Are you tired of spending hours maneuvering your traditional lawn mower around obstacles and tight spaces? Say goodbye to hassle and learn to drive a zero turn mower. While these powerful machines promise to revolutionize your lawn maintenance experience, learning to drive one can be a bit daunting at first.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the process of mastering a zero-turn mower, helping you save time and effort while achieving the perfectly manicured lawn you’ve always dreamed of. Get ready to turn your lawn care routine on its head and discover the joy of effortless mowing.
Table of Contents
Understanding Zero-Turn Mower Components
To have all of you understand the concept of zero lawn mowers the easiest way, I have listed its components separately, one by one.
You can consider the engine as the heart of a zero turn mower. Usually, you can find a zero turn mower with gas or electric-powered engines. Most of them will have the power ranging between 15 to 16 horsepower.
As the engine is the main component of any zero turn lawn mower, you must maintain it regularly. Before you learn how to start and drive a zero turn mower make sure you know how to change the oil and air filter, check the spark plugs, and clean the engine.
A Mower deck is another essential part of the zero turn mower. This deck houses the blades that, in turn, help in cutting the grass. Mower decks can vary in size and options to cater to various lawn needs. In the market, you would come across two types of mowing decks; one is fabricated, while the other is stamped.
After using both decks, I learned that the fabricated one best suits commercial purposes. However, the stamped one worked well for residential lawns. A pro tip is to look for a mower deck that is easy to adjust and level.
To learn how to drive a zero turn mower, you must first understand its controls, functions, and adjustments. Typically a zero turn mower has plenty of functions that can be controlled using a lever. These functions can range from managing the mower to adjusting the cutting length. Look for control levers that are easy to reach and maneuver; otherwise, you might feel exhausted using the mower.
Preparing for Your First Drive
Before you learn how to drive a zero turn mower, consider the safety precautions below.
1. Specific Safety and Maintenance Tips
One of the best zero turn mower driving tips is double-checking all the safety and maintenance measures before operating the machinery. I recommend not using the mower on steep slopes. Even if you consider doing so, ensure the grass is dry so you will have a firm grip on the ground.
To have the mower well maintained, make sure to store it in a place where there is no direct sunlight and rainfall. And if you store it during the winter, use a fuel stabilizer to prepare it for the next season.
2. Pre-drive Inspection
I have always ensured that I have prepared a pre-drive inspection checklist before I operate a zero turn lawn mower. The first step is to check if the oil is clean or not. Because if you start a mower with stale oil, it would clog up the filter and damage the engine. Additionally, you must also maintain fuel levels balanced. Apart from this, inspect the belt, sharpness, adjustment of blades, and firmness of tires.
3. Familiarizing Yourself With the Controls
Another significant point to learning to drive a zero turn mower is to master the control levers and buttons. The more you get familiarized with the controls, the easier it will be for you to maneuver the machinery. A pro tip is to learn the basic rules first and then carry over to the complex ones.
Basic Driving Techniques of Zero Turn Mower
Here are some basic driving techniques to drive a zero turn mower.
Starting the Mower
To start the mower, remember to follow the below safety precautions:
- Wear appropriate clothing and footwear to ensure maximum protection and comfort.
- Check the area for any obstacles or hazards before starting the mower.
- Keep your hands and feet away from the blades at all times.
- Do not allow children or pets near the mower while it is running.
The proper starting procedure for zero turn mower is as follows:
- Sit in the operator’s seat and ensure the parking brake is engaged.
- Turn the key to the “on” position.
- Engage the choke and press the throttle control to the fast position.
- Turn the key to the “start” position to start the engine.
- Once the engine has started, disengage the choke and adjust the throttle to the desired speed.
- Release the parking brake and begin mowing.
Steering and Maneuvering
Zero turn mowers have unique steering systems that allow greater control and maneuverability. While zero turn mowers offer more excellent maneuverability than traditional riding mowers, they can also be more challenging to control, especially for beginners. Here are some tips to help you achieve smooth control:
- Practice operating the mower in an open area without obstacles until you are comfortable with the controls.
- Use small and deliberate movements to avoid sudden jerks or jolts when operating the levers.
- To mow in a straight line, push both levers forward simultaneously. To slow down or stop, pull both levers back.
- Avoid sudden changes in speed or direction, as this can cause the mower to lose traction or tip over.
Adjusting Speed and Direction
Knowing how to drive a zero turn mower and manage its speed and direction is equally crucial as steering and navigating. To change the mower’s direction and speed, follow these instructions:
- By pushing both levers at once, you can move forward. You also can speed up the mower by pushing the levers farther.
- Pull both levers back to slow down or stop. A mower will move slower the further the levers are pulled.
- By pulling both levers back past neutral, you can move in reverse.
Note: Zero turn mowers are designed to move forward primarily. Even though they have reverse capabilities, they should only be used sparingly and when necessary.
Mowing Techniques for a Professional Finish
If you want to mow your lawn like a professional, here are some amazing zero turn mower mowing tips.
