A zero turn mower or ZTR mower, whatever you call it, is one of the most preferred land mowers over traditional riding mowers. With its “zero” turning radius, individual levers for the two drive wheels instead of a wheel, 6-8 mph mowing speeds, and precise cutting, such a land mower makes the difficult feat of mowing your yard work enjoyable.
Usually powered by gas, diesel, LP, or battery, a first-time user can easily start and operate a zero turn mower.
To start your zero turn mower, push the PTO knob down to the off position, move the steering levers to the neutral position, engage the parking brake, set the throttle to slow speed, and turn the ignition key to the start position. Release the key when the engine starts and operate the mower.
Continue reading as I discuss the steps to start your zero-turn mower and operate it like a pro. I’ve also covered other useful things, including the pre-operation checklist, safety tips, maintenance, and solutions to common ZTR mower problems.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Pre-Operation Checklist Before You Start And Operate The Zero Turn Mower
- 2 Detailed Steps To Start And Operate A Zero Turn Mower With Pictures
- 3 Safety Tips While Operating A Zero Turn Mower
- 4 Troubleshooting The 8 Common Zero Turn Mower Problems With Causes
- 5 How To Maintain A Zero Turn Mower?
- 6 How To Start And Operate A Zero Turn Mower FAQs
- 6.1 How Do You Start A Toro Zero Turn Mower?
- 6.2 How Do I Get My Mower To Start?
- 6.3 What Do You Do When Your Zero Turn Mower Doesn’t Start?
- 6.4 How Do You Turn A Zero Turn Mower?
- 6.5 How To Start A Zero Turn Mower Without A Key?
- 6.6 Is It Hard To Drive A Zero Turn Mower?
- 6.7 How To Use A Zero Turn Mower On A Hill?
- 7 Tidy Up Your Garden With A Zero Turn Mower
Pre-Operation Checklist Before You Start And Operate The Zero Turn Mower
Hold on, don’t turn the ignition keys yet! First, go through this pre-operation checklist.
- No one is around the mower, especially kids and pets
- Blades and deck are free from debris
- Tires are in good condition with adequate pressure
- Fuel tank is full
- Engine oil is clean and in sufficient amount
- Battery is charged
- Safety interlock system is working fine
- Parking brakes are doing fine
- Brakes are functioning
- Lights are working properly
Note: You can download this complete pre-operation checklist in PDF format from here.
Detailed Steps To Start And Operate A Zero Turn Mower With Pictures
Once the pre-operation checks are done, you can start and operate your zero turn mower. Just follow the following steps to do so.
Starting A Zero Turn Mower
Follow these steps to start your zero turn mower.
- Push the PTO knob down to the OFF position.
- Move both the steering levers to the neutral position, i.e., pull them in.
- Engage the parking brake.
- If the engine is cold, pull the choke knob up to the ON position. If the engine is warm or hot, turn it OFF. Mine was cold, so I pulled the choke knob up.
- Set the throttle to a slow speed.
- Insert the ignition key and turn to the start position. Release the key when the engine starts.
- If the choke is ON, wait a few seconds after the engine starts, and then push the choke knob down to the OFF position.
Note: Make sure the choke is completely OFF, as the engine won’t run smoothly using a partial choke.
Operating A Zero Turn Mower
Let’s mow some grass in the yard.
- Take your mower out of the garage or the covered space it’s parked in.
- Adjust the cutting height from the deck and engage the blades. This tutorial will help you with this.
- To take a left turn, push the right lever forward and pull the left lever backward. For a right turn, do the reverse.
- To stop, pull both levers back to the neutral position. Pull the levers beyond the neutral position to drive the mower in reverse.
Use these directions to maneuver your ZTR around your yard while avoiding obstacles.
Safety Tips While Operating A Zero Turn Mower
Please adhere to these safety tips to prevent untoward accidents when using your zero turn mower.
- Go through the user manual before using the mower, especially if it’s your first time with it
- Keep away your kids and pets
- Keep clear of the zero turn mower’s rotating parts
- Avoid mowing in reverse
- Don’t operate the mower on a slope greater than 15°
- Use the mower slowly
- Try to avoid wet surfaces
Note: You can download this complete ZTR mower safety tips guide in PDF format from here.
Troubleshooting The 8 Common Zero Turn Mower Problems With Causes
Here are some common problems you may encounter with your zero turn mower and their quick troubleshooting.
