A zero turn mower has a much different steering system than other mowers. It uses two levers to steer instead of the single wheel found on regular ride-on mowers. This makes compensating for bad alignment trickier. For example, if your zero turn mower has a problem heading straight, then you have to apply different pressures to each handlebar, which is less than ideal. Fortunately, you can make several simple adjustments to get your zero turn mower driving in a straight line again.
When You Might Need to Make a Zero Turn Mower Steering Adjustment
The most obvious reason you need to adjust the steering on your zero turn is that it’s no longer driving straight or that your zero turn mower is weak on one side. However, there may be times you want to carry out additional steering repairs, like replacing the handlebars. Fortunately, I have put together a guide you can follow that covers all aspects of zero turn mower steering adjustment. Let’s take a look at what you need to get started for this fix.
What You’ll Need to Make This Adjustment
Adjusting your zero turn mower’s steering will require a few simple tools. You probably already have these in your toolbox.
- Socket Wrench
- Wrench Set
How to Adjust the Steering on a Zero Turn Mower (Step By Step)
The steering on your zero turn lawn mower is controlled by two elements that are adjustable. The first element is the alignment of the handlebars. The second is the tracking, which can be adjusted down at the hydrostatic motors.
When making adjustments to the steering, you should start with the handlebar alignment. This ensures that any later adjustment to the tracking is made with even and straight handlebars. Here’s my overview of both areas that need to be adjusted.
Zero Turn Mower Handlebar Alignment Steps Overview
- Check Handlebars for Any Damage
- Center the Handlebars
- Check Alignment
- Loosen Mounting Bolts
- Align Handlebars
- Tighten Bolt
- Test Forward Alignment
- Test Reverse Alignment
Zero Turn Mower Tracking Steps Overview
- Locate Link Rod Connection
- Select a Drive to Adjust
- Loosen Both Bolts & Make Adjustments
- Additional Adjustment
Step By Step Zero Turn Handlebar Alignment
Let’s take a closer look at how to adjust the steering on a zero turn mower by aligning the handlebars.
Check Handlebars for Any Damage
First, you’ll need to inspect the handlebars for any damage. The handlebars could be bent from an accident or just by having constant force applied to them. If you find that they are misshapen, then you need to straighten them out so that both handlebars are the same. I usually do this when they are still attached, and I just give them a pull. Usually, this is enough to get them straightened out.
Center the Handlebars
Next, you need to center the handlebars into the neutral position and pull the handlebars together.
Here you want to see how the bars come together. They should come together so that they align. If you find that they are in different positions, you need to move one closer to the other.
Loosen Mounting Bolts
On the bottom of the handlebars, you’ll find the bolts that connect the bars to the mower. Using your socket wrench, loosen off the bolts on one handlebar just enough so the bar becomes loose. You do not need to remove the bolt completely.
Next, align the loose handlebar with the other. Once you have them aligned, you can use your socket wrench again to retighten the bolts.
Test Forward Alignment
Now that the bars are aligned in the neutral position, you can go ahead and test them in the forward position. Push both handlebars fully forward and check how they align. They should both move forwards at an equal distance.
Test Reverse Alignment
Next, repeat the same process in the reverse direction. Again, you want both handlebars to move into reverse equally.
Travel Distance Adjustment
If you find that the bars move slightly differently in the forward and reverse directions, then you can adjust the handlebar restrictors. Take a look at the bottom of the bars, and you will find two bolts or adjusters that limit the distance the bars can travel—one that prevents the bar from moving forward and one that stops the bar from moving backward.
You will find these bolts on both sides of the mower if your particular mower has this feature. Using your socket wrench, you can adjust these bolts to align the bar in both directions.
Test the Mowers Steering
Finally, you will need to take the mower for a test drive and check how the steering lines up. Any minor adjustments necessary to fine-tune the forward and reverse drives can be made at the bar restrictors. If you need to make a big adjustment, then you’ll need to move on to tracking the hydrostatic drives.
Step By Step Zero Turn Mower Tracking
Tracking should only be done when you are confident that the handlebars are aligned in the forward, neutral, and reverse positions. It will be impossible to track the drive unless the handlebars align. Let’s go over the steps to track the hydro drives.
Locate Link Rod Connection
First, you want to take a look under the back of the zero turn. Here you will find a rod that connects from the handlebar to the drive. At the end of this rod, you’ll find the adjuster plate that transfers the bar’s movement into the drive. You’ll see that the adjuster plate is sandwiched between two bolts attached to the rod. These are the bolts you will need to adjust.
Select a Drive to Adjust
You will only need to make adjustments to one of the motors. You want to bring them back into alignment and to do this you just need to address one of the motors.
Loosen Both Bolts & Make Adjustments
Once you have chosen which motor to adjust, you can go ahead and loosen one of the bolts. Which bolt depends on which way you want to adjust the motor. You’ll either want to make it go faster or slower. This can depend on the manufacturer of the motors because there isn’t a particular direction for all motors.
Depending on your situation and motor, you need to move the adjuster plate either up or down the rod. I find the best approach is to loosen one bolt and move it up the rod, say ¼-inch, then tighten the other bolt.
Test Drive the Zero Turn
Once you have made a ¼-inch adjustment, you should take the zero turn for a test run. During this test is where you will discover if you are adjusting in the right direction.
Go back to the mower and repeat the adjustment process until you get both motors running at the same speed with equal pressure on both handlebars. You could be lucky and get it right the first time.