The purpose of this post is to discuss the difference between Kawasaki small engine oil and typical automotive oil. This information may also apply to other small engine oils to a greater or lesser degree. Since Kawasaki gives us more information about their oil than the other small engine manufactures do, we are most comfortable recommending and using their oil. Below we will discus two reasons why you should use small engine oil in small air cooled engines.


Small air cooled engines run hotter than most automotive engines do. This is especially the case on hot summer days. Air cooled engines don’t have a thermostat to control the engine temperature like cars do. As the air temperature gets warmer the air blowing over the engine to cool it also gets warmer. If you get grass or other debris stuck in the cooling fins it can make the problem even worse. The oil temperature in a small engine can reach 280 – 300 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot summer day. This is nearly 100 degrees hotter than the oil in a typical car. Automotive SN/SL oils are not designed for these temperatures and will begin to break down. Kawasaki small engine oil is designed for use in high temperature environments and will not break down as quickly.

2. Zinc

The other important difference between Kawasaki small engine oil and most automotive oil is the levels of zinc that are added to the oil. Kawasaki small engine oil contains much higher levels of zinc than most automotive oil.  Zinc has outstanding anti-wear qualities under extreme pressure.  It also acts as an anti oxidant. High heat conditions in small engines accelerate the oxidation process in oil. This causes it to thicken and break down into other molecules. Because zinc is an anti oxidant it helps to prevent this break down of the oil and extend its useful life.

Small Engine Oil & Your Car

Can you use small engine oil in your car? The answer is no. High levels of zinc can cause damage to the emissions systems on newer cars.  Automotive oil back in the 1970s contained high levels of zinc. However, modern automotive oils no longer contain as much zinc because high levels of zinc can damage the catalytic converter and 02 sensors in modern cars. For this reason we do not recommend using small engine oil in your car.