Riding Lawnmower Will Not Shift Gears?

July 8, 2021

I have a 10 year old Poulan 42 inch 17.5 HP riding mower. A local mechanic had just replaced the carburetor and drive belt. When I got the mower back, I noticed it was much more difficult to stop. I had to throttle down (which I never had to do before). Braking gradually got worse.


Now, a month later, I can only stop the mower by pulling out the key. Also, it will only shift gears when off. It will not shift gears while running. The brake is basically useless. What is wrong? Is the brake dirty or loose? I DO believe the brake is the heart of this problem. What do you think?


Silver Answer Medal for All Time! 425 Answers
July 8, 20210 found this helpful

Talk to the mechanic that worked on it. It's possible that he didn't get the drive belt on properly, and it is somehow causing the brake problem.


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July 24, 20210 found this helpful

It seems you have problems that may have been caused by the mechanic that worked on your mower but since you cannot have them check your mower again, I really feel you are going to have to find another shop - maybe check out some of your local farm stores like Tractor Plus or any shop that sells Poulan. If you have a Sears Service center you might check their shop.


I'm assuming you have a way to transport your mower but if that is not the case then you'll have to call around and see if someone will give you an estimate on cost to repair at your home or pick up service.

There are some online mower forums that a lot of people use when having problems like this so maybe you might check some of these to see if they can offer suggestions on what you might try.


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August 31, 20210 found this helpful

If hard to shift, most likely linkage binding, and may need to be lubed, especially where shifter goes into tranny.

If mower shifts ok with out running, but shifts hard when running, most likely cause is belt not disengaging all the way, and may need to adjust linkage to clutch pedal.

August 31, 20210 found this helpful

Try adjusting the shift cable linkage.
Or ask help here:

May 7, 20220 found this helpful

My neighbor has one a few years old doing the same thing and it's never been serviced but I think her belt or linkage needs adjustment

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16 More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

September 25, 2019

I have a Craftsman DYT4000 riding mower. I just replaced the deck and drive belts on my mower. I went to test the mower. I started the mower and pressed the brake pedal and put it in reverse. The mower shifter locked in reverse at this point with the brake pedal pressed I could not shift out of reverse. I let off the brake pedal and started moving in reverse. While moving I was able to shift to neutral or any other gear. At this point if I pressed the brake pedal in I was not able to shift out of that gear, except if I was in neutral to begin with. Any suggestions on a fix would be great.


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
September 26, 20190 found this helpful

From reading this, it seems that you need a rod adjustment

September 30, 20190 found this helpful

Hard or not possible to swap gears only while running and the brake pedal is pressed. I just did a rod adjustment today and it seems to help out but is definitely still hard to shift if you have the brake pressed all the way in.


If you don't press the brake you can freely shift while moving. Thanks

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October 6, 2018

I have a Murray 38 in. manual transmission riding mower and it is missing a piece that changes the gears. Do I have to keep my foot on the clutch the whole time to control how fast it goes?

What part do I need and how do I fix it?

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April 7, 2018

I was driving my Murray riding lawnmower. While mowing I hit the back wheel on something making the tire come off the rim. I had to take the tire off to re-inflate it and after I got it back on and put back together I could still get it to run, but it wouldn't shift at all.

Any ideas on what might have gotten knocked loose or something I need to do differently to make it work again?


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
April 7, 20181 found this helpful

Maybe the bolt that holds the shifter linkage got damaged or knocked out of place.

October 15, 20190 found this helpful

changing tirew and jack slip and fell down now shifter wouldn't shif

June 24, 20210 found this helpful

The gear for the murrays riding mower wont go into forward but neutral an reverse only please help

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August 20, 2015

I have a Poulan riding lawn mower. Why is it not going into gear?


August 26, 20150 found this helpful

I think the drive belt is broke or the transmission is bad.

November 9, 20150 found this helpful

The other gears 1,2, 3, 4, 5 all work

July 17, 20160 found this helpful

I have a John Deere riding lawnmower it was fine last week when I mowed now I can't get it to move once in gear

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April 30, 2011

My riding lawnmower is stuck in first gear. What could be the problem?

By Amie from MO


June 6, 20111 found this helpful

If you lived in the San Antonio or Bandera Texas area, ProService could help you. If not, check your local Yellow Pages under Small Engine Repair. You should be able to locate someone who can repair your mower for you. Or, check with a local car repair shop, if you can't locate a lawn mower service, and any of their technicians should be able to work on it for you.


You have a transmission problem, which is not a 'do it yourself' project for a non-mechanical repair person.

September 28, 20181 found this helpful

Obvious its a transmission problem but question what could cause the transmission to be stuck in first gear?
We all know where to start to get it fixed

May 6, 20191 found this helpful

I just had to breakdown my whole drive end and found that the shifter shaft was frozen by rust and lots of gummy grease. I found the pin on the lever where it locks the ball bearing in each gear was worn in half also. This is the one that sits in the round slider to slide the shaft forks shifting the gears back and forth.


