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Table of Contents

1. Use the Right Type of Riding Mower

2. Cut the Grass to 4-inches During Hot Months of Summer

3. Spray Your Riding Mower Deck’s Underside with Silicone Lubricant

4. Mow in Varying Directions

5. Keep Mowing Even in the Late Fall

Common Misconceptions About Riding Lawn Mowers

Lawn Mower Maintenance

The Lawn Experts at Sears Home Services Offers Mower Maintenance and Repairs

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How to Use a Riding Lawn Mower: 5 Best Tips

10 min readUpdated Mar. 08, 2024Lyle WeischwillRiding Mower
Riding mower tips and tricks

Master the art of using your riding lawn mower with these top tips from our techs. From selecting the right mower for your grass type to debunking common myths, these insights will ensure your lawn stays lush and healthy all year round. Plus, discover essential maintenance steps to keep your mower running smoothly with Sears Home Services.


  • Select a riding mower based on the size and type of grass in your yard to ensure efficient mowing and avoid problems.
  • Maintain a grass height of 4 inches during hot summer months, vary your mowing patterns, and continue mowing in late fall to promote lawn health and prevent snow mold.
  • Perform routine maintenance tasks such as cleaning, fuel replacement, oil changes, air filter checks, spark plug replacements, belt inspections, and blade sharpening to extend the life of your riding mower and prevent common issues.

Not all grass is created equal.

Follow this expert advice to help you make sure your grass is the greenest on the block.

1. Use the Right Type of Riding Mower

When you have less than a half-acre and your grass is a thin Bermuda or similar variety, you can mow it using a small rear-engine rider with a 10hp engine.

To mow thicker grass such as St. Augustine (also called carpet grass), you’ll need a more powerful engine on your riding mower.

For larger lawns over a half-acre, you’ll typically need a riding mower with a large mower deck and a powerful engine to drive the multiple blades.

If you have a multi-acre lawn, you may need a zero-turn mower to get your mowing chores done quickly and efficiently.

Using the right type and size of riding lawn mower will help you avoid problems and keep your lawn looking good all season long.

2. Cut the Grass to 4-inches During Hot Months of Summer

Summer heat can be brutal on grass – no matter what variety you have.

Mowing the grass as short as possible all of the time can kill your lawn during a hot summer. Avoid the temptation to mow your grass as short as possible so you don’t have to mow as often. You may wind up not having to mow at all when you cut the grass too short during extremely hot weather.

The ideal length to cut most varieties of grass during hot summer months is 4-inches. Also, you shouldn’t let the grass grow taller than 6-inches before mowing it back to 4-inches during summer. Cutting off more than 1/3 of your lawn’s height isn’t healthy for the grass.

Mowing your grass to the right height during hot summer months will help keep your lawn green and healthy all season long.

3. Spray Your Riding Mower Deck’s Underside with Silicone Lubricant

Use MO-Deck lawnmower deck spray to prevent grass clippings and debris from sticking to the underside of your riding mower deck. This silicone spray coats the underside of the mower deck surface so you can mow wet grass without worrying about grass clippings clumping up and clogging the discharge chute.

4. Mow in Varying Directions

Mowing your grass in the same pattern and direction every time can mat down the grass, which can inhibit growth.

Vary your mowing pattern in different directions so grass blades stay vertical and healthy.

5. Keep Mowing Even in the Late Fall

Many homeowners quit cutting grass when growing slows down in late fall.

Continuing to mow the grass in late fall will help it recover more quickly in the spring growing season. You can cut grass to about 2-inches in the fall and then cut it when it grows to around 3-inches.

When you live in a snowy region, continuing to cut the grass in late fall will help prevent snow mold from invading your lawn.

Are Riding Mowers Easy to Use?

Most riding mowers are fairly easy to operate. Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual to use your riding mower. Keep your riding mower well-maintained so it continues to start and run smoothly.

When your riding mower starts acting up, follow the DIY troubleshooting tips in our Riding mower & lawn tractor repair help section to fix the problem.

Using Your Riding Lawn Mower: A Step-by-Step Guide

Basic operating procedures for many common riding lawn mowers are the same. Here are the basic steps for using common riding lawn mowers:

  1. Before starting the engine, make sure the fuel tank is filled with plenty of gasoline.
  2. Set the parking brake and turn off the blade switch. The engine won’t start if the parking brake isn’t set and the blade witch is turned on.
  3. Insert the tractor key into the ignition switch module.
  4. Move the throttle/choke control into the CHOKE position.
  5. Turn the ignition key clockwise to the START position to start the engine. After the engine starts, release the key. It will return to the NORMAL MOWING position.
  6. After the engine starts, move the throttle/choke control down into the FAST position.
  7. Turn on the blades, shift the riding mower into drive and release brake to begin mowing.

To stop the engine:

  1. Turn off the cutting blades.
  2. Place the throttle in the slow position.
  3. Engage the parking brake.
  4. Turn the ignition key to the STOP position.
  5. Remove the key from the ignition switch.

Mower Safety Tips

Read the owner’s manual for your model and follow all safety guidelines for operating your model of riding mower.

Here are some common safety tips that pertain to most riding mowers:

  • Check overhead clearances carefully before driving under low hanging tree branches, wires, door openings etc., where you can be struck or pulled from the machine, which could result in serious injury.
  • Disengage all attachment clutches and depress the brake pedal completely before attempting to start engine. Don’t attempt to override safety switches.
  • Your riding mower is designed to cut normal residential grass of a height no more than 10”. Don’t attempt to mow through unusually tall, dry grass (e.g., pasture) or piles of dry leaves. Dry grass or leaves may contact the engine exhaust and/or build up on the mower deck presenting a potential fire hazard.
  • Use only accessories and attachments approved for your riding mower by the manufacturer. Read, understand and follow all instructions provided with the approved accessory or attachment.
  • Keep children out of the mowing area and in watchful care of a responsible adult other than the operator.

