How to Mow with a Zero Turn Mower

It’s no secret that zero turn mower is the king of mowing large properties. However, they can be very intimidating to beginners. Z-turns can reap amazing results in clearing out your lawn from fast-growing grass only if you know how to ride and mow with it properly.

Familiarize yourself with your machine

Before doing any mowing with a new machine, you need to see where everything is located. Always put into mind three important aspects of your zero turn mower:

  • Steering
  • Deck height
  • Blade control

Unlike a lawn tractor that's designed after an ATV, your zero turn has a completely different riding mechanism. Instead of a steering wheel, you use lap bars to start, turn, navigate, and stop your riding mower.

Deck height adjustments are found in different parts of a z-turn depending on the brand and the model. Some mowers incorporate the use of foot-assisted adjustments found at the foot deck while others have a lever or pins that control the height of your ZTR. Unlike the basic mower controls including the Power Take Off switch (PTO), which are usually found on either dashboard or fender.

These three important parts of your mower are the basic controls that directly affects the way you’re going to mow your lawn.

How to start a zero turn mower?

Starting your mower isn’t as easy as turning on the ignition and start steering. As a potentially hazardous machine, zero turns require a start-up routine to ensure rider safety before it starts to power up. I have an in-depth guide on how to start your z-turn mower in another article. In summary, you need to:

  • Make sure that your blades are disengaged.
  • Check if you’re in your lowest throttle
  • Pull the choke outward to warm up a cold engine especially if you’re using it for the first time. But, note that not all zero turns have a choke.
  • Sit on your mower and level your steering wheel to its neutral position
  • Turn on the ignition and release the brakes (if you have any)
  • Put the choke down
  • Start riding your mower to your lawn

How to Steer a Zero Turn Mower?

Your zero turn offers better steering with two levers that control its movement. As a beginner, you need to practice navigating your way around, so I suggest that you practice on your driveway. Practicing directly on your lawn may result in track marks, wheels digging holes on the ground, or other forms of turf damage. See "How to Drive a Zero Turn Mower" to learn how to operate your ZTR like a professional.

  • Moving forward and backward 

Basically, the only manner of steering is by pushing or pulling your levers. To move forward, you need to push both your lap bars at the same time forward and pull them both back to make the mower go in reverse.

The further you push, the faster your mower runs and the more you pull it in, the quicker it accelerates in reverse. I don’t recommend that you use your mower for reverse mowing unless you have a wide clearance on extremely flat terrain. Though it’s possible to mow in reverse, the danger of tipping over increases. 

  • Turning left, right and making a U-turn

To turn left, you only need to push your right lever forward. And in order to turn right, simply push your left lever forward. If you’re planning on making a u-turn, it’s much simpler to do so with a zero-turn mower. Since it has a zero-turn radius, your mower allows you to spin in place, to make a quicker u-turn pull your left lever back for a counter-clockwise turn.

How to properly turn your ZTR?

Even if it’s very simple to make a turn using a ZTR, quick turns almost always lead to your fixed front wheel digging into the dirt. The best way to pivot is by keeping your mower steady, if your blades are engaged, halt your mower and gently pull your left lever at the same time softly tug your right lever forward for a counter-clockwise turn.

See "How To Adjust Steering on a Zero Turn Mower" if you are having troubles steering your ZTR.

How to mow with a zero turn mower properly?

Your zero turn mower is a simple machine to operate and you can easily reap the results by properly following the standard mowing pattern, making safer turns, and always sticking to proper deck height adjustments. However, to get the best results, there are more things to consider when operating your zero turn mower.

  • Mowing Pattern

A zero turn’s mowing pattern is completely different from that of a lawn tractor or a swather. Mowing tractors go around the perimeter moving its way to the center. Z-turns, on the other hand, have a go straight and pivot pattern. This allows you to make more precise mowing covering every inch of your lawn. 

  • Making Safe Turns

Zero turn mowers can make sharp turns while mowing, however, it causes more turf damage and even increases the risk of your mower tipping over.

To make a safe turn, it’s either you disengage your blades, lower your throttle or decelerate. Making slow turns are safer, however, if you’re stuck at a tight spot that prevents you from making a turn, disengage your blades and reverse. Find a spot where it’s possible for your mower to pivot and then make a turn. 

  • Mowing at top speeds

Your mower is designed for safer mowing, however, risks will always be there when you’re running at top speeds. Z-turns are significantly faster than other types of riding mowers, The average speed of ZTR is between 7-10 miles per hour. Larger machines can go as fast as 15 miles per hour.

But always remember that running at top speeds are only allowed on even flat lawns with less than 7 degrees in sloping angle. When you come across a gentle hill, always go slow and never ride uphill. See "Are Zero-Turn Mower Good on Hills" for more details about hills and ZTR.

  • Choosing the right deck height

Many property owners prefer to mow their grass cut extremely short thinking that dwarfing the turf will make their mowing intervals longer. This is not the case, trimming the grass too short can pose more danger to their greenery making the grass prone to drying and plant diseases. The ideal height for freshly cut grass is between 2-4 inches. This promotes better and healthier grass as it grows giving you a greener and more luscious looking lawn.

Mowing with your zero turn mower is much easier for starters to learn and master. All you need is the proper method and the right technique to nail a pristine lawn mowing. This will not only give you a stunning turf but an enjoyable mowing experience.

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