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Riding Lawn Mower Troubleshooting

By Contributor ; Updated September 21, 2017

Riding lawnmowers are the kings of the yard maintenance kingdom. Fast, efficient, and usually quite reliable, the riding lawnmower is the well kept lawn's greatest companion. Riding lawn mowers are precision machines, and upkeep is important to ensure they work for many years. Even with the best upkeep, riding lawnmowers will eventually exhibit issues, and knowing the correct troubleshooting steps for the most common problems is important.

Engine will not start

Check to make sure all the fluids are filled. If your mower does not have sufficient oil or gasoline, it will not start. If the fluids are in place, and the mower will not start, check that all the safety mechanisms on the mower are functioning properly, and are in the correct position. Many riding lawn mowers have a safety mechanism that recognizes when someone is seated on the mower, and will shut off the engine if it does not recognize someone is sitting on the mower. Make certain that all the wires are connected. Many riding mowers have a mechanism that lower the mowing deck, the area where the blades are located. When the deck is raised, the blades do not move. If the mowing deck is lowered, many riding lawnmowers will not start, due to the danger of the blades doing damage to someone starting the mower. Check to make sure the deck is raised. If this fails, make sure the battery and the spark plug are functioning properly.

Smoking Engine

Check to make sure that the crankcase of the engine is not overflowing with oil. The main reason an engine begins smoking is due to excess oil burning on a hot engine. A smoking engine will generally clear up once excess oil has been drained, and the oil on the engine has burned away. If it continues for an extended period, it is possible that the engine crankcase has lost the vacuum that keeps oil from leaking. Replace any loose or defective parts of the crankcase to solve this issue. In extreme cases, the engine may be faulty, and needs to be replaced.

Excessive Vibration

Check to make sure all components of the riding lawn mower are tightened. Excessive vibration on a riding lawnmower can generally be attributed to a part of the lawnmower being loose or bent. With the engine running, and the blades disengaged, check for any rattling around the lawnmower. Isolate where the vibration may be coming from. Tighten all bolts on the mower, including those on the wheels. If the vibration continues, or is only present when the blades of the mower are engaged, check to see whether the blades of the mower are bent by elevating the riding mower with the engine of the machine turned off. If the blades are fine, check the belts of the engine, as loose belts can cause large amounts of vibration.


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