Riding Mower Won’t Move Forward or Reverse

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It’s time to spruce up your lawn but your riding mower won’t move forward or reverse. This is a common dilemma mower users encounter, but fortunately, there are several troubleshooting methods you can do.  

Our landscapers have curated all expert recommendations to solve this riding lawn mower issue in this guide. 

Possible Reasons Why Your Riding Lawn Mower Won't Move Forward or Reverse

Riding mowers allow users to take care of their lawns efficiently. But what people don’t realize is that these machines have a lot of similar components to automobiles.

Over time, riding mowers can develop the same types of problems and might not be able to move in either direction. Common issues like faulty transmission lines, a dead or failing battery, or clogged air filters could cause the riding mowers to stop moving. This can also impact how long your riding mowers last

riding a troy bilt zero turn mower

Other more technical reasons why lawn mowers won’t move forward or backward are a blocked fuel filter, sticking valves, and a damaged mower seat or a damaged spark plug.  

How to Troubleshoot Issues with a Riding Mower That Won't Move Forward or Reverse

Before proceeding with these specific troubleshooting methods, our experts recommend assessing for any visible damage first. This will help eliminate issues on why the riding mower forward and reverse function is not working. 

For instance, in case you have a faulty Toro lawn mower, you can inspect the following riding lawn mower parts to check for cracks, issues in the air filters, transmission failure, or misalignment.

fixing Troy Bilt Zero-Turn Mower

#1: Clogged Fuel Filter

A blocked fuel filter can cause your riding mower to lose power and eventually stall. With fuel filters responsible for gasoline supply to the engine, inefficient ones can prevent gasoline from adequately supplying the engine.

Prolonged use of damaged or blocked fuel filters caused your mower to be permanently damaged and may initiate some starting issues in your riding mower. Assess for any signs of transmission failure problems as well. 

#2: Clogged Carburetor

A carburetor is an engine component responsible for mixing air and fuel before it’s drawn into the engine and enabling the mower to run smoothly. 

If the carburetor is clogged, air filter mixtures to the engine are restricted, which causes a loss of power on your riding push mowers. 

riding mower carburetor

It can affect a mower’s mobility and require carburetor cleaning or replacement by a professional.

But first, you need to determine where the carburetor is on your mower. Afterward, determine if you should clean or replace it. 

#3: Faulty Battery

Another reason your riding mower won’t move forward or reverse is a dead or failing battery. The mower’s engine is run by electricity, so a faulty battery means there is not enough power to start the engine. 

Using a weak battery prevents the riding lawnmower from starting. We recommend checking the voltage of your riding mower’s battery and replacing it with a new battery if needed, especially if you are preparing your mower for the summer mowing season

#4: Transmission Failure

If your riding mower suddenly stops working, it might be due to transmission issues. This is a common issue in riding lawn mowers because the transmission is constantly used to start successfully. 

mower transmission

Failed transmission could also be why your equipment is moving in one direction but not the other. We recommend seeking professional help to fix the issue when your mower stops pulling properly which requires taking apart the riding mower.

#5: Damaged Drive Belt

The mower drive belt is a long, continuous loop around several pulleys to transfer power from the mower’s engine to the wheels. If the engine is running, but the wheels aren’t moving, it is most likely because of a damaged or broken belt.

If it is old and worn out, it can easily break while you’re mowing the lawn. It is some of the common problems even with established brands like Troy Bilt riding mowers

#6: Faulty Pressure Switch

The pressure switch is a safety mechanism that keeps the riding mower engine from starting if there is no oil in it or no pressure is detected in the system. Using a faulty pressure switch can prevent mower forward and reverse functions too. 

testing a riding mower pressure switch

Our experts recommend taking your riding mower for regular maintenance if you notice any problems.

#8: Defective Tensioner Pulley

Your mower’s movement may be compromised because of a defective tensioner pulley, and it’s responsible for maintaining proper tension on the drive belt.

When it fails, even a powerful John Deere S100 equipment will not move because the power from the engine is not being transferred to the wheels.

#9: Air in the Hydraulic System

The riding mower’s ability to move forward or backward may be due to air in the hydraulic system. As one of the primary engine components in your mower, the hydraulic system may malfunction when not used for an extended period.

Experts agreed that you need to regularly use your lawn mower to prevent it from being stagnated. 

#10: No Axle Key

The axle key is responsible for holding the wheel on the axle. This lawn mower problem that can prevent it from moving is an axle key that has sheared off.

riding mower axle key

Without it, the riding mower cannot move because the power from the engine is not being transferred to the wheels.

Other Broken or Damaged Parts

Broken or damaged parts may be why your old riding mower is not moving. Closely inspect the drive belts, pulleys, and linkages for any damages.

Leaks or cracks in the transmission system might also have developed over time. Clutch malfunctions may also cause shifting problems for mowers and prevent them from moving. 

When to Contact a Professional

If you’ve already replaced or fixed air and fuel filters, mower’s transmission lines, changed engine oil, power demand, and applied all the troubleshooting techniques from your lawn mower manual, but your equipment is still not moving, it’s time to call in a professional to handle the situation.

Troy-Bilt 452CC Mustang Fit Riding Mower

The problem might be more severe than you think, and fixing it yourself could do more harm than good.

Checking the manual [1] for specific models can help you understand the process and know when it’s time to seek professional assistance.

Estimated Costs of Repairing Lawn Mowers

The average cost to repair a lawn mower is $100 to $200. The total cost will depend on the severity of the problem and what needs to be done to fix it. But it is usually cheaper than buying yourself a 500-dollar second hand riding lawn mower instead.

Replacing a damaged drive belt costs between $30 and $60, while fixing a defective tensioner pulley averages $50 to $100.

John Deere engine repair

Repairing or replacing a transmission system can be the most expensive repair, costing $500 and $2000.

Most clutch issues may require the entire mower to be brought in for service, costing between $200 and $500.

Battery problems could also require professional assistance and cost between $100 and $200 to fix.

A damaged air filter is the cheapest repair, costing only $15 to $20.


Riding mowers are an excellent investment for any homeowner with a lawn. They provide an efficient way to cut grass without all the backbreaking labor, especially if the mower is a zero-turn radius riding mower suitable for your residential lawn.

From our experienced landscapers and gardeners, understanding these can help you troubleshoot when your riding lawn mower isn’t moving forward or reverse when the need arises.

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. 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
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