Traction on zero turn mowers can be a problem even in the best of times. If you’ve ridden a zero turn, you know that the tires start to slip at the first sign of rain, especially on a hill. So, what can you do to get better traction? Well, there are a few things you can try that will get your tires sticking to the grass better and probably result in a safer experience while you’re out cutting the lawn. Let me share with you what I’ve learned on how to get better traction on a zero turn.
Improving Traction on Your Zero Turn Mower (The Short Answer)
Opting for an alternative tread pattern other than the standard turf tire will increase the traction of your zero turn lawn mower. Additionally, understanding the full range of driving and turning techniques you should use with a zero turn will reduce sliding. Finally, understanding your mower’s limitations will limit the opportunities the mower has to lose traction.
Why You’re Struggling to Get Traction on Your Zero Turn
Specific factors need to be met for your mower to have good traction. If any factor is compromised, then, unfortunately, so is the level of traction. The tolerances can be very low and frustrating for the operator.
However, it needs to be this way for the mower to safely make a good, clean cut without damaging the grass. So here are the factors that will affect how much traction you will get.
- Slopes Less Than 15 Degrees
- Dry Grass
- Clean Tire Tread
- Sufficient Tire Tread Depth
- Correction Drive Technique
How to Get Better Traction on a Zero Turn Mower (5 Things to Try)
If you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines while operating your zero turn mower, then you shouldn’t have any issues with traction and slipping. Let’s take a look at how you can stay within the guidelines and maintain grip.
Know Your Mower’s Limits
The first place to start when trying to limit zero turn traction problems is understanding the area you are struggling with. You’re asking for trouble if you are trying to cut a lawn over what the manufacturer states is achievable.
As a standard rule, zero turns quickly lose traction and become unstable with slopes over 15 degrees. So, to avoid slipping on big hills, stay safe and use a different method of cutting the grass.
Wet & Damp Grass
First, we know that we shouldn’t be trying to cut wet grass because we could be causing health issues related to lawn disease and pests. But, there are times when we have very little choice.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve cut a wet lawn and even been seen mowing in the rain. As a result, I understand that wet grass will have reduced traction. So, if you want to improve grip, you’ll have to stop cutting the lawn when wet.
Dirty Tire Tread
Zero turn mower turf tires have very shallow and tight tread that reduces tear-up of our lawns. The downside to this is that the tread can very quickly fit with grass and earth. One way to maintain good traction is to make sure that you keep the treads clean. I find the best way to do this is to wash them down after cuts.
Additionally, if I notice the treads filling up during cutting, I quickly drive over a hard surface, like the road, and let it fly out.
Good Tire Tread Depth
Like a tire on your car, once the tread becomes low, the tires need to be changed. You’ll find the wear down marker between the treads that shows you how much tread you have left. If you find that you are losing traction, then it’s a good idea to check how much tread you have left.
Correct Driving Technique
Having the correct driving technique is important for traction and saves the lawn from being torn up by the tires. I remember the first few weeks after getting my first zero turn; my lawn had a bunch of holes from my poor turning technique. I quickly learned that whenever the mower is moving, both wheels should be turning.
Additionally, it’s as important to understand the physics of how the weight of the mower affects traction. For example, coming down a slope facing forwards can easily result in a lack of traction as the weight of the mower is transferred to the front wheels, which have no control.
Modification to Get Better Traction on Zero Turn
I’m one of the few people who actually read lawn mower manuals. Geeky, I know. But, one thing that is common in the manuals is that manufacturers stress that you shouldn’t modify your lawn mowers. The only item that seems ok to modify is the tires which can be changed to a different grip pattern but must remain the same dimensions.
So, you can get rid of the turf tires and get something with a better grip. However, this isn’t something I would personally want to do because big treads are absolutely no good for a lawn. They are aggressive and tear up the grass. So, I recommend staying within the limits of your mower and mowing in the dry.