Thanks to technological advancement, we don’t have to wait for cows and other animals to keep our lawns trim by grazing them. Since the invention of a lawn mower, having an immaculate manicured lawn isn’t a deal so big. There are different types of lawn mowers including lawn tractors, walk behinds, and zero turns. They are powered by either battery, engine or gas.

Understanding the different types of lawn mowers and their functionality will help you make the right decisions when choosing one. So, how do lawn mowers work? For you to fully wrap your head around a lawn mower’s functionality you must understand its different parts and operations. Some of the basic features every lawn mower must possess include a motor, a rotating blade and a means of getting around. Read on to find out more about the systems of different types of lawn mowers and all it takes to keep your lawn neat.

Lawn mower parts

A lawn mower has different parts that perform different tasks. If you want to understand how a hydrostatic or a push lawn mower works, you must know all its parts and their functions.

Ignition coil

This is an induction coil normally located next to the flywheel. It transforms low voltages to thousands of voltages to generate an electric current that can fire the spark plug. A lawn mower that features a diesel engine wouldn’t need the ignition coil because it relies on compression entirely to ignite fuel.


Any self-propelled mower has the gearcase. It is also commonly referred to as the transmission. It uses the power of the motor to turn the wheels of the mower.


Oil or any other lubricant is essential for reducing wear and tear. Every time the engine is running there is a high amount of friction generated by the internal components of a lawn mower. The friction produces heat, which quickly spreads throughout the engine. The moving components of the lawn mower expand more due to the high temperatures and cause even more friction. This cycle goes on and on until the engine gets ruined. This is why oiling is so important, it helps to keep things cooled down in the engine.

how do different types of lawn mowers work

Air filter

This is one crucial part that increases the longevity of a lawn mower. The air filter cleans the air and removes all the contaminants before it reaches the engine. It protects the internal components of the engine from dirt and debris. This helps to improve the engine’s efficiency as well as prevent wear and tear.

What’s more, it keeps trash out of the carburetor, allowing the air and gasoline to flow freely without any obstruction.


Without the blade a lawn mower is useless. Different lawn mowers have different types and number of blades. It could have one, two or multiple blades for slicing down grass to a specific level. The conventional reel mowers have multiple blades that are curved and spun around on the same horizontal axis as the axle to which they are attached. On the other hand, Modern rotary mowers have sharp-edged blades, usually 2, spun on a vertical axis at a very high velocity that can easily cut through grass at a faster rate than the blades on a traditional reel mower.

There are other complex blade arrangements commonly referred to as gang mowers or multiple blades. They are designed to be pulled by full-blown tractor for large commercial or professional moving jobs.

Blade adapter

This is the part that allows you to attach the mower’s blade to the blade drive shaft every time you replace the blade or return it after sharpening.


This is an essential part of a petrol or gas-powered mower. It is the part of the mower’s engine that mixes fuel and the air to burn. It regulates the amount of air and fuel delivered to the combustion chamber for burning by the spark plug.

Carburetor rebuilt kit

This is a kit with various components like seals, a hinge pin, and gaskets among others. The components work to refurb the carburetor.

Safety switch

This is a safety feature. It prevents unexpected accidents as it can stop the engine by stoping the ignition coil from sparking whenever you release the lever on the engine.


A mower’s wheels are what makes it move around. They usually surround the wheel axle and feature a rubber tire.

Spark plug

A spark must be there for successful ignition of the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. The spark is generated when an electrical current sends power to the spark plug. This happens when the engine’s piston is near the top of its stroke. The fuel-air mixture explodes because of the spark and the piston goes back down making the crankshaft turn. After a full rotation of the crankshaft, the piston is forced back up the engine cylinder and the ignition process repeats over and over as long as the engine is on.

There are other lawn mower parts like housing, made of either steel or resin-based plastics that have heat and vibration resistance properties. The housing covers all the moving parts of a lawn mower and protects the engine. Other parts include speed controls, discharge bag attachments, height adjustments for your comfort, and holding brackets on which you can place electronic devices or beverage containers. The holding brackets can be dispensed without compromising the normal functioning of the lawn mower.

