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7 Tips and Tricks for Using a Zero-Turn Lawn Mower

7 Tips and Tricks for Using a Zero-Turn Lawn Mower

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Zero-turn lawn mowers are excellent tools for keeping your yard neat, but they are also difficult machines to master. For this, you need to learn some tricks and tips that will help you use a zero-turn lawn mower with ease. 

On that note, here are 7 tips and tricks for using a zero-turn lawn mower:

  1. Purchase a good mower for your property. 
  2. Learn to do a three-point turn.
  3. Go slowly and practice a lot.
  4. Avoid hills or going too quickly.
  5. Avoid sharp turns.
  6. Learn basic zero-turn lawn mower maneuvers.
  7. Follow the safety measures.

These lawn mowers are a fantastic help to all homeowners, but their complex nature makes them a challenge. Read on to learn more about these machines and how you should operate them properly. 

About Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers

Zero-turn lawn mowers are great machines that can help you mow your lawn faster. It was named for its radius, which is zero — this allows it to turn around easily and quickly. The mowing part is in the front. 

They come in different types — riding, walk-behind, and stand-on. Most of them have four wheels — two wheels that swivel in the front and then two big wheels in the back.

You steer it by moving the levers. There are usually no other pedals or other forms of steering. 

These machines are better than tractors in some cases. It’s easier to move around, and you can get to certain areas you would otherwise be unable to with a tractor. You can get near obstacles, take quick turns, and so on.

They are quick and can mow a lot of ground in no time. The best way to run them is when you have some experience. 

Some of their more serious problems are that they don’t work that great when it’s wet outside, especially on wet grass. The tires will slip, and you could get hurt. They are also quick to tear the grass and ruin a perfectly good lawn. This can happen on dry land too. They can be dangerous if you operate them in hilly areas. 

There are all sorts of attachments for these machines. For example, you can get a spreader for fertilizer, snowplows, dethatchers, aerators, and so on. If you have a rear hitch, you can use a bunch of different things and tow a lot. You can also get some collection attachments.

Some of them are placed on the side, some of them on the rear end, and some are specialized for mulching. 

A lawn mower can use fuel, but many newer models come as electricity-powered machines to prevent pollution. There are also propane machines. Battery life may be a problem in some of these, but it’s something that is being improved, and new zero-turn mowers come out every year with better power systems. 

These lawn mowers are newer machines. They were first designed in the 1940s — at least, the mowing part in the front part was, and then later, the machine changed to involve the system that we see today — the zero-turn system.

This first happened in 1966, and the first one was made by Hustler Turf. And just like with any helpful machine, many brands followed in making replicas and improving upon the original design. 

Zero-turns were not that popular at first. However, the idea of this system stuck, and companies were still trying to put the best, most useful version of it out there. Technology and materials were too modern for the time they were designed in. 

As materials became cheaper and technology more common, these mowers were becoming more popular. Many brands produced them, and they became a lot cheaper over time. These mowers are quick, functional, and fun to drive.

Of course, not everyone will love them, and driving them well takes time, but the end result makes it all worth it. 

How To Turn a Zero Turn Mower Without Tearing Up The Grass

Zero-turn mowers are useful, but they are also hard to maneuver. This can sometimes lead to you tearing up your lawn unintentionally and leaving behind an ugly patch of mud. However, this can be avoided in a few easy steps. 

Find a good mower

The technique is important, but so is the quality of your mower. If you choose a good one, you may reduce divots just by doing that. Aside from checking your budget, you should consider your intentions and the terrain of your property. 

Finding a good mower starts with finding the reasons why you want one and how you will use it. Are you going to use it only on your lawn or for commercial purposes?

Do you want to use it only occasionally? These questions can help you choose the right model for your needs. 

Next is the terrain. Zero-turn mowers work best when your land is flat. If the terrain is a bit hilly, you can have a more difficult time using it. With their construction and mechanism, they might even be dangerous to ride on hilly properties. 

