How Does a Riding Lawn Mower Work?

Riding Mower Basics

A riding lawn mower is essentially a small tractor combined with a rotary mower. Riding mowers are powered by a single gas engine that provides power to both the wheels and the blades. The driver sits on top of the mower in a seat behind the engine and controls the operation with levers. Mowers can go forward and backward and most can turn in place. This allows them to precisely cut lawns and avoid obstacles. The blade can also be turned off while the engine is left on, allowing the operator to safely drive over gravel or other terrain. Riding mowers are preferred over rotary mowers for large lawns because they are quicker and have a wider deck, which cuts the grass in wider sections. They also do not require any physical labor, which makes them far easier to work with than heavy, walk-behind rotary mowers.

Riding Mower Functions

Riding lawn mowers have two side-by-side horizontal spinning blades beneath a protective deck. The blades turn at a high rate of speed, cutting the tops off the grass as they rotate. The deck of the riding lawnmower prevents sticks and other debris from flying out from beneath the mower, potentially causing injury or property damage. It also channels the grass clippings out the side. Riding lawn mowers generally have adjustable blade heights to allow the operator to control how high the grass is cut.

Large Riding Mowers

Some large riding lawnmowers use an entirely different system to cut the grass. The mowers used in golf courses are actually small tractors towing reel mowers, similar to the hand-operated unpowered lawnmowers by the same name. Reel mowers have vertically rotating helical blades that spin past a flat cutting deck as the motor moves. When one of these blades spins past the cutting deck, the two metal surfaces act like a pair of scissors and snip the grass blade. These large reel motors create a more even cut than rotary mowers. Because they do not tear at the blade like rotary mowers can, reel mowers also result in healthier grass.

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About this Author

Isaiah David is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has nearly five years' experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.