How to Start a Zero Turn Mower (Beginner’s Guide)

Surprised to realize that a zero-turn lawn mower is completely different from a lawn tractor? Without the expected steering wheel on the zero-turn mower, one may wonder how to start a zero turn mower. Here’s a quick and easy guide on how to work your new lawn mower.

How does a zero-turn lawn mower work?

A zero-turn lawn mower is named after its ability to turn in its own footprint. It is named after its zero-radius turning point. It means that it can smoothly turn your mowing pattern with ease mowing exactly where it left off. Learn more about budget zero turn mower in this article.

  • Steering

Compared to a lawn mower, it doesn’t have a steering wheel. What is has are two steering levers found on both sides of the rider. Different brands have different designs on how these levers appear, some only have the levers found at the side while some go over the lap into lap bars.

  • 2x4 Wheels 

Most lawn mowers are often 2-wheel drives, they are powered only in two of the wheels, in this case, the rear wheels. They are attached to the engines of the mower and push the vehicle forward or back.

The front wheels are only meant for steering the turns of your mower.

  • Motor

On top of being a 2-wheel drive, a ZTR mower has two hydrostatic engines. One for each rear wheel of the mower. The separate motors power both wheels as steered by the levers.

How To Start a zero turn mower

Safety is the most important thing when dealing with a machine that is highly hazardous. Considering safety and security, a lawn mower requires all safety measures fulfilled before you can turn it on.

Before turning a zero turn mower on

Different brands mostly have two means of turning a mower on: (1) a button or (2) a key. Nowadays, turning a mower on is quite complicated to reduce accidents with such a powerful machine, you need a pre-ignition routine first.

  • Fuel

Always check if you have sufficient fuel, lesser than half may not be enough to mow through a large lawn, consistently fill the si up to ¾ of your fuel tank. If in case you run out midway of mowing your lawn, you need to let the machine cool down first before refueling the tank.

  • Engine seat

The mower will never start without a rider in the engine seat. It’s either the seat is pushed back for a rider to settle or is pressed down once someone sits on it. 

  • Steering levers

The steering levers should be pushed out, it won’t start unless they’re put together. Once the levers are pushed out, they’re in a neutral position. It’s a danger to keep them together since they control the steering.

  • Brake

Next is to undo the brake, some brands have step-on brakes, hand brakes, or control knobs. Before turning your ZTR mower on, this has to be engaged, or else, the machine won’t start.

  • Blade Deck

Your blade deck is controlled by a knob. It lifts and lowers the blade deck towards the ground. The knob should have the mower lifted before you start the engine.

In some brands like the Husqvarna or Troy Bilt, you need to set the blade deck height adjustment first but keeping the blade deck switch or knob disabled.

  • Throttle

Always set the throttle in the middle. You can increase or decrease it as you go along. But before you start the engine, you need to put it in low to mid-throttle.

  • Choke

The choke drives air and fuel into the engine. Pull the choke up before you start especially if the fuel tank is cold.

  • Feet

Always keep your feet within the safe zone (i.e. inside the foot deck) leaving it hanging in or at the sides of the mower are potential dangers especially for debris that the mower may expel.

Turning the mower on

Once all the pre-ignition routine is done and ready, turn the ignition key, knob or switch on. Once the machine starts to rev,

  1. Slowly push the choke back down,
  2. Some brands need you to turn the ignition to run, while some would require you to directly adjust the throttle,
  3. Then, pull the steering levers or lap bars in.
  4. Next, release the brakes, 
  5. Position your mower to your starting point and finally put the blade deck down to start cutting the grass.

When Mowing

When you’re mowing, always remember that you’re running a fully bladed machine. Keeping this in mind will keep you ready and alert every time you’re riding the mower.

When you’re mowing, it’s best to put the machine in full-gear at full throttle. Always remember to put the choke down while running at full throttle to increase the efficiency of your trimming. See "How to mow with a zero-turn mower" for a step-by-step guide.

How to steer a zero turn mower?

zero turn lawn mower

Though many would claim that steering is fairly easy, it can be confusing for a beginner especially if you’re faced with two levers instead of a steering wheel.

Since each lever is connected to separate motors, you’re controlling each wheel individually. All these things simply need proper synchronization. 

When both levers are in the neutral position, the mower is in a standstill or on idle. When you’re practicing the controls, make sure to put your throttle in the lowest gear. You should also make sure that your blade deck is up and disengaged.

  • Move Forward

To move forward, simply push the levers forward together. The further you push the lever, the faster you’re steering your machine.

  • Move Backward

To move the machine backward, gently pull the steering controls backward. Most mowers’ maximum speed backward is half of its speed moving forward. To ensure your safety, never yank the levers backward.

We don’t recommend that you move the mower backward. You should only use this maneuver when absolutely needed.

  • Turn Left

To turn left while moving forward, gently pull the left lever back into the neutral position. This halts the left rear wheel from running making your machine turn with ease.

  • Turn Right

To turn right, do the opposite. You should pull the right lever back to a neutral position for the left rear wheel to push your machine to a right turn.

When turning or moving around, always lower your throttle. Making sharp turns is potentially dangerous and can also possibly damage your lawn mower. See "How to adjust steering on z-turn mowers" for more information.

How to stop your zero turn mower?

  • After mowing, you should come to a complete stop. You should then disengage the blades by deactivating the blade switch. Drive your mower to where you plan on parking it and halt.
  • Leave the mower to idle for a while (about 3-10 minutes) especially if it has been mowing for quite some time. This will allow the engine to cool down. Then engage the brakes.
  • Push your steering bars in the outward position. Raise the mower deck and toggle the throttle to a minimum.
  • Finally, turn the ignition off.

Always remember that you should park your machine securely, whether it’s in your garage or garden shed, it should be out of sight especially in a household surrounded by children roaming around.

Learning how to start any zero turn mower can be nerve-racking at first but as you learn how to drive it, running a z-turn mower is as simple as turning a shopping cart. As a matter of fact, it’s even more enjoyable.

Leave a Comment