View Full Version : Basic triage on a riding mower

Mar. 28, 2012, 05:40 PM
Last summer I bought a used riding mower. Almost immediately thereafter, I also bought a tractor (yes, windfall summer!). With the farm to-do list at the time, we proceeded to work with the tractor pretty much exclusively.

All I accomplished with the riding mower was breaking the belt that runs the mower by charging headlong into some resistant weeds. Now, after a winter of being ignored, it not only has a broken belt, it doesn't start.

I doubt a repair person would make a house, er, barn call? I'd like to get it running enough to ride it out front to my truck or trailer so I can bring it somewhere. Of course it would be great if the battery just needed to charge and I was back to where I left it, just needing the belt.

How does one jump start a riding mower? Is that even possible? I picture blowing it to smithereens. I know very little about motor vehicles of any type and when you add electricity I have both fear AND ignorance. So what should I do with this large paperweight to get it functional again?

Mar. 28, 2012, 08:21 PM
I doubt a repair person would make a house, er, barn call?

How does one jump start a riding mower? Is that even possible? I picture blowing it to smithereens. I know very little about motor vehicles of any type and when you add electricity I have both fear AND ignorance.

Our nearest John Deere dealer makes house calls. They were here last week to service our mower. Most tractor dealerships do make house calls.

You jumpstart a riding mower just like you jumpstart a car. I've done it several times :). I'm quite forgetful about turning the key all the way off...

Good luck!

Tom King
Mar. 28, 2012, 08:22 PM
Those little batteries last a few years at best. Carry the old one to TSC, and turn it in to buy a new one. They'll give you 10 bucks for the old one.

Mar. 29, 2012, 11:02 AM
Basic Triage:
1. Clean, fresh fuel: replace the old fuel from last year.
2. Air: make sure your air filter is vaguely clean.
3. Battery: as Tom says. Notorious for short life, needing a frequent replacement or jump.
4. Spark: Assuming this is a gas mower, not a diesel: remove and replace the spark plug. Buy two when you are at the repair shop.
5. The two most useful tools on the farm: air compressor for tires, and a battery charger for batteries.

Lastly if you purchased a mower with a OHV Kohler engine(Like a Craftsman) you may need to have the repair shop adjust your valve lash. These high compression engines have a precompression stroke pressure relief as part of their 4 cycles. As the engine cam wears the relief becomes less and less. The little battery is now trying to overcome too much compression and acts like it is very weak or dead. You can cheat this by literally manually turning the engine to just past the compression stroke before turning the key to start so it has some momentum to overcome the high compression...but none of this works without a fresh and charged battery, clean fresh fuel, plug and air filter.

Mar. 29, 2012, 05:11 PM
We just had to fix our drive belt on ours( not transmission belt) and it was a PITA.... And we always have to jump our battery after it sits all winter long. We got one of those battery chargers and it works great.

I am hoping to find someone that can come out and fix my mower at my house, as we cannot get it out of our field to the road( slope is too steep - don't ask how we got it down there!)

Come Shine
Mar. 29, 2012, 05:33 PM
Great to know about getting someone out to fix it!

Mar. 29, 2012, 05:37 PM
My riding mower gets to visit the Mower Doc almost every Spring.
He does p/u & deliver for a modest $25.
At the least he sharpens the blades and gives it a once-over.

Like you, I am mechanically phobic, so I just let him do it all and the mower runs all Season for me as long as I check oil & keep it full of gas.
I have replaced belts - PTO & drive - myself and aside from having to crawl around on the ground, not too difficult.

I have marooned it a couple times when I ran out of gas & once when a wheel shaft broke.
Just putting it in neutral and pushing (oof!) worked to get it to my driveway for pickup.
If I had another body to help push, it would have been an easier job, but OldLady me managed to get it done.

Mar. 29, 2012, 05:46 PM
I feel your pain. My Zero turn riding mower is down this spring as well. I put in a new battery, but no dice. I'm told there is some kind of fuse I need to check as well, so I'm going to try that. My biggest issue is that I can't push it. Apparently it won't go into neutral unless cranked up. No idea what to do with the bloody thing now except drag it with the tractor, but I'm sure that would ruin more things.

Frank B
Mar. 29, 2012, 07:09 PM
Read the manual on your mower. There's a bypass valve on the transmission somewhere, usually in the form of a lever or handle that needs to be pushed/pulled/turned to disengage the hydraulic loop.

If you don't have the manual, go to the manufacturer's website. Many have owner's manuals free for the downloading.

Mar. 29, 2012, 07:50 PM
We have a small engine repair that picks up for $40. Best $40 I spend each year for tune-ups and the John Deere dealer in Lexington makes house calls.

Mar. 30, 2012, 10:12 AM
OP, I hear ya. I drive through some pretty harsh weeds on my 12.5 hp Poulan mower and have several times had the stalks of dead dogfennel poke into the mower deck and pop my belt off, so far hasn't broken a belt, but able to fix quite easily.

Two days ago right after the drivetrain belt popped off and my farrier helped me fix it, I was mowing and heard a God-awful ruckus from the engine. I blew a piston rod.

We towed it in from the pasture behind a truck - slowly and carefully. My tractor mechanic that is just down the road from me is ordering a short block to repair it. $$$ but still cheaper than a new mower.

Mower batteries are very cheap and easy to install, if you have to jumpstart it after the mower sat for a year, you might as well just buy a new battery for it.