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What is a Hydrostatic Mower?

By Dakota Davis
Updated May 16, 2024
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A hydrostatic mower is a lawnmower that operates on a system of hydraulics rather than using belts and gears to run the machine. It is powered by a hydrostatic transmission, which is made up of a hydraulic pump and a hydraulic motor. The pump generates a pressurized flow of oil to the motor, which in turn moves the wheels that are attached to it. Most hydrostatic transmissions have variable displacement pumps so that different speeds can be maintained. They also operate on a reversible closed loop system, with a fixed amount of oil contained within the pump and motor circuit, allowing the mower to move both backward and forward.

Available as either a walk-behind or a riding mower, a hydrostatic mower is most commonly controlled by one or two foot pedals, but some models are operated by hand levers. Some also have a cruise control feature that allows the operator’s foot to be removed from the pedal while mowing. These mowers are highly appreciated for the ease with which they can be operated; a users simply step or press and go.

There are other advantages a hydrostatic mower has over gear-driven and variable-speed lawnmowers. In general, hydrostatic transmissions offer high power in a compact size, maintain speed more accurately, and deliver a wider range of speeds that can be easily controlled. Hydrostatic mowers also maneuver smoothly and respond quickly, so users can change directions in tight spaces without difficulty. They work equally well under wet or dry conditions and feature dynamic braking, which allows for very quick stops.

A hydrostatic mower requires meticulous maintenance. Hydraulic oil and filters must be kept clean and usually need to be changed every 500 hours, which most commonly equates to once per season. The mower’s components also must be checked and cleaned regularly, since hose leaks or cracked fittings can ruin the entire system or cause the need for very costly repairs. In spite of this necessary maintenance, the hydrostatic mower is still considered more reliable than other kinds of lawnmowers, which frequently experience expensive control- and drive-related component problems, as well as transmission wear.

The disadvantages of a hydrostatic mower include a substantially higher price point. It can cost up to twice as much as its gear-driven and variable-speed counterparts. It is also less efficient, so it requires a more powerful motor along with more fuel than other lawnmowers.

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Discussion Comments
By anon237140 — On Dec 28, 2011

Dynamic braking is the system used in electric vehicles, also called regernerative braking. Hydraulic systems do not incorporate dynamic braking. They just have brakes.

By Acracadabra — On Apr 23, 2011

@MissMuffet - I wouldn't worry too much about handling the mower. Make sure it comes with a complete safety booklet, and of course you need to read it properly before you get started.

If you were really nervous I'm sure the salesman would offer some training too. They're not going to want to lose a sale at the end of the day!

The Toro Proline walk behind is a dream to operate, but that's the only type I've ever used. If you are looking for tips on a ride-on I have no clue.

By MissMuffet — On Apr 22, 2011

@behaviourism - I agree that a simple garden mower is probably enough for people who have a small lawn to care for. A hydrostatic lawn mower on the other hand sounds great for those who are less mobile, or have joint problems. The cruise control would be a great asset I'm sure.

The thing that bothers me is how much training someone would need to operate one. If you have only ever used a walk behind mower, isn't it a bit dangerous to buy one of these without having some sort of instruction?

I'm in the market for some gardening and lawn care equipment, and could handle the maintenance side of it. But it's a big investment if I can't use it safely!

By behaviourism — On Apr 19, 2011

This sounds like something just too complex for lawn equipment. Everyone I know has a really fancy lawnmower, usually one that is riding, and it just seems silly to me; too expensive and lazy for my taste, I guess.

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