Changing oil in a lawn tractor.
Small Engine Maintenance:

Changing The Engine Oil On A
Craftsman Lawn Tractor

Also: Lubricating The Chassis, Cleaning The Air Filter, Cleaning The Spark Plug


In This Article:

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Skill Level: 2 (Basic) Time Taken: About 1 Hour

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor

Draining The Engine Oil:

Location of engine oil drain plug (blue arrow) on this 2004 Craftsman DLT 3000 riding mower with an 18 HP Briggs and Stratton single-cylinder gasoline engine.


After two summers of use, the engine oil had gotten a little dark. Slightly dirty oil on dipstick.


Opening plastic cap on  oil drain tube, Craftsman lawn tractor.

I pulled this yellow plastic cap off the drain tube.

According to the owner's manual, you can connect a piece of plastic tubing to the end of this drain tube, to make it easier to direct the oil to the drain pan on the floor. If my lawn tractor came with such plastic tubing, I've long since misplaced it.


Then I opened the engine oil drain by pushing the tube inwards slightly, turning counter-clockwise, and pulling the tube outwards. Opening oil drain tube, Craftsman lawn tractor.


Funnel used to divert oil to drain pan, Craftsman lawn tractor. But first, I rigged up a transmission funnel (just a funnel with an extension tube) so it drained into an oil drain pan.


The oil drained quite slowly. Draining engine oil, Craftsman DLT 3000 lawn tractor.

Actually, the oil drained so slowly that I decided to raise up the opposite side an inch or two. The tractor is supposed to be on a flat surface, and the way I had the tractor parked, the floor was sloped away from the drain-side of the engine, so used a small floor jack to raise the left side of the tractor. The only place I could fit the jack under the tractor was at the back axle.


Changing The Oil Filter:

Sears recommends changing the oil filter every other oil change (every two years under normal use).

Oil filter location, Craftsman lawn tractor with Briggs and Stratton 18 HP engine. The oil filter is on the other side of the engine.


I used a small cap-style oil filter wrench and a 3/8" ratchet to loosen the oil filter. Removing lawn tractor oil filter with cap-style filter wrench.


Plastic tray used to catch oil from filter, Craftsman lawn tractor.

I wedged a plastic container under the oil filter adapter to catch the oil.

The container I used is the packaging supplied with certain brands of sliced lunch meats, and is also sold under the Ziploc and Glad brands as disposable food storage containers.


I applied a thin smear of used oil on the gasket of the new oil filter. The gasket MUST be lubricated, or it may be very difficult to remove at the next oil change. Applying dab of oil to gasket on new oil filter.

These oil filters are expensive compared to automotive filters... Sears sells this filter for 12 bucks. I think I bought the previous filter at Lowe's for around 11 dollars.

Installing new oil filter on a lawn tractor, Briggs and Stratton 18 HP. I installed the oil filter, and tightened it firmly by hand.


I poured in some SAE 30 motor oil. This particular model of Craftsman lawn tractor requires:

  • 3.5 pints of oil when the filter is changed (that's 1-3/4 quarts)
  • 3 pints of oil if the filter is not changed (or 1-1/2 quarts)
Adding motor oil to crankcase, Briggs and Stratton 18 HP riding lawn mowerr engine.

The owner's manual stated that 30-weight oil should be used if the tractor is being operated at temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Below freezing, 5W-30 should be used.

Since you need to pour in a portion of a quart bottle, it can take a long time to get the oil to the proper level. I poured in some oil and inserted the dipstick to check the level, then repeated the process until the oil level was in the hash marks on the dipstick (i.e. in the range between FULL and LOW). Then I started the engine for a few seconds to let the oil fill up the oil filter, and rechecked the level.

On most cars, the difference between FULL and LOW on the dipstick is one quart. But not with small engines. It seems like the difference between FULL and LOW is about 8 ounces (half a pint) on this Briggs and Stratton engine.


Chassis Lube:

There are 2 grease fittings at each front wheel on this Craftsman riding mower.

Front axle grease fittings, Sears Craftsman DLT 3000 lawn tractor. By turning the steering wheel, I could reach two grease fittings near each front wheel. One grease zerk is for the steering pivot, and the other is for the wheel bearing. I gave each grease fitting 3 or 4 pumps of grease from a grease gun.


If you want... you can pull off the flexible grease cap on the end of the front axle and clean out the old grease. After pumping in some new grease, the old grease oozes out and can be wiped off. But this is not necessary.

It was difficult to remove and replace this grease cap... I had to warm it up with a heat gun to make the rubber softer.

Grease cap or dust cap removed from end of axle on lawn tractor.


Cleaning The Air Filter:

I clean the air filter after using the mower 4 or 5 times, especially when I've been kicking up a lot of dust.

Location of air filter, Briggs and Stratton 18 HP lawn tractor engine. The air filter chamber (blue arrow) is located on the left side of the engine.


By releasing a clasp, this plastic cover comes off. Air filter in lawn tractor engine, Sears Craftsman.


Pleated air filter for small engines, Briggs and Stratton.

The pleated air filter is behind the cover.

The pleats are on the dirty side of the filter.


There is a thin "pre-filter" behind the air filter. Air pre-filter, Briggs and Stratton 18 HP engine.

I removed both of these filters and cleaned off the dust and dirt with compressed air and a blow gun.


Cleaning The Spark Plug:

It's a good idea to remove the spark plug every time the oil is changed, to inspect the plug, clean it, and set the gap.

Disconnecting spark plug wire on a small engine.

The spark plug is located at the front of the engine, on the right-hand side.

I pulled the spark plug wire from the spark plug, being careful to grab the boot and not the wire, (which could damage the wire).


I used a 5/8" spark plug socket (red arrow) and a ratchet to remove the spark plug. Removing spark plug on a small engine.


Cleaning 4-stroke small engine spark plug.

The spark plug had some minor black carbon deposits, which I removed with a folded-up piece of 400-grit emery cloth.

I adjusted the gap on the spark plug to .030" as specified in the owner's manual.

When I installed the spark plug, I applied a small dab of copper-based anti-seize compound to the threads, which is supposed to lubricate the threads and make the plug easier to remove next time.

I reconnected the spark plug wire and started the engine to make sure it ran properly.

More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Basic Mechanic's Tools
  • Oil Drain Pan
  • Transmission Funnel
  • Grease Gun
  • Air Compressor
  • Blow Gun
  • Spark Plug Wrench, 5/8"
  • Emery Cloth, 400 Grit

Materials Used:

  • Motor Oil, SAE 30, about 1.75 quarts
  • Oil Filter, Sears Part No. 71.24603 (Fits most Briggs and Stratton engines with oil filter)
  • Automotive Grease
  • Copper-Based Anti-Seize Compound

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Written August 19, 2010