What Is a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower? All You Need to Know

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What Is Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

When seeking to add value to your property, you look for ways to make it more appealing to the eye. Tending to your lawn is one way to do it. You can use a traditional push mower, but such a mower will rely on your effort to move it around. You’ll likely be tired, and experience muscle aches after the job. The best way is to use a self-propelled lawn mower, which makes the job faster and requires less effort. Your main job is to guide it around the lawn because it is not an autonomous robot.

Key Takeaways

  • A self-propelled lawn mower has a motorized drive system that propels it forward.
  • You only guide the self-propelled mower on where to go.
  • Self-propelled mowers are available in front, rear, or all-wheel drive options.
  • Proper maintenance improves efficiency and extends the lawn mower’s lifespan.

What is a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

Self-propelled mowers use a vehicle-like drive system to move them forward. You engage the drive system by squeezing the “bail” (a bar usually on the handle). The self-propelled mower requires a gas or electric energy source to power it. 

Main Differences Between Self-Propelled and Push Mowers

Self-propelled Push
  • Heavier
  • Lighter
  • Move themselves forward without requiring your effort
  • You push them forward
  • More expensive 
  • Cheaper
  • Need a gas or electric power source
  • Most don’t have motorized parts, so they rely on your energy
  • Ideal for large lawns as they do the job faster
  • Ideal for smaller lawns with soft grass

Types of Self-Propelled Mowers

The types of self-propelled mowers include:

  • Single-Speed Self-Propelled Drive

The lawn mower moves forward at one speed, which can be helpful when mowing a flat lawn. It can be challenging to maneuver around obstacles or borders. It is the best option when your lawn has simple borders and few flowerbeds. 

  • Variable-Speed Self-Propelled Drive

It provides the option to slow down the mower or make it move faster depending on the cutting conditions. The controls are usually on the handlebars. You can slow down around flowerbeds, obstacles, and borders. 

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How a Self-Propelled Mower Works

Once you press the bail to engage the engine, it powers some or all of the wheels. The result is forward momentum, and the blades also start spinning. 

The propulsion system can be available in three options: 

  • Front-Wheel Drive (FWD): Front wheels provide the propulsion, and the mower is ideal for flat lawns. Using them in tall grass or uneven landscape is challenging as the front wheels come off the lawn. In such cases, you may have to supply the forward propulsion yourself. 
  • Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD): Rear wheels provide propulsion. They are ideal for lawns with uneven terrain or trees. Front wheels come off the ground when turning, providing a smoother transition.  
  • All-Wheel Drive (AWD): Also known as four-wheel-drive mowers, they provide traction and balance across all the wheels. The mower allows you to switch between the three drive types for optimal performance on different types of terrain.  

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What to Consider When Buying a Self-Propelled Mower

Self-propelled lawn mowers are available in different drive types. You must ensure that you pick the right one for your needs. Several factors can inform your decision, including:

  • Propulsion System

When purchasing a self-propelled mower, you can choose between:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Front-wheel drive

The front-wheel drive is the cheapest among the three, but it may not be powerful enough. The all-wheel drive is the most expensive, but it allows for traction and balance across all terrain. 

The rear-wheel drive is the most recommended for tough grass and hilly landscapes. 

  • Cutting Width

The wider the cutting width, the faster you get the job done. If you have a large lawn with few obstacles, you can opt for a mower with a wider cutting width. If the lawn has obstacles and hilly terrain, the best choice is a small mower with a narrower cutting width. It will help you maneuver the slopes and obstacles easily.  

  • Terrain

Front-wheel drive mowers are ideal for lawns with flat terrain. Some lawns have sloppy terrain, and you must know the type of self-propelled mower that works best on it. 

For a hilly landscape, consider buying a rear-wheel drive mower. An all-wheel drive mower is also ideal because you can switch between the drive systems as you maneuver the slopes. Remember that the best way is to cut across the hill, not uphill. 

  • How It Starts

There are two ways to start a self-propelled mower:

  • Recoil
  • Electric

You pull a cord in recoil mowers to turn on the engine. It is the traditional method of starting a mower engine. With time, the recoil spring may break, requiring a replacement. You turn a key or press a button with electric-start mowers to start the engine.

  • Ease of Use

You want a lawn mower that you can use whenever you want without complex maintenance requirements. You can choose between electric or gas-powered self-propelled mowers

Gas-powered mowers are heavier (although you won’t use your effort to push them). They involve many maintenance requirements, like oil changes, air filters, and spark plugs. 

Electric mowers don’t involve a lot of maintenance. Once you ensure that all connections are intact and all moving parts are well-lubricated, you only need a power source. 

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How To Use a Self-Propelled Mower

Electric mowers don’t involve too much work. Once you connect the cord to the power supply or ensure the battery has power, you are good to go. Set the cutting height, then turn it on and mow. 

Gas mowers involve a few more steps: 

Step 1: Check the Gas

Add gas to the fuel tank. You should add sufficient gas if you want to complete the cutting in one go without breaking to add gas. Also, ensure that you have the right fuel for the mower because incorrect fuel can cause irreversible damage. 

Step 2: Adjust the Cutter Deck Height

Set the cutter deck height to the highest possible height, so the blades don’t get caught in the grass. Most mowers provide three options: 

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High

Step 3: Check the Clippings Bag

Ensure that the clippings bag is empty.

