Horizontal shaft lawn mower. Can a Lawn Mower Run on Its Side

Can a Lawn Mower Run on Its Side?

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There are many practical maintenance-related reasons for tilting a lawn mower on its side. Running a lawn mower on its side, however, comes with inherent safety risks and not all lawn mower engines would run when positioned in this fashion. Tilting a lawn mower on its side requires being familiar with the location of the mower’s carburetor, exhaust, and fuel opening. Their location dictates on what side a lawn mower can be safely tilted. The feasibility of running a lawn mower on its side depends on the type of engine it has. This article will provide you with essential details about tilting a lawn mower on its side the correct way. It will also inform you about why not all lawn mowers would run while on their side.

Why Most Lawn Mower Engines Will Not Run on Their Side

First, it is important to note that running a lawn mower on its side exposes anyone near the spinning blades to the risk of severe injury. This can be from coming in contact with the running blades or by being struck with projectiles that the blades might cast into the air.

Vertical Shaft and Horizontal Shaft Lawn Mower Engines

If informed of the risk you still wish to attempt to run a lawn mower on its side, you need to know what mower engines have the capability of doing so. The first determining factor is whether the mower engine is equipped with a vertical or horizontal shaft. Only mower engines with a horizontal shaft can run for a sustained period on their side. Those with vertical shafts cannot. Also, the mower’s design and the placement of the carburetor and the crankcase may impede either type of engine from running on its side without causing potential damage to the engine or creating the risk of a fuel or oil fire. This is why hobbyists who repurpose horizontal shaft lawn mower engines for go-karts and other projects usually have to reposition the carburetor and other components for optimal performance.

Two-Stroke and Four-Stroke Lawn Mower Engines

The second determining factor for the feasibility of running a lawn mower on its side is whether it has a two-stroke or four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine can run on its side because it does not require an oil reservoir. Two-stroke engines are lubricated by adding oil directly to the fuel mixture. Therefore, placing them on their side will not cause a loss of oil circulation. Since a four-stroke engine does have an oil reservoir, being on its side will cause the oil in the reservoir to pool on one side. It will be unable to reach the crankshaft, and the engine will lose vital lubrication, causing it to seize up if run while on their side.

Unplug or Remove the Spark Plug Before Tipping the Mower on Its Side

As a precaution, to prevent the engine from accidentally being engaged while the mower is on its side, it is recommended that you unplug or remove the spark plug from the mower.

This is especially important if you plan on working on the blades while the mower is on its side.

What Side Can You Tilt a Lawn Mower?

The definitive answer to what side you can tilt your lawn mower will normally be found in your mower’s owner manual. However, if the manual is not available, a good rule of thumb to follow is to flip the mower so that it is resting on the exhaust side. The carburetor should be facing upward.

Even when tilted on its appropriate side, the lawn mower can have a few failed starts when placed back in its upright position. White smoke might be visible as you restart the mower, although not as intensely as when you attempt a restart after it was on its wrong side.

Place Special Attention to the Fuel Cap When Tipping a Lawn Mower

It is recommended that you expend the fuel in the mower’s tank before flipping it on its side. This is to prevent fuel from leaking out of it.

If you opt not to run the fuel down before flipping it, be aware that most lawn mower fuel caps have a venting mechanism. This means that even though the cap is tightly secured, fuel can escape from the vent when it is on its side. A way to prevent this is to remove the fuel cap, place a sheet of plastic over the fuel opening, and then screw the cap back on over the plastic.

The addition of the plastic sheet will create a barrier keeping the fuel from channeling through the vent.

Do You Need to Tilt Your Mower on Its Side?

If you need to remove the mower blades or remove obstructions, there isn’t an alternative to placing the mower on its side.

However, if you are planning to flip the mower to drain the oil from the dipstick tube, other options are available.

Check if your lawn mower has an oil drain plug at the bottom. If it does, you can place a pan under the mower and drain the oil without the need of tilting it on its side.

Another option for removing the old oil is to use a powered oil extractor pump such as the UTSAUTO 12V Oil Extractor (link to Amazon) or the MANNEW 12V Oil Extractor (link to Amazon). Both are affordable and suction the oil out of your mower from a tube that you slide down the dipstick tube.

You could also use manual siphon pumps, such as the Wekster Siphon Oil Pump or the Briggs and Stratton 4-liter Oil Extraction Pump (links to Amazon). These are slower than powered pumps but can drain the oil out of your mower just as effectively.


The success of running a lawn mower while it is on its side will depend on the type of engine that it has. It is a dangerous task, and great care should be taken if attempting to do so.

