Are Zero Turn Mowers Good on Rough Terrain?

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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While Zero Turn Mowers (as their name implies) are great at making sharp turns and can maneuver around curbs and edges well, they are not as good at handling rough terrain.

In fact, Zero Turn Mowers are best for detail work. Hills and inclines can prove a real challenge for a Zero Turn Mower.

Instead, if you are dealing with rough terrain, you may wish to employ a high-wheel mower – learn more below!

Do Zero Turns Do Well On Hills?

In general, Zero Turn mowers are not capable of tackling hills with more than a 15-degree incline.

Husqvarna MZ61 61 in. 24 HP Kawasaki Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower

Instead, the blade may make contact with the ground, grinding to a jarring stop.

If you’d like a lawnmower that can do well on hills, you’ll be better off with a high wheel mower!

About Your Zero Turn Mower

Zero Turn Mowers are built low to the ground.

When it comes to using a Zero Turn Mower for general mowing and detail-work, it couldn’t be simpler.

All that you need to do is push two levers to go forward, and to reverse, pull back!

Zero Turn mowers are also distinguished by two small wheels, located on the front of any Zero Turn Mower.

Zero turn mower on rough terrain
Zero-turn mower

These give the lawnmower – and the person mowing – such freedom to maneuver!

So, Zero Turn Mowers are nice and convenient, but they are designed for a purpose.

Rather than rough terrain or hills, which can be difficult for Zero Turn Mowers (if you’re facing inclines or 15 degrees or more), it’s best to use them for detail work.

For truly rough terrain, you’ll likely want to use a high-wheel lawn mower for the task!


For This Reason: If it can be afforded, many will opt to have one of each (Zero Turn and high-wheel) mower!


Are Zero Turn Lawn Mowers Good On Rough Terrain?

Zero Turn lawn mowers are not built for rough terrain, generally.

Rather, they are built for precision, and for managing sharp turns.

This allows for edging and other detail-oriented techniques. That said, you don’t necessarily have to purchase a new mower.

Zero Turn lawnmowers can handle small inclines of up to 15 degrees. 

If you have a very hilly lawn, however, you may also wish to invest in a high-wheel lawnmower!

While you may be able to get a Zero Turn mower to work on rough terrain, investing in a high-wheel lawn mower can be a bit easier!

That’s what high-wheel Zero Turn mowers are for, while Zero Turn Mowers are masters when it comes to level lawns – and at any detail-work!

How Do You Use a Zero Turn Mower?

So, now that you know a bit about Zero Turn Mowers (and vs high-wheel mowers), you’ll probably want to know how to use this detail-oriented lawnmower.

See below!

Basics Steps for Using a Zero Turn Mower

As you may already know, Zero Turn Mowers are built for riding on, with the motor out of the way in the back, for optimum visibility (most motors have the engine in the front, so the Zero Turn Mower is unique in this way).

All in all, a Zero Turn Mower is a comfortable, practical, and some would even say luxurious, way to mow!

So, how do you use a Zero Turn Mower?

It couldn’t be simpler! 

Start the Mower

Ride on mowers and Zero Turn mowers
Ride on mowers and Zero Turn mowers

Fortunately, starting a Zero Turn mower is nice and easy.

This is a fast-working, responsive mower that’s designed to tackle sharp turns (along with other detail-work).

To start a Zero Turn Mower, all that you need to do is:

  • Put a key in the ignition. This will start the engine.
  • Then, if it is engaged, push the choke inward.
  • Finally, push both levers to move forward, or pull them to move back. This should do the trick! 

What to Mow

Above all, Zero Turn Mowers are about speed and precision.

Lawn hilly
Hilly lawn

They are made to allow you to get very close to obstacles while achieving a smooth cut.

This means any brick edging you might have around your garden, trees, that sort of thing – you can do very detailed work with this kind of mower!

(Of course, you still want to prevent the blades from hitting anything, there are limits to the ability of Zero Turn Mowers).

If you’re looking to spiff up your lawn quickly and easily, hopping on your own Zero Turn Mower should do the trick! 

What Not to Mow

So, Zero Turn Mowers are super-useful. We’ve covered that.

They’re all about detail-work. What about things that you should not use your Zero Turn Mower for?

First and foremost, we have hills that exceed 15 degrees.

While Zero Turns can often tackle tall grass, it’s easier on them -as with any mower – if you regularly keep the grass in check!

How Do Zero Turn Mowers Work?

So, how exactly do Zero Turn Mowers work?

They use a combination of extra-sharp blades and a low-to-the-ground design in order to make quick work of grass (and even some weeds, within reason).

Cutting wet grass with zero turn mower
Cutting wet grass

Each wheel moves independently (thanks to hydraulic motors on each axle), according to its lever. This gives you the ability to turn on a dime, so you can quickly and freely maneuver!

Just keep in mind, when using a Zero Turn mower, diesel and non-diesel gas don’t mix.

What’s more, no outdoor equipment should be fueled with gas exceeding 10% ethanol.


Finally: It’s best to store any lawnmower with fuel still in the tank. This helps to ensure that it won’t dry out, and that rust is not allowed to form in the tank, either!


What You Can Do With Your Zero Turn Mower

Zero Turn lawn mowers are not only good at turning on a dime.

These versatile lawnmowers can also move quite quickly.

While most lawnmowers max out at 4 MPH, a Zero Turn Mower is capable of up to 8 MPH, for a super-fast and easy mow!

All that you need to do is adjust the choke appropriately, and press the levers forward, and you’ll pick up speed.

This makes Zero Turn Mowers ideal for large expanses of grass as well.

If you have a mostly-smooth yard with objects to mow around (decor, sprinklers, garden plots, etc.), a Zero Turn Mower will do the trick!

Maintaining Your Zero Turn Lawnmower

Of course, half of the work of any outdoor equipment is maintenance.

Husqvarna MZ61 61 in. 24 HP Kawasaki Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure a smoothly-running Zero Turn lawnmower:

  • Store properly. Make sure to store the mower in a cool place rather than in the sun, and keep it full of fuel.
  • Keep the blades sharp. After using your Zero Turn mower for a bit, you’ll want to check the blades ad ensure they’re sharp. This is key to maintaining any lawnmower!
  • Check the air filter
  • Clean the mower deck
  • Ensure the tires have proper pressure and air

Final Words

So, there you have it: Zero Turn Mowers are not built for rough terrain or hills but can tackle inclines up to 15 degrees.

Primarily, these lawnmowers are built for sharp turns, speed, and precision, however. 

They can also make quick work of large areas of lawn, moving up to 8 MPH!

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