We are supported by commissions earned for purchases made through the links in our articles. Learn more.
A riding lawn mower, or drive on lawn mower, can be confusing for just about anyone. After all, everyone’s idea of a lawn mower is the kind you walk behind and push, that has some kind of motor that helps push it along while also cutting your grass.
These kinds of lawn mowers have their own benefits, such as their small size and the fact you can take them pretty much anywhere.
Riding mowers don’t really match that idea, and can save you time when it comes to mowing the lawn since they’re so much faster.
A riding mower has so many benefits compared to a push mower, which we’ll go over below.
Starting a Riding Lawn Mower
It isn’t too difficult to start riding mowers, it’s actually a lot easier to start a riding mower than a push lawn mower. Before you start any kind of mower however, you should always check the oil level.
The oil cap on a riding lawn mower will be underneath the hood. Giving this a quick check will save you time, as a low oil level in your mower can cause damage or prevent it from starting.
To start a riding lawn mower after that, first make sure you’re sitting on the seat, and have the key nearby. This may sound silly, but without the key, starting a riding lawn mower is impossible, so make sure you’ve got it handy.
Sitting in the seat engages the battery, which is important, since without the power from the battery, the lawn mower engine won’t turn on. Once you’re seated, push the key into the ignition switch and push the clutch all the way in.
The ignition switch will be on the engine itself, likely somewhere on the right hand side, like any car. Then just turn the key; this should start your riding lawn mower if everything’s where it should be.
Starting a Craftsman Riding Lawn Mower
This section isn’t too different from the “How to start a Riding Lawn Mower,” as that section applies to most riding lawn mowers.
Starting Craftsman riding mower is a little different however. The key still needs to go into the ignition switch, but you then need to press down on the parking brake and move the parking brake lever to the “on” position.
You then activate the choke and turn the key, which should start your riding mower.
With this section, you’ve successfully learned how to start a riding lawn mower of any kind you could come across! This isn’t an all-inclusive guide though, and there could be other makes or models that require different steps, so be sure to read through the manual on yours before attempting to start it.
Turning on a Push Lawn Mower
Since we’ve covered riding lawn mowers, it can’t hurt to quickly cover how to start a push lawn mower as well, since these are way more common and less expensive.
Just like we covered above, always make sure you check the oil level. The oil cap should be somewhere on the lawn mower engine, but the exact location depends on the make and model.
Once you’ve checked the oil level, make sure you know if your lawn mower has a manual choke or not.
If it does, it’ll be located on the engine itself (again, the exact location depends, but it should be located somewhere on the left side.) If there is one, engage the choke by moving the lever to the “on” position. If not, skip this step.
Once you’ve checked the oil, find the black bar on the handle of the mower. This should pull down and sit flush with the handle you’ll be using to push it. This will need to be held down the entire time you want to use the mower; releasing it will stop the engine and turn your mower off, causing you to have to start it again.
With this held down, find the pull lever on the right-hand side of the handle. This should feed straight into the engine by a wire. Grab the handle and pull hard while still holding down the black bar along the handle. The engine should sputter and potentially start, although that will likely take a few pulls. Make sure to let the wire feed back into the engine before pulling again.
Repeat this step, and the mower should start no problem. As long as there’s no problems with your lawn mower, it should start right up!
Using a Lawn Mower
Using a lawn mower is the easiest part of the process. Riding lawn mower driving isn’t too different from driving a car, but you do have a much wider turn radius. Be wary of low tree branches, tree stumps, rocks, or branches, as any of these can damage the blades (or your head!) costing time and money to get fixed or replaced.
Push lawn mowers are where things can get tricky, as they take a bit of work from the person using them.
Nearly all push mowers are self-propelled, using either the front or back wheels, but never both sets. There are benefits to both, but they also have their drawbacks.
Front-wheel drive (FWD) mowers are typically better for flat lawns and are much better at turning while rear-wheel drive (RWD) mowers benefit from larger rear tires that give more traction.
Most of the time this makes them more suited to hilly lawns. This isn’t always the case however, and one or the other could be more suited to your needs despite the trend.
As far as driving one, push mowers have no steering wheel and are instead turned by whoever is pushing it. This can be done a couple of ways; pushing down on the handle raises the front wheels and makes the lawn mower much easier to turn.
Alternatively, you can life the handle, bringing the front wheel up and out of the grass, also helping turn the mower as needed. Aside from that, the push mower is likely self-propelled, so there’s very little work you’d need to put in when it comes to going forward.
As far as actually cutting the grass however, the lawn mower, either riding or push, does 99% of the work. You mostly just have to drive or turn it towards some uncut grass.
If the lawn mower has a small chute off to one side, it’s a good idea to mow your lawn with that chute facing out so it spreads out the grass clippings across your yard as opposed to having a huge pile of them in the middle of your lawn.
If that sounds like too much extra work, mowing bags exist. They gather grass clippings into a bag attached to the lawn mower, usually attached behind the engine to limit how much extra space they take up.
Some do attach to the side chute directly as opposed to having a tube funnel the grass clippings into the bag, so if this is the case, be careful and avoid hitting that on anything, it could damage the bag, your mower, the tube, or whatever you hit.
They take a bit more time to set-up and empty, but are well worth the work if you hate having grass clippings everywhere.
What if my Lawn Mower Won’t Start
If your lawn mower isn’t starting, this could be due to a number of issues. A bad spark plug, bad fuel or old oil, or a bad ignition switch could all keep you from starting.
The first two things to check however, are the oil and gas. If your mower has old oil or gas in it, remove and replace the old oil or gas and then try starting it again. This is the easiest thing to check and potentially fix, and could be the reason it won’t start.
If you’ve replaced the oil and gas and it still won’t start, the issue could be a bad or dirty spark plug. It could even have been knocked loose the last time you used it, preventing your mower from starting.
Before replacing it however, try cleaning and tightening it. Small amounts of dirt or a loose connection could cause the same results as a bad or dead spark plug, and cleaning it doesn’t cost anything.
If a push mower takes more pulls than normal to start the engine, or a riding mower won’t turn on at all with the key in the ignition, the spark plug is likely bad and needs to be replaced.
A potential issue limited to riding mowers is a bad ignition switch. If you turn the key and the engine runs for a few minutes and then stops, it could be the kill wire, which grounds the engine, being severed, damaged, or otherwise removed from the grounding plate it’s connected to. This isn’t overly common, but if you’ve exhausted all your other options, this could be it.
These aren’t the only reasons your mower won’t start, but they are the most common and most easily solved. If it still won’t start after this, find a repair shop and take it in for a professional to look at.
Lawn mowers are a great tool, but they also have any number of issues that can go wrong. Having experience with push lawn mowers means you might not necessarily know what to do with a riding one, but this article should help as you navigate not only starting a riding mower, but also using and performing light maintenance as well.