few times. Its been used enough that the tread on the wheels are considerably worn.

Only thing I have done to the honda is replace its air filter, and sharpen blades, and change the oil. Never had the plug out.

I 've had 2 Lawnboys and loved them both. The first one we bought in 1967 and it was a 19" side discharge model, which lasted till 1987, when I sold it for $50, still running well. We then bought a 21" “dedicated rear bagger”, which lasted us till 2007, when I went overseas and my wife found it too hard to push. We sold it for $70, and bought a Newt electric battery mower, considerably easier to handle and with a mulching blade, eliminating the bulky bag.

Both models were good for another 10 years at least.

In both cases, we used premium 2 cylce oil and only once cleaned the ports with a wooden dowel.

Since it’s virtually imposible to make a 2cycle mower meet emission standards, it disappeared into the sunset, along with Outboard Marine, the original owners, which, after bankruptcy, was sold to Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), makers of Skidoos.

I share your confusion, and also resent the price of those convenient little containers. My 10 year old Toro snowblower with a Techumseh engine specifies a 50:1 ratio using a TC-W3 oil. I got a quart of Pennzoil Outdoor multi-purpose 2-cycle for about the price of three of the 3 oz. containers.

FWIW, Lawnboy (nee Toro) will still sell you a new short-block Duraforce mill. Since the head has no moving parts, get ahold of one and you cand build a “new” Lawnboy around it.