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Can You Push Riding Lawn Mower? Secret lever nobody knows about!

Pushing a riding mower isn’t fun, especially a riding mower with flat tires. I’m a mechanic, and you won’t be surprised to know I get a ton of practice pushing riding mowers with flat tires. You might even say, I’m a pro!

To push a riding mower with a hydrostatic transmission, first, place the transmission into maintenance mode. A discrete maintenance mode lever is typically located at the rear of the transmission, under the wheel fender, or under the seat. A manual transmission riding mower may be pushed while the gear lever is in the neutral (N) position.

Tractor mower stuck

In this post, you’ll learn how to locate and engage your riding mowers’ transmission maintenance mode lever. You’ll also learn some common causes of no riding mower drive and what you can do about it.

Riding Mower Transmission Types

Just before we get knee-deep in transmission types, although I’m sure you are keen to know all about transmissions. It is worth noting not all riding mowers have the secret transmission maintenance mode lever I’ve mentioned above. And that’s because not all riding mowers need one.

Riding mower transmissions typically come in two favors – Manual transmission and Hydrostatic transmission. Let’s go ahead and identify which type you have.

Manual transmission shift lever

Manual Transmission – If your mower requires you to shift gears, meaning your mower has a shift lever with gears marked one to five, etc., then you won’t have a maintenance mode lever. Your mower is equipped with a manual transmission and to push that bad boy, you need simply place the shifter into the neutral position (may be marked by the letter N) but be sure to release the parking brake also.

If your mower requires you to shift gears, meaning your mower has a shift lever with gears marked one to five, etc, then you won’t have a maintenance mode lever. Your mower is equipped with a manual transmission and to push that bad boy, you need simply place the shifter into the neutral position (may be marked by the letter N) but be sure to release the parking brake also.

Riding mowers on tow

Pushing – This is hernia country, so be careful. As mentioned earlier, soft, flat tires or being stuck on the soft ground creates extra resistance.

Be smart about this, a mower looks small and toy-like, but they’re heavy and you can hurt yourself pushing solo – Now how do I know that?

So unless you’re built like BA Baracus, ask for help.

Hydrostatic Transmission (Auto) – Most higher-end mowers will be equipped with a hydro tranny. It effectively makes a riding mower an automatic transmission. If you place your mower into gear or use a floor-mounted pedal to move forward and back, you have a Hydrostatic transmission and you’ll have a discretely hidden tranny release lever.

Our next mission is to find that lever. But first, it might be helpful to know at least the basics about the maintenance mode lever and that’s what we’ll cover next.

Tractor mower in winter

Our next mission is to find that lever. But first, it might be helpful to know at least the basics about the maintenance mode lever and so that’s what we’ll cover next.

What Is Riding Mower Transmission Maintenance Mode

We don’t need to spend much time on this, I think you get the picture. Maintenance mode allows the technician or DIY’er to disconnect the wheels temporarily from the hydrostatic transmission known as releasing the transmission or maintenance mode.

Without the maintenance lever, pushing the riding mower requires overcoming the swashplate oil pressure inside the transmission unit. The resistance caused by the oil pressure is a good thing, it means your transmission is likely OK.

How To Locate Mower Transmission Maintenence Mode Lever

Ok, so you know what the maintenance lever is now we need to locate it. The hardest part is usually locating the lever. Older mowers can be especially challenging where grime and old grass camouflages the lever.

Some manufacturers place a useful sticker on the body to mark the release lever location, alternatively searching google pictures with your make and model works great.

Transmission release lever

Anyhow, here’s a list of the more usual places you’ll find this lever.

  • Under-seat – Craftsman, Husqvarna
  • On transmission – small lever on the transmission itself
  • Under the wheel fender – Husqvarna

How to Engage Riding Mower Transmission Maintenance Mode

Pull lever to release tractor mower transmission

Engaging the maintenance lever is as simple as you imagine it is. It’s typically a lever that the technician pulls or slides across to engage.

Common Riding Mower Transmission Problems

Most folks don’t appreciate how hard a riding mower transmission works, that is until they have to push it. Despite working this hard the transmission isn’t the more common cause of a lack of drive. The most common cause of a lack of drive is a drive belt issue.

Both manual and Hydro trannys are belt-driven and no matter which your riding mower has, the belt that drives it is the most likely culprit when your mower lacks drive.

There are a few common belt issues, but largely they amount to the same repair – Replace the drive belt. Anyhow here they are together with what you’ll need to do to fix them:

  • Belt jumped off – refit belt, but best to replace
  • Broken belt – replace the belt
  • Worn belt – replace the belt
  • Broken pulley – replace the pulley
  • Missing or damaged belt guide – fit new belt guide

Of course, your mower may not have a drive issue it may have a no start issue, and if that is the case check out the riding mower troubleshooting section here.

You may find the following posts helpful:

What is a mower transaxle?

How many hours do riding mowers last?

Riding mower won’t start just clicks?