How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower [After Winter]

A riding lawn mower becomes the best in dealing with overgrown and vast swatches of grass. They have varied features that makes cutting grass a comfortable task. After a long storage especially during winter, most people get problem starting their lawn mowers. Let’s look at how to do it easily.

After a longer storage, your riding lawn mower will need a few fixes before it can work again. Before you even start the engine, few things will need to be done. If you skip this important step, chances are that your riding lawn mower won’t start or will stall in the midst of mowing.

CAUTION: Before fixing anything on your lawn mower, read and follow manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual. For your safety, work in a well-ventilated area, shut off the lawn mower engine and disconnect the spark plug cable to prevent it from accidentally starting.

How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower

The following are important things to do before you start your lawn mower following a long storage.

Recharge the battery

The battery for the starter needs to be recharged to full capacity before it can start the engine. Connect the battery to an external charger, set it to the required power output and recharge the battery. If you use a pull cord, ignore this step.

During cold winter, lead-acid batteries tend to lose charge due to slowed rate of reactions in the battery. Before recharging, it is also important to inspect the terminals for any corrosion and clean them using a solution of baking soda. This layer can prevent the battery from charging or from supplying power.

Check the engine oil

Next up is the engine oil. If it’s at the right level and not old, you’re good to go. If, however, there’s less of it than needed, top it up with fresh oil. Use the dipstick to check the level of oil even when topping up. You can also take the chance to change it by draining the old engine oil then replace it with fresh oil.

Oil act as a lubricant and a coolant in the engine. Without it in right amount, the engine will overheat and your lawn mower won’t stay running. Changing of lawn mower engine oil at the start of mowing season is highly recommended.

Replace the stale fuel

Drain off the fuel from the whole system then replace it with fresh fuel. If the last time you used the mower was before the onset of the winter, the fuel would be stale and won’t burn well if you try to run the engine.

Fuel usually go stale after 30 days but this can be prevented by adding a stabilizer. If you did not stabilize your mower’s fuel, then there is likelihood that you have bad fuel in the tank. Stabilizing fuel before longer storage of a lawn mower is highly recommended by every lawn mower manufacturer.

Clean the spark plug(s)

Remove the spark plug from the engine then clean it up with a dry piece of cloth. If it’s sooty, you can wash it with the mower’s own fuel then dry it before refitting it. Before putting it back, crank the engine to dry out the carburetor.

Spark plugs are very important part of the ignition system. They provide a spark that ignite air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. This will not happen as required if spark plugs are corroded, damaged or covered in a residue.

Sharpen the blades

Your mower’s blades need frequent sharpening and the long winter disuse easily renders them blunt. Have them sharpened before heading out to your lawn. You can sharpen lawn mower blades without removing them but you may need to tip your lawn mower.

If tipping of the lawn mower is not done the correct way, then oil might spill into other parts of the engine including spark plug and air filters. This will impair how they perform and you may have to replace them.

Start a Riding Lawn Mower – Steps

After tuning up your lawn mower as explained above, it’s now time to start it and get to work.

1. Firmly sit on the lawn mower seat

As you sit ensure that you are able to reach all the pedals and levers. Some models of riding mowers have an inbuilt safety system wherein the engine would shut off unless you are seated or you have engaged the parking brake.

2. Engage the brakes

Engage the brake by pushing down the pedal or level and hold it in the said position. Next, locate the parking brake usually a knob or level depending on your lawn mower model and engage it as you disengage the main brake slowly.

3. Shift the gear to neutral

Locate the gear shift level usually near the steering or below the seat and move it into a neutral (N). For some type of lawn mower, you’ll need to press down the main brake while engaging the gear.

4. Now pull the throttle into choke position

A throttle is usually located somewhere next to the seat or steering wheel and commonly on the left side of the mower. It is usually marked with a turtle or rabbit to indicate speed control. This feature not only help in starting the engine but also regulate the speed of the blades.

Depending on the model, you should now pull the throttle level to move in between the slow and fast setting and particularly in the labelled circle.

5. Insert and turn the ignition key

 On the lawn mower dashboard or next to the seat locate an opening where ignition key is inserted. On some models, it is labeled ‘start’. Now turn the key in a clockwise direction and hold it on that extreme right position for about 5 seconds. You will hear the engine starting and everything coming to life.

6. Finally move the throttle into the fast setting

Get back to the throttle and move into the fast position and release the choke. In most models the level is moved upwards to the point marked with a rabbit. At this point, your lawn mower is ready to go unless there are other underlying issues.

Expert’s Tips for Maintaining your Lawn Mower

Proper care and maintenance enhances the machine’s performance, increases fuel efficiency and reduces unnecessary repair expenses.

  • Your lawn mower needs proper storage while clean in cool dry place. This will reduce chances of rusting or corrosion on some parts.
  • Clean the mowing deck after cutting grass to avoid inviting mold and mildew on its parts.
  • Do not leave the machine in rain or outdoor overnight. Although made tough for elements, rain and moisture can penetrate through any opening to reach the fuel tank and other parts.
  • Stabilize the fuel when storing your mower for winter or any period more than 30 days. This prevents condensation from taking place in the fuel system.
  • Inspect and replace worn out parts including air filter and spark plug
  • Change engine oil at least once per season or as recommended in the user manual.
  • Sharpen the lawn mower blades to increase its grass cutting power.

Final Thought

A few tune-ups after storing your lawn mower for longer should make it easy to start and operate. Together with the above recommended maintenance tips, you should be able to enjoy your mowing seasons without any issue with your lawn mower.

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