How to Turn On a Riding Lawn Mower?

The warm weather has arrived, and your lawn is starting to grow. You’re ready to tackle the task of mowing, but you haven’t used your riding lawn mower in a while. You might be staring at the machine and wondering, “How do I even turn this thing on?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps of turning on a riding lawn mower, addressing common issues, and providing helpful tips to ensure a smooth and safe mowing experience.

Quick Overview

Turning on a riding lawn mower is a straightforward process. Generally, it involves checking the fuel, ensuring the parking brake is engaged, starting the engine, and disengaging the parking brake. However, the specific steps may vary depending on your mower’s model and features. We’ll cover these variations and address potential problems you might encounter.

Getting Ready to Start

Before you jump into the driver’s seat, it’s essential to prepare the lawn mower for a successful start. Here’s what to do:

1. Check the Fuel Level

Your riding lawn mower needs fuel to run.

  • If the fuel tank is empty, add gasoline.
  • If the tank is low, you might need to add fuel for a complete mow.
  • Check the fuel type: Always use the recommended type of gasoline for your mower. Consult your owner’s manual for specific fuel requirements.
  • Avoid using old or stale fuel: This can cause starting problems and damage your engine.

2. Inspect the Battery

While modern riding lawn mowers often have electric starts, older models may rely on a battery to provide power to the starter motor.

  • Check the battery terminals: Ensure they are clean and securely connected.
  • Inspect the battery: Look for corrosion, cracks, or signs of damage.
  • Charge the battery (if needed): If the battery is low, recharge it before attempting to start the mower.

3. Engage the Parking Brake

This is an essential safety step. The parking brake should always be engaged before starting the mower.

  • Locate the parking brake lever: It’s usually located on the right side of the mower’s seat.
  • Pull the lever up: This will engage the brake.

4. Check the Mower Deck Height

Before you start mowing, it’s good to adjust the mowing deck height.

  • Locate the deck height adjustment lever: This is typically found near the front of the mower.
  • Set the desired height: Consult your owner’s manual for the recommended height for your lawn type.

Starting the Engine

Now that you’ve completed the preparations, you’re ready to start the engine.

1. Turn the Key

Most riding lawn mowers have a key ignition.

  • Insert the key: Place the key in the ignition.
  • Turn the key to the “On” position: This will power up the mower’s electrical systems. You may see some lights illuminate on the dashboard.

2. Start the Engine

  • Locate the starter: It’s typically a red button or lever.
  • Press the starter button: This will engage the starter motor and begin the ignition process.
  • If your mower uses a pull cord: Pull the cord to start the engine. You may need to pull a few times before it engages.

3. Wait for the Engine to Warm Up

Once the engine starts, let it run for a few minutes before you begin mowing. This allows the engine to reach its operating temperature and ensure smooth performance.

Disengaging the Parking Brake and Starting to Mow

Once the engine is running and warmed up, you can begin mowing.

1. Disengage the Parking Brake

  • Slowly lower the parking brake lever: This will release the brake and allow you to move the mower.

2. Start Mowing

  • Engage the blades: Locate the blade engagement lever or switch. This is typically located near the steering wheel.
  • Gently press the gas pedal: Increase the engine speed to the desired mowing speed.
  • Begin mowing: Slowly drive the mower over your lawn, following the recommended mowing pattern.

Troubleshooting Common Starting Problems

You may occasionally encounter issues starting your riding lawn mower. Here are some common problems and solutions:

1. The Engine Won’t Turn Over

  • Check the battery: Ensure the battery is charged.
  • Examine the battery connections: Make sure the terminals are clean and securely attached.
  • Inspect the starter motor: If the starter motor is faulty, it may need replacement.

2. The Engine Starts but Won’t Stay Running

  • Check the fuel line: Ensure there are no blockages or leaks.
  • Examine the fuel filter: A clogged fuel filter can prevent fuel from reaching the engine.
  • Verify the spark plug: A faulty spark plug can hinder ignition.

3. The Engine Runs Rough

  • Check the air filter: A dirty air filter can restrict airflow and cause the engine to run poorly.
  • Inspect the carburetor: A dirty carburetor can lead to fuel delivery issues.

Safety Tips for Operating a Riding Lawn Mower

Using a riding lawn mower requires a degree of caution. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Read and understand the owner’s manual: The manual contains important information about the specific safety features and operating procedures for your mower.
  • Wear protective gear: This includes sturdy shoes, safety glasses, and hearing protection.
  • Never mow wet grass: This can lead to slippery conditions and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to obstacles, slopes, and other potential hazards.
  • Take breaks: Long mowing sessions can be tiring. Take breaks to stay alert and avoid fatigue.
  • Don’t allow children or pets near the mower: Keep them at a safe distance.


Turning on a riding lawn mower is a straightforward process, but it’s crucial to follow the proper steps and safety precautions. This guide has provided you with the knowledge and tips you need to start and operate your riding lawn mower efficiently and safely. Remember to check your mower’s fuel levels, engage the parking brake, and ensure all electrical connections are secure. Always prioritize safety and enjoy a smooth and productive mowing experience.


1. What are the basic steps to starting a riding lawnmower?

The steps are simple:
1. Prepare the mower: Make sure the parking brake is engaged and the mower is on a flat surface.
2. Check fuel levels: Add fuel if necessary and ensure the fuel cap is properly closed.
3. Start the engine: Turn the key to the “On” position and engage the starter.
4. Engage the blades: Once the engine is running, you can engage the blades to start cutting.

2. How do I know if my riding lawnmower is out of fuel?

Most riding lawnmowers have a fuel gauge to indicate the level of fuel in the tank. If the gauge shows an empty reading, then your lawnmower is out of fuel. Alternatively, you can check the fuel tank directly by removing the cap and visually inspecting the level of fuel.

3. What do I do if my riding lawnmower won’t start?

If your lawnmower won’t start, there are a few things to check:
1. Ensure there is fuel in the tank.
2. Check for spark.
3. Make sure the battery is charged.
4. Inspect the air filter for blockage.
5. Verify the blade brake is disengaged.

4. How do I engage the blades on a riding lawnmower?

The blade engagement mechanism varies depending on the specific model. Some models have a lever or button that needs to be pushed or pulled to engage the blades. Others may have a foot pedal that you press down to activate the blades.

5. How do I disengage the blades?

Just as the engagement mechanism varies, so does the disengagement process. Some models require you to release the lever or button, while others may have a dedicated disengagement lever. Always ensure the blades are disengaged before stopping the engine.

6. What are some safety precautions when using a riding lawnmower?

It is crucial to be cautious while operating a riding lawnmower. Ensure the area is clear of any obstacles and avoid mowing on steep inclines. Always wear protective gear like safety glasses and closed-toe shoes. Never allow children or pets near the mower while it is in operation.

7. Where can I find a manual for my riding lawnmower?

Most lawnmower manufacturers provide manuals online. You can usually find these manuals by searching for your mower model number on the manufacturer’s website. You can also find manuals in your local library or through online retailers.

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