I now have to find a way to remove the shaft to get a new pin replaced. It is an older mower but nice. Someone abused the shift by not lubrication the shaft so it would shift easier.

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March 23, 2020

I just put a motion belt on a Murray 12/38 model # 38608x92a. Now that the belt is on it still acts as if it's in neutral, on or off. Am I missing a way that the transaxle can be disengaged?

Because even when it's off and in gear it moves as if it's in neutral.

Murray Riding Mower Not Shifting Gears


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
March 25, 20200 found this helpful

There is a problem with the drive chain or the clutch slipping. Check the drive chain and clutch to make sure the gears are locking in place when the motor tries to shift.

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August 18, 2019

I have a John Deere mower (used). I was mowing and did pay attention to how close I was to my stair. Apparently I hit it and now the mower won't shift into gear? Any suggestions as to how or what to do? I am no repair person, but can do some basic stuff or YouTube ideas? Also the brakes suck and I was wondering if they can be tightened or adjusted?

John Deere Mower Won't Shift After Hitting Something - riding mower


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
August 19, 20190 found this helpful

If you hit something, you bent or broke a part. It probably is not a basic fix and will have to be serviced.

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November 15, 2018

I have a Murray 40 inch mower 40507x8c. The shifter is very difficult to move. It will move, but only by applying a lot of force, which I fear will cause further damage. I am thinking low on gear grease or fluid, but I know nothing about them. Can someone help on this? I cannot afford a new transaxle or a new mower, but with my automotive knowledge I should be able to repair it.

Thank you for any responses.


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
November 15, 20180 found this helpful

Make sure the drive line belt is on properly.


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
November 15, 20180 found this helpful

Talk it through with one of their experts:

They know their products best and hopefully will get you up and running quickly!! Post back what you learn!

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October 7, 2018

I have a 17.5 hp Troybilt riding lawn mower that is only a couple of months old. I started to cut grass today and it would not go into gear. Help!


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
October 7, 20180 found this helpful

Dont do anything other than lubricating it or you may void the warranty. Take it back for servicing


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
October 8, 20180 found this helpful

Yikes!! Please don't monkey with it and call where you bought it or the company or you will risk voiding your warranty.

The contact info for the company is


It could be a super simple fix, but don't do anything until you hear from the experts or take it back to the store.

Let us know what they say. Be sure to ask about recalls too...just in case!!

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September 8, 2016

I have a Bolens 600 series lawn tractor. I can't get my tractor to switch out of drive. It was working, but now seems to be stuck in drive.

This tractor is old so I have not found any info to help diagnose or fix this yet. Still fishing for info.


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
August 10, 20170 found this helpful

This could be a problem with your brake disc. They could be rusted and therefore your pads are stuck. You can try spraying WD 40 on the brake disc and rock the tractor back and forth. If this isn't helping, loosen the adjustment on the break disc. Tap on the caliper level with a hammer to free up the break disc. When doing this make sure your parking break isn't set.

September 26, 20230 found this helpful

It has the Forward N Reverse in it and it is stuck in Gear how do get it out nothing wrong with the parking Brake

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February 13, 2008

My husband used our ride on lawn mower for two days in a row. Then it wouldn't shift out of neutral Does it seem as though the transmission is shot? We were given the mower, it isn't new.

Rae Ann from Templeton, CA


By bonnie (Guest Post)
February 13, 20080 found this helpful

Possible clutch or linkage, so it is not ready for the dump yet.

June 8, 20090 found this helpful

A buddy had a john deere rider that was doing the same thing. I found the drive belt from engine to tranny was broken was all and the belt on this thing was hidden, so it wasn't a obvious fix. Hope this is useful.

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May 20, 2019

I have a 70s Simplicity lawn mower. When it is off I can shift gears, but as soon as I engage the clutch I can move to first, but that's all.


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
May 20, 20190 found this helpful

If it is the shifting fork, you will have to disassemble it. There is a forum here:

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June 11, 2018

I have an older model Poulan 16 horse mower. It has a gear shift handle which will not move at all. I tried to shift it and it's stuck.

I took the handle off and lubed it up and it is just as frozen as before.


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
June 14, 20180 found this helpful

Try to purge the transaxle.
Instructions are here:

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January 11, 2012

We have been having trouble with the gears on this unit and have been told this is a common fault and not worth repairing; is this correct?

By Tony F


May 11, 20180 found this helpful

no its not true- thats bull - check brake and belts -

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August 29, 2013

I was cutting all day with my ride on lawnmower. I stopped and when I started it again and tried to put into gear it will not go into reverse or forward.

By Patrick

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July 3, 2013

I own a 2010 Troybilt 17.5hp Pony riding mower. I can't shift out of first.

By waynedillon

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