Your Riding Mower Isn’t Working (Check 7 Things)

It’s time to mow the lawn once more. This time, however, your mower will not even start. Use this guide to troubleshoot your starting issue and get back to mowing before your lawn turns into an overgrown mess.

When the battery is weak, the cables and wiring are loose or corroded, the fuse is blown, the safety switch is faulty, the ignition switch is bad, the starter solenoid is bad, the starter is faulty, or you have developed engine problems, the riding mower will not start.

To avoid electrocution, use extreme caution when working with electrical systems. All safety precautions outlined in your mower’s operator’s manual must be followed.

Troubleshoot: Riding Mower Won’t Turn Over

  • Look for a dead battery.
  • Look for loose wires and connections, corrosion on the wiring and terminals, or a bad ground.
  • Look for a faulty safety switch.
  • Look for a faulty ignition switch.
  • Examine the starter solenoid.
  • Have your starter motor tested and, if necessary, replaced.
Riding mower won't turn over

Riding Mower

Before diagnosing, repairing, or operating your equipment, read and follow all safety instructions in the operator’s manual. Consult a professional if you lack the necessary skills or knowledge, or if you are unable to perform the repair safely.

This is Why Your Riding Mower Won’t Turn Over

Dead or Bad Battery on Your Riding Lawn Mower

The power from the battery is used to start your lawn mower. The engine will not start if the battery has a low charge or is dead.

When your mower won’t start, the first thing you should do is use a multimeter to check the battery’s charge. A fully charged 12-volt battery should measure around 12.7 volts.

Charge the battery if you get a lower reading. Steps for testing a battery can be found in 5 Things That Are Depleting the Life of Your Lawn Mower Battery. You will also find information on what can cause your battery to lose charge in this section.

Charging a Battery: To charge your battery, use a battery charger. Wear protective gear to protect your skin from electrical shock and your eyes before proceeding. To charge your riding mower battery with a charger, follow these steps:

  • Obtain access to the battery and terminals. To access the battery, you may need to use a screwdriver. The battery can be found under the hood or under the seat. Remove the battery from its casing.
  • Connect the battery charger cables, starting with the positive one. This is the red cable, also known as the plus sign cable. Connect the cable to the positive terminal of the battery.
  • Connect the negative battery cable to the negative battery terminal. This is the black cable, also known as the negative cable.
  • To avoid electrocution, avoid touching anything that does not have a rubber coating.
  • Set the voltage and amperage levels on the charger to the desired levels. Lawn mower batteries typically have a volt level of 12 volts. A higher amperage charges the battery more quickly. Begin with two amps and gradually increase to no more than ten amps. A slow charge is preferable.

If you discover that the battery is no longer holding a charge, you must replace it. 12v lawn mower batteries are available at your local hardware or automotive store. Batteries are also available at your local lawn mower dealership.

Bring along the old battery. Unless you provide your old battery, most places will charge you a core fee. The average core fee is $20.

Loose Wires and Connections on Your Riding Lawn Mower

The bouncing and vibration of the riding mower can cause the cables, wiring, and connections to become loose. The wiring and electrical components will no longer function properly.

You must inspect the connections and wiring for corrosion in addition to looking for loose wires and ensuring they are securely attached. Moisture can cause corrosion, affecting continuity.

Using a baking soda solution, remove the corrosion. Tighten up any loose wires and connections.

Wires, connections, or terminals that have been damaged or severely corroded must be replaced.

Bad Fuse on Your Riding Lawn Mower

To protect the electrical system, a fuse is installed on your riding mower. You should double-check to make sure you don’t have a blown fuse.

If you’re not sure if the fuse is blown, measure resistance with a multimeter probe on each prong of the fuse. A resistance reading close to zero indicates that your fuse is in good working order. Infinity resistance indicates a blown fuse.

When a fuse blows, it must be replaced with a new fuse. Replace the fuse with the same amperage rating as the old one. Do not experiment with different amperages.

If you continue to blow the fuse, take your riding mower to a local lawn mower repair shop to determine and repair the root cause of the problem.

Bad Ignition Switch on Your Riding Lawn Mower

When your riding mower won’t start after you insert the key and turn it, the ignition key switch could be to blame.

Check the switch with a multimeter for continuity to see if the ignition switch is the issue. Find the prongs labeled “B” for Battery and “S” for Starter Solenoid.

Insert the key and turn it back to the beginning position. Touch one probe to the B prong and the other probe to the S prong with the multimeter set to measure resistance.

A good ignition key switch will have resistance close to zero ohms. A faulty ignition key switch will exhibit infinite resistance and must be replaced.

Bad Safety Switch on Your Riding Lawn Mower

On a John Deere mower, several safety switches are installed to keep the operator safe. These switches prevent a mower from starting if certain events, such as engaging the brake, are not met.

A faulty safety switch can cause a riding mower to fail to start. Using a multimeter, check the switch. You can also temporarily bypass the safety switch to identify a bad switch, but this should only be done for troubleshooting.

Never use a lawnmower without first turning on the safety switch.

Never run a mower with a safety switch turned off. A safety switch can prevent serious injury, and you never know when you’ll need it.

Bad Starter Solenoid in Your Riding Lawn Mower

When the riding mower engine is engaged, the starter solenoid activates the starter motor, which turns on the engine.

When the internal spring becomes weak or the copper plate begins to corrode, the starter solenoid can fail. A faulty starter solenoid can also be caused by a faulty starter, a faulty battery, or a faulty ground.

You must have a fully charged battery before testing your starter solenoid. Continue testing the solenoid by following the steps in “How to Tell Your Lawn Mower Solenoid Is Bad” to diagnose a bad starter solenoid.

Bad Starter Motor on Your Riding Lawn Mower

After you’ve ruled out the battery, cables, wiring, ground, and starter solenoid as possible causes of your bike not starting, it’s time to look at the starter. The starter can be taken apart and tested.

Before replacing your starter, I recommend having your local repair shop that specializes in starter and alternator repairs test it and rebuild it if possible.

Still Having Problems With Your Riding Mower?

When you own a lawn mower for a long enough period of time, you will encounter various types of problems. This could include issues with your riding mower smoking, cutting unevenly, losing power, not starting, leaking fuel, and other issues.

Check out this handy guide for common riding mower problems and solutions, which includes charts:
Common Riding Lawn Mower Issues and Solutions

If you are unable to repair your riding mower or do not want to attempt a more complicated repair, seek assistance from your local lawn mower dealership or repair shop.