Types of lawn mowers

parts of a lawn mower and their functions

There are different types of lawn mowers with entirely different characteristics and functionality. Reel mowers were the only mowers people had for a very long time from the 20th century but thanks to new inventions, you don’t have to use so much energy nowadays to have neat lawns. With time, we got the rotary mower which unlike reel mowers cuts grass faster. Then came the self-propelling versions that have less physical demand. And today we have more unique mowers like the riding lawn mower, hovercraft and robotic lawn mowers that require little to zero physical efforts.

Here are the main types of lawn mowers out there. If you have been wondering how mulching, reel or push lawn mowers work, here’s how:

Rotary lawn mower

This is one of the most common lawn mowers out there. It uses a small but powerful engine to power up a sharp horizontal blade that spins to cut grass to a certain level. This blade is located under the lawn mower in a deck. Its location is convenient because it prevents shredded grass from flying around all over the place.

Rotary lawn mowers utilize an internal combustion engine that runs on 2 or 4 cycles. Though rotary lawn mowers that use electric motors are increasingly becoming popular.

The mowers with the 2-cycle engine use gasoline and air while those with the 4-cycle engine not only burn gasoline but also have a separate lubrication system.

Another crucial feature of a rotary lawn mower is the throttle. It is normally mounted on the handlebar and attached to the motor. The throttle allows continuous flow of fuel to the motor. On some lawn mowers, it can be used to adjust the motors speed. Essentially, the throttle prevents injury because whenever it is released, the motor shuts off.

The mower’s blade has a vertical axle attached to it and it is the one that the motor turns. The vertical axle is made of a single piece of steel that lies just a few inches above the ground. The motor powers the blade to spin at an impressive 3000 RPM (Revolutions per Minute) cutting grass as it passes over it. A mower can have either a straight or curved blade, but it is usually the tip of the blade that does all the cutting.

Have you ever wondered how mulching lawn mowers work? Well, it’s all about the blade’s design. The blade of a mulching mower is specially designed to cut tiny clippings of grass that can be used in mulch. Its deck is also designed to contain the clippings until the blade can shred them. Usually, the clippings are moved through the deck, whether mulched or not into a bag mounted on the side or the rear of the deck. If there’s no bag, the mower returns the clippings to the ground.

Self-propelled lawn mower

These are pretty much similar to the rotary lawn mowers because they are also powered by a small yet powerful motor. The only one difference between a self-propelled system and a rotary lawn mower system is that with the self-propelled mower, the throttle used to engage the motor to power the blade to cut grass allows can also be used to power the drive system of the mower.

All you have to do is press the squeeze bar on the handle of the mower and it will start moving on its own. You wouldn’t need to push it manually like you would a rotary lawn mower. Such a mower is ideal for using on super-large lawns or hilly areas. It is also best suited for the elderly or the physically challenged who would get burn out from using the push mowers.

There are different types of self-propelled mowers out there, from cordless gas models to corded electric models. They also have different cutting capabilities. One of the most popular self-propelled mowers among expert reviewers and users is the Troy-Bilt TB220 159cc 21-Inc h FWD High Wheel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower. It is a fantastic choice for mowing small and medium-sized yards. It is incredibly lightweight and features a dual-height adjustment for added comfort and side mulch capability.

Push lawn mower

Also popularly known as the reel mower, the push lawn mower is a basic gardening equipment that requires you push manually across the lawn to cut grass. They stand out for their eco-friendly nature. They don’t use any motor, and that means they don’t emit any greenhouse gases and they are much quieter.

When you push the mower, its wheels move and a belt connected to the axle between the wheels drives a cylinder made up of sharp blades. It is the spinning motion of this cylinder that cuts the grass.

If you have a small lawn, then you could make the most out of a push lawn mower. It is also ideal for physical exercise as it can be physically demanding, especially if you let grass grow too long.

Riding lawn mower

Your quarter acre lawn can get a clean cut in a matter of minutes or hours with a rotary push lawn mower. A hilly half acre lawn can get manicured neatly in a short time with a self-propelled walk-behind mower, but what cuts grass in the expanse 2 acre or more golf course fields? Must be a riding lawn mower.

Riding mowers come in different shapes and sizes. Different models have different blade sizes and horsepower engines. You have to part with a clean 1000 dollars to get a riding mower with an engine of about 14Hp, which is on the lowest end.

