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Properly Tipping Your Lawn Mower for Maintenance

Tipping Your Lawn Mower, There comes a time when you need to access the underside of your lawnmower. Maybe you want to carry out some routine inspections, installations, repairs, or just clean up some dried-on clippings from under the deck. However, if you want to tip your lawnmower, you need to make sure that you’re doing it the right way.

Can You Tip A Lawn Mower On Its Side: Which Way to Tilt Your Lawn Mower?

Tipping Your Lawn Mower

Well, there’s usually more than one way to do something. But the answer to how to tilt your lawnmower is actually simple. The recommended way is to tip it straight back with the front wheels up.

At this position, the mower will be at 45 degrees, which can still be challenging to access the underside of the deck. As such, you might want to tilt it on its side, making sure both the air filter and carburetor are facing up.

Simply put, the correct way to tip your mower is by tilting it on its side, with handlebars to the ground and the carburetor and air filter facing upwards. And it’s that simple.

Note that when you tip a mower over, the main danger is usually fuel and oil leakage. However, this method eliminates that possibility almost entirely. The oil will simply collect on the back of the engine, nowhere near the carburetor, muffler, breather tube, valves, spark plug, or piston.

But before you flip your lawnmower over, there are several important things you should always do.

Give it Time to Cool Down

Well, this is only important if you’ve been using it. In case you have been working with it, it’s best to wait a while so the engine can cool down. After all, you don’t want to handle a hot mower.

Remove the Spark Plug Cable

Tipping Your Lawn Mower is yet another important step when considering flipping your lawnmower over. Take the spark plug lead from the spark plug to eliminate the chance of the mower starting itself accidentally. Once you’re satisfied that you’re safe, you can proceed and tip your lawnmower over.

Note: both sides of a lawnmower engine aren’t quite the same. Most lawnmower engines are packed with air-filter/carburetor affixed on one side and the exhauster/muffler on the opposite side. It’s therefore important to identify the carburetor/air filter side, as this is the side that must face upwards when the mower is tilted.

Otherwise, if you get this wrong, you’ll end up encountering problems such as leaking oil, leaking gas, no start mower, white smoke when starting, hard to start the mower, etc.

Air Filter and Carburetor Side Up

How do you identify the air filter or the stated carburetor’s side? In some lawnmowers, it won’t be so obvious to spot the carburetor, but don’t fret. The air filter is positioned in the same location as the carburetor and is generally pretty easy to identify.

You can spot the air filter and its cover by its characteristics, which include being easily accessible, located on one side of the engine, usually black (made from plastic), easily detachable, and mostly rectangle in shape. Remember to refit the spark plug wire when attempting to restart the mower.

The Misconception behind Tipping a lawn Mower on Its Side

Some folks have it that if you tip your lawnmower on its side, the oil will leak out and it could hydro lock your mower. So, they regard this as a bad idea. And perhaps that’s why the majority of homeowners get hung up on the subject.

If somebody tells you this, then it means they’ve missed a step; a step that would prevent your mower from becoming hydrolocked. But before we even jump into the specific details, it’s important that you understand what hydrolocking actually means. So here’s a quick explanation:

When you tip your mower on its side, the piston in your engine moves up and down inside the cylinder. If the piston is in the down position when the mower is on its side, there’s a lot of space above it and oil can flow past the piston and rings into the top of the piston, flooding it with oil.

Later when you attempt to turn the engine over, the piston struggles to squeeze that out,  but it fails, and so it gets locked. That’s basically what hydrolocking means.

What Happens if You Tilt Your Lawn Mower the Wrong Way?

Tipping Your Lawn Mower

Well, in case you accidentally tilted your lawn mower while filling it with gas, don’t worry. You can easily tilt it back and clean up any spilled gasoline. However, some of the gas or oil may have reached the air filter. To check, locate the air filter cover (it should be easy to find) and open it. Most covers don’t require any tools.

If the filter is wet and made of paper, you’ll need to replace it. Drying it out won’t work. A saturated air filter doesn’t allow the right amount of air into the carburetor, which can cause the engine to start then stop, run rough, blow black smoke, or even not run at all.

When the air filter is saturated, it’s not the only thing that’s at risk of being oil/fuel contaminated. The spark plug is also susceptible to what’s known as spark plug fouling. This is caused by excess gas/oil inside the combustion chamber (flooding).

In cases of extreme flooding, the cylinder can fill with gas and prevent the engine from cranking over. This condition is known as hydro-locking, and the only way to fix it is by removing the spark plug.

Once you’ve checked and resolved your air filter, you should also check your oil level and top it off if necessary. If the oil is too full, remove some of it. Then you can proceed and crank over your engine without using a choke. If it starts, it may blow white or black smoke. This is normal, so don’t worry about it.

If your engine won’t start, you can leave it to sit for an hour before trying again. Or, if you can’t wait that long, you can remove the spark plug and clean it.


Simply follow the steps outlined above for tilting your lawn mower and you won’t have to deal with any oil or gas leaks. This is how you get your mower flipped over for as long as necessary to finish your maintenance without causing additional issues.