Can I Put My Lawnmower On Its Side? Will It Damage My Engine?

Tilting a lawnmower is a necessary step for various maintenance tasks, such as cleaning dried grass clippings from underneath the deck or changing the blade. But you may be wondering if you can put your mower on its side to do this and if so, what’s the best way to prevent damaging the mower or causing accidents? 

Putting your lawnmower on its side is fine to do, but you must first make sure the piston is at the top of its stroke to avoid something called hydrolock, which will prevent your engine from starting. Also, always tip the machine with the carburetor and air filter pointing upward so that oil and fuel do not leak out.

In this article, I’ll discuss the two best ways to tilt a lawn mower, how to prepare your mower before putting it on its side, and why getting it wrong can really mess up your machine.

Why Putting Your Mower On Its Side Is Necessary

If done correctly, tipping your mower onto its side is a perfectly safe way to easily get at the underside of the deck and complete some of those trickier maintenance tasks. 

Lawnmowers need regular maintenance to keep them in top shape, and for some jobs, you will need to get underneath the mower. These tasks include:

  • Cleaning the mower deck: Grass clippings can accumulate under the deck, which affects the mower’s performance. Regular cleaning is essential to keep your mower running smoothly.
  • Sharpening or replacing the blade: The mower blade can become dull or damaged over time, which can lead to uneven cutting and poor lawn health. Tilting the mower allows you to access the blade for sharpening or replacement.
  • Inspecting the drive system: If your mower has a self-propelled drive system, accessing the underside of the deck will mean you can easily inspect and maintain the belts, gears, and other components.

There are two ways to tip your mower up to access the underneath, which I’m now going to explore.

The Preferred Method For Tilting A Mower

For the easiest access to the blade and for cleaning, the preferred method for tilting a lawnmower is onto its side.

The correct way to do this is to find the side of your mower housing the air filter and carburetor and make sure this area is facing upward when you lift the mower up. If the carburetor faces downward, the oil may leak out of the breather tube, creating a mess. 

Additionally, if you’ve tipped it up the wrong way, fuel may start to seep from the filler cap which could be hazardous and may also find its way into the air filter, damaging it in the process.

Even when you have it the right way up, you will also need to avoid the mower getting hydrolocked, which I’ll cover later on.

The Safest Way To Tip Up A Lawn Mower

While putting your mower on its side may be the best method for easy access, tilting the lawn mower straight back on its rear wheels is the safer option since it minimizes the risk of fuel and oil leakage or engine damage. 

To do this, simply pull the front of the mower upwards, allowing the machine to rest on its handle with the deck at around 45 degrees. Unfortunately, this method can make it difficult to access the cutting area, especially when the mower is on the ground. 

So although tilting a lawnmower straight back on its rear wheels is considered the safest method, it’s definitely not the best way to get at everything. That’s why many people prefer to tip their machine onto its side.

Preparing Your Lawnmower For Tilting

Whichever option you choose, before you tip your lawn mower over, make sure to take the following precautions:

  • Disconnect the spark plug: Always, always disconnect the spark plug lead from the spark plug to prevent accidental starting. Just pull the cap off and secure the lead so it can’t touch the plug.
  • Have some rags handy: If you follow the steps in this article, there is no need to drain the oil sump or fuel tank first but be aware small amounts may still leak out and will need cleaning up. 
  • Let it cool down: If you’ve been using the mower, wait for the engine to cool down before starting. Putting your hand onto a hot exhaust is not a pleasant experience!

How To Avoid Your Engine Getting Hydrolocked

Hydrolocking is when oil flows past the piston when it’s down in the cylinder and you have tipped the mower onto its side. This fills the gap above the piston and in the worst cases, makes it impossible for it to rise up when trying to start the engine due to the trapped oil.

This is a very valid concern of tipping up the mower in this way, but it can be easily mitigated by following a few simple steps that ensure your piston is at the top dead center (TDC) of the cylinder when you tilt your mower.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make sure to disconnect the spark plug first to prevent the mower from firing up.
  2. With your mower flat on the ground, take hold of the starter cord, as if you were about to start the mower. 
  3. Slowly pull on the cord until you feel a tight point (you may need to operate the brake bar if your mower has one). Do this a few times to figure out exactly where the tight point is.
  4. On your final pull, stop as soon as you feel the tightness. The piston is now at the top of the cylinder, and engine hydrolock is no longer a concern.

Additionally, by ensuring the piston is at TDC, the valves will be closed, preventing oil from leaking out of the crankcase.

Final Thoughts

As you now know, tipping up your mower onto its side is not only perfectly okay to do but actually makes it much easier to work on. 

If you follow the steps above you can safely avoid any major oil leaks, gas leaks, or engine damage, even when you keep it in this position for several hours while servicing the mower.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

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