A riding lawn mower can cut better in reverse for various reasons; incorrect height settings and cutting too much grass are two of the most common causes. Mowers should not cut better in their reverse gear, so finding the problem is crucial.
If you’re riding mower is cutting better in the reverse setting, you can be sure something isn’t quite right. Read this article for a list of potential causes and tips to help you rectify the issue and have your mower cutting grass like it’s supposed to.
Deck Height Settings
This is perhaps the most common cause for a mower performing better in the backward direction, so it should be the first to check. Ideally, you want your mower’s deck to be slightly lower at the front end than the back.
The optimum pitch for your deck will vary depending on the type and brand of mower you have. As a general guideline, the front will want to be between ⅛” and ½” lower than the back. Begin with a pitch of around ¼” and make gradual adjustments until you get the desired results on your lawn.
Just take it slow with the adjustments and take care not to pitch too steeply as you will begin scalping your grass.
This one follows the previous point regarding deck height but deserves a separate entry on the list because it is incredible how many people do not think about it.
Your manual deck adjustment isn’t the only thing that will have a direct impact on your mower’s front-to-back pitch. Of course, your tires will also play a significant role.
If there is too much difference between the mower’s tire pressures, your pitch can be thrown off. If the back tires have less air in them, the blades will be closer to the ground at the rear end, making them likely to cut better when going in reverse.
Make sure you use a gauge when putting air into your tires and fill them to the recommended pressures.
Cutting Too Much Grass
An accepted rule of thumb is never to remove more than a third from the total length of your grass. Cutting much more than this can lead to problems.
For example, the wheels will trample long grass and fold it beneath your mower deck, preventing the blades from cutting it effectively.
As a result, mowers can sometimes seem to be cutting the grass better in reverse because there are fewer obstacles at the back to push and fold the long grass down.
If you haven’t cut the grass for a while, the ⅓ rule may mean the grass is still too long to cut effectively. In this case, you’ll need to take the first few centimeters off before going around again for a second cut.
In situations where the total length of your grass is longer than the height of your mower’s deck, you will need to use a string trimmer to cut the grass down to a height that is manageable for your lawnmower. Never try to force a mower to cut grass that is too tall for it, as you’ll risk damaging your machinery as well as your lawn.
Debris Clogging the Mower
Your mower deck can become packed and clogged with dead grass, clippings, dirt, and other debris. All of this unwanted matter can build up and will have a large impact on the mower’s cutting quality.
Sometimes, a riding mower can perform better in reverse because so much debris has built up around the front end and is essentially blocking the blades from doing their job as they pass over the grass in that direction.
You should thoroughly clean the deck by removing it and the blades and using lightly pressured water to remove all of the trapped grass and dirt.
Cleaning the deck is a simple job that will enhance your mower’s performance and increase its’ usage life, so it is a task that’s well worth taking the time to complete.
If you have checked all of the potential problems listed above and your mower is still not cutting as well going frontward, there is a good chance something is faulty within your machine.
With the power switched off, you can take a look beneath the deck to see if you can spot any apparent obstructions or reasons for the blades not functioning correctly.
In some cases, you still may not spot the problem by eye as it could be an electrical fault. Of course, the best option is to let the experts handle it and take it back to the manufacturer or dealer for a thorough inspection.
Should You Mow the Lawn Backwards on a Riding Mower?
Manufacturers design most mowers to cut more effectively when going forwards, which means cutting in reverse wouldn’t be productive.
However, market demand has meant several riding mowers are available that will cut in both directions for convenience. For example, it is sometimes convenient to back into a tight space and cut the grass in reverse than switching the blades off and turning the mower around 360 degrees.
Even mowers that do allow you to cut in reverse must have, by law, some kind of safety mechanism that you must manually engage before it cuts while going backward.
These types of backward mowing features are not designed for the entire lawn, and you should complete the vast majority of your mowing while riding forward.
A great concern for riding a lawnmower in reverse is reduced visibility. No matter what model you have, riding while looking behind you, you can never be as safe regarding your field of view. According to GardenToolExpert, “one child per day is knocked over by a self-propelled lawn mover going rearwards.”
So, even if you can mow backward, you shouldn’t do so for very long and must take extra care to be sure you know exactly what is around you at all times.
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.