Two levers on a zero-turn mower control both steering and acceleration.

How to Steer a Zero-Turn Mower in a Straight Line

by Amelia Allonsy

Zero-turn mowers zip across the lawn and turn on a dime so you can trim close to objects in the lawn and drastically reduce mowing time. While conventional riding mowers leave a circle of uncut grass when cutting in a circle, zero-turn mowers leave no grass behind. These mowers operate with two steering levers positioned across the lap -- think the safety lap bar on a carnival ride -- that control the back wheels. You must maintain constant control over the levers to steer in a straight line and achieve a uniform cut.

Remove all debris from the lawn, including rocks, sticks, lawn furniture and yard decorations.

Push the steering levers out to the sides so you can sit in the zero-turn mower seat. Fasten your seat belt and engage the parking brake. Make sure the mower blades are turned off; look for a switch, sometimes called an electric blade clutch switch, to turn the mower deck on and off.

Adjust the throttle to a comfortable speed; start at a slow speed until you get used to operating the mower. There should be a lever that you can push forward or pull backward to adjust the speed.

Turn the key to start the mower. Disengage the parking brake. Engage the mower deck. Pull the steering levers down so they rest horizontally; this is the neutral position.

Push both levers forward slowly to start moving the mower forward. Push the levers at the same rate to keep the handles lined up perfectly. If you push the left lever forward slightly farther than the right lever, for example, the mower will steer slightly to the right. Think of steering a zero-turn mower like steering a shopping cart.

Push the levers farther forward to increase the speed as you become comfortable with the mower. Keep the handles lined up to continue mowing in a straight line. Pull the handles back into neutral position if you want to adjust the throttle to mow faster.

Pull the handles back into the neutral position to stop the mower. Lift the handles up, disengage the mower deck, engage the parking brake and turn the key to shut off the engine.


  • The neutral position on zero-turn mower isn't clearly marked, so it might take a few tries before you find neutral easily. If you pull back too far on the handles, the mower will move in reverse.
  • Practice mowing in a wide-open area so you can master the steering levers without damaging trees and other landscaping elements.


  • Never drive a zero-turn mower straight up and down a hill, even when driving in a straight line. Drive from side to side so you don't accidentally flip the mower.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images