How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower with a Screwdriver

If you’re like most people, you only use your riding lawn mower a few times a year. But what do you do when you go to use it and the key and the manual are nowhere to be found?

With this guide, you can start your tractor using nothing but a screwdriver! Although it may seem like a daunting task, anyone can learn how to start a riding lawn mower with a screwdriver.

In fact, all you need is a little bit of patience and the right tools. This blog post will walk you through the process step-by-step. So, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not give it a try? You may be surprised at how easy it really is!

Do Some Prep Work

Before getting your riding lawn mower started, there are a few things you’ll need to do.

Firstly, make sure the area around the mower is clear of debris. This includes any branches, leaves, or stones that could get caught in the blades. Your whole lawn space should be clear of any toys or small children or pets.

Then, inspect the blades to ensure they’re not damaged or dull. If they are, it’s best to replace them before proceeding. Fill the gas tank with fresh gasoline. It’s also a good idea to add a fuel stabilizer to help keep the gas from going bad. Also check the oil and air filter to make sure they are all ready to go.

How To Use a Screwdriver to Start Your Riding Lawn Mower

There are multiple methods you can use to start your riding lawn mower using a screwdriver. The most common is by using the screwdriver as a key; this is best if the only thing stopping you from using your mower is that you’ve lost your key.

Method #1: Turn the Ignition

Almost any strong and thin piece of metal that can fit inside the switch will be able to turn it on. Finding a screwdriver head that will fit is likely the most difficult aspect of this approach.

To start, you’ll need a flathead screwdriver. Just insert the tip of a flathead screwdriver into the ignition and twist it as you would normally. The lawnmower should begin promptly.

Before starting, make sure the parking brake is engaged and the blades are disengaged. Otherwise, because of on-board safety sensors, the machine won’t start or do anything.

Method #2: Connect the Battery and the Solenoid

This is a more difficult and dangerous option, so we strongly advise wearing gloves while doing it. Although the screwdriver handle should keep any electricity from reaching your hand, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You also want to make sure that the brake is on and that the blades are turned off. While this method will avoid the safety sensors, you don’t want the blades to start immediately, just in case.

Step 1: Locate the Battery and the Solenoid

First, locate the battery and the solenoid. The battery may be found in a number of different places depending on the make and model of your riding lawn mower. On some models, it’s under the seat; on other models, it’s under the hood. If you need assistance identifying it, consult your mower’s handbook.

The battery is then usually positioned next to the solenoid, with a wire connecting the two. You should see two terminals jutting out: one positive and one negative. Again, check your owner’s manual for correct orientation.

Step 2: Bridge the Terminals

The next step is to bridge the terminals.

Luckily, the gap between the terminals is rather small, so any screwdriver should suffice, and if you don’t have a screwdriver available, any piece of metal, like a wrench, should be able to work instead. Definitely wear gloves while doing this step.

First, connect the negative terminal to the positive, in that order. When they are connected them, you might see a little spark as the electricity runs between them. The engine should start immediately once you connect them.

If the mower cuts off shortly after turning on, you may have to repeat this a few times. However, if it doesn’t stay on despite several attempts, the issue is most likely with the spark plug or the solenoid itself.

If the mower does stay on, however, then you’re off and running!

How to Stop Your Lawn Mower

The disadvantage of bypassing your ignition switch and using a screwdriver rather than a lawn mower key, is that there’s no way to turn the riding lawn mower off once it’s turned on. To accomplish this, remove both wires from the battery. Then, connect one wire from the bottom right terminal to the top right terminal (which is somewhat rotated). The engine will be disconnected, allowing the machine to safely shutdown.

Benefits and Drawbacks

There are multiple benefits to starting your riding lawn mower with a screwdriver. The most obvious is that you don’t need the key or the manual. This can be a lifesaver if you’ve misplaced them or can’t find them when you need them.

Another benefit is that it’s a great way to test whether or not your tractor is working properly. If it doesn’t start with a screwdriver, then there may be something wrong with the engine. In this case, it’s best to take it to a professional for diagnosis and repair.

However, there are also some drawbacks to starting your lawn mower with a screwdriver. One is that it’s not as easy as simply turning a key. It requires a bit of patience and know-how to get it started.

The starter switch might also be damaged by the screwdriver, because it is a sharp and strong metal object so it could scratch or twist the power switch, at which point it might become completely useless and you will need to get it replaced.

Another drawback is that it’s not always reliable. If the engine is cold or you don’t have the right tools, you may not be able to get it started. In this case, you’ll have to resort to the old-fashioned way of starting it with a key.

Be Safe

Overall, starting your riding lawn mower with a screwdriver is a great way to save time and hassle. However, it’s not always the most reliable method and it requires a bit of patience and skill. It should only be done by an adult and preferably with someone else around for supervision or for any emergencies.

Be sure to wear gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from any debris that could fly up. And always keep in mind that the blades are still sharp, even when the engine is off. So handle with care!


So there you have it! Your complete guide to successfully starting a riding lawn mower with a normal screwdriver. It’s not as hard as it seems, but be sure to take your time and do the prep work properly.

In this post, we’ve outlined the process step-by-step – follow these simple steps and in no time you’ll be ready to cut those grassy acres like a pro. We’ve also included some tips on how to stop your machine safely and effectively.

Now that you know how to start a riding lawn mower with a screwdriver, what are you waiting for? Get out there and give it a try!

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Written by Linda Chan
Linda Chan is a passionate gardener and writer with a background in horticulture and landscape design. She has over 10 years of experience working in the lawn care industry and has a deep understanding of the science and art of keeping a lawn healthy and beautiful.

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