Can You Push Start A Riding Lawn Mower? (Investigated)

Two riding mowers side by side

When you are all set to mow your lawn, there is nothing more frustrating than a non-functioning mower.

Especially if it is a riding mower.

So can you push start a riding mower?

We will explore the best way to get your mower working again if your lawn is in dire need of a cut.

So let’s get started.

Can You Push Start A Riding Lawn Mower?

You may be able to push start some older (15 years plus) riding mowers, but trying to push start a modern riding mower will be very difficult due to the safety features they now come with. Most often the cause of a dead riding mower is a flat battery, and jump-starting your mower from your car battery is a much better option in this situation.

You Can Push Start Some Riding Mowers But Certainly Not All

Certain riding mowers you might be able to push start, but as a rule of thumb these will be much older riding mowers.

As another rule of thumb, there will most likely be much easier ways to get your riding mower going than push-starting it.

So what types of riding mowers could be push-started?

A Conventional Gear Shift Riding Mower

These are the old-school riding mowers where you cannot shift gears whilst you are moving and instead have to stop to change gear.

However to push start a mower like this you would first need to disable the seat sensor (if it has one) and you would almost definitely need someone else to help you with the process.

Ideally you would also need to find a reasonable slope down which your mower could roll to gain some momentum.

You cannot put it in gear either until the engine starts, as the design of the transmission will not allow it.

Once it gets moving quick enough, the engine should start in the same way a car does when you bump start it.

These types of mowers are not made anymore, and due to their age lack many of the safety features found on more modern mowers, so they are probably most likely to respond to push-starting.

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A Tractor-Style Manual Transmission Riding Mower

Neatly cut lawn with man in riding mower

As in the previous scenario, these are very much old-school-type riding mowers.

These could be bump-started from the last or so gear, but it will not be easy and you most likely have to bypass safety features.

This kind of riding mower has a safety system in place that activates the brake automatically if the transmission is moving too slowly.

Once the drive belt starts moving fast enough the force of it disengages the brake. When it slows below a certain speed the brake will automatically engage.

If you were able to bypass the safety features and disabled the brake disk you could possibly push start a riding mower like this.

But two problems here, namely you are bypassing safety features, which is never recommended, and secondly you won’t have full brake performance.

Riding Mowers With a Clutch That is Independent of the Brake

Few mowers are made with separate brake and clutch pedals these days, but if yours is you can push start it in exactly the same way you would a car.

Again you will need a friend to help you and for the best chance of success, you will want a slope you can push your riding mower down.

Start with the mower in the lowest gear available and hold the clutch and release the parking brake.

Once your mower starts moving at a reasonable speed release the clutch, and the engine will hopefully being to turn over.

The problem here is that a fast ground speed in gears 3 to 5 would usually be required to get the engine spinning enough to cranking speeds.

So in short, there is a possibility it won’t work if it doesn’t go fast enough!

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The Problems With Trying to Push Start a Riding Mower

One of the main ‘problems’, so to speak, when trying to push start a riding mower is the fact there is an abundance of safety features on modern mowers that prevent it.

That is why the old mowers, which have fewer safety features, are riper for push-starting.

Very few, if any, manual transmission mowers made in the last 15 to 20 years feature shift-on-the-go transmission.

This basically means these mowers will always be in first gear to start and as the drive belt spins faster they will move to a higher ‘gear’.

And that illustrates the issue with trying to push start a modern riding mower.

The problem is low gearing.

Bump starting a car is done usually in second or sometimes third gear, a gear that reaches around 1,000rpm at 10mph.

A riding mower in last gear is at about 3,500rpm at 6mph.

It will usually be far too low of a ratio to get the engine spinning and started.

So theoretically it is possible, in reality, it is much more difficult and there are better alternatives.

Talking of which…

A Better Alternative to Push Starting a Riding Mower

The easiest way to start a dead riding mower is to use your car battery to jump-start it, as often the cause of a riding mower not starting is a flat battery.

Before you start the process there are two important things to note:

  1. Your car battery and mower battery need to be the same voltage. Usually both will be 12v, but always check.
  2. Don’t have the engine of your car running at any point, this will most likely overwhelm the battery of your mower and burn it up.

We covered this in detail in our article on charging a lawn mower battery with a car, but in short all you need is a set of jumper cables:

  • Connect the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the mower battery and the other end to the positive terminal of the car battery.
  • Then connect the black cable to the negative terminal of the car battery and the other end to the metal frame of the mower.

Don’t connect the other end to the mower battery. That is because a charging battery generates hydrogen gas. 

Connecting the cable to the metal frame of the mower allows any electrical charge to dissipate into the frame rather than potentially sparking an explosion.

After a few minutes start the mower. If it doesn’t start leave it a couple more minutes and then try again.

Eventually the battery should have enough charge and the riding mower should start.

When it does leave the two batteries connected for a few more minutes to give the battery of your riding mower a bit more juice.

Then simply get mowing and as you do so the mower’s alternator should charge the battery up.

Remember that the older your riding mower is, the quicker it will lose its charge.

You might want to invest in a jump pack, an external battery with jumper cables that does the same job as a car battery in jump-starting your mower, or a dedicated battery charger.

RELATED ===> How Long Do Electric Lawn Mower Batteries Last Per Charge?

Final Thoughts

Can You Push Start a Riding Lawn Mower infographic

Yes you can push a riding mower but, as the infographic above outlines, a) it is difficult and b) only older mowers are suitable for push-starting.

That is because modern mowers quite rightly have so many safety features it makes it almost impossible to push start them.

A much easier and more effective way of getting a dead riding mower started is by using your car battery to jump-start it.

This is providing they both use the same voltage battery. Generally cars and riding mowers use 12v batteries but always check.

Remember, like anything, your riding mower battery will not hold its charge as efficiently over time, and as a flat battery is often the cause of a riding mower not starting this is something you should pay particular attention to.

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