Are Riding Lawn Mowers Safe on Hills? (Solved & Explained!)

Riding lawn mowers are fun to use and they transform the chore of cutting grass into an adventure. But before braving that hill on your property, you should first think about a few things. While in some situations it might be okay to use a riding lawn mower, there are other instances where it is dangerous.

What can happen with riding lawn mowers on hills?

If you aren’t careful a number of things can happen, none of which are good. Your front tires may not make contact with the ground or get a solid grip on the grass. This means the mower can start rolling backwards and out of your control.

Another possible scenario is if there’s water at the bottom of the hill or it’s sopping wet. It is not uncommon for riding mowers to flip over. If your front end comes up, the rear wheels will provide all the momentum to flip it backwards. This very thing can also occur on dry, drought-ridden grass.

When is using a riding lawn mower on a hill a bad idea?

Never use riding lawn mowers on hills with a steep grade or when the grass is wet. Also, if the mower is in need of repairs or it’s older, avoid riding it on a hill. Your safety is nothing to fool around with, so be smart and safe in your decision to use it.

Grass Catchers

Also, if your mower has a bag attachment or other catcher for grass, don’t ride it across a hill. These things affect the balance of the machine. When you’re on a hill, it may throw everything off balance which can end up with it turning over or flipping.

Trust Your Intuition

If at any point it doesn’t feel right to mow on a hill, don’t do it. Even if the grade is fine and the conditions are favorable, don’t ride your lawn mower across it if something is uneasy about it. Trust yourself and your inner sense of knowing, it will be the best thing to keep you safe.

Is there a safe way to use a riding lawn mower on a hill?

When your hill is small and safe enough to mow, it’s perfectly fine to use a riding lawn mower on it. But you still want to observe safety when doing it. Keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • GO SLOW! Use the transmission to control your speed and go with a lower gear to keep the engine speed up.
  • If you’re mowing on the side of a hill, watch the front tire going uphill. Ensure it’s making a solid connection with the grass. If not, turn the mower downhill and drive slowly.
  • Before starting, devise an escape route so if the brakes fail or the mower shifts out of gear you can steer to safety.
  • Be meticulous about maintenance and adjustments, particularly with the brakes. Replace broken parts and pieces the moment you notice them.
  • Brakes on a riding lawn mower aren’t the same as a car; this is what the trans is for. The left pedal will set the parking brake which will cause the rear wheels to lock. This will almost always result in sliding down the hill.
  • It’s okay to change your mind. Once you approach the hill and you find you can’t back up on the slope or feel uneasy about it in any way, don’t mow it. Always go with your gut instinct.
  • Never mow across a hill, always go up and down the length of it.
  • Always observe your path for bumps, rocks, ruts, holes and other hidden objects. Uneven terrain and other obstructions can overturn your lawn mower.
  • To avoid stopping or shifting while mowing on a hill, choose a low ground speed. Maintain the machine’s gear when going down slopes and don’t shift to neutral.
  • Don’t use a zero-turn type of riding lawn mower.
  • Don’t stop, turn or start on a slope.
  • Don’t use your foot to stabilize the mower.
  • Never mow near ditches, embankments or drop-offs.
  • Always refer to your operator’s instruction manual for any questions specific to your riding lawn mower. Contact the company when you have doubts.
  • Know your machine, how it operates, when it struggles and what to do when something occurs. This is the best way to stay safe while effectively mowing your lawn.

What should you do if you can’t mow a hill with a riding lawn mower?

Of course, if a riding lawn mower isn’t feasible to use on a hill, for whatever reason, you could use a handheld walking mower with or without an engine. But even with these, it’s best to avoid using them if the hill has a steep grade.

Cut It by Hand

You can always take a gardening shears and do it by hand. However, this will be tedious and time-consuming if the hill has some acreage to it. Besides, it’s not very practical and not nearly as amusing as using a riding lawn mower.

Nature Preserve

If you are uneasy about mowing a hill or if it’s far too steep a slope to ever mow, then it’s time to get creative. You have some choices depending on the hill and what kind of access there is to it. First, you could just let it grow wild and free, allowing it to be a nature preserve for local wildlife.

Beautiful Landscaping

There’s also the option of turning it into a beautiful landscape with trees, flowers, bushes and other green growing things to make it a wondrous sight. You could create a traditional English or Japanese tea garden. Another idea is to make a Zen rock garden, like the Buddhists in Tibet.

Other Ideas

You could also turn the hill into a message board. You can use various rocks, branches and other natural objects to spell out words or create some other mural-type of art. The possibilities are endless, you simply need to think it out.