Simply tilting a lawn mower on its side to conduct maintenance without turning on the engine is much safer. By taking heed of the recommendations mentioned above, you will minimize any potential issue that might arise by flipping a lawn mower.

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Can You Run Mower Without Blade? – don’t do it!

Many people ask me about starting their mower engine without the blade, so much so, I wrote a post explaining all.

Many small engines are designed specifically for mowers and as such require the extra mass of a moving blade to help rotate the crankshaft on the compression stroke past top dead center (TDC). Starting such an engine without the blade may cause personal injury and damage the engine.

In this post, you’ll learn why most mower engines require a blade to run correctly. If you need video help, check out “Replacing mower blade video”.

Most mower engines won’t start without a blade attached.

Small Engine Types

There are two common engine configurations, the Vertical crankshaft, and the Horizontal crankshaft layout. Vertical and Horizontal crankshaft is self-explanatory. The orientation of the crank will naturally lend itself more suitable to one task over another.

Horizontal Engine

It’s not possible to turn a Horizontal shaft engine vertically and simply call it a Vertical engine. These engines have been designed to operate in their particular configuration. For example, most small engine oil systems are splash lube, it relies on splash paddles hitting a puddle of oil at the base of the engine. You can see the problem here. But the differences go deeper than that, as we’ll see shortly.

Horizontal small engines are designed to suit many applications, unlike vertical engines. The Horizontal engine is more common generally. They are best suited to driving power washers, water pumps, cement mixers, tillers, snowblowers, etc. They are not designed specifically for anyone single purpose and as such will run just as well with or without an attachment on the crankshaft.

Vertical Engine

Mower engines on the other hand are a little different. They are known as vertical shaft engines. Vertical shaft engines by their layout are perfectly adapted to sitting on top of a mower deck with a blade fastened to the crankshaft underneath.

Most of these types of engines are designed to have a blade fitted, meaning, the mass of the rotating blade is factored into the overall design of the motor. I say most mowers because some manufacturers employ a feature like Toro’s Spin Stop. They use a separate control lever to engage the blade. This feature allows the engine to run without the blade spinning, useful for propelling the mower across graveled areas.

Higher-end Honda mowers also sport this feature. If your mower has this feature then your engine will comfortably run without a blade attached. Likewise, tractor mower engines will run happily without blades attached, since they aren’t designed to have a blade fitted directly to the crankshaft.

Why Does Mower Need Blade To Start

Before explaining why a mower requires a blade, it’s helpful to know a little about the four strokes of an engine cycle. Once understood, the purpose of sufficient mass to rotate the engine becomes clear.

Stroke 1 Induction – As the piston travels down the cylinder the intake valve opens. Gas and air mixture enter the cylinder.

As the piston nears the bottom of the cylinder the intake valve closes.

Stroke 2 Compression – The piston meets resistance as it travels back up the cylinder, all valves are closed. Gas and air mixture is forced towards the combustion chamber at the top of the cylinder by the piston.

(It’s momentum, helped by the mass of rotating crankshaft, flywheel and blade that powers this stroke).

horizontal, shaft, lawn, mower

Stroke 3 Power – As the piston passes the very top of the cylinder travel (TDC), the plug fires and the explosion drives the piston downwards towards the bottom of the cylinder.

This of course also drives the blade which cuts the grass.

Stroke 4 Exhaust – This is the last of the four strokes of a complete cycle. The piston begins to travel back up the cylinder and the exhaust valve opens to allow spent gases to exit through the muffler.

As the piston reaches the top of the cylinder, the exhaust valve closes and the whole cycle begins again.

Mower Engine Needs A Rotating Mass

Flywheel Adds Mass

All small engines (vertical and horizontal) require a rotating mass to drive the piston when it’s not under power. This is especially true on the compression stroke, where the piston meets lots of resistance as it squashes the fuel mix into the combustion chamber.

horizontal, shaft, lawn, mower

To help the engine achieve sufficient rotational momentum, it employs weight in the form of a crankshaft, flywheel and of course, the blade is factored when the engine is designed for a mower.

If a moving object has sufficient mass (weight), it will carry momentum. Without the required mass rotating at a sufficient speed (mower blade spins at over 200 mph at the tip), the resistance the piston meets on the compression stroke would simply overcome the rotational force on the crankshaft and the engine loses its momentum. Firing the plug now easily causes the engine to reverse track, aka kickback.

Spinning Blade Adds Mass

Running Mower Without Blade Is Dangerous

Attempting to start a mower without a blade is dangerous, the lack of crankshaft momentum causes the engine to kick back. Kickback occurs when you pull the starter cord to start the engine and the cord is snapped from your hand sharply. The cord often whips you as it snaps back and sometimes breaks the pull handle. This can be a painful experience and is more commonly associated with a broken shear-key.

