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Which Way To Tilt Lawn Mower? (Don’t Do This)

By: Author John Cunningham. Published: 2020/01/18 at 10:29 am

A clogged grass chute is a real pain in the jacksie, and it’s very tempting to just trough the mower on its side, making clearing the grass easy….. but wow! Not so fast. There’s a right and wrong way to do it.

Which way to tilt lawn mower? The correct way to tilt a mower is with the handlebars to the ground or turn the mower on its side, but always with the carburetor side facing upwards.

In this short post, I’ll show you the right way to tilt your lawnmower over and why it’s so important to get it right.

This post covers tilting your mower pretty well; however, if you need video help, check out “Correct way to tilt mower video” and if your mower is struggling to start after tilting incorrectly, check out “How to unflood a mower engine video.”

Correct Way To Tilt Your Mower

Air Filter Side Up

Before working on a lawnmower, it’s always a great idea to pull the spark plug wire; this prevents any possibility of the engine starting.

Pull the plug wire

The correct way to tilt your mower is with the handlebars to the ground. In the workshop, I hook the handlebars under a sturdy workbench. This is the recommended way to tilt a mower for inspection. The problem is that tilting the handlebars to the ground doesn’t offer good visibility or access.

Correct way – Handlebars to the ground.

The alternative is to tilt the mower on its side, but it’s important you choose the correct side; see below. Both sides of a lawnmower engine aren’t the same. Most lawn mower engines are configured with the air filter/carburetor positioned on one side and, on the opposite side, the exhaust/muffler.

It’s important to identify the air filter/carburetor side. This is the side that must face skyward when the mower is tilted. Get this wrong, and the symptoms include:

  • Leaking gas
  • Leaking oil
  • Hard to start mower
  • No start mower
  • White smoke when starting

While a mower fire is rare, it does happen. Leaking gas and vapors can ignite when they come in contact with a hot exhaust/muffler.

Carburetor Side Up

Great, but how do you identify your air filter/carburetor side? On some mowers, the carburetor won’t be very obvious, but luckily, the air filter cover lives in the same location as the carburetor and is usually pretty easy to spot.

Air filter side

You can identify an air filter and its cover by its characteristics; they include:

  • Positioned to one side of the engine
  • Easily accessible
  • Made from plastic (black usually)
  • Easily detachable
  • Often rectangle shaped

Need more info on the fuel system, carburetor components, and how they work, you can check them out here.

Small engine carburetor components

Take a look at the photos below, and you’ll get the idea. If you need more help, check out this post “Where’s my carburetor?”

Don’t forget to refit your spark plug wire before attempting to restart your mower.

What If You Tilt Your Mower The Wrong Way?

Don’t panic. It’s not that big a deal. If you tilted your mower the wrong way, just tilt it onto its four wheels again and clean up any spilled gas. Oil and gas may have made their way to the air filter and saturated it. So, the first thing to do is check the air filter; you’ll find it behind the air filter cover. Most covers are tool-less access.

If the filter is wet and it’s a pleated paper filter, you’ll need to replace it. Allowing it to dry out won’t fix it.

Paper air filter

A saturated air filter prevents the correct amount of air from entering the carburetor, which can cause the engine to:

  • Run rough
  • Start then stop
  • Blow black smoke
  • Not run at all

OK, we’re not out of the woods just yet. In addition to the air filter being saturated, the spark plug may also be oil/fuel contaminated. It’s known as spark plug fouling, and it’s caused by excess gas/oil inside the combustion chamber (flooding).

In extreme cases of flooding, the cylinder fills with gas and prevents the engine from cranking over, a condition known as hydro-locking (remove the spark plug to fix).

After you’ve checked and fixed your air filter, check your oil level and top up if needed; remove the oil if too full. Now, go ahead and crank over your engine without using a choke. If it starts, it may blow white or black smoke, don’t worry, looks exciting, but it’s normal.

If, on the other hand, your engine won’t start. Leave it to sit for an hour before trying again, or if you just can’t wait. Remove the spark plug and clean it.

You should be golden, and if you’re not, check out “Unflood mower video” and also “Lawn mower white smoke.”

Related Questions

Why is my lawnmower smoking? The most common cause of a lawnmower’s smoking is too much engine oil. However, other possible causes include:

  • Leaking carburetor float needle
  • Blown head gasket
  • Worn engine