How to Set Up Your New Walk-Behind Mower

How to Set Up Your New Walk-Behind Mower

How to Start a New Walk-Behind Lawn Mower

Dale, the Power Equipment Expert
Power Equipment Expert

Nobody wants to buy a lawn mower just to pull the cord, hear nothing, and have to ask the dreaded question: “Why won’t my new lawnmower start?”

You might be eager to start your new mower, but starting it without taking the proper lawn mower assembly steps can void the new warranty and lead to damage and even equipment failure, not to mention frustration.

Before setting up your mower, your first step should be to inspect the shipment. Check for any damage that might limit your mower's functions.

You then can set up your walk-behind mower using some basic tools such as wrenches and battery meters, along with the proper safety gear, including gloves, safety glasses, and closed-toe shoes.

Once you’re ready, the lawn mower setup checklist below will help you set up your mower properly and get it ready to run for the long haul.


How to Set Up a Walk-Behind Mower

Gas or electric, traditional push mower or self-propelled: walk-behind mowers of all kinds are easier to set up than riding mowers. However, they still require you to check several parts on your new mower, especially if your mower is gas-powered.


1. Unbox Your Mower

Bottle of Engine OilClear away any packing material at the top of the box, taking care to look for important components that might be mixed in with the material:

  • Lawn mower manual
  • Grass collection bag and frame
  • Side discharge chute
  • Mulch plug
  • Oil (for gas-powered mowers)

Most gas lawn mowers will ship with a bottle of starter oil in the box. However, this bottle might shift beneath the mower during transit. Be careful not to throw it out!

Once you’re ready to remove the mower from the box, have another person lift it with you to reduce the risk of strain, injury, or equipment damage. Lift it by grabbing the mower by the base.


2. Adjust the Handle

Fold the handle back, away from the body of the mower. Adjust its height by turning the lock knob on each side, raising the handle to a comfortable height, and turning the knobs back to the locked position.

Adjusting the Handle


3. Install the Battery (Cordless Electric Mowers)

If your mower is a cordless electric mower, it will be powered by a battery. Some gas-powered mowers might use a battery to start the engine.

For a cordless mower, check the battery’s charge using a meter or by pressing its indicator buttons. Charge it to full capacity if it’s not already there, and then insert it into the mower until you hear it snap securely into place.

Checking the Mower Battery


4. Add Oil (Gas-Powered Mowers)

The bottle of oil included with your mower might contain more than the amount needed for the mower's first five hours of use. Do not pour the entire bottle into your mower’s oil tank.

Instead, pour in a little bit of oil at a time, checking the dipstick each time to make sure that the oil take isn't overfilled (which could damage the engine). Clean the dipstick each time before reinserting it. Consult your product manual for the proper procedure—most say that you shouldn't screw in or tighten the dipstick to check the oil level.

Adding and Checking Oil

If no oil was included with your mower, consult the product manual for the manufacturer’s recommended substitute. For many mowers, an API-certified 10w30 oil will work well, but always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Never start a gas-powered mower without oil in the tank. Doing so can cause irreparable damage to your mower’s engine.


5. Fill the Fuel Tank (Gas-Powered Mowers)

Unscrew the gas tank’s cap and look inside. You should see a limit line or a plastic insert that serves as a gauge on the inside. Fill the tank with low-ethanol or ethanol-free gas up to this line or to the bottom of the insert gauge and replace the cap.

Fuel Tank and Gauge

Adding a fuel stabilizer compound such as Sta-Bil will help your gas last longer. However, for peak efficiency and to keep your mower in good working condition, never mow using fuel that’s more than 30 days old.


6. Check the Spark Plug (Gas-Powered Mowers)

Disconnect the spark plug’s boot, and check that the plug is securely inserted into the socket. Reattach the boot or the cap.

Spark Plug with Boot on Walk-Behind Mower


7. Inspect the Wheels and Adjust the Height

Check the wheels for any type of damage. Then, use the lever (most often found on the side of the body) to adjust the lawn mower height settings.

Wheel and Mowing Height Adjustment

The mowing height you choose will depend on several factors, including the type of grass on your lawn and the time of year you’ll be using your mower. 

Grass Mowing Heights by Season


8. Attach the Bag, Mulch Plug, or Discharge Chute

If the bag wasn't already assembled, fit the grass collection bag over the frame included in your mower’s box and snap it into place. Attach the bag to the mower by snapping it onto the mower’s body.

Attaching the Bag to the Frame

Most mowers will also include a mulch plug, a discharge chute, or both for customers who choose not to bag their grass clippings. Slide either one of these attachments into place in the slot over which the bag would otherwise fit. You might have to tilt the mulch plug at a slight angle in order to get it to fit.


9. Troubleshooting Tip: Adjust the Clutch (Self-Propelled Mowers)

You might find that your self-propelled mower gets stuck if you try to pull it backward when the clutch is not engaged. Don't worry! It's not defective, but it's simple to fix. It simply might mean that you need to loosen or adjust a small screw that, on certain models, can be found just below the throttle control lever on the handle (check the manual).

Adjustment Screw Below the Throttle Control

Use tools such as a pair of flat-nose pliers to loosen or tighten the nut on the screw until you're able to roll the mower backward with minimal resistance in the reverse position.

Adjusting the Screw With a Tool


Ready to Roll

Setting up a new mower might be intimidating the first time you do it. However, by checking that you have the essential components included in the box and then taking the steps to check the mower’s crucial parts, you can get your new mower off to a great start.

Always consult your mower's user manual for proper setup and maintenance operations. The information contained in there supersedes the information provided here.


NEXT: Ultimate Lawn Mower Maintenance Guide

Dale, the Power Equipment Expert
Power Equipment Expert
Was this article helpful?