Your lawn mower works better in reverse due to the direction that the mower’s blade. The mower’s blade, attached to a crankshaft, spins clockwise whether or not you push the mower forwards or backwards.
Mowing your lawn while your lawn mower is in reverse is not recommended for both the appearance of your lawn and your personal safety (as well as the people behind you)
Why Your Lawn Looks Sloppy After Mowing in Reverse
Mowing your lawn in reverse, or pulling your mower instead of pushing it, will shear the grass or make your grass look uneven, as the mower blade is sharpened on one side. The result is irregularly cut, choppy, uneven grass. In some instances, the grass becomes too short, resulting in a brownish edge that makes it susceptible to disease.
Your lawn mower, when operating in reverse, won’t release grass clippings from underneath the machine’s deck. This can result in an obstruction that may prevent the mower from working properly.
Mowing Your Lawn in Reverse Is Hazardous To Your Health
The main reason you shouldn’t mow your lawn in reverse is safety. When you use your lawn mower in reverse, it reduces your field of vision. You may not see a child, a pet, a toy, or another object behind you. If you trip over an object, an injury may result from the fall and/or contact with the mower.
If a lawn mower picks up twigs or stones while in reverse, they can come out of the mower as projectiles and cause an injury. Your feet can get entangled if you stumble while using your mower in reverse. If the mower’s blade comes in contact with your legs, cuts, lacerations, or toe amputations may result.
A riding lawn mower can overturn while you’re using it. This can happen if you’re riding it on a hill, slope or incline. Riding lawn mowers weigh between 500 and 2,000 pounds, so if an overturned mower lands on you, your injuries will be very severe.
WE Forum reported that from 2007 to 2016, 758 people died in the United States from lawn mower injuries. In 2016, over 86,000 adults and 4,500 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms for lawn mower injuries according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Safety Standards Prohibits Lawn Mowers from Operating in Reverse
In 1982, the Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) issued a set of lawn mower safety standards. The standards call for a brake that stops the mower blade in three seconds after the user releases the control bar. Lawn mower manufacturers must test each mower to make sure that a foot or a mower part will enter the blade’s path.
In 2003, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) issued a set of safety standards that echo the CPSC’s standards. The ANSI revised the standards in 2017 that go beyond the CPSC’s standards and include most lawn mowers.
The CPSC and ANSI standards prohibited riding lawn mowers made since 2004 from working in reverse. Mower manufacturers applied the standard to push and self-propelled mowers as well.
Customers weren’t happy about the new standards. In spite of the safety risk, they want to use their lawn mowers while in reverse. Lawn mower manufacturers developed a bypass feature allowing users a way to use their mowers in reverse.
Operating a Riding Lawn Motor in Reverse
Riding lawn mowers have a button you must hold in reverse while either shifting into reverse or pressing the reverse foot pedal. Most lawn mower manufacturers call this the Reverse Implement Operation. By doing this, you can run the mower in reverse and then return to forward.
You need to re-engage the Reverse Implement Operation each time you want to mow in reverse. If you try to mow in reverse without pushing the button, the mower’s engine will shut off.
Operating a Self-Propelled or Reel Lawn Motor in Reverse
Self-propelled lawn mowers have a bypass switch you must use to run the mower in reverse. The switch disengages the safety feature preventing the mower from working in reverse.
The bypass switch also allows the mower to propel in reverse. Like riding lawn mowers, self-propelled mowers won’t operate in reverse unless you use the switch.
If you use a reel, or non-motorized, mower, they will not work in reverse at all. You can’t make any adjustments to the mower to have it work while pulling it.
Safety Measures To Take When Using a Lawn Mower In Reverse
The safest thing to do if you decide to use a lawn mower in reverse is not to do it in the first place. Always push your lawn mower forward. There will be few, if any, issues with the cut and you will lessen the chances of getting injured.
If you still want to use your lawn mower in reverse, here are some safety tips according to the University of Michigan Health Care System. These tips apply to all lawn mower users.
- Wear closed-toe shoes while mowing your lawn. Steel toe work boots will cut the impact should anything fly out of the mower. Don’t use a lawn mower while barefoot or wearing sandals.
- Think twice about wearing shorts while mowing the lawn. Long pants will protect your legs from thrown objects.
- Protect your eyes from flying debris by wearing safety goggles. Also wear safety earmuffs to protect your hearing from the mower’s engine noise.
- Clear your lawn of any branches, twigs, rocks, dog toys, or any other debris. This lowers the potential of having something strike you while you’re mowing.
- Keep your hands away from the engine during or immediately after use. The engine will be hot and touching it can result in burns.
- Stop the mower if you need to clear an obstruction. Do not stick your fingers inside the blade or any other part of the machine to get a stick or a clump of grass out. Instead, use a stick or a tool to reach the obstruction.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.