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How Many Hours Do Riding Mowers Last? Mechanic & owners view

By: Author John Cunningham. Published: 2019/02/08 at 3:56 pm

My own mower is 16 years old with a 14.5hp Briggs unit. I don’t know how many hours there’s no counter, but I guess I’d say about 1000 to 1500 hours.

So, how many hours do riding mowers last? A typical riding mower that’s well maintained will last 1500 hours plus. A riding mower that’s meticulously maintained will last 20-plus years.

In the 20 years I’ve owned mine, I’ve replaced/fixed – 2 belts, one battery, two pulleys, one starter solenoid, one carburetor, one head gasket, and several punctures. It still purrs like a kitten and pulls like a dog; it always lived indoors, and I take special care to winterize it properly.

I thought about replacing it, but she runs great, still looks good, and I’m sentimental; it’s part of the family.

Lawn Mower Care Tips

  • I check the oil before starting and at every refueling
  • Let engine warm up before moving to full throttle
  • I tune-up once a year
  • I check air filter and engine fins for debris
  • I check gas tank for grit
  • My mower never sits out in the rain
  • Mower deck gets a complete clean-down when winterizing
  • Use a Trickle charger
  • Blades are kept sharp
  • Tire pressures are checked
  • Wd40 used on cables and electrics 

Check your riding mower battery cables and terminals for damage and corrosion. Corrosion will look like a white crusty build-up on the terminals.

This creates resistance to the flow of power from your battery to your starter and, in return, prevents the recharging of the battery by the alternator. It’s a common cause of no start accompanied by a clicking sound.

Mower Maintenance

How well a mower is cared for will determine its life expectancy. Timely maintenance using quality parts will keep it in great shape for many years.

Low oil level is the number one way to shorten the life of the mower, followed by poor quality oil. So just changing the oil at the start of each season will extend its life. A sharp blade will make life a lot easier on the mower and the lawn.

But my top tip for caring for your mower – use a gas stabilizer. It prevents damage associated with stale gas. I replace lots of carburetors at the start of every season because of gumming.

Gumming is basically stale gas that solidifies in the carburetor over the winter months; it’s nasty and can be expensive to repair. If you need video help on the subject, check out “Adding gas stabilizer video.”

I’ve listed a quality gas stabilizer on the “Small engine repair tools” page.

Before starting your mower, take a couple of minutes to:

  • Check oil level
  • Clean air filter
  • Clean debris from engine cooling fins
  • Check tires
  • Check for gas/oil leaks
  • Check for loose components

Full Engine Tune-up

A tune-up should be done once a year – at the beginning of the season; this will ensure trouble-free cutting and less stress on the mower and the lawn. A full tune-up isn’t difficult and can easily be carried out by the inexperienced; check out “Tractor mower maintenance.”

A Tune-up will include:

  • Oil and filter change
  • Air filter change
  • Fuel filter change
  • Plug change
  • Belt inspection
  • Blades sharpened
  • Deck levelled
  • Axle lubed
  • Tires check
  • Battery check
  • Loose component check

Mower Engines Types

Single-cylinder, air-cooled engines are the most popular. They’re cheap, simple, and durable. Briggs and Stratton, Kohler, and Kawasaki are the three main players. Briggs is the most common, but all engines are of good quality. Diesel engines are available but are only fitted to the commercial-grade mowers.

If the budget allows, opt for a mower with an oil filter, which means it has an oil pump, which means the engine will last longer, especially if you have a hilly yard.

Twin Cylinder air-cooled engines are better suited to the large, hilly, more challenging terrain; twin cylinders equal more power, smoother running, longer life, and higher running cost. You may have a Toro, John Deere, Cub Cadet, or whatever, and it will likely be fitted with Briggs, Kohler, or Kawasaki power plant.

Mower Transmissions Types

Riding mower transmissions are either Hydro-static (auto) or manual gear driven. Nearly all are driven by a long belt that runs from the engine crankshaft pulley all the way back to the transmission, also called a trans-axle (axle and transmission combined). This post covers a trans-axle in more detail.

The Hydro-static unit is preferred; it’s more expensive, but you won’t regret it; it’s just much nicer to use. In terms of durability, I favor the Hydro unit.

The main player in transmissions is Tecumseh; parts for repairing these can be more miss than hit, so if your transmission fails, a dealer will likely quote you for a new one, which isn’t cheap.

Ride-on Mower Hours to Miles

Converting hours to miles is kind of like apples to oranges. Twin-cylinder engines will typically last longer than a single-cylinder, same as a v6 truck engine will last longer than a 4-cylinder mini car engine.

A typical mower could clock up to 1.5 hours cutting once a week for eight months – that’s just 48 hours a year, and a mower well maintained will live 15 + + years. And now consider the average car travels 14000 miles in a year and will typically have a life span of 10 years. You could, therefore, make the comparison that each hour on a mower is roughly equivalent to 200 miles.

As a rough rule of thumb, a single-cylinder mower with 500-750 hours would be considered a high miler, but that’s not to say it’s all worn out. A well-maintained mower will go on and on; as said earlier, my own ride-on mower has about 1000 hours and still pulls its weight around here.

Ride-on Hour Meter

An hour meter is typically a digital clock located on the dashboard, which measures in hours how long the engine has been running. This can be useful information for scheduling your oil changes and keeping tabs on your maintenance records.

If you’ve got a large yard and you’re cutting for more than 2 hours a week – you’ll need to change the oil mid-season; engine oil needs to be changed every 50 hours. Using the hour meter reading alone is not an indication of a good or bad mower; like all equipment, it’s about the condition and how well it was maintained.

You may find the following posts helpful:

Ever wonder what a riding mower weighs? Check out “Riding mower weight comparison.”

How long does the Toro mower last?

Should I buy a riding mower?