Are Zero-Turn Mowers Good on Hills?

mowing a slopy ground

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If you have large lawns with rough terrain, using a zero-turn riding mower is a general rule you can’t ignore. However, no matter how useful these machines are for cutting grass on flat ground, the real question is—are zero-turn mowers good on hills? 

Here are helpful tips from our lawn care experts to ensure safety and efficiency when mowing hills with a zero-turn lawn mower.

Can Zero-Turn Mowers Be Used Safely on Hills?

Yes, you can use a zero-turn mower on hilly terrain. However, if you plan to mow on a very steep slope, that’s when you’ll encounter some problems.

Although zero-turn mowers are known to have good tractions, this perk is only applicable on a flat surface. You may lose traction if your lawn mowers need to handle hills that’ll cause the unit to tilt at more than 15-degree angles. 

operating a troy bilt zero turn mower

But regardless of that, trust our team when we say you can ride on mowers on a steep hill, as long as you use them correctly and sparingly. Read along to find out how we did it.  

Conditions for Operating a Zero-Turn Mower on a Hill

Go Slowly

Regardless of mowing equipment, some newbie users tend to think that going uphill means you have to increase speed. In fact, zero-turn mowers are popular for their high-speed features. However, getting good traction is impossible if you’re driving at an all-out speed, especially when navigating steeper inclines. 

If you insist on doing high-speed mowing in this condition, our best bet is that the rear brakes of your cutting deck will start skidding and tear the turf. It can also lead to your unit rolling over as you’ll eventually lose control of the unit’s wheels. 

Only Mow When it’s Dry

Whether you own a zero-turn mower or a traditional push mower, we all know that mowing wet grass could leave a mess on both the mower deck and tires. In addition to the hassle of cleaning it, these damp grass clipping could form a clump and leave damage to the mower if not cleaned properly. 

operating a riding mower to slopy ground

Besides, it’s not a secret that rubber wheels don’t work so well in wet conditions, and it’s especially not good on hills. Wet surfaces also don’t offer the best traction for your mower. And did we mention that dried grass fields are easier to cut evenly than wet ones? 

Make Turns Cautiously

True to its name, making swift zero-turns are the main selling point of zero-turn mowers. However, you don’t need a rocket science degree to know things could go wrong with your mower when you carelessly do sharp turns on hills. 

Besides the possibility of your zero-turn mower losing traction, making a sharp turn could cause the tool to tip. If you ask us, it’s still best to make gradual turns before doing a second pass with your zero-turn mower. 

Use Good Quality Tires

Believe it or not, you can only turn zero-turn mowers good on hills if they have reliable tires. Most zero-turn mowers have massive rear wheels, so it’s crucial to check if these are in good condition. Based on experience, a mower with wider tires do better in climbing hills. 

Troy Bilt Zero-Turn Mower tire
You may not know, but your mower wheels need to be properly inflated[1] if you want them to power through complex terrain. 

How to Operate Zero-Turn Mowers on Hills or Slopes

Mow Side to Side

Are you finding it hard to control your zero-turn mower when climbing up and down the hills? Then, the best you can do is do the side-by-side mowing. 

This method prevents the front wheels and mower deck from lifting due to heavy mass. Although you won’t be able to cut through all the passes, it’s still better than causing accidents. 

Maintain the Position of the Front End Slightly Uphill

If you don’t want your mower to skid, you must ensure that the front part of the unit is elevated than its rear. By maintaining this position, you can maintain force on the lower roll bar while navigating through the slopes. 

old man in a riding lawn mower

Start From the Bottom of the Hill

Control is the main issue when driving your mower through hills. Because of this, it’d be wise if you begin cutting on a flat area before charging through the slope. Besides, creating horizontal paths is a lot easier when you’re coming from the end of the hill. 

Make an Uphill Turn at the End of Each Pass

Sliding and losing control can also be minimized by driving uphill at the bottom of every pass. It’s not uncommon not to be able to do tight turns in one go, so opting for three-point turns is better before the next slope. 

Don’t Stay in a Skid

Once the mower loses traction and slide, there’s no need to accelerate. If there’s an area at the hill’s bottom, we suggest riding it downhill. Keep in mind that resisting gravity will only cause more hassle than productivity. 

person on a riding mower

Put Your Safety First

Above everything else, you must know how to keep yourself safe during the mowing operations. One of the most basic safety tips you can’t skip is putting on your seat belt. 

If you can, use a zero-turn mower with a roll-over protection system to ensure that harsh conditions wouldn’t put you at risk. A high-back seat also helps avoid user straining, which often leads to accidents. 

Do Not Exhaust the Hydraulics

Another rookie mistake most mowers make is pushing the two levers all the way to exhaust the hydraulics. You’ll need to bring the hydro’s speed down and let the engine pump to form pressure.

When Not to Use a Zero-Turn Mower on Hills

Very Steep Slopes

Although zero-turn mowers can handle slopes, it has limitations like any other tool. As already stated, any incline over 15 degrees isn’t an ideal area for these machines to mow. 

mowing a slopy ground

Wet Grass

As previously mentioned, cutting damp grass doesn’t produce accurate cuts. On top of that, it’s easy to lose mower control in these conditions. The possibility of losing traction is higher, so its danger levels are something you should watch out for. 

Alternative For Mowing Steep Hills

You can always use walk-behind mowers as an alternative to zero-turns. 

In fact, some commercial push mowers are powerful enough to handle inclines without the complex driving. However, it’s best to check if its engine and transmission could fulfill the needs of your lawn task. 

Conclusion

Figuring out how zero turn mowers are good on hills doesn’t end with a yes or no solution. As discussed by our lawnmower experts, it ultimately depends on where and how you use these powerful mowers. 

You must learn to handle it properly if you want it to work to your advantage. After all, no single cutting equipment can solve all your lawn and garden tasks at once. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson