If you live in an area that receives frequent heavy snows, a snowblower is an invaluable tool for clearing your driveway or walk—but only if it’s running properly.
A high-quality motor oil can help keep a snowblower in peak condition, making it easier to start while helping it run smoothly. However, knowing which motor oil is best for each type of use can be a challenge. The best-performing oil for a snowblower flows easily through the engine, even in the coldest temperatures, without leaving deposits and grime that can make the snowblower challenging to start.
This guide shares the features that make a motor oil best for a snowblower and includes some of the best oil options on the market for snowblower maintenance.
- BEST OVERALL: Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic 5W-30 Motor Oil
- RUNNER-UP: Briggs & Stratton Synthetic Small Engine Motor Oil
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil
- BEST FOR SMALL ENGINES: Briggs & Stratton SAE 5W-30 Snow Thrower Oil
- MOST VERSATILE: Castrol GTX MAGNATEC 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Oil for Snowblowers
The right maintenance engine oil can make the difference between a snowblower that starts right up and one that’s sidelined with a gummed-up engine. Ahead, learn how viscosity, oil type, and other factors affect engine oil performance in a snowblower.
Gas-powered snowblowers use 4-cycle engine oil, which is oil for engines that use separate tanks for gas and oil, much like a car engine. The gas fuels the engine, while the oil lubricates it, each from its own tank. Smaller engines, such as those on a chainsaw, have a 2-cycle engine. This type of small engine uses an oil and gas mixture that goes into one tank.
Identifying the right type of engine oil is easy. The oil container has “4-cycle” or “2-cycle” clearly printed on the label. Although some 4-cycle engine oils are labeled for “small engines,” it’s actually the same oil commonly used in cars and trucks.
Don’t use 2-cycle engine oil in a snowblower, as it will not properly lubricate the engine and will damage it. The motors on electric snowblowers don’t require engine oil.
Viscosity refers to the thickness of the oil. Higher viscosity oil is better at protecting and lubricating the engine when operating at high temperatures and at peak load (high RPMs). Oil with a low viscosity remains thinner at lower temperatures, promoting better flow through the engine, making it easier to start and more efficient to run.
Viscosity is based on a scale created by SAE International, formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Motor oil has two viscosity ratings:
- The first rating—the “W” (for “winter”) after the number—represents the cold temperature viscosity. For example, an oil rated 5W flows better at lower temperatures than a 10W oil.
- The second number indicates the high-temperature viscosity; for example, an oil with a high-temperature viscosity of 30 stays thicker at higher temperatures.
Since snowblowers operate exclusively in cold weather, they typically use SAE 5W-30 weight oil, which ensures the engine will start in cold weather. Make sure to check the maintenance section of the snowblower’s operating manual for the proper oil weight.
Synthetic vs. Standard
Not all 5W-30 engine oils are the same. Some engine oils are synthetic, which means they use higher quality base oils than conventional oils. Synthetic oils can generally withstand higher temperatures and resist breakdown better. This means synthetic oil lasts at least 50 percent longer than conventional oil, so the snowblower probably will require less-frequent maintenance.
Many synthetic oils also contain additives to help improve engine performance. Additives include detergents that flush grime and buildup from the engine parts, which helps extend engine life, and chemicals that enhance lubrication. Other additives leave a coating on the engine parts. Synthetic oils are generally more expensive, often costing several times more than conventional oils.
The 4-cycle engine oil that snowblowers use is the same oil used in any 4-cycle engine, which means it also can be used in lawn mowers, power washers, and even cars and trucks. The 5W-30 oil provides adequate protection not only during the colder months but also in warmer months, thanks to a high-temperature viscosity rating.
Engine oil generally comes in 1-quart bottles, ideal for snowblowers that hold around that much. Motor oil also comes in 5-quart containers.
With a shelf life of about five years, 5W-30 oil can be stored in the garage so it’s on hand when needed. Keep motor oil in a cool, dry environment in a tightly sealed container to prevent contamination.
