How to Drive a Zero Turn Mower

Zero turn mowers are incredibly wonderful machines which can cut short the time taken to mow a lawn by almost a double when compared to a regular mower. This type of mower has zero inches of turning radius, which means it can turn on a dime.

It is a rear wheel drive, both wheels are independently controlled, which is why it can spin around much like a tank or a bulldozer. This is particularly why zero turns are preferred by owners of large lawns, and lawns with a tight corner. Zero turns are more efficient and deliver impressive mowing experience.

How to Drive a Zero Turn Mower

Some Tips to Remember

Learning to drive a zero turn mower is pretty straightforward. But its unique steering system is the reason why many people find themselves intimidated. Well, it’s time to get over it and start a new adventure.

Before you get started, it is really helpful if you can trick your brain into thinking that you are pushing a shopping cart. Confused? If yes, let us understand the relationship between these two. Normally, we would use two hands to push or pull a cart. We give it a little push with both hands if we want to go forward, and vice versa. The same principle is used in driving a zero turn mower. To move forward, both levers are pushed forward with equal force or pressure. The same procedure is used when going reverse. With a ZTR, the levers are pulled backwards.

How to Drive a Zero Turn Mower.

  1. Seek help.

Ask help from somebody who is already familiar with the equipment. He will teach you the dos and don’ts. You will learn faster and easier this way.  Also, he will teach you all the safety measures.

  1. Getting started.

When driving a car, an experienced driver would shift the gear without looking at the gear stick, and his eyes would be on the road. This is exactly what you need to duplicate.

The first crucial step is getting to know your machine. It will be easier to drive if you know precisely what each lever, sticks, buttons, switch or pedal does. The main controls include ignition switch, parking brake, deck adjustment lever, mower clutch and steering levers. Consult the owner’s manual, it will tell you all the information about your mower.

  1. Understand the basic operation.

The wheels on zero turns are controlled with separate levers. The right lever controls the wheel on the right, and the left lever controls the left wheel. It is imperative to know that these levers act as a steering wheel, gas pedal, and brake pedal.

Moving both levers forward with equal pressure will accelerate the mower forward, the same opposite action is required to go reverse. If you push your left lever forward, the left wheel will go forward while the right wheel remains stationary, this is how you make a turn.

  1. Operating the machine.

Before starting the engine, ensure that the parking brake is engaged and adjust the control arms or levers so that you are in a comfortable position. Most zero turns have adjustable control arms. Remember to disengage the parking brake when you are ready to go.

Practice moving forward or backwards using the control arms. Your mower will travel in a straight line if you’re applying an equal amount of pressure on both levers. If your mower is going right, it means you need to use more pressure on the left lever. After a few minutes though, you will take it effortlessly. The steering lever will return to a neutral position if you stop applying pressure. Keep practicing until you are able to maintain a straight line driving the machine.

  1. Making turns.

After the completion of the above step, it would be easy for you to make turns. To make turns, just move the control bars gently in the opposite direction or keep one in neutral and move the other. For example, if you want to move left, push forward the right lever. Once you are comfortable with this, you can start taking sharp turns. Initially, it can pose a challenge but practice makes the driving as well as the cutting perfect.

  1. The three-point turn.

This will prevent the machine from tearing up your lawn when making turns. It is advised not to do the actual mowing before you can execute the three-point turn flawlessly. This is necessary when mowing. It is quite easy to tear up your lawn with a zero turn mower when making turns. The entire lawn may end up looking like a horse race track if you’re not comfortable operating the machine.

To execute the three-point turn, stop the mower before taking a turn, go backwards or reverse, and take the turn once the wheels are in motion. The idea is to prevent the mower from spinning in a tight circle.

To give you more insights, here are some examples of driving zero turns.

Husqvarna MZ61

The Husqvarna MZ61 zero turn mowers are powerful machines. Both levers are padded, which dramatically reduces vibration when driving. Its adjustable control bars and adjustable seat provides an extra ride comfort. The steering lever requires some time to get used to.

Ariens Zoom 34

The control arms or levers that can be adjusted in three different directions which makes it very comfortable. Ariens Zoom 34 is a relatively small mower compared to Husqvarna MZ61. Driving this zero turn is easy; it is just that the control bars are not so easy to master, which is pretty much the same with all zero turns.


Driving a ZTR is easy once you find the rhythm. Choose a good location with a wide open space where you can practice driving. It is highly recommended that you practice until you are confident before you start cutting the grass.

It takes a little bit of patience and practice to execute a U-turn, and maneuver in tight corners. Take your time to get the feel with your mower. But these mowers are among the easiest machines to operate. Give yourself some time, and you will be driving a zero turn mower like a pro in no time.