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I use a riding mower to cut my grass. My yard has a short but somewhat steep slope on one side.

The instructions for my lawn tractor say to only cut up or down a hill, not across it, but doesn't explain why. The mower can make it up the hill but it's clearly struggling and I'm worried about needlessly stressing the powertrain. Is there some technical reason I can't mow across the hill, or are they just worried about the mower tipping over?

It seems like it would be a lot easier on the mower to go across it, and I'm confidant it wouldn't tip over, but I don't want the engine to seize up or something else dramatic. Does it make a difference if the engine is splash-lubricated or has a pressurized oil system (and if so, how can I tell?).

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"somewhat steep slope" Can you specify how much (in degrees or percent)? If you say the engine is struggling going uphill, I guess it might be 15 % or more? –  user6807 Jul 15 at 7:36
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4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Rollover is, indeed, the major concern. And it's one that kills a number of people each year, all of whom were probably just as sure as you are that it wouldn't happen to them...

Don't be a statistic. If the maker of your mower recommends mowing up and down the slope, it's for a reason.

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Had it kill a high school friend, it's why a lot of tractors come stock with rollbars now. Lawn tractors don't fall under the same rules as farm equipment, but being crushed and then hit by the business end of the mower deck should give a lot of pause for thought. Confidence that it won't tip isn't the same thing as avoiding a very dangerous mode of operation... –  Fiasco Labs Jul 15 at 1:24
    
Well it certainly seems like this is the consensus. I may have been overstating the steepness of the hill, but I was also probably underestimating the risk. I will be careful, thanks for the tip! –  Henry Jackson Jul 16 at 3:08
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The reason is potential for roll-over like Fiasco and Ecnerwal say.

Perhaps you should invest in a used smaller hydraulic walk-behind mower. That is what professionals do. Match the mower to the job. You can find them almost free.

Slopes are tricky to mow properly, have you considered making the sloped area into a planting bed?

Lawns should be mowed in a different pattern each mowing. Otherwise, you will get ruts, then the mower's wheels get in a rut and your grass gets scalped. Very evident on slopes.

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How about splitting the difference and mowing on a diagonal? I mow my slope with a hand mower that adjusts its speed based upon how hard I push. I tend to mow the slope exactly the same all the time, but "exactly" is a relative term here. I don't worry about ruts and such, because I never really mow exactly the same twice in a row. But in the case of diagonal mowing, you could reverse the diagonal direction each time.

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For whatever reason, lawn tractors sometimes struggle on diagonals more than across, because of the differential. Zero turns are far superior on hills. I use a small walk behind mower wherever the 72" mower cannot easily maneuver. –  J. Musser 7 hours ago
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What is the approximate square footage of the area and what is the "curb appeal" of this section of your lawn?

I ask this because as a possible solution to the problem (struggling mower + rollover risk) would be to purchase/rent a trimmer and do the area manually with that.

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