Common Misconceptions About Riding Lawn Mowers

riding mower myths

All Mowers Work Well On All Types of Grass

When mowing thick, tough grass such as St. Augustine, you’ll need a mower powerful motor. A riding mower with less than a 10hp engine often won’t be able to cut thick St. Augustine grass. Sometimes, you may also need a more powerful mower when certain types of thick Bermuda grass.

Evaluate your mowing needs when choosing a riding mower or lawn tractor. Make sure that you have the power that you need to cut grass effectively.

Cutting the Grass Shorter Means You Can Mow Less Often

The ideal height to cut grass depends on the season and the type of grass in your lawn.

During the hottest months of summer, it’s best to cut grass to the 4-inch height to prevent burning your lawn. You can then cut it back to 4-inches when lawn height reaches 6-inches.

Cutting grass too short during summer can burn your lawn – then you may not need to cut the lawn at all.

How often you need to mow depends on how quickly your grass grows. You’ll typically want to cut 1/3 of the height of the grass during any mowing session.

You Can’t Cut Wet Grass

You can mow the yard when grass is damp. Make sure that mower blades are sharp and use silicone lubricant on the underside of the mower deck to keep wet clippings from clogging up the deck and discharge chute.

Keeping a Consistent Mowing Pattern is a Must

Mowing in the exact same pattern and direction can mat down the grass, which is bad for growth.

Vary your mowing pattern so grass blades stay vertical and grow properly.

Mowing in the Late Fall is Unnecessary

Even though grass grows slowly late in the fall season, don’t winterize your riding mower until grass goes completely dormant. Cut the grass until the snow starts. Longer grass can encourage snow mold.

Lawn Mower Maintenance

Keep your riding mower well-maintained so it lasts longer and cuts your lawn properly. Regular maintenance can also help prevent common riding mower problems.

Here are common mower maintenance steps you should perform at the start of every mowing season:

  1. Give your riding mower a good cleaning. Use compressed air or a leaf blower and blow out the old grass clippings, dirt, and debris from the mower deck and the mower’s engine. Do this before the first use and after every use during the season. The debris that accumulates can interfere with the operation of the mower blades and riding mower. Some mower decks have a port to attach a garden hose for cleaning.
  2. Replace the fuel with clean, fresh gasoline. Did you store the mower with gas in it? If so, drain the old fuel into a red gasoline can and follow hazardous waste disposal regulations. Remember to also change the fuel filter.
  3. Change the oil and oil filter. Perform an oil change at the beginning of the season – more often in dustier areas. Drain the engine oil following the instructions in your owner’s manual then replace it with new oil, and change the oil filter too. Check the oil before every use. Tip: Let the mower run for a bit before changing the oil. And make sure to wipe up any spills on the engine.
  4. Clean or replace the air filter. Check your owner’s manual to find out how often you should replace the air filter, but before you start mowing, make sure the air filter is clean; if it’s not, replace it. Between changings, you can clean a foam air filter with soap and water. Make sure it’s dry before reinstalling. Replace a paper air filter when it’s dirty.
  5. Change the spark plugs. As part of an engine tune up, replace the spark plugs. This simple but crucial task will help the mower start smoothly and run more efficiently. Tip: Order lawn mower replacement parts, or play it safe and call in the pros at Sears Home Services.
  6. Check the tires and the mower deck and drive belts. Make sure the tires are inflated to the recommended air pressure listed on the sidewall of the tires, and visually inspect the blade and ground drive belts for wear. Replace the belt if it’s broken.
  7. Sharpen the mower blades and make sure they’re properly balanced. You can DIY blade sharpening if you’ve got a vice and a sharpener – just be sure to wear sturdy gloves and eye protection, and make sure the blades are properly balanced. Or play it safe and call in the pros.

The Lawn Experts at Sears Home Services Offers Mower Maintenance and Repairs

When you don’t want to perform riding mower maintenance yourself, the lawn & garden experts at Sears are ready to complete the spring tune-up for your.

Schedule your riding mower maintenance service online and a Sears Technician will visit your home and perform these maintenance steps:

  • Inspect the air filter.
  • Inspect the fuel filter.
  • Inspect the carburetor.
  • Inspect the drive belts.
  • Lubricate the moving parts.
  • Test the overall mower operation.

All replacement parts needed for the tune-up are extra. If a repair is needed, the technician will diagnose the problem and provide you with a cost estimate prior to proceeding.

Regular maintenance helps prevent riding mower breakdowns, but you can never tell when a failure will occur.

When your riding mower needs repair, trust the experts at Sears Home Services to diagnose and fix your mower quickly. From Poulan to Craftsman riding mowers, we’re your best option for quick and easy local service and repair of your riding lawn mower or tractor. We’ve done hundreds of thousands of lawn equipment repairs, so you can count on Sears to identify the problem and know the solution.

Schedule a riding mower repair and we’ll send a technician to your home to fix your mower.

Trust Sears Home Services to take care of all your lawn & garden equipment needs.

Schedule riding mower maintenance now!

Maximize the efficiency and longevity of your riding mower with our professional maintenance service, tailored to keep your lawn looking pristine all season long.

Call (213) 596-2538 or schedule online now.

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