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How To Operate A Lawn Tractor Safely

Updated on August 5, 2014

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Should a mower operator have some training before using the mowing machine?

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What Is The BIG Deal?

Lawn mowers are manufactured in many different models from electric and gasoline powered push mowers to those that are larger gas powered units that the operator rides on. Though the smaller push mowers may be machines that parents train their children to operate they are still mechanical machines nonetheless and can be very dangerous to the unskilled operator. The mowers all have high speed rotating blades that can be extremely harmful to the unskilled operator who is not fully aware of the damages that can be done by the blade as it is propelled. The blade will severely slice and tare anything that it contacts and has the potential to turn those contacted items into projectiles. The bigger and more powerful ride on mowers greatly increase the risk of harm and the danger potential.

Mowing A Large Acreage Lawn

Checking The Oil

All gasoline engines need to have the oil level checked before each operation.
All gasoline engines need to have the oil level checked before each operation.

Air Filters Need To Be Clean

All gasoline engines have a breather for air intake to the engine. Most of those breathers have air filters that require regular cleaning to keep the engine properly performing.
All gasoline engines have a breather for air intake to the engine. Most of those breathers have air filters that require regular cleaning to keep the engine properly performing.

Mower Blades

Mower blades must be inspected for free rotating action and other damage such as deformation and cracks or wound up wire and strings.
Mower blades must be inspected for free rotating action and other damage such as deformation and cracks or wound up wire and strings.

First Things First

Lawn Mower Maintenance:

Before beginning to cut the grass the mower needs to be checked out to make certain that it is in proper operating condition. All gasoline engine propelled mowers both push and ride on style must have the engine checked for fluid levels and those machines with air breathers must have the breather filter checked for unrestricted air flow also. Because on average the lawn mower is used infrequently, once a week or less, fluid levels could have dropped from an unnoticed leak and for this reason before starting the unit the operator must always inspect oil levels. After checking the fuel and oil levels for the engine the blades on even electric mowers, on larger mowers the blades, should be inspected, making certain that it rotates free from any obstruction. To check the blade the push mower can easily be raised up or tilted onto its side.

TIP: Important: when tipping the gasoline engine push mowers onto its side use caution not to tilt the mower over to the side that allows oil and gasoline to run out of the filler caps.

The larger ride on mowers require a little more work to inspect the blade or blades. The mowing deck will need to be unpinned from the machine and slid to the side out from underneath the machine before it can be tilted for inspection of the blades.

Mower Blade Maintenance

When inspecting the mower blades for free rotation the operator should never get into the poor practice of just sticking their hand in under the mowing deck to feel the blade movement. Such a habit is extremely dangerous and should not be practiced even when feeling totally secure that the mower engine is not running. A mower is a very dangerous piece of mechanical equipment and must be treated with respect for the proper safe power equipment handling regulations. The practice of unsafe handling techniques can potentially be habit forming that will eventually cause severe harm to the individual of those taking notice of the unsafe actions and repeating the procedures.

Mower Replacement Blades available for many types of mowers

The Other IMPORTANT Factors:

By tilting the mower to do a visual inspection the operator can check for more than free rotation of the blade or blades. There could be twine or wire wound up around the blade mandrel or shaft and if so such debris needs to be unwound and cut free. The operator can also see if there is any bending or deformation of the blades or any cracks that might cause the blade to break. If a piece of the blade breaks off when it is rotating that piece will become a dangerous projectile that has the potential to do great harm to anyone standing in the immediate vicinity. Even if there is no person or animal in the immediate area the projectile can cause severe damage to property and break basement windows.

Sharpening The Blade

Upon blade inspection the operator may notice that the blade or blades appear to be severely dullened. When the cutting edge of the blades are evidently deformed from contacting hard objects like rocks or sticks that were laying buried in the grass on the lawn the blades may be sharpened. If the cutting edge is only slightly dullened the operator can use a metal file and with a few strokes file the cutting edge sharp much like sharpening the blade of a carving knife in the kitchen. However, if the cutting edges of the blade or blades are badly worn a small hand held power grinder like a dremel or a die grinder or an angle grinder will be required. Use the grinder to smoothen out the deformations in the cutting edge of the blade and to form a knife like edge where the factory edge initially existed. Often the blades can be sharpened while still on the mower, but if it is too difficult to get the grinder wheel to the proper angle for shaping the cutting edge the blades can easily be removed. Most mower blades are held to the mandrel by one bolt only and by removing that bolt the blade will come free. After the blade is remove from the mandrel it can be held in a vice or clamped to a stable surface where it can be ground conveniently.