Our Top Picks
These top picks feature 5W-30 motor oils that are specially formulated for cold weather use. While many of these oils feature additives that help keep engines free of harmful dirt and deposits, any of these products will help keep a snowblower engine running smoothly.
Seasonal machines, such as snowblowers, may sit idle for months before their services are needed, providing time for impurities and gunk to build up in the engine. Pennzoil’s Platinum synthetic motor oil is clear 5W-30 oil that’s made from natural gas. It washes dirt and deposits out of the engine as it passes through, helping to extend the life of the engine while ensuring that it will start when the next snowfall arrives. It can keep the engine up to 45 percent cleaner than standard oils.
Handles on the top and the bottom of the bottle allow for accurate pouring. Pennzoil Platinum, which comes in 5-quart bottles, also is a good option for changing the oil in the car.
This Briggs & Stratton oil is well suited for snowblowers. This 5W-30 weight oil makes an engine easier to start in extreme cold while minimizing oil consumption.
It’s a synthetic oil, which means it stays thinner at lower temperatures than standard oil and lasts longer than conventional oils. This oil is rated to last up to 5,000 hours in a snowblower. The 32-ounce bottle comes with convenient measurements on the side that allow the user to see exactly how much oil is left in the bottle.
With a high-temperature viscosity rating of 30, this oil is a good option for other 4-cycle small engines that operate in hot temperatures, including lawn mowers.
Valvoline 5W-30 weight motor oil is a synthetic formula with additives that provide 50 percent more wear protection than standard motor oils. The included detergents flush sludge and harmful deposits from the engine, which is significant for small 4-cycle engines that are used only when it snows.
The oil’s low cold operating viscosity is ideal for snowblowers, while its 30-weight high-temperature viscosity rating makes it suitable for warm weather machines, such as a lawn mower. This Valvoline product comes in a 1-quart bottle, but a 5-quart bottle with a pour spout is available.
With a 5W rating, this Briggs & Stratton engine oil, which is from one of the best-known names in small engines, is specially formulated for small engines that must operate in cold temperatures below 50 degrees. This makes it ideal for snowblowers.
This motor oil comes in a 1-quart container, and it features a handy gauge on the side that allows the user to see how much oil is left in the bottle. In addition to operating well at low temperatures, the oil has a high-temperature viscosity of 30, making it suitable for use in warmer weather motors such as power washers or lawn mowers.
With technology designed to protect the engine and improve performance, this 5W-30 Castrol GTX Magnatec motor oil features Castrol’s sludge and wear protection additive. This technology prevents buildup in engines, extending the life of engines both large and small. It also makes it easier to get a pull-start engine up and running.
This motor oil is designed to protect the engine during start-up when the oil hasn’t circulated through the engine parts, leaving them vulnerable. This oil quickly coats the engine parts to provide protection immediately after the engine is started. This blend also features the optimal 5W oil rating for winter use and a 30 high-temperature viscosity rating for hot weather.
FAQs About Oil for Snowblowers
Now that you know more about oil for snowblowers, you may have additional questions. To learn about the best type of oil for your snowblower, keep reading for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about snowblower engine oil.
Q. Can I use synthetic oil in my snowblower?
Yes, synthetic oil can be used, and it may be the best oil for a snowblower. Synthetic oils are refined to run cleaner, leaving fewer deposits in the engine. Many also include additives that clean grime and sludge from the engine to improve performance.
Q. Can I use car oil in my snowblower?
Yes. Snowblowers, like cars, are 4-cycle engines, so they use the same type of motor oil. Make sure to use a motor oil weight with a low-temperature viscosity rating, such as 5W-30.
Q. How do I know which oil is the right one for my snowblower?
Snowblowers operate in frigid temperatures, so the most important factor to consider is viscosity. Use motor oil with a low-temperature viscosity rating, such as 5W-30 or 5W-20, to ensure the snowblower starts easily and runs smoothly.
Q. What happens if I put too much oil in my snowblower?
Adding too much oil to a snowblower, or any 4-cycle engine, will cause the oil to rise and come in contact with other moving parts around the engine, aerating the oil and creating a huge mess.