When mowing on hills with zero turn mowers, safety is key. Here's what to do:

  1. Mow straight up and down slopes rather than sideways.
  2. Take it slow and steady to maintain control.
  3. Avoid sudden turns or changes in direction.
  4. Keep a firm grip on the steering handles.
  5. Stay aware of your surroundings and any obstacles.
  6. If the slope is too steep, don't mow it.
  7. Use caution when mowing near edges or drop-offs.
  8. Check your mower's manual for specific safety guidelines.
Zero-Turn Mowers on Hills

Steep Hill Challenges

The following factors are important to know if you find yourself moving on an incline (above 15 degrees) with a zero-turn mower.

Loss of Traction

One of the primary issues you'll encounter on hills is the loss of traction.

Zero turn mowers excel in flat, even terrain, but when you introduce slopes, things can get dicey.

The problem here is that without proper traction, your mower may skid, slide, or even become stuck, making it challenging to maintain control.

Solution: Choosing Proper Tires
When it comes to tackling hills with a zero turn mower, your choice of tires can make a world of difference.

Large Zero-Turn Tires

Here's why tire size matters:

  • Tread Design: The tread pattern on your mower's tires plays a critical role in providing traction. Tires with deeper treads or specialized designs for off-road use can significantly enhance grip on steep inclines. Look for tires specifically designed for hillside mowing.
  • Tire Size: The size of your mower's tires affects its ground clearance and stability. Larger tires can navigate uneven terrain more effectively, reducing the risk of getting stuck or losing traction.
  • Tire Pressure: Underinflated tires can lead to reduced traction and potentially damage the tires. Overinflated tires may not provide adequate grip on hills.
  • Consider All-Terrain Tires: If you have a hilly landscape to mow regularly, you might want to invest in all-terrain tires designed to handle a variety of surfaces. These tires typically have features like reinforced sidewalls for added durability.
  • Check the Manufacturer's Recommendations: Refer to your mower's user manual or consult the manufacturer's recommendations for the ideal tire type and size for your specific model.

Tipping Over

Perhaps the most concerning danger is the risk of your zero turn mower tipping over on steep slopes.

This can result in serious accidents, injuries, and damage to your equipment.

Solution: Proper Weight Distribution
When operating a zero turn mower on hills, prioritize proper weight distribution to enhance stability and reduce the risk of tipping over.

Ensure that your weight is evenly distributed on the mower by sitting centered in the seat.

Avoid leaning or shifting your weight to one side, as this can upset the balance and increase the likelihood of accidents.

Maintaining a balanced posture throughout your hillside mowing tasks is key to a safer and more controlled zero-turn lawn mower operation.

Wet Grass

Don't mow grass on a hill when the grass is wet, it's not safe, and may cause a zero-turn mower to slide.

Increased zero-turn mower risks

Increased Risk of Accidents

The bottom line is that there is an increased risk of accident when mowing with a zero-turn mower on an incline. Here are some ways to mitigate the risk:

Speed Control

On hills, maintaining the right speed is essential.

Going too fast can be just as problematic as going too slow.

Controlling your zero turn mower's speed is crucial for safety.

Solution: Lowering Speed on Hills

Uneven Terrain

Hilly landscapes often mean uneven terrain.

Your zero turn mower's blades need to maintain a consistent height for a clean cut, but on hills, this can be challenging.

Solution: Mowing Patterns
When mowing on hills with a zero turn mower, manufacturer's recommend you use an up-and-down mowing pattern, following the natural slope of the terrain.

This approach ensures that the uphill side of the mower is, indeed, higher than the downhill side.

By mowing vertically along the slope, you maintain stability and reduce the risk of accidents.

Maintenance and Inspection

Now that we've discussed the potential dangers and solutions related to using zero turn mowers on hills, let's shift our focus to maintenance and inspection practices that can further enhance safety and performance.

Regular Maintenance Checks

Brake Inspection: Start by regularly inspecting your mower's brakes.

Ensure they are in good working condition, as reliable brakes are essential for maintaining control, especially when navigating slopes.

Steering Mechanism: Your mower's steering mechanism should be smooth and responsive.

A well-maintained steering system contributes to better control, especially when making tight turns or adjustments on inclines.

Periodically check and align the steering mechanism as recommended by your mower's manual. Proper alignment ensures that you can navigate hills with precision and confidence.

Proper Blade Maintenance

Blade Sharpness: Keeping the blades sharp is essential for an efficient and clean cut, particularly on hilly terrain.

Dull blades can tear grass rather than cutting it cleanly, leading to an uneven lawn surface with potentially slippery areas.

Maintain sharp blades by sharpening them regularly. Sharp blades reduce strain on your mower's engine and ensure a cleaner cut.

Deck Height Adjustment: The correct deck height helps prevent scalping (cutting the grass too short) and keeps your lawn looking healthy.

Learn how to adjust your mower's deck height to match the specific requirements of your hilly terrain.

Best Practices for Mowing on Hills

Now that we've covered the importance of proper maintenance and inspections, let's delve into the best practices for safely mowing on hills with your zero turn mower.

Zero-Turn Mower on a Steep Hill

Angle of Ascent

Choosing Appropriate Angles: When approaching a hill, select an angle of ascent that is safe and manageable for your mower.

Avoid overly steep slopes that could pose a risk to your stability. Industry regulatory boards recommend the angle be kept to 15 degrees or less.

Additionaly, some zero-turn mowers use a ROPS (rollover protection system) to mitigate the risk further.

A manufacturer can install a ROPS system for you, if it isn’t already present.

Safety Gear

Wear appropriate safety gear, including but not limited to, eye protection, hearing protection, sturdy footwear, and a helmet if needed. These measures can prevent injuries in case of accidents.

Summary

The essentials of safely using zero turn mowers on hills:

  • Tackle Appropriate Slopes: Choose hills that match your mower's capabilities. Avoid extremely steep inclines.
  • Maintenance Matters: Regularly inspect and maintain your mower's brakes, steering, and blades to ensure safe operation.
  • Proper Angles: Ascend hills at safe angles, and always follow the up-and-down mowing pattern.
  • Safety First: Wear the right protective gear, and consider installing Roll-Over Protection Systems (ROPS) if available.

By following these guidelines, you'll ensure a safer and more effective zero-turn mowing experience on hilly terrain.