Riding Mower Won't Move Forward or Reverse

Riding Mower Won’t Move Forward or Reverse

A riding mower is a typical piece of equipment for those that have larger yards, or that might not be able to use a smaller push mower. That being said, with a riding mower, some issues are not going to be common with a push mower. Making sure that you know how to deal with these issues, such as when a riding mower won’t move forward or reverse, can help you keep your mower up and running properly.

Why My Riding Mower Won’t Move Forward or Reverse

There are a number of reasons that your mower might not be moving forward or going in reverse when you want it to. Troubleshooting is the best way to figure out what the issue is and to start to come up with solutions that might work. If you are not up for repairing your mower, or you are not sure if you are going to be able to do it, a mechanic might be your best bet.

There are three very common reasons that a riding mower might not be moving forward or moving in reverse:

  • Issues with the drive belt
  • If it is a hydrostatic mower, there may be problems with the hydrostatic drive
  • Your friction wheel or plate is not working
  • Transaxles are disengaged

These are all fairly common issues with solutions and ways to check to see if that is the issue.

Drive Belt Issues

The drive belt is one of the main parts that helps your mower move and helps to keep your machine doing what you need it to do. The drive belt functions to help transfer the power from the engine shaft to the input shaft in the transmission. This then helps to propel the mower forward and in reverse.

Your drive belt can be broken, it can be stretched beyond where it needs to be, and it can be damaged. All these issues might be enough to make your mower stop running properly. To check your drive belt you need first to turn your mower off entirely and press the brake down. You will also need to shift the mower into drive for mowers with an idler.

This will put tension on the drive belt and teach it so that you can see it better and determine if there is an issue. If the belt is sagging, does not fit correctly, or is entirely broken, this is likely your issue.

How to fix a drive belt on a mower

Tools Needed:

  • Wrench set
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Work Gloves
  • New belt

To replace the drive belt on a lawn mower, start by ensuring your safety. Disconnect the spark plug wire and battery to prevent the engine from accidentally starting while you work.

Next, you'll need to access the drive belt. You can do this by either lifting the mower up or removing the cutting deck. You may also need to remove some covers or guards to reach the belt.

Before taking off the old belt, make sure to take a photo or draw a diagram of the belt routing so you can install the new belt correctly. The routing typically involves the engine pulley, transmission pulley, and one or more idler pulleys. This can usually be found in your owner's manual as well.

To release tension, locate the idler pulley with a spring attached to it, and carefully move the idler pulley away from the belt. Then, remove the belt from the pulleys.

Slide the old belt off the engine pulley and transmission pulley. You might need to remove additional components, like the blade or blade adapter, to completely remove the belt.

To install the new belt, route it around the pulleys according to your photo or diagram, making sure it's seated properly in the grooves of each pulley. Move the idler pulley back into position to reapply tension to the new belt. Ensure the belt is tight and properly aligned on all pulleys.

Once you've replaced the belt, reassemble your mower. Replace any covers or guards you removed earlier and reattach the cutting deck if necessary. Lower the mower back onto its wheels and reconnect the spark plug wire.

Finally, test the mower by starting it and engaging the drive system to ensure it's functioning properly. If the mower operates as expected, the drive belt replacement was successful. Always consult your lawn mower's owner's manual for specific instructions and recommendations related to your specific model.

Problems with the Hydrostatic Drive

Another possible culprit is your hydrostatic drive is not working properly. If you have a hydrostatic drive mower, it uses fluid to change the speed of the mower rather than a belt. If you have a hydrostatic mower, you are going to need to make sure that the hydrostatic transmission is working properly for the wheels to be engaged.

You can see the hydrostatic drive under the back of the mower and see if it is engaged or if there is any other issue. The hydrostatic transmission will transfer power from the engine to the wheels to help you get it where you want it to go.

Your Friction Wheel or Friction Plate is Faulty

Self-propelled mowers have what is called a friction wheel and a friction plate. They do just what they sound like they do. They create friction to help push your mower forward. If your friction wheel is damaged or is not in contact with the friction plate, it will not be able to create enough friction to move your mower in any direction.

Transmission Bypass Control Disengaged

There are a few names, including hydrostatic disconnect, hydrostatic bypass control, or dump valves. Whatever you call them, you want to ensure these levers are disengaged on any riding mower or zero turn.

These levers, or dump valves, are used for disengaging your transaxles and allowing you to push the mower. This is commonly used when your mower breaks down, and you need to move it.

Great Riding Mowers for Homeowners

Riding Mower Won't Move Forward or Reverse - Riding Mowers for Homeowners

If you are in the market for a new riding mower because you cannot get it working again, some fantastic options can help you get your yard back in great shape.

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 this mower has two hydrostatic transmissions and is a commercial-grade gas zero turn that will take on the most difficult yards and any other yard problems. This mower has a 50-inch deck and is great if you are looking for one that can quickly get your yard in great shape.

EGO Power+ ZT4204L this fully electric mower has six lithium batteries that will give you all the power of a gas mower without the gas. It is easy to use, has a 42-inch deck, and can take on some of the most difficult issues you might have with your yard.

John Deere S120 this is your traditional tractor mower that will be easy to use and is also simple to keep up. This tractor mower has a 42-inch deck and is a great option if you want something that is easy to use and does not take much effort to keep up. It would be great if you are unsure what type of mower you need and need a solid starting place. 

What to Do if Your Mower Will Not Move

If you are dealing with a mower that will not move no matter how hard you try to get it to, you can check the three things we discussed here. If things are still hung up, and you are not progressing, you may want to take your mower to a mechanic. A riding mower can be a big investment, keeping it running and working properly is necessary.

What do you think?

What do you do when your riding mower won't move forward or reverse? Leave a comment below!

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