Pick a mower that’s not too weak or too powerful for your lawn. If a zero-turn lawn mower is too big for your property, you’ll have trouble handling it, and you’ll create divots. 

Learn How To Make a Turn

When you find your perfect mower, you’ll have to learn how to handle it. For one, don’t start mowing right away, no matter how tempting it might be. Practice driving it around on your lawn.

But to do a proper, clean turn, there are some things you should learn: 

  • Do not lock rear wheels. The turning process will make you think that one of the rear wheels has to be locked in order for the turn to work. However, this is what precisely creates divots. Instead, reverse one of the two wheels and push forward with the other. Make both wheels move.
  • Reverse. This works by pulling the handles at the same time, pushing just one in order to turn. 
  • Practice a three-point turn. This works similarly to the way you would do it in a car. Do it a few times on your lawn to get a feel for the process. 
  • Go slower. The best solution for beginners is to move slowly in order to turn. You don’t have to do what you see professionals doing with sharp, quick turns. This is another surefire way to create divots. In fact, you may even fall down. 

Keep Practicing

No one is born riding a zero-point lawn mower, so even the pros started out slowly. The important thing is to continue practicing and find a process that works for you.

It doesn’t have to be anything similar to what other people are doing, but it has to work for you — keeping you safe while reducing the number of divots on your lawn.

Basic Lever Movements

When you get your zero-turn mower, you have to learn how to operate it. There are usually two levers that control the mower. When you push both of them forward, the lawn mower moves straight forward. Moving the levers back makes it go straight backward. 

When you move just one of the levers, the wheels on that side will move in the direction that you pushed the levers. As mentioned, making a turn involves moving both of the levers at the same time, just in different ways. 

Everything on the zero-turn lawn mower is controlled by the hands and these levers. There are no pedals that you move with your feet. The controls on these mowers are quite simple, but they take some getting used to, so you should give yourself some time to practice. 

These mowers can make turns at 180 degrees, but this is what precisely creates divots. Instead, you have to make a different type of a turn that will not tear up your lawn. 

This is where a three-point turn can help you. To do it, you need to stop moving, then turn to reverse and turn while the wheels are moving in the back. This way, all of the wheels are moving, and none of them will lock into the ground, leaving your lawn looking pristine, which is the goal. 

Zero-turn lawn mowers are great because they are faster than regular tractors. And yet, going too quickly may prove challenging if you’re new to the game. You need to react very quickly, like in a car, and the breaks are not the same there as they are on any other conventional vehicle. 

There are no foot pedals, so you’ll have to brake by moving the levers to neutral. Just like everything else, this takes practice. 

Riding The Zero-Turn Mower in Hilly Areas

However, zero-turn lawn mowers are not meant for the hills. Turning on a hill could be exceptionally dangerous for you, especially if you are going downhill.

If there’s more than a 15 degrees incline or decline, you should not even ride the lawn mower in those spots.

Of course, you can, but you have to go very slowly and carefully. Turns are not recommended, especially sharp ones. 

The land should be dry in this case, and you can only mow in straight lines. 

Things To Avoid Doing

Lawns are sensitive, and anything can cause them damage. Here are some tips to avoid divots: 

  • Avoid sharp turns, especially if they are under a certain angle
  • Don’t pivot in one place 
  • Don’t spin one wheel to the front and the other to the back 
  • Don’t lock one rear wheel and move with the other

Transporting a zero turn mower

Transportation of a zero-turn lawn mower may seem simple, but it’s a bit more complicated than that, and it takes some knowledge first. So, before you load your truck or any other vehicle, check these tips out. 

For one, you need to choose a good ramp that can handle this vehicle. It has different wheel offsets, and the weight of it is not equal in all parts.

Around 75% of its weight is in the back, while 25% is in the front. The size of their decks is around 60 inches. The ramp needs to be wide enough to handle the width of the wheels.

It also needs to be able to handle the entire weight of the vehicle and all of the equipment. 

The ramp should also be long enough to provide a gentle incline without the lawn mower tipping over. The ramp should be strong enough and wide enough, in general. 