Step 4: Start

Put the throttle in a start position. Some mowers have a choke, which you will engage. While holding the engine cutout bar with one hand, pull the recoil start cord with the other. The mower may require several tugs before it starts. 

Set the throttle back, then disengage the choke. Set the cutter height to your preferred level. The second propulsion bar will engage the wheels, so the mower can start moving forward. 

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How to Adjust Speed

If you notice that the mower moves too fast or too slow for you, you can adjust the speed to level you are comfortable with. Various brands may have different ways to do it depending on their complexity. 

You will control the speed in most mowers by adjusting the throttle. If you give the engine more throttle, it moves faster. Decrease the throttle to slow it down. 

Some brands may have a speed lever or dial. 

How to Adjust the Cutting Height

You must first disengage the forward propulsion before adjusting the height. Your mower has a propulsion bar or lever. You can do it while the engine is running, but ensure that you keep your feet and hands away from the cutting blades. Also, check for loose clothing, as they could easily get trapped. 

Adjust the height by lowering or raising the height adjustment lever. 

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How To Maneuver Around Obstacles

A mower with narrower cutting width is ideal for lawns with obstacles. Remove all debris and move other obstacles like tables and chairs. You can then cut borders around the obstacles and trim later using a weed eater. Always slow down the mower when going around obstacles. 

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Pros and Cons of Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

The following are the pros and cons of self-propelled mowers:

Pros Cons
  • You don’t get tired as they propel themselves
  • They are heavier than push mowers
  • You can mow larger spaces faster
  • They are more expensive than push mowers
  • They maneuver uneven landscape much easily
  • Most provide the option to adjust the speed

Safety Tips When Using a Self-Propelled Mower

You must follow some safety guidelines when working with machines. If you don’t want accidents on your lawn, follow these guidelines. 

    • Wear the appropriate safety gear: Wear shoes (safety boots), glasses, safety gloves, and a hat. 
    • Keep children and pets away: You don’t want any of them near the mower when it’s in use, as they can get below the cutting deck. 
    • Remove stones, bones, and other debris: Blades can pick and throw them dangerously. 
    • If you slip, release the handle immediately: Injuries can occur if you pull the mower over your foot when falling.
    • Ensure the mower has a discharge cover.

Self-Propelled Mower Maintenance

Performing lawn mower maintenance ensures your mower operates in its prime condition. While you’ll get clean cuts, maintenance also helps to extend the mower’s lifespan. It helps reduce the overall cost of owning a self-propelled lawn mower. 

Some maintenance practices include: 

  • Replace the Spark Plug

Remove the spark plug before starting any maintenance to ensure the mower doesn’t start accidentally. Although they degrade rapidly, they are inexpensive. When replacing, don’t over-tighten, as it could cause problems starting the engine. 

  • Change the Oil

Changing the oil ensures the engine runs smoothly. You can do it at the end of every season before putting it up for the winter. 

Remove the drain plug under the oil tank and let the oil drain. If it doesn’t have a drain plug, tilt it to the side and let the oil drain through the fill hole. Once all the oil drains out, replace it with fresh oil. 

  • Replace Air Filters

Always replace air filters at the end of every season. If your mower has permanent filters, clean them thoroughly. Clean air filters thoroughly to improve the efficiency of your mower. 

  • Sharpen the Blades

Sharp blades provide a clean cut. You can use a rotary tool or metal file to sharpen the blades, but this requires technical knowledge. If you feel like you might damage the blades by doing it yourself, consider working with a professional. 

  • Clean the Mower

Clean the mowing deck every time you complete mowing. Grass and dirt can get stuck in the mowing deck and may become difficult to remove if left. They also trap heat, affecting the engine. 

Turn the mower on its side after mowing, remove the spark plug, and use a wire brush to remove all the dirt and grass in the mowing deck. At the end of the season, clean the mowing deck using hot soapy water and a stiff wire brush. You can then store it for the winter.  

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Which is the Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

The all-wheel drive is the best self-propelled lawn mower you can purchase. It gives you the ability to switch between the three drive options. You can buy the rear-wheel drive mower if you can’t afford an all-wheel drive mower. It will help you maneuver uneven terrain more comfortably. Remember to observe proper maintenance of your mower for improved efficiency and extended life. 

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Self-Propelled Lawn Mower FAQs

  • What Does Self-Propelled Mean?

Self-propelled means that a machine moves itself forward because it has a drive system. You don’t have to use your effort to push it forward. 

  • What Is the Difference Between a Self-Propelled and a Regular Lawn Mower?

The difference between a self-propelled and a regular push lawn mower is how each moves forward. For a regular mower, you must use your effort to push and move it forward. A self-propelled mower only requires you to guide it since it has a motorized drive system that moves it forward. 

  • Which Is Better, Push or Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

A self-propelled lawn mower is better than a push lawn mower in various aspects. The self-propelled mower is faster, meaning you can complete mowing large lawns faster. It propels itself forward, so you won’t get muscle pains after using it. It can also maneuver hilly terrain better than a push mower. 

  • Can You Push a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

Yes, you can push a self-propelled lawn mower. It will not affect the transmission, but you may have to use more force than when using a push mower. Self-propelled mowers are heavier and meant to drive themselves. 

  • How Do You Mow With a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

To mow with a self-propelled lawn mower, you must first start the engine. Some use a recoil start, while others use an electric start. Pushing the drive lever engages the wheels, and the mower starts moving forward.

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