Cutting Height Adjustment
Here’s a quick guide to how I adjusted the cutting height on my zero turn mower:
- I started with locating the height adjustment mechanism on the mower. I found mine at the front.
- Next, I researched the grass type in my lawn and used the controlling lever to adjust the cutting height by altering the mower deck.
- Lastly, I mowed a small portion of my lawn to check the results.
Using a mowing pattern is another technique to achieve a professional-looking lawn. Here are some popular mowing patterns along with working zero turn mower driving tips:
- Straight Lines: Mowing in straight lines is a simple and effective way to create a clean and organized look. This pattern works well for rectangular or square lawns.
- Checkerboard: The checkerboard pattern is created by mowing in alternating diagonal directions.
- Circular: Mowing in circular patterns can create a unique and interesting look, but it requires some skill to avoid creating uneven patches.
Regardless of the pattern you choose, there are some techniques you can use to achieve clean lines and even cuts. You can start by mowing the perimeter of your lawn first, working your way inward in a clockwise direction. Make sure to overlap each pass slightly to avoid leaving uncut grass strips.
Also Read: How to Sharpen Your Mower Blade? | 6 Easy & Safe Steps
Mowing on Slopes and Uneven Terrain
zero turn mowers run way too faster than usual mowers and can be dangerous. Because of this reason when you are trying to learn how to start a zero turn mower, you will have difficulty handling the speed. Make sure you start slowly and give yourself time. Read my guide Are Zero-Turn Mowers Good on Hills? to learn how to mow on slopes and hills briefly.
Troubleshooting Common Issues of Zero Turn Mower
Here are some common issues a zero turn mower might encounter and how to resolve them.
Mower Won’t Start
If your mower isn’t starting, there might be issues relating to the following:
- Dead battery: The mower won’t start if the battery is dead. Examine the battery, and if necessary, charge or replace it.
- Clogged carburetor or air filter: If the fuel in your mower is not clean, it can damage the carburetor or the air filter. Make sure to change the oil or air filter as necessary.
- Faulty spark plugs: The mower won’t kick start with any issue, be it dirt or even a crack, with the spark plugs. Check the spark plugs for any signs of corrosion and change them accordingly.
Uneven or Scalped Cuts
There might be a number of reasons why your zero-turn mower is delivering uneven or scalped cuts. Here are a few typical reasons and solutions why your mower isn’t working up to the mark:
- Verify that all tires are inflated to the required PSI by checking tire pressure. The mower may cut unevenly if the tire pressure is unequal.
- Inspect the mower deck level and make any required adjustments if it is not in level.
- Make sure the blades are sharp and in good shape.
Loss of Steering or Traction
Losing steering or traction while using your zero-turn mower might be risky. Here are some common causes and solutions when you drive a zero turn lawn mower and it loses traction.
- Low tire pressure: Loss of traction may result from low tire pressure. Verify that all tires are inflated to the correct PSI by checking the tire pressure.
- Muddy terrain: Look for mud or grass clippings on the drive system or tires. Garbage may make a vehicle lose traction and steering control.
- Transmission problem: A bad transmission can make it difficult to steer or maintain traction. If required, inspect the transmission and replace it.
Maintenance and Care For Your Zero Turn Mower
Your zero-turn mower may survive many years if it receives the proper maintenance. Read my guide about ‘how long do zero turn mowers last?‘ if you want your mower to last more than it will. When cleaning the mower, always ensure the engine is off, and the key is out. Ensure the gasoline tank is empty or a fuel stabilizer has been added to winterize the mower. Additionally, you should disconnect the battery and keep it somewhere dry and cold.
Also Read: Best Electric Lawn Mowers for Your Garden
Learning how to drive a zero turn mower might seem daunting at first, but with the right tips, you can master it. The best way to operate a zero turn lawn mower is to start by preparing for your first drive and then learn the basic techniques. As you know the basic skills, you can learn mowing techniques for a professional finish.
However, during all this, remember to take safety precautions while using a mower. A zero-turn mower is fun to use. It feels like you’re racing a go-kart around your lawn with its quick and responsive controls. Eventually, making lawn maintenance seems less like a duty and a more enjoyable hobby.
Are Zero-Turn Mowers Hard to Drive?
Zero turn mowers are extremely easy to drive. However, even though they aren’t steered like traditional mowers, they are still easy to maneuver. They are responsive and have a fantastic tight turning radius.
How to Start a Zero-Turn Mower?
To start a zero turn mower, insert the key and turn the key or ignition knob clockwise. Make sure there are no obstacles as you mow the lawn, and consider starting it slowly and gradually.
How Fast Should You Go on a Zero-Turn Mower?
A zero turn mower is designed to run faster than the usual mowers. You must maintain your typical speed on zero turn mower somewhere between 5 mph to 8 mph. However, remember to follow the precautionary measures when riding a zero turn mower.
Are Zero Turn Mowers Good on Hills?
Zero-turn mowers are not good on hills. These mowers are fast and might often have the risk of slipping up or turning over on slopes. Avoid using zero-turn mowers on slopes higher than 15 degrees.