which way to tilt lawn mower

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 handle bars 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 the right way to tilt your lawn mower over and why it’s so important to get it right.

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Lawn mower on fire

Tilting the wrong way + leaking gas + hot Muffler =

The right way to tilt your mower

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

Tilting your mower the wrong way could result in fire. The right way to tilt your mower is with the handlebars to the ground. In the workshop I hook the handlebars under a sturdy work bench.

This is the recommended way to tilt a mower for inspection. The problem is, tilting the handlebars to the ground doesn’t offer good visibility or work access.

The alternative is to tilt the mower on its side, but it’s important you choose the correct side, see below.

Mower pull cord

Handlebars to the ground

The correct side to tilt your mower?

Both sides of a lawn mower 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.

Mower tilted to the correct side Mower tilted to the correct side

Carburetor side up

how to identify your air filter / carburetor side

The carburetor is where the gas will leak from and so it’s the carburetor we’re interested in locating.

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.

You can identify an air filter and its cover, its characteristics include:

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

Take a look at the photo’s below and you’ll get the idea.

Don’t forget to refit your spark plug wire before starting.

Mower air filter cover

Honda aifilter

Mower air filter cover

Briggs & Stratton

Mower air filter cover


Mower air filter cover


Mower air filter cover

Briggs & Stratton

Mower air filter cover

briggs & stratton

Mower air filter cover

briggs & stratton

What if you tilt your mower the wrong way

Don’t panic it’s not that big a deal. If you tilted it the wrong way, just tilt it onto its four wheels again and clean up any spilt gas. Oil and gas may have made their way to the air filter, and saturated it.

So 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 dry out won’t fix it. A saturated air filter prevents the correct amount of air enter 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 know as spark plug fouling and it’s caused by excess gas/oil inside the combustion chamber (flooding).

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

After you’ve checked and fixed your air filter, check your oil level and top up if needed and remove oil if too full. Now go ahead and crank over your engine without using 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 sit for an hour before trying again, or if you just can’t wait.

Go ahead, remove and clean the spark plug. Your golden, and if you’re not, check out “Lawn mower white smoke”

Mower air filter check

Check air filter

Gas soaked pleated paper air filters will need to be replaced.

Honda lawn mower oil check

check oil level

Lawn mower plug wire

Refit plug wire

Honda mower blowing black smoke Mower blowing white smoke


If mower starts it may blow smoke for a few minutes.
Mower spark plug

remove plug to clean

Your spark plug may be oil and gas flooded.

Mower in a garden

.... And your back mowing

Related Questions

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

  • Leaking carburetor float needle
  • Blown head gasket
  • Worn engine
Auto Technician and Writer at | Website

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Lawnmowerfixed.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write "How to" articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of mechanical repairs, from lawn mowers to classic cars.