How a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Works

Wondering about self propelled mowers? We can help. Here's the story on how they work

Self Propelled Lawn Mowers: How They Function And What You Need To Know

When it comes to mowing a mid-sized lawn, what do you choose to use? Do you get a riding mower, despite the fact that your neighbors think it’s overkill? Or do you sweat behind a push-mower that leaves you wishing you didn’t care what your neighbors thought? Maybe there’s a compromise. How about a self-propelled lawn mower?

What is a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

There are two styles of walk-behind lawn mowers, traditional push-mowers and self-propelled mowers. Traditional push mowers have been used for lawn maintenance since the first cylindrical reel-type mower was patented in 1830 by Edwin Budding as a step up from cutting grass with a scythe, or borrowing a neighbor’s goats or sheep to munch down your grassy knolls.

Even after gasoline-powered motors were introduced in 1921, pushing a heavy lawn mower while cutting summer grass remained a hot and laborious process. Then some brilliant minds decided to make lawn care less sweat-inducing by adding a drive system similar to what we have in motor vehicles.

A self-propelled lawn mower has a drive system operated by a squeeze bar, or bail, located on the handle. Squeezing the bar causes the rotating blades on a self-propelled, rotary-style mower to begin to spin and the mower itself moves forward on its own power. All the operator has to do is guide it. No muscle involved.

Self-propelled lawn mowers have front or back wheel drive, or in some cases even all-wheel drive, (AWD) meaning power goes to all four wheels, front and back, making them powerful enough to handle tough slopes and hilly lawns. Front wheel drive alone has the advantage of easy maneuverability. If you tip the front wheels off the ground you can easily turn the mower direction. This makes them advantageous for flat lawns.

Most self-propelled lawn mowers are gas-powered, but some are cordless electric.

Self-propelled lawn mowers move forward without having to be pushed, so they are easily moved across wide swaths of grass with the user only guiding it, saving energy. The self-propelling engine does the work for you even while moving uphill. You can mow a large amount of yard space much faster and easier than you would shoving along a typical push mower.

Most self-propelled mowers are single speed, with the speed calibrated to match the appropriate pace of the average user and typical lawn conditions. Variable speed mowers are also available for those who wish to accommodate different walking speeds or unique lawn conditions.

Features of Typical Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

Most self-propelled mowers offer the same or similar features as traditional mowers with side-discharge and grass-bagging features. Three in one models are also available with mulching options.

Self-propelled lawn mowers are typically easy to start with automatic choke recovery for engines you can “cold start,” without a struggle. This makes them ideal for those who enjoy mowing, but hate the usual wrestling match involved in getting a lawn mower to start.

Self-propelled lawn mowers are also equipped with multiple safety features. During operation, if the user lets go of the bar, the mower turns off and the blades stop spinning. This ensures that if a user trips or falls they can’t be hurt by spinning mower blades. It’s also helpful for immediate shutdown in case a child or a pet darts in front of the mower.

Most self-propelled mowers also come with a manual blade shut-off feature so you have the option of turning off the spinning blade while leaving the motor running. This allows you to empty the grass bag, or safely remove branches, rocks or debris out of the path of your mower without having turn off and restart. It’s also a helpful feature if you need to move the mower to another part of your lawn and don’t wish to mow along the way.

Self-propelled mowers take a lot of the sweat and strain out of yard work while still being less expensive and easier to maintain and store than a typical riding lawn mower.

Save your summer energy for something fun, and still cross lawn mowing off the weekend to-do list. The self-propelled mower does the hard work for you while you get the credit! And who doesn't want yard work to be a little bit easier?

Resources— The Spruce, Snapper, PowerProEquipment