How To Start A John Deere Zero-Turn Mower: The Simplified Version

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If you’re new to zero-turn mowers or the John Deere brand to be specific, it’s normal to be tangled in the web of how to operate it. There are many features here, there, and underneath almost all the moveable parts of the machine that ensure protection for you and your machine from possible hazards. So, it’s quite understandable for you to find starting your mower a little puzzling. 

To worsen the situation, the manuals are not exactly simplified enough for the user to understand. This is because it is written from the expert’s perspective, so basic but highly beneficial tips can be missed. Thus, the need for a properly simplified description of how to start your mower. 

Not to worry at all because I will be discussing the step-by-step procedure for starting your John Deere zero-turn mower in no time, including possible solutions that will enable a stress-free ride for you on your lawn. Let’s dive right into it! 

how to skillfully operate john deere zero turn mowers

The Step-By-Step Procedure For Starting Your John Deere Zero-Turn Mower

  1. First, Identify All Safety Features and Ensure They Are Switched On

Safety features are simple mechanisms that provide a level of protection, especially for you as a user. There are two main safety elements that highly influence starting your zero-turn mower; the emergency brake, and the drive lever safety feature.

The emergency brake is located (if you’re sitting in the mower) at the bottom left side of the machine for the lower models, or at the upper right side for the higher models. 

The emergency brake lever can be moved up or down/ forwards or backward effectively; before you can start the machine, the e-brake lever has to be in the safety position which is facing up or forward, otherwise, your John Deere zero-turn mower will simply refuse to start. After the mower is successfully switched on, you can pull the lever down/backward to engage movement. 

The safety feature of the drive levers also behaves very similarly to the emergency brake system; to start your zero-turn mower, the levers have to be fully extended– just as you would extend your arms at your sides, pull the levers apart till they both reach their extension limit. This will enable the mower to start, and afterward, you pull the levers inwards to engage movement.

The reason for this feature is to ensure no sudden movements when the mower is starting. When you confirm that both safety features are on, you can then switch on your mower successfully. 

  1. Put The Throttle in the Choke Position

This step is mostly dependent on how recently you put your mower to use because it determines if the engines are at the right temperature to start. If you have just purchased a John Deere zero-turn mower, or it’s been a while since the mower was used, then you need to pull the throttle lever to the choke position which is also the lowest speed. This will help to warm up the machine enough to be engaged. 

Otherwise, if you perceive the engines to be warm enough to start, you can put the throttle lever on middle or high speed and proceed to start the machine. 

  1. Twist The Starting Key To Turn on Your Mower

The starting key for the John Deere zero-turn mower is located on the right side if you’re sitting in the machine and on the control panel. It looks like a small key with instructive symbols around it. Turn the key to the far right and hold it there till the mower picks up successfully. This shouldn’t be a problem since the emergency brake lever is engaged (pulled up) and the steering levers are pulled apart. If the mower keeps shutting down, you can repeat the process till it comes on. 

Try not to hold the key for over five seconds as this could damage your mower. Once your mower comes on, you can relax the key to the run position which is in the middle of the stop and start points.

  1. Remove The Throttle Lever From The Choke Position

If you initially put the throttle lever in the choke position, you will need to move it to the middle-speed or the high-speed position to fully engage your mower. Otherwise, it simply wouldn’t move. After you do this, you’re one step closer to fully starting your machine. 

  1. Turn Off All Safety Features 

Remember the emergency brake lever you observed earlier? Now, you have to pull it down to disengage it, or else, the mower will keep shutting down. The safety steering lever procedure is automatically turned off since you need to steer the machine by bringing them to the proper position. 

“I Have Followed The Steps And Nothing’s Worked!” – There Might Be A Problem

If you have gone through all the available steps, your mower might have a slight problem somewhere. Here’s where to look:

  • The Gas Tank

Peep into your gas tank; you might find old or bad fuel. If you suspect the fuel to have been there for ages or you had poured in a suspicious type, it could easily affect the engine and the overall ability of your mower to start. I suggest you replace the present fuel with a new and well-trusted one. 

  • The Engine Oil

Bad engine oil affects the motors negatively. Check if the oil has gone dark in color as this would indicate a need for replacement. If this is the problem, you can tilt the mower for the bad oil to drain out, and then replace it with a suitable type. 

  • The Battery And Spark Plugs

Machine batteries are mostly overlooked as they need little to no maintenance, so much that you might never suspect them to be the reason why your mower won’t start. However, as soon as a little rust settles in, the performance of the zero-turn mower is surely affected. The spark plugs could be dirty, rusted, or just entirely worn out and in dire need of a replacement. Clean or replace immediately if you find this issue to avoid more problems from locating your machine. 

  • The Air Filter

If the air filter of your John Deere zero-turn mower is dirty or clogged, it would affect the performance of the engines greatly and in turn, the capability of your mower to start. Make sure to clean or replace if needed to ensure proper ventilation for the motor (I highly recommend this filter as a much better replacement: view on Amazon), or else the machine will be subjected to overheating and even worse problems than anticipated. 

A Summary of Our Trip

Starting a John Deere zero-turn mower is quite easy. The only issue you may encounter is remembering the procedures in the correct order, but once you do, handling the machine will be a breeze. I suggest you find an open field to properly practice these steps if you are new to using zero-turn mowers.

If this is only a new brand for you, then you have not much learning to do as they’re just as easy as handling any other zero-turn mower. I can even argue that the John Deere zero-turns are much easier to operate in comparison to many zero-turn mower brands. I wish you good luck in your adventure!

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EL Mehdi (Medi), the founder and voice behind Desired Lawn Mower. He is a riding mower enthusiast who enjoys spending more time discussing and covering various ride-on mower topics. He has been active in the industry for years comparing models of different ZTR and lawn tractor brands.