Tool maintenance oil: how to choose the right type

Work less with better results and no nasty surprises

Inspirations / How to


Estimated reading time 5 minutes

Lubricating oil in gardening tools minimises friction between the moving parts, so that they do not wear or seize up and jam the machine. It also prevents them from overheating, helps to keep them clean and protects them from corrosion. An alternative to oil is lubricating grease, which can withstand high pressures and sticks better to surfaces without dripping off.

In this article we will see how to choose the right lubricant for operating and maintaining the tools that are used most in the garden: the chainsaw, lawnmower, hedgetrimmer and brushcutter.

Lubricating a chainsaw chain

Good lubrication of chainsaw chains—and of the guide bar/chain assembly—is vital, whatever the machine’s power supply (petrol, electric or battery). Oiling reduces friction between the chain links and the track in the bar where the chain rides, thus protecting against wear and seizure. Before starting work and after refuelling the chainsaw, check the chain oil reservoir and, if necessary, top it up with biodegradable lubricant, such as Oleo-Mac Chain Lube protective oil. Never use waste oil to lubricate a chainsaw chain.

If your chainsaw has a guide bar with sprocket tip, lubricate it with a suitable grease gun: you can use our special multifunction grease with molybdenum disulphide.

Oiling the chainsaw chain is a basic routine maintenance task for this tool, as well as for telescopic pruners. At the end of the season (or before extended periods of inactivity) remember to empty the fuel tank, oil reservoir and oil pump circuit, then lubricate the chain and guide bar. You can read more about this in our guide to chainsaw maintenance.

If you are interested in finding out more on this topic, take a look at our article on how a chainsaw oil pump works. We cannot overemphasise that a smooth chain action makes your work less tiring and safer: find out how to use a chainsaw safely.

Oil for chainsaws and other two-stroke gardening tools

Petrol engine chainsaws have a two-stroke engine that runs on fuel mix, which consists of petrol and two-stroke engine oil and must be prepared and stored in an approved container. The generally recommended mixing ratio of petrol to oil is 40:1, so for each litre of petrol you should add 20 ml (cc) of two-stroke engine oil such as Prosint 2 EVO or Eurosint 2 EVO. This is just a general guide, so you should also check the correct petrol/oil ratio on the oil label before preparing the mixture. We recommend that you don’t use oil for cars or outboard engines.

Only prepare as much mixture as you need, to avoid keeping it in the tank for too long: you can also add petrol additive, such as Additix 2000 Evo, which prevents deterioration of the fuel for at least 12 months. Are you in a hurry or inexperienced? Don't want to handle flammable substances? Buy some ready-made alkylated mixture (which is more durable than standard fuel mix), such as Oleo-Mix Alkilate.

Why pay so much attention to engine oil for petrol chainsaws? Because properly prepared fuel mix is necessary for perfect carburation: find out why your chainsaw starts then stalls and why the carburettor floods.

Oil for lawnmowers and other four-stroke gardening tools

Oil is also essential in four-stroke engines, like those on lawnmowers. Before starting yours, check the engine oil level: if you start the machine with insufficient oil or none at all, you risk causing irreversible damage. When the oil level is near or below the minimum mark, refill the engine with the manufacturer's recommended lubricant, such as SAE 10W-30 or 10W-40 four-stroke engine oil.

For our lawnmowers we recommend using car oil for four-stroke engines. Acceptable types are SAE oils, specifically 10W-30 or all-climate 10W-40: the "10" represents the cold viscosity grade (the "W" stands for "Winter") and "30" is the hot viscosity rating. These numbers are not temperatures, but indicate the temperature range within which the oil’s performance remains unchanged (in this case between -20°C and 40°C).

If you instead refer to the API classification for your engine oil, based on the type of use and performance level, choose SG, SH or a higher category. We advise you to change the engine oil every year or every 50 hours of operation, respecting these requirements.

Apply the same engine oil or special grease to the machine parts subject to rust. Here you will find other useful tips for lawnmower maintenance and storage.

Lubricants for hedgetrimmers and brushcutters

In addition to following the above advice regarding motor oil, if you have a hedgetrimmer, when refuelling take the opportunity to also lubricate the blades: don’t use recycled lubricant, instead use good-quality biodegradable oil such as Chain Lube protective oil. Also use it to oil the blades before storage, so as to prevent rust.

Humidity causes metal parts to rust, so store your hedgetrimmer in a dry, sheltered environment, preferably not in direct contact with the ground (keep it raised, for example by placing it on planks). These tips for protecting hedgetrimmers from moisture apply to all gardening tools.

After every 20 hours of operation, check your hedgetrimmer and, if necessary, use molybdenum disulphide grease to lubricate the reduction unit linkage which, together with the other gearbox mechanisms, drives the reciprocating motion of the blades. Molybdenum disulphide is a solid lubricant widely used in greases. It can withstand extreme pressures and is particularly effective for reducing friction between surfaces and for preventing wear. Find other useful hedgetrimmer maintenance tips in this guide.

If you have a brushcutter, after every 30 hours of operation check the grease level in the bevel gear, which is what makes the cutting unit move, and if necessary lubricate with molybdenum disulphide grease. Use the same lubricant to grease the joint fitting of the shaft every 30 hours or, if the brushcutter is a backpack model, grease the hose fitting every 20 hours.

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