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Do Riding Mowers have a Transmission?

For a lot of lawn owners that want to switch from push mowers to riding mowers, or for those that are purchasing their first riding mowers, always have a lot of questions. While push mowers are suitable for smaller yards, riding mowers are also suited for larger yards. After deciding on the kind of mower that works best for you, the next step for most people is the decision on the type of engine, the size of the engine, the capacity, and probably your budget. Most do not think about if, and what type of transmission their mower should have. So the question is: Do Riding Mowers have a Transmission?

Riding mowers have transmissions, and there are several types:

  • Manual Transmission
  • Automatic Transmission
  • Hydrostatic Transmission
  • Friction-Disc
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

It is important to know the type of transmission that best fits your lawn. Choosing what type of transmission is the right choice for you depends largely on the layout of your lawn, how often you mow, and your ability to operate the riding mower efficiently. Once you are able to determine these characteristics, choosing your lawnmower becomes easier.

Understanding the Importance of Transmission

The transmission is that which conveys power from the engine of your vehicle to the wheels. The transmission rotates the axle to drive the mower wheels, causing the mower to move forward. It is responsible for controlling the speed which it does by altering the torque depending on how the rider wants it.

Transmission is a very important factor for your riding mower. This is because it plays an important role in handling and regulating the speed of your mower, it is also important in making sure that your riding mower has the appropriate level or amount of torque to handle every condition including the most challenging yard conditions. These conditions include:

  • Moist grasses
  • Mud
  • High places such as hills and inclines
  • Obstacles such as tree roots, stones and rocks, tight inaccessible corners, and trees.

Imagine driving through a rough and rocky path or moving during an icy winter, it is safe to assume that you would probably tread more carefully while trying not to lose your grip to avoid falling off or running off the road. This same technique applies for mowing in an icy, muddy or hilly condition. You most probably need a riding mower that can go through any obstacles instead of being stuck at a point while spinning the wheels.  A transmission is what keeps you going in any of these conditions. Now that you have understood the importance of the transmission in your riding mower, you can decide the type of transmission you want to purchase.

Types of Transmission

We are in an age where homeowners have enough options and varieties before shopping for a riding mower transmission. However, it is important to know the kind of riding mowers transmission you are about to purchase even before you purchase it. There are several different varieties of riding mowers transmission in the market. In addition, for someone that is new to this, it can be quite overwhelming when shopping for the type you want. That is why you need to know what you need before you go shopping for it.

While this is true, three categories of transmission seem to be the most common. They include manual, automatic, and hydrostatic transmission. As I mentioned earlier, the type of transmission that you choose depends on the size or design of your lawn, the rate with which you mow, and your ability to operate the riding mower efficiently. Later in this article, we will talk about the characteristics associated with each of the varieties so that you are able to make a well-reasoned decision when purchasing the best transmission type for you. Here are the common types of riding mower transmission:

Manual Transmission

Manual transmission is the most basic type of transmission. A manual riding mower transmission allows you to shift all of your gears by yourself. This method may seem a bit difficult for riders that need to perform a significant amount of turning, but by engaging the clutch and moving the gear stick manually, a rider can change the gear ratio and change the mower’s speed as much as he wants.

Using a manual mower transmission depends mainly on the layout of your lawn and your skill or experience. If the layout of your lawn contains sharp turns or a sloppy gradient, it may be important for you to look to an automatic or hydrostatic mower transmission. While some lawn owners consider the manual transmission a limitation, many others still consider it reasonable and cost-effective. Manual transmissions are not only cheaper by a wide range (thinking hundreds of dollars), they are also as effective for someone with a wide lawn layout that requires a little amount of gear shifting or turning.

Automatic Transmission

This is perhaps the most common in the categories of transmission in the market. With an automatic transmission, the rider does not have to go through the stress of shifting gears. I.e. the operator only uses the drive pedal to accelerate and a separate brake pedal to reduce the speed and stop. With this feature, riders with little mowing experience are able to operate the automatic riding mowers a lot easier. An automatic transmission is relatively easy to maintain while providing a good mix of responsiveness and ease of use. Another advantage of this transmission type is that a lot of them are designed to have optional cruise control, which allows the driver to go a long distance using a steady speed. Since they do not require gear shifting, it is much easier for drivers to mow at a wide range of speed. The added ease of use makes it so that the automatic riding mowers are able to save a bit of time, unlike the manual mowers. All these added advantages are catchy but the price of an automatic transmission is a bit high. As much as you don’t want to break the bank, you don’t also want to go through so much stress while mowing. Now it is left to you to decide between the benefits, ease of use and the price.

Hydrostatic Transmission

Hydrostatic mower transmission is the most high-powered transmission type. It works in a way that combines a hydraulic pump with a hydraulic motor in order to power the machine. The fluids are responsible for transmitting power from the engine to the wheels, which allows for an exceptionally smooth ride and longer transmission period. This makes it very easy to control with the detailed speed control and a full stop the moment the foot is taken off. An advantage of the hydrostatic mower is that the driver does not need to use the pedal to shift gears, and it does not come with a belt. While it brings added comfortability and durability, the hydrostatic transmission comes at a higher cost, as they are the most expensive of all types. They also require more fuel and maintenance and are generally less efficient compared to the others.

