Which Way To Tip A Lawn Mower On Its Side? (Find Out Here)

Sometimes, you need to access the underside of your lawnmower to carry out routine inspections, repairs, and installations. To do this, you must get the lawnmower in the correct position.

Tipping a mower back, with the front wheels up is the best option using jacks or jack stands. Tip a riding or a push mower on its side is a riskier proposition. If you must attempt it, always tip away from the carburetor to ensure that damage doesn’t happen to internal combustion parts.

In the following article, we will discuss the correct ways to tip walk-behind and riding mowers over. I provide the reasons why you should tip a mower over a certain way, before looking at the consequences of the wrong approach.


Can You Tip A Riding Lawn Mower On Its Side?

So, you want to take a look at the underside of your lawn tractor or zero-turn? In order to do so, you may think you have to find the correct way to tip the mower off its standing position. You can tip one but should you?

Tipping a riding mower on its side is possible, but you have to be very careful with how you do it and which side you tip it onto. Before tipping the mower on its side, you must identify where the carburetor is. To be clear, tipping a riding mower over is not recommended or ideal.

Let’s look at both sides of this coin here. There is the could and the should of tipping a mower, and especially complicated ones like most any riding mower.

Is It Possible To Tip A Riding Mower Over?

It is possible to tip a riding mower, but there are very real risks entailed.

The carburetor is responsible for regulating the fuel and air mix that proceeds into the engine’s combustion chamber. If you happen to tip the mower onto the carburetor side (i.e., with the carburetor down), oil from the engine may trickle down and into the carburetor…which is not good.

Oil in your carburetor can result in excessive exhaust smoke, oil leaks, as well as a noticeable drop in your mower’s performance due to inefficient combustion cycles. This could result in serious engine damage if you do not clean out the carburetor.

Instead, what you want to do is tip the mower on the side away from the carburetor (with the carburetor up). This will prevent the oil from leaking towards the carburetor. It’s also a good idea to drain as much fuel as you can from the lawnmower. If you wish, you can also run the mower until it uses up the remaining fuel.

Now that we know it is possible, and to be honest we have done it several times before. Yet, is this the best or safest way?

Should You Tip A Riding Mower On Its Side?

All that said, tipping a riding mower on its side is not the ideal way to access the underside. Doing so can cause fluid leaks as well as damage to the sides, seat, and mower deck. 

I highly recommend that you lift the mower by the front wheels, so the hood is in the air. Also, make sure to remove the key from the ignition and disconnect the sparkplug to avoid any accidents.

Since riding tractors are quite hefty, you will need to use a hydraulic jack to lift one off the ground. Just be sure to check that the jack remains secure while you lift.

It is also advisable to not rely simply on hydraulic jacks as they can fail by simply loosing pressure. Use a jack stand to replace the hydraulic one once the mower is at the proper height.

If you need a good set of jack stands, I recommend these BIG RED Torin Steel Jack Stands from Amazon.

Which Way To Tip A Lawn Mower

Tipping your mower over is necessary for cleaning the deck and blades, as well as installing replacement parts and other maintenance tasks.

We’ve already looked at how best to do this for riding mowers, but what’s the approach when it comes to walk-behind push and self-propelled mowers? 

You have two ways to tip a walk-behind mower, although both require you to remove the sparkplug for safety reasons. First, there is the lifting the front wheels by lowering the handle. Second, you can tip the mower onto its side away from the carburetor.

Let’s look at both of these a little more closely.

First, if you like this type of article on mowers, I recommend these other articles I wrote…

Two Ways To Tip A Push Mower

The first way involves tilting the mower with the handlebars on the ground and the front wheels in the air. You can use secure weights or hooks to hold the handlebars and, therefore, the mower in place.

This first approach is good for inspecting the underside of the mower and maybe clearing a little debris. It also ensures that oil does not reach the carburetor, muffler, and sparkplugs.

However, if you want to do a thorough cleaning and other in-depth maintenance, you will have to use the second approach, which is tipping the mower onto its side.

Just like with riding mowers, you also have to establish the carburetor side and ensure you tilt the mower onto the side away from it. Again, this prevents oil from leaking into the carburetor and air filter. 

Tilting away from the carburetor will also prevent oil from reaching the air filter. An oily air filter affects the mower’s air and oxygen intake, which will negatively affect combustion and engine cooling.

Preparation For Tipping A Walk Behind Mower

Before tipping the mower onto its side, you must also ensure that the piston is top dead center on the compression stroke. This means you should ensure that the engine piston is at the top of the cylinder.

This is done by gently pulling the starter coil cord (with the sparkplug disconnected and brake bar engaged) several times until the cord is too tight to pull.

With the piston in the top dead center position, there is very little room for oil to flood the engine cylinder. If the piston were at the bottom of the cylinder, there would be much more room for engine oil to flow in and flood the cylinder.

If the cylinder is flooded with oil, the piston will not be able to move up and down as it normally does. This is known as hydro-locking.

Another advantage of positioning the piston at the top of the cylinder is that this closes valves and prevents the leakage of oil from the muffler and exhaust.

If you tip your walk-behind or riding mower over the correct way, there will be no fuel or oil spillages or leakages. Starting up the mower again may produce some light smoke, but that should clear up quickly enough.

What Happens If You Tip A Lawn Mower The Wrong Way?

Tipping your lawnmower the wrong way is a one-way ticket to trouble at the best of times.

For a riding mower, lifting the front wheels with a jack is the best way to access the underside of the machine without causing any fuel and oil leakages. Walk-behinds can be tilted in two ways, depending on what you want to do.

Tipping a mower the wrong way will lead to oil in the carburetor and air filter, which can lead to a lot of exhaust smoke and poor engine performance. You will also have the added burden of cleaning out the carburetor and replacing the air filter.

With regards to walk-behinds, in particular, tipping onto the correct side while the piston is at the bottom of the cylinder will cause hydro-locking. This will make it difficult for the mower to start. In addition, with the piston down, engine oil may leak out of the muffler and exhaust which is a fire hazard, especially if these parts are hot.

The Final Touches On Tipping A Mower On Its Side…

Though tipping a mower of any kind is not optimal, it can be done. I have done it many times, but only after taking precautions and usually on older mowers that were backups.

Doing this to an expensive walk behind may make someone, somewhere ‘die a little inside’.

Jokes aside, tipping riding mowers is really never a good idea. In an emergency situation it can be a life saver, but in general they should be jacked or lifted using proper equipment.

Be sure to stay safe and unhook the sparkplug before tipping.

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Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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