Watch Out For Flying Debris

Rocks and other debris can be projected from the mowing deck and hurt people or damage other objects.
Rocks and other debris can be projected from the mowing deck and hurt people or damage other objects.

Never walk up to the ejecting side of the mower

The mower operator can often mow over unseen objects that will be projected out of the mower opening.
The mower operator can often mow over unseen objects that will be projected out of the mower opening.

Caution Flying Debris

The high speed rotating blades of the mower throw all kinds of loose objects that they come in contact with. Rocks and sticks and dog bones, marbles, golf balls and all sorts of unseen trash that is lying in the grass turf - such objects become dangerous projectiles. Never allow anyone to to approach a running mower on the open side of the mowing deck and if possible caution animals and people to stand far back because objects can fly great distances. Occasionally when the mower runs over larger objects the blades will completely stop turning and the drive belt from the engine to the mower deck drive will stall and start to smoke because it is burning. When the belts smoke because the blades are bound up and not turning damage occurs to the belt, causing the need for belt replacement. Always STOP the mower operation immediately by disengaging the mower drive when the belt begins slipping and smoking. Replacing the drive belts because of needless belt slippage can get quite costly.

Mowing Around Trees

Mowing around trees is always hazardous because the branches can scuff across the operator's body and even slap them in the face. Always wear safety glasses when operating a lawn mowing machine.
Mowing around trees is always hazardous because the branches can scuff across the operator's body and even slap them in the face. Always wear safety glasses when operating a lawn mowing machine.

Tree Branches Brushing The Body

Tree branches will brush across the operator's body when mowing around trees.
Tree branches will brush across the operator's body when mowing around trees.

Safely Working Around Trees

When mowing around trees the hazards of mowing a lawn are drastically increased. Always be certain to wear safety glasses so that a branch from the tree does not unexpectedly poke the operator in the eye. The branches of the tree often protrude outward far enough from the base of the tree that the operator will have to allow the branches to brush across their body to get the mowing deck close to the base of the tree. While watching the mower, guiding it precisely around the base of the tree, the operator is often unaware of the action of the tree branches as they brush across the body. The branches can get caught or snagged in the operator's clothing or even scratch unprotected exposed skin on the arms, legs, and face. When mowing the operator should always wear protective clothing to limit the amount of exposed skin on their body.

Mowing Around Objects

The operator must travel in the correct direction around objects to cut the grass close to the object.
The operator must travel in the correct direction around objects to cut the grass close to the object.

Using The Correct Side Of The Mower

The mower is designed so that the blades turn in one direction only which cause the grass to be ejected out of open side of the mower deck. Because of this common standard design to cut the grass closely up against objects like trees and walls the mower must travel in the correct direction. Many mowers are designed to throw the grass to the right side of the mowing deck so to cut close to objects the left side of the mower must be the side that runs up against the object. This is easily accomplished by operating the mower in the correct direction around the object.

TIP: When operating a mower without a bagger traveling in the correct direction can allow the mower to throw the cut grass to the desired location. eg. if the mower operator desires not have grass ejected from the mower onto the drive lane then by traveling during each pass of the mower in the correct direction the grass will always be thrown away from the drive lane.

Be Safe When Mowing

Mowing can pose many challenges, but a good mowing job when complete is very rewarding. Mow safely though to reduce the chance of injury.
Mowing can pose many challenges, but a good mowing job when complete is very rewarding. Mow safely though to reduce the chance of injury.

Questions or Comments?

I welcome all your questions and comments as well as any suggestions or ideas of your own. Please contact me through any of my links with any input that you desire to contribute. I enjoy hearing from everyone.

Thank you

How To Pam

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    • Pamela Bush profile imageAUTHOR

      howtopam 

      4 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Hi Rhonda Lytle;

      Nice to meet you. I have discovered a number of interesting people involved in inspirational life activities here on HP. I have always wanted to experience the freedom of self sufficient living and these hubs are a record of my step towards "ruffing it." As I grow older the lifestyle may become too challenging, but until then I plan to continue exploring and recording. Thank you again.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      Great advice. I always knew to check the oil and gas but much over that thought not of it and mowed for years. Until that is, this last summer when I set the mower on fire while mowing a large overgrown area for the first time. Scary, dangerous and so not good. I will be taking your advice to heart wishing I had read this before :).

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      For sure... no doubt about that. Best wishes!! ;-)

    • Pamela Bush profile imageAUTHOR

      howtopam 

      4 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thank you Homeplace Series

      Machines are expensive and I have learned that preventive maintenance costs less than replacement or complete rebuilding of the machine.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Very useful tutorial. A few years ago, I had one, for a few years. Very important to keep it in good running condition. Thanks for sharing!! ;-)

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