So when you are about to make a choice, you will have to weigh your options which are: superior performance against the high cost required in purchasing and maintaining hydrostatic mowers. Choose wisely. Asides the common manual, automatic and hydrostatic transmission, there are other types you can look to.


This transmission type is usually used on equipment with small power requirements. The transmissions use a spinning disc that is connected to a movable wheel on top. It works in a way that the wheel moves across the disc from the center. When it does, a varying degree of speed, as well as torque, is created. While the friction disc transmission is less expensive, it often requires more maintenance.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

Continuously-variable transmissions are actually gaining more recognition than before. The method by which they operate is different from other kinds of transmission. They employ a metal band placed between two plies that change their diameters thereby changing their gear ratios. Although cost-effective, users often complain about a delayed effect after revving the engine. The main advantage of this transmission is that is always in the right gear ratio for the given power demand.

You can also consider electric mowers, which are said to be more environmentally friendly than the others and are still able to offer a stronger performance. For whichever transmission variety you decide to purchase, pay attention to all the information discussed in this post, as the transmission method that you choose would have a major impact on the mowing process.

What is the Right Transmission for a Smooth Ride?

It is safe to assume that when you are shopping for a riding lawn mower, the first factor that pops in your mind is not the transmission type. It happens to a lot of people. Instead of the transmission, you are probably thinking about other factors like engine performance, weight capacity, and the cost of maintenance but the transmission never comes first.

However, it is equally important to consider the transmission when shopping for a riding mower. The transmission is what helps you to differentiate the different categories of mowers available and to identify what makes one better suited for a certain purpose than the others. It will also enable you to understand what your riding mower is capable of doing.

So, before purchasing any type of riding mower, think about the kind of layout you would be working on. Is it slippery? Does it tend to be rocky? How steep are the ground inclines? After you have decided and concluded, you can now proceed to decide the type of transmission that best suits your terrain. That way you can purchase the best riding lawn mower that would give you a nice and smooth ride!

How Do I Fix a Transmission Problem?

If you have been using your riding mower for a while, chances are you might have noticed some irregularities. Imagine a situation where you are trying to mow your lawn and your riding mower gets stuck at a point or the wheels just keep rotating at a point. You might be able to get it to move forward eventually or you might not. Don’t panic as this is caused by a transmission problem.

A transmission problem is a situation where the wheels of your lawnmower won’t just move forward. And this is not because your lawn is wet or the grasses are muddy. The transmission is simply locked up. As I mentioned earlier, the transmission is what engages the wheels to move forward. If the wheels won’t move forward, you might need to replace the mower transmission with a manufacturer-approved replacement. Sounds like a lot yeah? But not to worry, we have put together some really simple DIY procedures on how to fix your transmission problem. Follow the procedures below to replace the transmission:

1. Disconnect spark plug wire

The first step in replacing your transmission is to simply disconnect the spark plug wire by loosening the wire from the spark plug.

2. Remove the drive cover

Once you have to disconnect the spark plug, remove the cap on your fuel tank and place a plastic bag on the tank opening. Replace the fuel tank cap. This is to ensure that gasoline does not leak out when you tilt the mower. Next, tilt your mower backward in order to lift the front wheels. Attach the mower handle to your worktable so that the mower is stable when you remove the bottom screws. Now remove the drive cover’s bottom-mounting screws. Next, remove the attached mower handle from the work table and return the mower to its original position. Once you have done that, unscrew the drive cover’s top mounting screws and release the height-adjusting lever.

3. Release ground drive belt from transmission pulley

There is a belt keeper attached to the transmission, you can pull this off. Roll the belt over the transmission pulley. Make sure you keep tension on the drive belt while you attach one end of the bungee cord to the drive belt. Attach the other end of the bungee cord to the rear chute door lip.

4. Release drive control cable

Remove the drive cable from the anchor post. Press down the release tabs and pull out the drive cable from the transmission lever.

5. Remove the front wheels

Remove the nut used for mounting the wheel and pull off the right wheel. Dust the cover. Do the same for the left front wheel. 

6. Remove the transmission

When removing the right pinion gear, lock pliers to the left side of the transmission axle to hold the axle in a place. Then remove the screw that attaches the pinion gear to the axle. Remove the right pinion gear and the transmission axle pin. Repeat for the left gear. Remove the attached pliers and the axle clip. Pull the transmission up, disconnect the tension spring pin and pull the support bearings off the transmission axle. Allow the transmission to slide out of the wheel axle assembly.

7. Install new transmission

Slide in the new transmission to the wheel axle assembly. Re-install all the materials in step 6 above in the right order.

8. Reinstall the front wheels

The front wheels that you removed in step 5 above, reinstall it in the same order.

9. Re-install the drive cable

Re-install the drive cable on your mower.

10. Reinstall the drive belt and drive cover.

After you have reinstalled the drive cable, place the belt on the transmission pulley. Then reinstall the belt keeper, the height adjuster lever and the drive cover’s top-mounting screws. Tilt mower back and reinstall the drive cover’s bottom-mounting screws. Release the mower handle from the worktable and return it to the ground. Remove the plastic bag that was placed over the fuel and replace the fuel tank cap. Reinstall the belt and Reconnect the spark plug wire.

And that’s it! Make sure you pay close attention to every procedure and if you are not confident in yourself, hire an expert. It makes the job easier but at a cost. Once you have followed the step by step procedure, the wheels of your riding mower should be able to move forward and get your job done properly.