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Petrol Rotary Lawnmowers - Which Model to Buy?

Petrol rotary mowers are all the same aren’t they?  Basically yes they are but there are a number of key features that you will need to consider depending on your lawn and your needs.

Here we will focus on the key petrol lawn mower features you need to consider when choosing the best model for your individual needs.

What Size Lawn Mower do I Need?

Pedestrian petrol rotary mowers vary in size of cut from 38cm (16”) through to 56cm (22”) Obviously lawn size is a key factor in choosing a petrol lawnmower but you will also need to consider other factors such as access to the garden through gates, shed and garage doors and if you have steps or other landscaping to negotiate. Bigger isn’t always better and you may need to compromise a larger cut to enable easier manoeuvrability around your property and in to storage areas and maybe vehicles for transportation if the mower is to be used at other sites like elderly parents, allotments or holiday homes. If access is not an issue and you have large areas of grass to be cut then bigger is always better, better for the machine because it will work for less time than a smaller machine and better for you because it will reduce your time cutting the grass (if time is not an issue then cutting grass with a mower is a good form of exercise) Like most things, bigger mowers tend to be heavier and so harder to manoeuvre.

Most manufacturers publish guide lines for what size area each model is ideally suited, commonly you are asked to compare your grass area to the size of a tennis court, and this seems to work for most users.

Do I Need A 4 Wheel Lawnmower or a Mower with a Roller at the Back?

The petrol rotary lawnmower is now the most popular mower type in the UK, replacing the traditional cylinder mower. Compared to a cylinder mower a rotary mower is a better all-round machine for use cutting long grassy area’s and formal lawns but for the best finish on a formal lawn a cylinder will deliver the best results although size for size they cost much more to buy and are very expensive to maintain.

A 4 wheel rotary lawnmower is capable of delivering good results on both formal lawns and rougher areas of longer grass such as orchards. You will simply need to lower the height of cut for the formal lawn to achieve a shorter cut and raise it in the orchard to avoid grounding the blade of humps bumps and tree roots.

However, if you like the traditional striped finish to your lawn and or more importantly you have border edges to your lawn then you need a petrol rotary rear roller machine. It is the roller on the back of the mower that gives you the striped finish. After the blade cuts the grass and fires it in to the grass box the roller comes along and lays the grass forwards. If you turn at the end of the lawn and mow back down next to the cut you have just made the roller then lays the grass down in the opposite direction give the contrasting striped finish.

Traditional striped effect on the lawn with a rear roller lawnmower

Where the rear roller really comes in to its own is if you have lawn edges, a 2” to 3” drop from the lawn to the beds or border. If you try to cut up to and over the edge of a lawn with a 4 wheeled mower the chances are the wheels will slip off and the blade will dig in to the lawn taking a big chuck out of it and may damage the blade. With a rear roller rotary mower the roller allows you to ride over the edge without falling off.

Why Would I Need A Self-Propelled Petrol Rotary Lawnmower?

Rotary lawnmowers come in both push propelled and self-propelled options. What this means is with both options the blade is powered by the engine but you push the push mower forwards and the self-propelled pulls itself forwards. Self-propelled mowers can also be pushed forwards by hand when the drive is not engaged. However, rear roller petrol rotary mowers are harder to push than a 4 wheel rotary mower, and 4 wheel mowers with larger rear wheels are the easiest to push and turn, a trick learned from the baby pushchair market we think?

Basic self-propelled petrol rotary mowers have a single pre-set speed. However, some people find the speed a bit slow and frustrating. Some models feature multi speeds, there’s bound to be the right speed for you and others have infinitely variable speeds so you can choose the exact speed that suits your pace.

There is also front or rear drive to consider? Most rotary lawnmowers feature rear wheel drive and all rear roller mowers are drive through the rear roller. However, some models such as some Husqvarna mowers feature front wheel drive. With a rotary lawnmower, when you get to the end of the lawn you tend to lean on the handles and lift the front wheels off the ground to make turning easier . The advantage of a front wheel drive rotary mower is that when you lift the wheels to turn the wheels will stop pulling forwards because they are off the ground. When you lower the wheels down again then off you go. With a rear wheel drive rotary mower you have to disengage the drive lever when you turn and then engage again to set off on the next row, this is not a major task but it is easier with front wheel drive.

Which Petrol Engine Option Should I Choose for my Rotary Mower?

For around 50 years the biggest manufacturer of small petrol engine has been the American company Briggs and Stratton, they are that popular that many owners would refer to having a Briggs and Stratton mower when in fact they only made engines, not mowers. Needless to say they are a reliable engine which is why they have stayed the market leader for quality affordable engines for so long.

Then about 25 years ago Honda started mass producing their own engine and supplying them to mower manufacturers as a premium alternative to Briggs and Stratton. Typically Honda these engines are very reliable and renowned for easy starting but at a higher price. Today Honda is still considered the premium small engine and so too are Kawasaki, Robin and Kohler.

15 years ago some mower manufacturers began producing their own engines in China and fitting them to their mowers as a budget option. These engines are generally fit for purpose but beware of brands offered by large retails under their own brand. Finding parts and services dealers can be an issue. All mowers with own brand engines sold by World of Power are supported with spare parts and a service dealer network.

To summarise, when choosing a mower very often you will have 3 options of engine giving you the classic choice of:

Good – Own Brand

Better – Briggs & Stratton

Best – Honda

Lawnmower engine manufacturers

What is A 3 in 1 Petrol Rotary Mower?

This generally applies to 4 wheel rotary mowers. Rear roller rotary mowers are designed to cut and collect the grass cutting for a neat refined finish.

A standard petrol rotary 4 wheel mower features a rear mounted grass bag or box and is designed to collect the grass cuttings. However, you can leave the collector off and the rear grass flap will direct the cuttings to the ground at the rear of the machine. This method is not ideal because you then walk through the grass cutting which can get messy and it can also be dangerous because the blade could pick a stone and fire it out of the back of the mower at the operator’s legs.

If you have different areas of grass, say a formal lawn where you need to collect the grass so it doesn’t get walked in the house and look a mess and say an orchard where the area is too big and the grass too long to collect then you need a mower that features a rear grass collect and either comes with a chute attachment that fits on in place of the grass collector and directs the grass out to the side away from you or a mower with both rear grass collection and a side discharge option. These 2 in 1 mowers are the best for the above scenario.

A 3 in 1 mower is as above but is also capable of converting in to a mulch mower.

What is A Mulch Mower?

Mulching mowers are specifically designed to recirculate the grass under the cutting deck and are fitted with special blades that re chops the grass cutting until they fall in to the ground below the grass surface. Mulching is beneficial the growth and quality of the lawn and as the massive benefit of removing the need to empty the grass collector so making cutting the lawn faster and kinder the environment. 

How a mulching lawnmower works