You can read more about a shear-key here.

Broken Shear-key

Running Mower Without Blade Risks Engine Damage

Running the mower engine without the blade risks damaging the crankshaft or shear-key. Blades aren’t universal, a mower engine is designed to run with a specific blade, by specific I mean not only correct length and width but also mass and lift.

As an engine approaches top dead center, and if it isn’t carrying sufficient momentum. As the plug fires, it causes the crankshaft to rotate in the wrong direction, snapping the cord from your hand as it does so. If you need video help, check out “Fitting mower shear-key video”, which covers the complete process from diagnosis to replacing, or check out a post I wrote here “Replacing a shear-key”.

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Horizontal Vertical Shaft Stationary Engines | Lawn Mower Engines Parts

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How to: Turn your lawn mower engine into a Go Kart Motor & How to fix your engine without any tools

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What is Meant by a Stationary Engine?

A stationary engine is an engine with a framework that does not move. Unlike other engines, this motor isn’t used to make a vehicle move but to immobilise power equipment, such as pumps or electric tools. You might see it used in:

  • Farming and agriculture: Stationary engines are mostly used to power various types of tools and equipment, including water pumps, circular saws and hay elevators. Since the engine doesn’t take up much space, it is fitted in a trolley that makes transportation easy. This type of engine—which is often powered by petrol—can be very useful in agricultural practices where power is often difficult to access.
  • Electricity and generators: These small engines are often used to power generators and provide electricity. If you want to make sure that you have backup power in the case of an outage, a stationary engine is your best bet.
  • Domestic: Stationary motors can power lawn mowers and other machines that are often used around the house and yard. If you need a hand completing your backyard chores, having a stationary engine can massively boost efficiency and productivity.

Once you have figured out how you’re going to use your stationery engine, it’s time to decide on the most appropriate engine to purchase. Thankfully, when you shop at Jono Johno, you’ll see we have one of the most comprehensive selections of stationary engines in Australia. So, whether you are looking for a more universal stationary engine or an aftermarket option for a Honda stationary engine, we’ll certainly be able to help you out.

All our engines include a handy starting guide, so you’ll know how to get started, use and maintain your chosen product. These engines are equipped with a standard shaft and footprint, as well as all other necessary features. You can rest assured that the stationary engine you buy will function as expected.

Everything for Your Stationary Engine Needs!

Here at Jono Johno, we are proud to offer a wide range of high-quality engines and engine parts for all your outdoor power equipment needs. Whether you’re looking for a new starter motor, a lawn mower engine, a replacement engine air filter, or any other stationary engine part, we’ve got you covered.

Our selection includes a variety of stationary engines suitable for a range of applications. Whether you’re looking for a petrol engine for your lawn mower, a horizontal shaft engine, or a vertical shaft engine for your generator, we have options available to suit your needs.

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How to Create a Go Kart with a Lawnmower Engine

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 52 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time.

WHAT’S INSIDE? Opening up a Horizontal Shaft Lawn Mower Engine | How Does It Work?

There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 686,227 times.

Though go-karts traditionally use horizontal mount engines, with a little modification, you can install a vertical shaft lawnmower engine to be the driving force behind your homemade racing machine. Taste again the speed, freedom, and exhilaration of the open road when you convert your lawnmower engine into the go-kart you’ve always wanted.

Removing a Lawn Mower Engine

  • It’s best to drain the oil from an engine when it’s slightly warm, as the heat allows for a faster flow than when cold.

Drain the gas. Loosen the fuel hose clamp before you start draining your fuel. You can do so by tracing the route of the fuel hose from the engine to the base of the gas tank. Notice where the hose attaches to your lawn mowers carburetor. [2] X Research source Using your pliers, squeeze the clamp loose and slide it upwards on the hose. Now you can detach the hose and drain your fuel into a bucket.

Locate the throttle linkage. You can usually find the throttle linkage beneath the carburetor. There will be a cable that should connect to the throttle, and by removing the screw that holds the cable in place, you can easily remove the throttle linkage. [3] X Research source

Find the starter. This part is on the side of the engine and will have the shape of a small can. [4] X Research source Electric-start lawn mowers will have a red battery cabled attached. Use a wrench to unfasten the cable from the starter.

Remove necessary nuts and bolts. At the base of your mower engine is the mower house, which is where the engine is seated normally. Using your wrench on the bolt and another to hold still the nut below the mower house, unscrew the bolts holding your engine in place.

