If your zero-turn mower is threatening to throw you off when you mow, then there is a big problem. There are a handful of possible reasons why you’re experiencing this tragedy ranging from loose bolts to worn-out dampeners and sometimes even user experience. The best thing to do is to sort it out right away because aside from damaging your spine, you could potentially ignore warnings from your zero-turn mower of an issue that could cost you painful and unexpected expenses to repair.
So, how do you fix a herky-jerky zero-turn mower problem? Since there’s no standard diagnosis for an uncomfortable mowing experience, I will be poking at all the culprits on your z- turn mower so that you successfully figure out the bumpy problem.
6 Reasons Why Your Zero-Turn Mower Is Jerky
Though there are major suspicious parts to blame for a jerky ride, it really could be anything! Here are the main reasons why your zero-turn mower bucks like a bronco:
1. Zero-Turn Newbie Mistakes
If you are a beginner in dealing with zero-turn mowers, there’s every possibility you’re handling your machine wrongly. Since z-turns already come with a steep learning curve, you’re very much excused.
2. Problematic Dampeners
The dampeners are more or less the major determining factor for a smooth ride on a zero-turn mower. In fact, they are usually the first parts that get checked when a z-turn starts to gallop like a horse. A problematic dampener will actively affect the steering levers of the machine and thus the ride quality.
3. Slippery Drive Belt
If the drive belt is worn out, not set properly, or constantly slipping off, the entire balance and ride quality of your zero-turn mower will be thrown off. This is because the belt is one of the major power transmitters of the machine and an uneven or disturbed action will result in the jagged movement of your zero-turn mower even if you’re a zero-turn expert. Especially on Cub Cadet zero-turn mowers; they are infamous for having slipping drive belt problems because of how the belts are routed and usually get represented as a ‘bad right-side drive motor’ problem.
4. Uneven/Unsuitable Tire Pressure
Tire pressure affects the overall balance of your zero-turn mower since the entire frame rests on the four bulbous rings. Setting the correct tire pressure could ward off the jerkiness you experience when you mow. You should understand that overfilling the tires could cause every bump on your lawn to be felt much more intensely in comparison to an adequately filled tire. Plump tires and bumpy terrain make such a horrible match!
5. Poor Frame Structure
The frame structure shouldn’t be a problem associated with the ride quality of zero-turn mowers from a specific standpoint, but if you own an Ariens zero-turn mower, you might want to know this; there is a common design flaw with this brand of z-turns that could lead to the frame breaking too close to the hydro drive motors and can cause the motors to shift and buck leading to the jerkiness you loathe so much as you mow. It’s so common that the Ariens company even includes repair kits for such problems in case your mower tries to sabotage your ride. However, whether or not your zero-turn mower is an Ariens, it’s safe to peep into the hydro drives to see if anything has gone wrong around them.
6. Seating Mishaps
Zero-turn mower seats play a huge role in offering you a blissful time in the yard. It’s no fun when you’re one hour into the task and yearning to get off the machine. Sometimes, lusciously padded seats are just enough to run around plain terrain, but if you tackle bumpy yards, you might need to step up your game with suspension seats– there is no going back to regular chairs when you try the suspension features.
6 Ways To Make a Zero-Turn Mower Ride Smoother
Once you know where the problem is, everything is easy-peasy from there. Here are solutions that will make mowing a much smoother task to carry out:
1. Newbie Tips
Aside from daily practice and day-to-day research, here are a few tips to help soothe your bumpy mowing situation:
- Avoid holding the top of the levers
If you’re grabbing onto the extreme tip of the levers that are actually designed for holding, it might be the reason why your ride is jerky or bumpy. Try holding a little lower from the tip, perhaps as low as you can get. This way you have less arm swaying and movement that could be reflected as bumpiness by the machine.
- Resist Using Armrests
I know this may seem a little counterproductive, but as a newbie, resting your elbow on the armrests will provide a bridge for shock waves to pass through your arm to the levers and cause shakiness in your steering. However, the more you use your zero-turn mower, the better it gets. So, if you’re having a rather uncomfortable ride, it’s best to save the armrests for a later feast.
2. Replace Worn Out Dampeners
The dampeners rest just below the seats and are attached to the levers of your mower. All you have to do is remove the old dampener by loosening the mounting bolts, and replacing it with a new one.
Follow these simple steps:
- Lift the seat of the zero-turn mower to expose the frame.
- Locate the dampener and its mounting bolts.
- With a socket wrench, loosen the bolts to access the dampener and take it off.
- Follow the steps in reverse to replace with a new or equivalent dampener.
3. Inspect/Readjust The Drive Belt
If your zero-turn mower has a removable footplate, the task will be much easier for you to achieve. All you have to do is lift the plate and inspect the belt; if you see a lot of peeling and loose strands, then your belt is due for a replacement. Otherwise, you might just need to re-route the drive belt properly. Analyze the pulleys to make sure the belt sits properly in the grooves.
Here’s how to remove the drive belt:
- Wear your gloves.
- Park your zero-turn mower on a flat plain and make sure all safety measures are turned on.
- Release the deck to the lowest cutting position and proceed.
- Remove the idler pulley cover on the right side of the mower to access the idler pulley.
- Push the pulley inwards to release the loop of the belt wrapping around the groove.
- Slip your hand under the deck and reach for the electric clutch pulley and further loosen the drive belt.
- Wriggle the drive belt from under the mower deck and you’re good to go.
- Repeat this process backward to replace it with a new drive belt.
4. Employ Suitable Tire Pressures
The most suitable tire pressure for all zero-turn mowers is 10 pounds per inch in the front tires and 14psi for the rear tires. It should not exceed the maximum mark stated by your z-turn brand. If you have exceeded this mark, it’s a miracle you are galloping around your lawn with only a horrible ride to put down because it could’ve been worse.
If the tire pressure is around the considered suitable range, then there might be a need for you to tweak the psi to your taste. Though there’s a standard mark for all z-turns, the differences in terrain make it possible and even necessary to customize the pressure to suit you appropriately. I have written a well-detailed gist on how to decide on the tire pressure that’s best for you to bestow the smoothest ride imaginably.
5. Inspect The Mower Frame Thoroughly
Inspecting the structure of your zero-turn mower includes making sure the bolts are screwed in properly affecting the frame of the mower. To smoothen your ride, you need to carry out regular inspections for areas where there are crucial joints. For example, the steering lever joints, the front caster joints, and the deck area especially because the drive belt is situated there.
If unfortunately, you witness an Ariens broken frame problem, the best thing to do is to take advantage of your warranty and visit your dealer to rectify the problem.
6. Use Suspension Seats
The quickest way to improve your ride quality is to invest in a suspension seat. These are a variety of zero-turn mower seats that are engineered with a suspension system that allows the user to move independently but in sync with the entire machine so that when you run over a bump, the seat suspends itself on its base properly dispersing the shock waves from hitting you.
If you mow bumpy terrain, a suspension seat is just what you need to go through the long hours in one piece.
I have written a detailed article discussing each seat and how they can serve you best. Perhaps, in the long run, a good suspension seat is all you need for a sane ride.
There’s an 80% chance that your z-turn riding problem has been addressed in this article. If otherwise you have considered my suggestions and are still experiencing an unpleasant mowing ordeal, the best thing to do is reach out to your dealer or a repair person. The problem can be much more crucial than hoped and in need of a professional check-up. Good luck in your endeavors!