How steep can you mow with a push lawn mower?
While it is nice to stand on a deck and look at a lovely lawn that slopes off down a hill, it’s not so nice to be the one who has to mow that up steep hill.
I once mowed a lawn that was a little too steep. I always felt I was on the verge of losing the mower, and I was so happy when my customer landscaped it and put it in a retaining wall. That made my day.
So, just how steep can you mow with a push mower? Most push mower manuals specify a range from 15-20 degrees, depending on the engine. If you wear good boots, cut the lawn when it is dry, and mow across, then a 20-degree lawn is mowable. Stop immediately if you start getting any blue smoke, as the slope is too steep. The image below shows a 20-degree angle.
I have learned over the years that there is a right and a wrong way to mow a slope. You can damage your mower or even hurt yourself if you do not do it right.
Most mowers are four-stroke, meaning they have a reservoir for the oil. If your mower has a dipstick, it will not do well on slopes. It’s a four-stroke. These machines are not designed to tilt to the side.
If you mow a steep hill on too much of an angle, you will be alternating between flooding the air filter and the muffler with oil. This will stop your air filter from working, and every time you flood your muffler, you will get clouds of smoke.
If you continue (assuming the mower keeps going), you will reduce the amount of oil in the sump of the mower. If that oil gets too low, it can overheat your engine, causing it to seize.
Another problem is that your mower may start missing while you are working. This can be caused by the gas tank being low on fuel due to the fuel tipping away from the feeder tube.
How can you mow a steeper lawn?
First and most importantly, if you have problems walking up the slope, you shouldn’t mow it. Pass on the job.
If you use a four-stroke, the only way to effectively mow a slop like that without damaging the mower is to mow straight up and down the slop.
Unfortunately, this is also the most unsafe way to mow a slope. You should mow across a slope to reduce the chances of slipping. Pushing a mower up a hill is dangerous because if you slip, then the mower can roll back on top of you. You risk losing control of the mower or slipping down a hill.
One way to make yourself a little safer is to wear boots with cleats to help with traction. This will help stability greatly, but it is still not ideal.
Electric Lawn Mowers
One way to mow on a steep slope is to use a battery-powered lawn mower. These can work better for a few reasons.
Lightweight Design: Generally, battery-powered mowers are lighter than their gas-powered counterparts. Using a lighter mower increases maneuverability and reduces the risk of losing control.
No Gasoline Spillage: Sometimes, if you try to mow on a really steep slope using a push mower powered by gas, you can lose fuel from your cap. This is not an issue with battery-powered mowers.
No Engine Stall: A gas-powered lawnmower engine is designed to work in a level position. If you mow at certain angles, you may flood or starve the carburetor of fuel. This could cause fluctuations in power, staling, or excessive smoking. A battery-powered lawn mower has no gas and, therefore, has none of the issues mentioned above.
Overall, the lightweight design, ease of use, reduced maintenance requirements, and environmental friendliness make battery-powered mowers preferable for mowing on slopes.
Two Stroke Mowers
Two strokes are usually found on smaller equipment such as blowers, weed eaters, and hedge cutters. However, you can still get two-stroke mowers that run well. I have owned a few over the years. They are great mowers, but changing emission laws makes it more challenging to get in the US.
These are the last two two-stroke mowers this shop is going to sell.
They are popular, but these engines produce emissions over most countries’ limits, so they can no longer be imported.
What makes two strokes different?
If you look at the photo above, you will see that the two-stroke mowers do not have a dipstick. This is because they have no oil reservoir. The oil is mixed in with the fuel instead.
This means that a two-stroke mower can run on angles that a four-stroke cannot, so steep slopes are not a problem. Although a two-stroke will handle a steeper slope and will not have any issues with the oil, they can still flood or stall. It is just less likely that you will damage the engine through lack of oil.
If you are seriously worried about mowing a steep slope, there is one option: get the job done so it looks nice and you do not endanger yourself.
If I come across unmowable lawn with steep inclines (this does not happen very often), I use a string trimmer to do the lawn. This is an excellent way of getting the job done quickly and without issues.
You must be pretty surefooted, or at least think about where you are standing. I tend to move the machine from side to side and travel along the slope. Now, before you say that cannot be done, look at the picture below of an extreme slope I did on the same day I wrote this post.
This slope takes me less than 10 minutes with a weed eater, and then I move onto the rest of the lawn, as seen in the picture above.
A word of warning. If you buy a string trimmer, don’t buy a bent shaft machine. That is a machine with a bend at the end of the shaft where it meets the head. This kind of weed eater will be cheaper but would be extremely hard to use on a slope. You would be better off buying an entry-level (semi-commercial) straight-shaft string trimmer.
A few more words regarding safety.
Never mow a steep lawn when it is wet. If it is raining or has just rained, do not attempt to mow.
Ok, I know if you looked closely at my photos, you might have noticed they were taken in the rain, but remember, I used a weedeater on that slope, not a mower.
For added stability on a hilly lawn, always pay attention to where you place your feet and wear sturdy work boots.
Also, remember never to pull the mower backward. This is an excellent way to lose toes.
The final option.
If you have a super steep lawn and feel uncomfortable about mowing it yourself, you could always try something like using a Flymo and a rope. Some robotic mowers are designed for slope work, and some commercial electric slope mowers are also available.
Lastly, make sure your insurance covers you. I have rolled a riding mower on a steep lawn before, and I prefer to pass on that kind of job these days.
There are plenty of other lawns out there.
In Closing: How steep can you mow with a push lawn mower?
In summary, when mowing inclines with a lawn mower, it’s crucial to prioritize safety precautions and understand the capabilities of your equipment. While most push mower manuals recommend handling slopes between 15 and 20 degrees, the risks of damaging the mower and injuring yourself rise on slopes.
Methods such as mowing across the slope, wearing suitable shoes for traction, and being mindful of fuel levels can help reduce some risks. However, there’s still an element of danger involved.
Electric mowers present benefits over gas models due to their weight, lower maintenance requirements, and eco-friendliness, making them a preferred choice for sloped areas.
However, terrain options, like string trimmers or specialized robotic mowers, might offer safer and more practical solutions. Ultimately, prioritizing safety and having insurance coverage is crucial when taking on challenging lawn care tasks.
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