Take off the drive belt. You will find the drive belt on pulley on the crankshaft beneath the engine. Incline the engine slightly forward and pull the drive belt from its pulley. [5] X Research source

Remove the engine. Taking the engine firmly with both hands, lift the engine from the mower house and place it carefully off to the side in a safe place.

Preparing to Install

  • Larger engines in the 13 to 22 horsepower range, which you can find on riding mowers, may destroy the transmission or kart. [7] X Research source

Pick a suitable go-kart frame. You will want one that can support both your vertical shaft engine and lawnmower gearbox comfortably. Your gearbox should will need to have non-trans axle set-up.

  • Most frames have a width that varies between 1/3 and 2/3’s the wheelbase of your go-kart, with wider models giving better stability. [8] X Research source

Assembling the Frame

  • Always use proper protective gear when welding. Failing to do so can result in significant harm to yourself.

Put in a floor. A 16 gauge sheet metal piece should be sufficient for the floor of your kart. Using your plans from earlier, drill holes in the sheet for the fastening bolts for your seat.

Weld a brace for your seat. You should brace both outer sides of the go kart frame with flat, 3/16 gauge steel. This is where you will install the bench for your seat.

Assembling the Steering Column, Tabs, and Spindle Brackets

Cut and install you steering column. You should cut a section of 3/4 x 11 gauge tubing and weld it to your steering tabs. Insert an additional 1 spacer loosely by the shaft near the steering hoop, grinding the shaft slightly near the hoop if too tight. Drill a three hole pattern with the holes equidistant from the center of the washer at the end of your shaft.

Add resting tabs for brake and throttle. These 2 long 3/8 diameter tabs keep your pedals in their resting and full forward positions. The closest tab to the center of the frame should be fixed a max of 1/2 after the crosswise piece your to which your steering column is attached. The second tab should be installed 1 3/8 after the first tab.

Attach spindle brackets. You will weld these to the front axle of your go-kart. The spindle should have a 1 clearance above the front axle.

Give yourself a foot rest. Use a 3/8 rod in a vise to bend it with a hammer into the shape of your passenger footrest if applicable. This will keep your feet from resting on tie rods.

Don’t forget your brake Band stud. This stud will serve as the pivot for your brake Band. Weld a 3/8 round bar to the frame 1 1/2 after your axle.

Assembling Motor Mount, Brake Rod, and Accessories

  • The motor mount should be welded as the final step to building your kart.
  • Your mount should be able to hold your lawn mower engine in the horizontal position.

Attach the throttle cable guide tab. About 4 away from the middle of the throttle pedal bolt hole, weld this tab to your kart on a 45 degree angle.

Put in the brake rod guide tab. Take your brake rod and insert it through the tab, bending it to adjust it to the brake Band. Next, take the tab with the rod inserted and weld it to the kart.

horizontal, shaft, lawn, mower

Bend your brake rod into shape. Bend this 1/4 round rod so that it angles to meet your brake pedal assembly. Cut the length of your brake rod as needed, and weld eyelets to the rod with a return spring installed brake pedal.

Give yourself a seat. Many go-kart kits do not bolt seats directly to the kart. If this is the case for you, use a simple frame and bolt this into the seat braces. Your seat should be cut at a 37.5 degree angle for a 105 degree incline for your backrest.

Weld motor mount and attach accessory parts. Having finished with the body of your go-kart, you can now weld the mount to your frame. Upon completing your weld, you can add tires, seat padding, and all other necessary hardware to your vehicle.

Installing the Vertical Motor and Gearbox

Bolt down both motor and gearbox to the mount. The location of your motor is not as important as that of the gearbox. [9] X Research source To properly install your gearbox, align it with the gear on the rear axle, and then bolt it into place.

Change the sprocket size for the gearbox. A sprocket is a gear toothed wheel inside your gearbox that controls the gear ratio for your transmission, which is another name for the gearbox. Your target gear will be about 16 teeth.

Attach a throttle cable to throttle linkage on carburetor. Now you can clean off any residual oil from your kart, but do so with care. Always allow for sufficient time for the materials you are working on to cool, like the engine or solder, before using a cleaner.

Community QA

Speed mostly depends on three factors, engine RPM, tire size, and gear ratio. So that question is not easily answered. Most 5-7 HP yard go-karts go 17-35 mph, with 25 mph being common. 8-13 HP go-karts with torque converters and large tires top out at around 40 mph. Race karts can go much faster as they use modified or two stroke engines that rev higher, so you could see speeds of 50-60 mph in those. Enduro and high end race karts can go much much faster.

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As long as the engine is from a decent brand (and therefore good quality), it won’t explode out of nowhere. You’d really need to damage it to make it explode.

Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

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