Push-starting a car temporarily reignites the battery until you can recharge or replace it. Riding lawn mowers have a smaller and less powerful battery than automobiles, but the spark plugs and several other internal components work on the same principle. This begs the question: can you push start a riding lawn mower?
The short answer is yes. You can push start a riding lawnmower like a car with a manual transmission. However, this method only works on certain types of riding lawnmowers.
This article shows you how to properly push-start a riding lawn mower and other options to juice up the battery without replacing it.
Can You Push Start a Riding Lawn Mower?
Yes, you can push-start a riding lawn mower—but only if it has a clutch that isn’t connected to the brake. If the clutch and brake pedal are the same, it won’t work.
Although you can push the brake just enough to disengage the clutch without engaging the brake, it takes a lot of trial and error. You can also bypass the brake safety switch to use the clutch without engaging the brake, but I don’t recommend doing so because it poses a safety hazard.
How to Push Start a Riding Lawn Mower
The best and easiest way to push start a riding lawn mower is by pushing it up a long, steep hill and letting gravity roll you back down. If there are no steep hills on your property, find a nice flat area and ask a friend or two to help you out.
Here’s how to push-start a riding lawn mower:
Step 1: Position the Mower
Assuming you have a steep hill on your property, start pushing the riding lawn mower to the top. Once you’ve reached the top, rearrange the mower to face downhill. Turn the ignition on and make sure the parking brake is firmly set.
Step 2: Depress and Release
Depress the clutch and position the transmission to the lowest gear option available. Then, hold the clutch and release the parking brake.
If the riding lawn mower doesn’t immediately roll down the hill, use your free foot to give yourself a little push or ask a friend to push you down.
When you’re rolling down at top speed, release the clutch. If you did it right, the mower should start.
If you don’t have a hill, don’t worry. Follow the same procedure but instead of pushing the mower down the slope with your free foot, ask one or two of your friends to push the mower.
Once you’re rolling at a reasonable pace, release the clutch, so the spinning wheels begin to turn the engine over.
Can You Jump Start a Riding Lawn Mower?
If push-starting doesn’t work, try jump-starting your riding lawn mower with your car.
Before doing that, though, make sure your lawnmower and car batteries are both 12-volts. If your mower’s battery is less than 12-volts, you might fry its electrical system, rendering it useless.
Like push-starting, jump-starting your riding lawn mower is a temporary procedure. It’ll power up the mower just enough to finish cutting the remaining grass on your lawn, but it won’t last the entire day.
When you’re done cutting grass, recharge the mower’s battery overnight to be at full capacity the next time you need it. If you don’t have a charger, take the battery to an auto parts shop so they can recharge it for you.
How to Jump-Start a Riding Lawn Mower
Jump-starting a riding lawn mower is much like jump-starting a car. Some people have used their lawnmower to jump-start their vehicles. Let’s take a closer look at how you do it.
Step 1: Move the Riding Lawn Mower Close to the Car
First, move your riding lawn mower close to your car. It should be close enough for the jumper cables to connect the mower and car’s batteries comfortably.
Ensure the mower and your car aren’t touching, as this might create a short circuit, thus damaging your vehicle and/or your mower. Also, don’t let any metal objects touch the batteries, as they can cause a spark and possibly make one of the batteries explode.
To be safe, remove your metal rings, metal watch straps, and anything made of metal from your person when jump-starting the mower.
Step 2: Connect the Jump Cables
Open the hood of your car and your mower to access the battery. If there’s any corrosion or dirt in the mower or the car battery’s terminals, scrub it off with a terminal cleaner and a wire brush.
When everything’s set, connect one of the red jump leads to the working battery’s positive (+) terminal and the other to the mower’s positive terminal.
Then, connect the black jump lead to the negative (-) terminal of the working battery of your car. The second black clamp should be secured to an unpainted, metal part of the mower’s engine, NOT the battery.
Step 3: Start the Car and Charge
Start your car and let the mower charge for a few minutes, usually three minutes. Don’t mess with the cords in the meantime.
If anything goes wrong, disconnect the red clamp from the car’s battery first, then disconnect the red clamp from the mower second. The black cables can then be removed.
After letting the battery charge for three minutes, start the mower while your car’s engine is still running. The mower should roar to life if you’ve secured the clamps right. If it doesn’t, give it another five minutes to charge and try again.
Step 4: Remove the Cables
Now, once the mower starts, disconnect the jumper cables in the following order:
- Black jump lead from the mower’s engine
- Black jump lead from the car’s battery
- Red jump lead from the mower’s battery
- Red jump lead from the car’s battery
What If Push-Starting and Jump-Starting Don’t Work?
If neither procedure works, there’s a possibility that your mower’s battery is dead.
On average, a riding lawn mower battery lasts for about four years. Once it comes close to the four-year mark, the battery won’t hold its charge as it used to.
Here’s how to test the status of your mower’s battery:
- Depress the clutch of your mower and turn the key. If the engine cranks slowly, makes a clicking noise, or doesn’t crank, the battery might be dead.
- Connect your mower to a battery. If the mower isn’t fully charged within 8 to 10 hours or within the manufacturer’s recommended charging time, the battery is likely dead and needs to be replaced.
- Test the battery’s voltage with a multimeter. The battery is still operational if the meter reads 12.7 DC volts or higher. If it reads 11.5 volts or lower, the battery is sulfated and needs to be replaced.
On the other hand, if your mower dies a few minutes after disconnecting the jumper cables, there might be a problem with the voltage regulator or the alternator.
The mower’s voltage regulator maintains the voltage within the prescribed range, so the battery won’t receive enough charge to function if it’s faulty. In addition, the alternator keeps the battery charged when the mower is running. If an alternator dies, it won’t keep the battery in a fully charged state.
All three issues—dead battery, dead voltage regulator, and dead alternator—prevent a riding lawn mower from powering up. If you’re not sure where the issue lies, ask for professional guidance.
If your riding lawn mower battery dies, you can bring it back to life by pushing or jumping-starting.
Remember: you can only push-start a mower with a clutch. Some riding mowers don’t have the ability to start manually. In this case, the only alternative is to either jump-start the battery or replace it.