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8 Reasons Your Zero Turn Mower Won’t Move or Go Forward

It’s time to get out and take care of your lawn. Mowing is one of those chores that is enjoyable at the beginning of the season, but the fun tends to wear off the further you get into the season.

It becomes more frustrating when your mower just stops moving. How are you supposed to get the mowing done when your zero turn stops driving forward?

A zero turn mower may not move or go forward due to a bad drive belt, tensioner pulley or tensioner spring. Old or low hydraulic fluid; hot hydraulic fluid; air in the hydraulic system; and the drive release levers in the wrong position can cause the zero turn to not move.

Follow safety precautions outlined in your owner’s manual when working with your zero turn. Follow this list of items to get your mower moving again.

Zero turn mower won't move or go forward

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to diagnosing, repairing or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

Reasons Your Zero Turn Mower Won’t Move or Go Forward

Zero Turn Drive Release Lever Not in Operating Position

Zero turn mowers have a drive release buttons, levers or knobs to release the hydros. This allows the mower to free roll so you can push it.

This is helpful when the mower quits in the middle of your hard and you need to push it onto a trailer. The mower will not drive forward if the drive release levers are not in the “operating” position.

The drive release can be in the form of a lever, push/pull button, or knob and vary by manufacturer and model. Refer to your owner’s manual for the type of drive release you have on your mower and where to locate it.

Zero Turn Drive or Pump Belt is Worn, Loose or Broke

A drive belt can affect the movement of your zero turn. Check your drive belt to make sure it hasn’t fallen off and is positioned correctly on the pulleys. If the belt shows any signs of wearing, the belt should be replaced.

Zero Turn Tensioner Pulley is Bad

The bearing in the tensioner pulley or the pulley itself can break. Most tensioner pulleys are made of a hard plastic which can wear overtime or break.

Replace a pulley that is worn or has a bad bearing. Keep the tensioner arm greased so it does not seize up.

Missing Idler Arm Spring on Zero Turn Mower

The idler spring places tension on the drive belt. Replace the spring if it is broken or has fallen out of your mower.

Low Hydraulic Fluid Level in Your Zero Turn Mower

While most zero turn mowers must have the hydraulic oil changed at regular intervals, there are some entry level zero turns that have sealed hydraulic systems.

These systems are also known as non-serviceable. If you have a problem with a sealed hydraulic system, contact your local lawn mower dealership for assistance.

For all other zero turn mowers, consistent hydraulic oil changes at the intervals recommended by your manufacturer must be completed to keep your lawn mower transmission system running at its best.

Running the transmission with old or low hydraulic oil can cause your lawn mower not to move or seem very weak while running.

Most manufacturers have a “break-in” period on the hydraulic system. This requires changing the hydraulic oil at a quicker interval than normal for the initial oil and filter change.

When your hydraulic oil is low, add more hydraulic oil until the fluid level reaches the full level on the overflow tanks. This measurement should be taken when your hydraulic oil is cool. It’s also a good idea to check for hydraulic fluid leaks when you find your hydraulic oil level is low.

Hot Hydraulic Fluid in Your Zero Turn Mower

When you operate your zero turn with bad hydraulic fluid or low fluid, the oil is not able to efficiently lubricate the hydraulic system causing increased friction and overheating of the hydraulic fluid. Hot hydraulic fluid can also be a result of more extensive damage.

I highly recommend taking your lawn mower into your local repair dealership if you experience leaking from your hydraulic pump or your mower runs fine when it is cold, but stops running when it gets hot.

Air in the Hydraulic System of Your Zero Turn Mower

Air trapped in the hydraulic system can cause your zero turn to move slowly or not move at all. After changing they hydraulic fluid, you must bleed the air out of the system. On most zero turns, air can be removed from the hydraulic system by raising the rear drive tires off the ground.

With your zero turn running, move the drive levers forward and then reverse to allow the tires to rotate forward and backwards. Repeat until you don’t hear excessive noise and the tires move at normal speeds.

It is important to refer to your operator’s manual for correct procedures to remove air from your model lawn mower’s hydraulic system. Procedures not only can change from manufacturer to manufacturer, but also from model to model.

If you don’t find the fault of your moving problems with your hydraulic system, you can check these items that can prevent fuel and air required to run your engine. Definitely check out these items if your engine starts to sputter or shuts off so you are no longer able to drive.

  • Battery and Charging System
  • Plugged Fuel Filter and Fuel Lines
  • Plugged Air Filter
  • Dirty Carburetor

To read more about items that can result in your zero turn stopping while mowing and how to fix them read my article “Zero Turn Quits When Hot”.

Still Experience Problems with Your Zero Turn Mower?

Many different types of problems can develop in a zero turn mower. It doesn’t matter what brand you own.

While some zero turn mowers are built with stronger materials, bigger filters, better engines, tougher spindle housings, they are all going to breakdown and cause problems at some time. Some may just not develop problems as quickly as others.

To help you find the causes of many zero turn problems, I put together a guide with common zero turn problems. In this guide you will find a list of causes and solutions for problems including a zero turn dying, smoking, vibrating, not starting, having cutting issues and more.

Check out my guide at: Common Zero Turn Mower Problems: How to Fix Them

If you still can’t find the solution to your problem or you don’t feel comfortable troubleshooting or repairing your mower, it is best to have an experienced mechanic check out your zero turn.

You can visit your local dealership that provides repair support for your brand mower. You may also find a lawn mower repair shop with experienced small engine mechanics.

My top items to keep on hand to service & troubleshoot your lawn mower

Socket & Allen Wrench Set – Tool set needed to service & troubleshoot your mower problemsCarburetor Cleaner – Clean clogs & buildup in fuel system
Multimeter – To check voltage, continuity & current to identify electrical problemsFuel Stabilizer – Stabilize & clean your fuel to minimize fuel system buildup
12-Volt Battery Charger – Battery/trickle charger to start your mower & slowly charge your batteryFilter Wrench – Helps loosen your filter
Oil Drain Pan – To collect oil with spout to place in containers for disposalBattery Powered Inflator – Keep your lawn mower tires inflated to prevent uneven cutting or steering issues