How to Steer a Zero Turn Lawn Mower


Zero turn riding mowers steer with levers instead of the familiar steering wheel. Owners may also be surprised to find no brake pedal or gear shift. Though the operating system is new to most homeowners, learning takes only a few minutes. After a little practice, the ease of use and accuracy of control overcome any reservations about the new technology.

Step 1

Start the zero turn mower while sitting on the driver's seat; safety switches prevent the machines from starting if the driver is not on the seat. Machines have slightly different procedures, but all require you to release the power take off (PTO) and engage the parking brake. Place the steering handles in the neutral or center position, and push out to either side.

Step 2

Bring the steering handles together in front of you to engage the transmission; doing this without releasing the parking brake kills the motor. The steering levers rest in a neutral position; pulling them back moves the machine backwards, and pushing them forward drives the machine forward.

Step 3

Accelerate carefully by pushing both handles forward at the same time. Not much movement is necessary to start the machine rolling; and the farther forward you push the handles, the faster the mower goes. Reversing direction only requires pulling the handles back; speed in reverse increases as you pull the handles back further.

Step 4

Stop the mower by bringing the handles to the center or neutral position. The parking brake isn't needed during operation; zero turn mowers use transmission-controlled deceleration as the braking system.

Step 5

Steer to the left by advancing the right steering lever further forward than the left. Each lever controls one drive wheel. Pushing the right lever forward further rolls the right wheel faster, and the machine turns left. Push the left lever further forward than the right to turn right.

Step 6

Turn right in reverse by pulling the left lever further back than the right. The left wheel rolls faster and the machine turns right. Pulling the right lever further back turns the machine left.

Step 7

Make a zero degree turn by rolling both drive wheels in opposite directions. If only one wheel turns, the stationary wheel digs a neat hole in the lawn. Move one handle forward slightly and the other handle slightly back. Glance to either side to make sure both wheels roll. Center the handles when the machine spins 180 degrees.

Tips and Warnings

  • Practice in an open area before doing any real mowing. Bumping irrigation pipes or riding over water meters can cause costly damage. Disengage the PTO when stopping the machine. Safety features prevent the mower from starting with the PTO on--something new owners often forget.

Things You'll Need

  • Large lawn


  • Operator's Manual: Craftsman ZTS6000
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission: Riding Lawnmowers
  • Texas Dept. of Insurance: Zero Turn Riding Mower Safety

Who Can Help

  • Popular Mechanics Test: 6 Zero-Turn Riding Mowers
Keywords: steer zero turn mower, start zero turn, zero degree turn

About this Author

James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. His lifetime fascination with technical and manual arts yields decades of experience in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in Tai Chi Magazine, Sonar 4 Ezine, The Marked Tree, Stars & Stripes, the SkinWalker Files and Fine Woodworking.