Zero-turn mowers are fantastic tools – helping you quickly and efficiently achieve professional mowing results. But how do you operate a zero turn mower? We’ve prepared this short guide to help you get started.

Safety and Preliminary Checks

Before you start, make sure you have adequate ear protection since these are loud machines that can, over time, cause hearing damage. We also highly recommend eye protection in case any projectiles are thrown out of the cutter decks.

Next, climb onto the machine and if available, fasten your seatbelt. Most commercial mowers are fitted with seat belts, and as a safety precaution the mower won’t start until it’s fastened. Check your parking brake is engaged, and your mower deck is raised, since these could also prevent the mower from starting.

Starting Your Mower

Smooth movements are essential when using a zero-turn mower.

When operating your zero turn mower first check if you are starting from cold (i.e. you haven’t already used it in the last 30 minutes). If this is the case engage the choke and set the throttle to 50%. Now you’re ready to turn the key and start your mower. Once the engine starts, immediately disengage the choke.


Check the area is clear around you and disengage the parking brake. Pull both of the control levers in over your lap. You can set your mower to “locked neutral” at any time by pushing the levers back out from you. The mower cannot move with the levers pushed to the outside position, even while the engine is running.

Pull the levers back in over your lap, and you’re ready to maneuver your mower. Many people liken it to a shopping cart: To move forward, push both levers forward. To go in reverse, pull both levers towards you. To turn to the left, push your right had forward and pull your left hand back, as you would to turn a shopping cart. Do the opposite to turn right.

Make sure you start by using gentle smooth movements, as some mowers can be sensitive. As you gain experience and confidence, you’ll be able to quickly and instinctively turn the machine in any direction you want.

Start Mowing

When you’re in position to start mowing, lower the deck and engage the cutters (if they are not automatically engaged). Remember to set your cutting deck height to your desired mowing height before you begin mowing.

Final Word When Operating a Zero Turn Mower

Machines can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, so we always recommend you read the manual before you start. Remember, mowers are dangerous pieces of equipment and cause many injuries every year. Make sure the area you’re planning to mow is free from stones and other objects that could be thrown out of the cutter decks, as these can smash windows, hit parked cars, or worse – people nearby.

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