A riding lawn mower is the best investment for homeowners who wish to have pristine and vibrant lawns. They are especially ideal for people who are not able to walk behind or push along heavy lawn mowers. Riding lawn mowers can be expensive but they are certainly a worthwhile investment as they come with many amazing features.
In this guide, we will discuss how to start a riding lawn mower and also cover troubleshooting steps for starting issues commonly encountered. There are different types of riding lawn mowers and these include front and rear mounted units as well as the ZTR or zero turn radius models. ZTRs offer the best of both worlds between the front and rear turn models as they allow the rider to sit in front of the engine and right on the top of the mowing deck.
This enables her/him to see better and take advantage of the extremely responsible and nimble steering system. If you have a large lawn, a ZTR mower is the one to go in for. Let us take a look at the steps to start a riding lawn mower of the ZTR type.
How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower With Zero Turn Radius
Here are the steps of how to turn on a riding lawn mower:
Sit in the Operator’s Seat
Make sure the safety switch under the seat is not activated. To do so, sit firmly and comfortably placing your entire weight on the seat provided. The safety switch under the seat of a ZTR mower gets activated if there isn’t adequate weight on the seat. This means that unless you are in the seat, the unit won’t turn on. Therefore, the operator needs to sit on the seat before turning the ignition.
Turn on the Gasoline Supply
The fuel selector valve (located near the gasoline tank or behind the operator’s seat) will be in the OFF position when you start. Activate the gas supply by turning ON the valve which may be located either on the left or the right side of the operator’s seat.
Engage the Parking Brake
To engage the parking brake, simply lift the parking brake lever vertically. This lever may be located on the side of the operator’s seat and isn’t hard to spot. You can also pump the brake pedal as some riding lawn mower models have those instead of levers.
Disengage the Blades Rotation
Push the PTO switch which is a round handle on the control panel. Doing so will inwardly disengage the blade rotation.
Turn the Traction Levers to Neutral Position
Traction levers control the mower’s motion and speed. You need to keep these gears in neutral prior to starting the riding mower. There may be a clear ‘N’ (for neutral) marking for this. Some models may require that you push the brake pedal before you change the gear’s position.
Speed It Up
Now is the time to speed up the mower. Do so by gently moving the throttle lever to upward direction. This may be indicated by the picture of a bunny. The lower side might have a picture of a tortoise. Some models, especially the older ones, may require the engine to be warmed up for several minutes before you can begin driving.
Use the Choke if Needed
Just like we have to engage the choke on a two wheeler when the engine is left cold or unused for a long time, we need to do the same for the mower. Pull the choke outward if your mower has gone unused for a long time. This is necessary when starting a riding lawn mower.
Each riding-type lawn mower comes with its set of keys. Insert the same in the ignition and turn to the right side. If your model does not have a key, it will have a knob which you turn to the right. As you do this, disengage the choke by pressing it back inwards. You might have to hold the ignition for up to 10 seconds at a time for it to kick into life.
Disengage the Parking Brake and the PTO Switch
Release the parking brake lever which you had set in the vertical position and place it back down in its original or starting position. Simultaneously pull out the PTO switch which will allow you to engage the blades. There are two levers in front of you which you can move forwards to increase the speed.
They can also be used for reducing the speed and moving them in the backward direction. The above steps can also help you answer the question: how to start Craftsman riding mowers and how to start a Snapper riding mower.
How to Start a Rear Engine Lawn Mower
Rear engine lawn mowers include Craftsman, Troy-Bilt, Ryobi, etc. Here is how to operate a riding lawn mower having a rear engine.
Make Sure There Is Gas and Oil
Check the lawn mower to ensure there is adequate supply of oil and gas. If needed, read the instruction manuals. Lift the seat to see the oil and gas caps. Gas cap will be on the right side (facing forward) and on the user’s left is a yellow cap for the oil.
Know Your Mower, Transmission, and Speed Controls
The mower engage, full forward, and raise and lower control levels are on the user’s right side. The transmission lever is between the user’s legs. This is slightly tricky to maneuver, so do practice it a bit before starting the mower. The speed control is just below the steering wheel on the lower right side. All the way down is Park and you have 6 speeds. Smaller yards will do well on 3rd speed.
Adjust the Steering Wheel Height
Craftsman rear engine mowers come with a push button for telescoping the steering wheel in order to adjust its height.
Ensure Gear Is in Neutral
Before starting the mower, ensure that the parking brake is engaged, the gear setting is on N for neutral.
Key in the Ignition
Sit comfortably in the rider’s seat and key in the ignition. The ignition will be on the user’s left side. If needed, use the choke to rev the engine. The choke is built into the lever present on the user’s left side. Full forward is choke – use it if the lawn mower has been idle for a while.
Release the Clutch Very Slowly
The clutch is very sensitive and slightest movement will start the transmission and move the mower. So make sure you release it very slowly. Simultaneously, put the transmission in forward (there is no reverse movement in the rear engine mowers). Set the speed to the lowest setting.
Engage the Blades
Use the lever for lowering the mower blade. Know that there is a safety switch near the mower’s shield which gets triggered if the mower bumps into something (like a sprinkler). This can prevent the mower from starting. So make sure that the safety switch is not pushed in by the plastic shield if you have trouble starting the mower.
How to Start Tractor Lawn Mower
The steps for starting tractor lawn mowers and ZTR mowers are more or less the same. Tractor lawn mowers (example – John Deere E140) can be started as follows:
Emergency Brake Engagement
First thing to do after sitting on the seat is to push the emergency brake pedal all the way down as far as it can go. Also, simultaneously pull the emergency brake lever up all the way. Now release the pedal. This will lock the brake. The lawn mower won’t start until you perform this step.
Apply the Choke
Apply the choke using the yellow throttle lever to the left side of the steering wheel all the way up. The blue/cold setting is ‘choke’ followed by an image of a rabbit for higher speed and tortoise for lower speed. The choke is spring-loaded so it will retract and move after you apply it.
Ready to Go!
The starting knob comes with a feature to turn on the headlights along with 3 other settings. The second setting after headlights is ‘ON’, followed by ‘crank’. Turn the knob to start position so as to start the engine. When ready to go, disengage the emergency brake and pull up the clutch PTO switch upwards (this is a yellow knob on the right side of the steering wheel).
Move the lever on the left to ‘Rabbit’ which is full speed. Also, on the right side below, you can use the forward and reverse levers to move the tractor in the respective direction. Note that there is a button for reverse – only when you push this button, the mower will move in the reverse direction.
Engaging the Mowing Blades
On the left side of the seat is a large lever which engages/disengages the mower’s blades. Moving the lever will help you lower the blades and start the mowing process.
We hope this brief guide helps you start your riding lawn mower easily. Models vary and so do their starting procedures. So, do read the operator’s manual for your particular model. When in doubt, consult an expert.