How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower: An Easy to Follow Start Guide

Riding lawn mowers are the most effective tool to cut vast portions of grass or if you have a wide-spaced lawn that needs tending. To a beginner, how to start a riding lawn mower may be quite challenging especially if you are not accustomed to the procedures of doing it.

Remember that mowing your lawn regularly is important to keep your plants in good condition. Instructional manuals that come with the machine can be used as reference but some of them may be too technical and hard to follow.

Familiarizing yourself to the procedures on how to start a riding lawn mower and the steps to operate it can make it easier for future use. Aside from that, comprehending how your machine operates can also help you in cases such as encountering operating problems.

With this article, I will give you a simple and easy to follow guide on how to start your riding lawn mower. Plus, I have added some bonus troubleshooting tips you need to keep in mind.

Here a few essentials that you must have in order to accomplish the task of successfully starting your riding lawn mower.

What You Will Need

riding lawn mower
  • Protective Wear

Your safety should always come first. Proper eye protection and earplugs should be worn when operating an engine-powered machine. I would also recommend for you to wear a pair of safety boots or work boots. This is to secure your safety and avoid any accidents while working on your lawn.

  • Oil

As a safety precaution, riding lawn mowers are delivered without petrol in the tank. You will need to fill it up before you can start operating it. Check the instruction manuals of the machine as to which petrol to use.

  • Riding Lawn Mower

This machine resembles a small tractor and is larger than the push mower. It is designed to mow vast spaces of lawns at the highest speed in the shortest possible time.

How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower

Some of the few things you also need to take note of are that starting a riding lawn mower may take some time, especially with a cold engine. It will also take a little more cranking to get the fuel to the mower’s engine. And with that said, here are the steps on how to start a riding lawn mower.

Gardening, digging ground with a shovel.

1. Take a seat on your riding lawn mower and make sure you are firmly seated. With your left foot, step on the brake pedal. In some cases, using the knob or lever, set the machine on brake.

(Tip: Most riding lawn mowers have a safety switch that turns off the engine if in case you are not firmly seated. The brake may be a pedal or a lever/knob. The location of the brake may also vary depending on the machine’s model.)

2. Next is to move the gear to ‘N’ or Neutral position. Most riding lawn mowers only start when placed in neutral position.

(Tip: The gear shift lever is usually found near the steering wheel or sometimes below the seat.)

3. Find where the throttle lever is. It is usually located next to the seat by its left side. You can easily identify it since it displays a picture of a rabbit and a turtle to indicate speed. Put the throttle in the choke position.


Depending on the machine’s model you may position the lever between the slow and fast setting. In some cases, you have to put it all the way up past the fast setting, which displays a circle with a diagonal line through it.

4. At this point, you are now able to insert the key to your riding lawn mower ignition switch. This is located on the dashboard or it may be next to the seat. Turn the key all the way to the right. You need to hold the key this way for about 15 seconds or more to crank the engine.

(Tip: If in case the engine does not start on your first try, continue to crank the starter until the engine comes to life.)

5. Once the engine ignites, release the choke. This is done by moving the lever to the faster setting which is indicated by a picture of a rabbit. At this point, your riding lawn mower is ready to go.

(Tip: For older mowers, it may take some time for the engine to warm up before you could get it moving.)

You can also check out this video version of how to start a riding lawn mower

Bonus Troubleshooting Tips On A Riding Lawn Mower That Won’t Start

riding lawn mower
  • 1. Oil Check. Make sure to use new oil before utilizing your riding lawn mower as old oil will not burn causing it not to start. Also, keep in mind to always probe the oil level. Too much or too insufficient amount of oil on your riding lawn mower will also prevent it from starting.

(Tip: Old oil or fuel clogs up after about a month and must be changed before then.)

  • 2. Clean Engine. Make sure that the engine is clean and free from any foreign particles. This can also prevent your riding lawn mower to operate. You can use a pressurized air to clean the engine.
  • 3. Batteries. Dead or dying batteries will serve your riding lawn mower no good. Replace the battery and make sure the wires are properly connected.

(Tip: Use a voltmeter to check if your riding lawn mower battery is still producing a charge.)

  • 4. Air Filter. A dirty air filter can starve the carburetor of air and prevent the riding lawn mower to start. Remove any dirt or tiny grass clippings from the air filter. You can also clean it using soapy water and a soft brush.

(Tip: Excessively dirty filter must be replaced.)

  • 5. Proper Storage. Making sure your riding lawn mower in the most favorable condition is one of the essential factors to also ensure it will start and operate smoothly. Proper storage of your machine plays a considerable part in this.

Riding lawn mowers must be kept indoors and covered to protect it from the harshest the weather. Never leave it outdoors. Exposure to changing weather can have destructive effects on the machine, thus impeding it to start or operate properly.

For more details on troubleshooting your riding lawn mower, watch this video


Having a step-by-step guide to doing any task can make things a lot easier. Now that you have the knowledge on how to start your riding lawn mower, you can ensure proper maintenance of your lawn.

Moreover, you now also know critical things to look out for in order to make sure your machine is in good condition and will run smoothly. Just remember the tips I have mentioned for you to be able to operate your riding lawn mower with ease in the future.

Was this article helpful? Were you able to follow this step-by-step guide? Do you find the additional tips useful? Do you have any other suggestions regarding this topic?

I would like to hear your thoughts about this article. Send your feedback and suggestions by leaving a comment below.

Dan Harris

Hi. I'm Dan Harris. My wife and I started gardening 5 years ago. Neither one of us had any gardening background but we loved the idea of growing our own organic food. Over the years, our garden has almost doubled in size and I’ve learned a lot from my season’s successes and failures. I’ve been excited to share my own beginning knowledge and special skills with all garden lovers.

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