Riding Mower Won’t Move Forward or Reverse

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Time to give your lawn a makeover, but you’ve hit a snag – your riding mower refuses to budge, whether forward or in reverse. This situation is familiar to many mower owners, but fear not, as several troubleshooting steps are at your disposal.

I’ve gathered all the expert insights on resolving this common riding lawn mower issue in this comprehensive guide. So, keep reading!

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

When it comes to maintaining your lawn, riding mowers offer a convenient and efficient solution. What’s often overlooked, however, is the fact that these machines share many components with 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 diving into these troubleshooting techniques, begin by checking for any noticeable damage. This initial step will prove instrumental in pinpointing potential reasons for the riding mower’s forward and reverse functions failing to operate as expected.

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. I 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. You might consider 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 serves as a crucial safety mechanism in riding mowers, preventing the engine from starting if there’s insufficient oil or no pressure detected in the system. Using a faulty pressure switch can also hinder the mower’s forward and reverse functions.

testing a riding mower pressure switch

You better schedule regular maintenance for your riding mower whenever you encounter any issues.

#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.

Even if you ask more experts, they will tell 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.

As someone who has spent years in the landscaping and gardening field, grasping these concepts can prove invaluable for troubleshooting issues with your riding lawn mower when it fails to move either forward or in reverse.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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