Some of the most common types of riding mowers are: the garden tractor, a farm tractor and the zero-radius mower. A garden tractor is a heavy-duty riding mower that can pull plowing or discing attachments to plow a garden as well as cut grass. It uses a powerful engine ranging between 18 and 24Hp. A high-quality garden tractor costs a pretty penny. The popular models go for about 2500 to 4500 dollars. Some unpopular models cost as much as 9000 bucks.

A farm tractor is used to mow lawns as big as 5 acres or more. A zero radius mower is usually used for commercial landscaping and professional lawn care. They use 4-wheel steering to move around obstacles like trees.

A riding mower is driven like any other motor vehicle. It is the rider that guides the mower while sitting on the deck. Some models feature a steering wheel to turn and pedals for accelerating and braking. Others only have levers for controlling steering and the throttle.

Just like a self-propelled walk-behind mower, the engine of a riding mower powers both its blade and wheels. However, the blade is not directly connected to the axle in a riding mower. Instead, the blade is powered by a belt connected to the engine. The upsides of a riding mower are that it allows you to lower or raise the blade, as well adjust its speed.

The most popular riding mower is the Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52″ Zero Turn Mower 23hp Kawasaki FR691 Series. It is a top pick for many top reviewers because it has an ultra-powerful 23HP engine and allows 13 different cutting heights. It can easily work in and around tight spots and is highly responsive.

Lawn mowers according to power source

There are two main lawn mowers according to power source: gas-powered and electric mowers.

Gas-powered lawn mowers

Until the invention of gas powered lawn mowers, extensive grass trimming was just a dream. Most self-propelling and rotary lawn mowers are gas-powered. They use a small but powerful engine that use petrol or other liquid fuels. The engines are usually 4-stroke internal combustions engines that offer great torque and clean combustion. They are characterized by a single cylinder and a horsepower that ranges between 4 and 7. They also feature a carburetor and must be started manually by pulling a crank. However, some new models do feature an electric start for added user convenience.

The engines provide a lot of power to the motor which in turn spins the blades and pushes the mower’s drive system. Gas powered mowers are better than electric mowers when it comes to intense mowing that involves cutting the toughest grass. They are not the best eco-friendly mowers because they pollute the air and make a lot of noise. Their running costs are also much higher than that of other mowers.

Electric lawn mowers

There are two types of electric mowers: corded and cordless mowers. One unique thing about both of them is that they are incredibly quiet. They produce less than 75 decibels which pretty low compared to gas-powered mowers that produce over 95 decibels.

How do electric mowers work? Quite simply, electric mowers are powered by either solar, battery or get plugged in to the nearest power outlet. On top of being less noisy, the motor of electric lawn mowers is eco-friendly because it doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases.

Corded electric mowers have a trailing power cord which can be a tad limiting. They cannot be used further than 150ft away from the nearest power outlet because it is hard to find a cord that can run that long. They also pose the possible dangers of mowing over the power cable. This will not only stop the mower but also put you at a risk of getting electric shock. You can reduce the shock risk by installing a residential current device on your power outlet.

Cordless electric mowers, on the other hand, are powered by batteries, usually 1 to 4. The more the batteries, the more the mower’s run time. More batteries also mean more weight. Depending on the model, batteries can be on the interior or the outside of the mower. The best cordless electric mowers are ones that have batteries on the outside as they offer great convenience as battery swapping is much simpler.

You can easily maneuver a cordless electric mower just like you would a gas-powered mower but it is less powerful and more expensive. Also, they come in fewer models, especially the self-propelled type. Disposing off the worn out batteries can also be somewhat problematic though some manufacturers do recycle.

Final thoughts

There are multiple types of lawn mowers in the present day thanks to the numerous technological advancements. Other than the common rotary and self-propelled mowers, there are unique creations like the robotic mowers that don’t require any human to control them and the hovercraft lawn mowers that ride on a curtain of air rather than wheels. So, how do lawn mowers work? There is no one-fits-all answer to this question. You have to be able to differentiate the multiple types of mowers by understanding their parts and operations to be able to get an answer to the question.

We have covered all the nitty gritties of lawn mowers, from definitions, to functionality and applications. You will also find it easier to choose a mower that meets your needs and is within your budget.

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