Here are some loading tips:

  • Park the transportation vehicle on flat terrain. The tailgate can be inclined as a way to make the loading angle even smaller. Set the brakes and make sure that everything is safe for you and everyone else involved in the loading process, as well as for your property. 
  • Put the ramp-up and make sure that the ramp is secured to the truck. For this, it’s best to use steel bumpers or some chains. This will ensure that the ramp and the lawn mower don’t slide off, and this is especially dangerous if you are on the ramp or the lawn mower. The straps should be secured too. Check everything twice before actually going ahead with the load. 
  • Ride up the ramp. You should be careful and drive it into the back of the truck straight, without grazing the sides. Don’t stop in the middle of a ramp and try to start again. This won’t work well, and you’ll slide right off along with your lawn mower. So, be confident, and don’t hesitate to drive right up. 
  • Put all of the equipment back and make sure that everything is safe. The mower should be parked, its brakes set, and then you should tie it up to the truck. There are several types of straps, and you should pick the ones that you are comfortable with. 

In general, loading the zero-turn lawn mower into a transport vehicle shouldn’t be hard; you just have to be extra careful and follow these steps. 

How To Drive a Zero Turn Mower In a Straight Line

Zero-turn mowers are excellent at making your mowing time a lot shorter. But for this, you need to learn how to work with them properly. 

To make a straight line, all you have to do is push both levers in the same direction. If you want to go backward, push them back if you want to go forward, push them forward. It’s very simple, and this might be the easiest maneuver on the zero-turn lawn mowers. 

Make sure that they are parallel and that you are applying the same amount of pressure on both of them as you push or pull. To go faster, just push a bit more. The more you push, the faster the lawn mower will go. 

To turn on the mower, all you have to do is make sure that the parking brake is released and grab the levers. However, keep the parking brake on while you take your seat and set everything up.

To turn the mower off, you should bring the levers to the neutral position. Don’t take quick turns to avoid tearing up the grass. 

How To Make a Zero-Turn Lawn Mower Three-Point Turn

Turning the zero-turn lawn mower using a three-point system is similar to the movement you would make in your car. Follow these steps to do it:

  1. Start by shifting to reverse — check for people or objects behind you. 
  2. Turn the levers to the side where you want to turn. Keep both rear wheels moving.
  3. Push the levers forward and to the side where you want to turn.

Of course, it will take some practice, but after a while, you’ll be able to do it in no time. 

Watch this video from Brian’s Lawn Maintenance. He does an excellent job at explaining and demonstrating this technique:

The Secret To RUT FREE TURNS On A Lawn Mower

Safety Concerns

Although zero-turn lawn mowers are generally safe, there are some safety measures you should take to protect yourself and those around you. 

  • When mowing in reverse — which will happen — look behind you to avoid hitting children and pets. Both should be inside while you do this. Do not drive children on the lawn mower. 
  • Wear protection for your eyes. A standard set of safety glasses will work well here. It will protect you from any ejected dirt, grass, and stones. While they won’t hit you directly, they might ricochet off a nearby obstacle and hit you. 
  • Wear protection for your ears. The zero-turn lawn mower can be loud, and you’ll need something to protect your ears. For example, earplugs or earmuffs. 

Watch out for obstacles as well. This way, you can protect your property too. Here are some tips:

  • Watch out for water. Always stay around the length of your mower away from any water, so you don’t fall in. Especially so if you’re on a hilly side since you could slide off or flip and hurt yourself. 
  • Be careful about the walls. Maybe you won’t hit your home, but an average property has many different walls, and if you hit them, you could get hurt and damage your vehicle. Stay away from walls, and be careful around them if you have to mow there. 
  • Stay away from curbs too since this can break your lawn mower.
  • Watch out for any posts like the mailbox, a light, or even a tree. It’s easy to hit something in this lawn mower, so be careful and don’t hit anything. This could cost you a lot in repair, so being careful is very important. 

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