Are Zero Turn Mowers Hard To Drive?


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Zero turn mowers are excellent if you need to mow a large area in a short amount of time but in order to do this, you need to fully understand how to operate the machine. A zero turn mower can seem intimidating to some people which this is probably because they look completely different to your standard push or riding mower.

It might be a challenge to learn to control a zero-turn mower for those who are new to driving or operating machinery. However, it’s easy to get comfortable driving a zero-turn mower within a few days with practice and proper training.  You need to learn the mechanism of the lever and control the mower by moving it appropriately.

Before you get on a try to mow for the first time, you’ll want to learn about some of the basic mechanisms on this type of mower. You’ll then find it much easier to control.

Parts of a Zero Turn Mower

Here’s a diagram of a zero turn mower from Dirty Hand Tools. Let’s take a look at all the major parts:

  1. Engine: When it comes to zero-turn mowers, make sure the engine is at least 23 – 26 horsepower. Anything less than that is not fun. For a consumer-grade zero-turn mower, 26 hp is considered top of a line engine. Anything above that falls under professional grade.
  2. Tires: Tires need to be well designed; otherwise, the tires can spin up the yard when taking turns. Also, tire grip is really important for operating zero-turn mowers properly. 
  3. Seat: The seat needs to be nice and ergonomic. A seat with good ergonomics is the most important thing that will enhance your mowing experience. The seat should be positioned well so that you can access everything while sitting on the mower.
  4. Control Levers: Using the levers, you can move and hold the brake.
  5. Hand Brake: The hand brake in a zero-turn mower serves as the main brake. If you have the control levers engaged and try moving forward with the brakes on, you’re going nowehere.
  6. Cutting Blade: This blade helps to cut the grass.
  7. Steel deck: On the front side of a zero-turn mower, you’ll find the steel deck. You have to step on the deck to get on the mower. It’s useful for getting on and off the mower.
  8. Caster Wheels: The caster wheels rotate 360 degrees and are situated at the front.
  9. Foot Pedal: The foot pedal helps you to raise and lower your deck. When you need to go through a rock, you can just simply raise it up.

Let’s take a look at the zero-turn mower operator station. There are typically 5 different things in the operation station:

  1. Key: The first thing in the operation station you will notice is the key to turn the mower on and off.
  2. Throttle Handle: When you push it forward, it jumps into full throttle and vice versa.
  3. Indicators: Shows how many volts. Also, on some advanced models it shows you if the operator is sitting or not and other driver information. Also the indicator also shows if the PTO is engaged or not.
  4. PTO Switch: Use the electric switch to engage and disengage the PTO shaft. 
  5. Light Switch & Charging Outlet: Most zero turn mowers will have an extra switch for lights and a charging outlet to charge your mobile device.

How To Drive a Zero Turn Mower?

Hopefully you are now a little more familiar with all the parts! If you’ve got a little patience, you’ll have no issues learning to master and control the, effectively.

Let’s now look at how to actually drive a zero turn mower.

Take Precaution 

Boring stuff but it matters…

Before you drive a ztr, you should complete some precautionary steps for your own safety. It’s recommend that you wear eye and ear protectors, safety boots, long pants and hand gloves. 

Try to avoid wearing loose clothing when driving a ztr.

Prepare The Parking Brake

The first and foremost thing you need to do is locate the emergency parking brake. This can be used to stop the mower when required.

Next, you need to push both the levers on the other side from you in the middle position to engage the brake. This will put the mower in a secure state. 

When you want to start the mower, just simply bring the levers back towards you. Remember that you always have the option to use the emergency brake if necessary. 

Moving Back And Forth

Next, you’ll want to learn to move the zero turn mower backwards and forwards. You need to push both levers forward to move the mower forward. You should apply equal pressure to both of the levers. 

Similarly to move the mower backwards, you’ll need to move the levers backwards. It sounds pretty simple, but it can take some time to get good control so you’ll want to get some practice in to get yourself habituated with the mechanism. Some learners can panic and push the lever in the wrong direction.

The lever can be pressure sensitive. More pressure will make the mower move faster.

Time To Learn Taking Turns

Once you are familiar with how to move the mower backwards and forwards and you are competent in applying balanced pressure to the lever, you can move to the next step which is making turns. 

Again, it’s pretty self intuitive. If you want to turn right, you need to put more pressure on the left lever than the right one. When you want to turn left, do the opposite. 

If you want to spin the mower on your current spot, you need to stop the mower by returning the levers to their original position and then push the lever opposite from the way you want to go. For example, if you want to spin towards the right, you need to keep the right lever in place and put more pressure on the left lever forward. The more pressure you give, the faster the mower will turn. 

Be careful the first time! You might want to put less pressure on the lever unless you’re in a wide open space.

More Practice For Better Results

Just like any other thing, practice is required for you to effectively control a zero turn mower. It’s pretty easy to understand the concept of driving the mower, but it can be trickier to know how much pressure to give to each lever. 


Check out this video for some quick tips to drive a zero-turn mower

How Long Will I Need To Master The Zero Turn Mower Controls?

Overall, I think it’s fair to say that zero turn mowers are pretty straightforward to drive. The speed, controls and responsiveness of each particular model are the hardest things to master but they are not particularly difficult.

For most people, it should 30-40 minutes to master the controls of a zero turn mower. If you have no driving experience and you have never used a riding mower before, it could take slightly more time and patience to learn to operate one.

People generally find it easy to drive a zero turn mower forwards and backwards, however they may face difficulties when it comes to turning on a spot.

I’d recommend taking your zero-turn mower to an open grass area for 30 minutes each day to practice. Within 2-3 days, you should be able to drive like a pro.

Other Potential Difficulties With Operating a Ztr

Aside from learning to operate a ztr, here are some other potential difficulties:

  1. Repairs can be costly
  2. Zero turn mowers are expensive to buy
  3. They can be loud
  4. They don’t do well with wet grass
  5. There is no pedal brake
  6. They consume a good amount of fuel

Final Thoughts

Driving a zero turn mower is probably easier than you think. It might look like they are hard to operate, but, trust me, it is not at all difficult. Just make sure to take your time to learn the lever-controlling mechanism.

Zero turn mowers are actually pretty fun to drive and it’s much easier to mow a large area when using one of these. I find a grass trimming session with a Ztr to be pretty therapeutic. They’re far quicker than any type of mower which is why people that run lawn care businesses will choose to run a Ztr.

Please remember to complete the precautionary steps before driving! As long as you ensure you are familiar with the emergency brake so that you can immediately stop the mower, you should be good to get out there!

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