Unable To Start
Causes: Fault in electrical components, weaker connections, clogged air filters, empty fuel tanks, and insufficient charge
Solutions: Check and replace the wiring (if needed), clean the air filters, charge the battery, top up the fuel tank, and tighten every connection
Causes: Damaged or unbalanced cutting blades, faulty engine, and rough ground
Solutions: Ensure the surface you’re mowing isn’t too rough, properly angle the cutting blades + sharpen them, and check the engine (replace if too old)
Causes: Excess tire pressure, low-quality wheels, and damaged blades & mower deck
Solutions: Release the excess tire pressure, invest in wheels with better traction, and repair the blades & mower deck (replace them if needed)
Tip: The ideal tire pressure for your zero turn mower is 14 PSI (front tires) and 10 PSI (rear tires).
Causes: Damaged blades, mowing with high speed without overlapping, dirty blades, inadequate cutting height
Solutions: Inspect the blades and sharpen or change them, mow slowly with overlapping, clean the blades regularly, and adjust the cutting height per the terrain
Wheels Not Turning/Stuck
Causes: Broken wheels and worn-out drive belts
Solutions: Repair the wheels (replace if too old) and replace the worn-out drive belts with new ones
Causes: Worn-out brake pads, brakes not adjusted properly, accumulation of debris, and damaged calipers
Solutions: Install new brake pads, adjust the brakes properly, prevent debris accumulation by cleaning off any twigs, grass clippings, and mud after mowing, and check the calipers (repair or replace)
Mower Not Mowing
Causes: Worn, loose, or damaged drive belt, air inside the hydraulic system, and the idler spring causing too much tension to the drive belt
Solutions: Inspect the drive belt for issues (replace if needed), remove air from the hydraulic system, and change the idler spring
The best way to avoid any of the above problems is to maintain your zero turn mower in the best possible way. Are you wondering how? Below is the answer.
How To Maintain A Zero Turn Mower?
Below are some easy zero turn mower maintenance tips to increase its life.
Clean, Clean, And Clean
Clean your ZTR mower thoroughly. Don’t miss the engine cooling fans, deck, spark plugs (after every 50 hours), battery cable (after every 100 hours), etc.
Tip: Ensure to cover all the electrical components before using water.
Properly Store The Mower
A garage or any sheltered space is ideal for storing your mower. This way, it’ll stay protected from heat, rain, or snow. I park my mower in the garage and cover it to prevent dust accumulation.
Disconnect The Battery When Not In Use
You won’t use the mower daily or too frequently, especially during winter. Thus, disconnect the mower’s battery and store it in a warm place so it doesn’t lose its charge.
Tip: Use a Battery Tender to maintain the charge in the battery for the next time you’re ready for mowing.
Check The Engine Oil
Check the engine oil every time you use a mower and replace it every 50 hours. The same is true for lubrication and hydro oil. Lubricate the required components every 20-25 hours and change the hydro oil every 400 hours.
Monitor The Fuel
The mower fuel often goes bad when not used for a long time. I started my mower after 5-6 months and encountered bad fuel! Since then, I’ve been monitoring my mower’s fuel and using the fuel stabilizer to keep it from going bad.
I use the STA-BIL Storage Fuel Stabilizer and highly recommend it.
How To Start And Operate A Zero Turn Mower FAQs
How Do You Start A Toro Zero Turn Mower?
Ans: Follow the steps and illustrations to start your Toro zero turn mower.
How Do I Get My Mower To Start?
Ans: Try the above mower troubleshooting tips to start your mower.
What Do You Do When Your Zero Turn Mower Doesn’t Start?
Ans: If your zero turn mower doesn’t start, check its fuel levels, broken or dirty spark plug, clogged air filter, jammed fuel lines, and more.
How Do You Turn A Zero Turn Mower?
Ans: Use the two lap bars to turn a zero turn mower.
How To Start A Zero Turn Mower Without A Key?
Ans: There are 3 good ways to start a zero turn mower without a key.
- Use a jumper cable
- Try a screwdriver
- Install a new ignition switch
You can follow this guide to understand how each method works.
Is It Hard To Drive A Zero Turn Mower?
Ans: No, it’s not hard to drive a zero turn mower if you’re well-versed with its operation.
How To Use A Zero Turn Mower On A Hill?
Ans: Using a zero turn mower on a hill is almost similar to using it on flat ground. The only critical things to be mindful of includes:
- Go slow
- Ensure the grass is completely dry
- Turn cautiously
- Choose a mower with a strong transmission and wheels that deliver maximum traction
This video shows how to mow a hill with a zero turn mower.
Tidy Up Your Garden With A Zero Turn Mower
Here you go. That’s everything you should know about how to start and operate a zero turn mower, safety tips, maintenance, and troubleshooting some common problems.
A zero turn mower, unlike its counterparts, is pretty versatile and easy to operate, as you would have understood by now. That’s why I’ve been using it to tidy up my yard for years now. If you’re tired of the other traditional land mowers, a ZTR mower is a worthy upgrade.
Are you wondering which zero turn mower to buy? Wait for my post on the same!