15 Reasons Why Your Cub Cadet Riding Mower Won’t Move Forward Or Reverse

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Although Cub Cadet riding mowers are powerful and highly-efficient, they are not without issues, and one of them is the mowing machine simply not moving in a forward or reverse position.

In this article, we look at the reasons why your Cub Cadet riding mower won’t move forward or reverse.

And some proven troubleshooting tips that can help you solve the mobility problem.

But before we get into that…

Some of the reasons why your Cub Cadet riding mower won’t move forward or reverse include:

  • Faulty drive belt
  • Missing idler arm spring
  • Stuck deck
  • Air in the hydraulic system
  • Defective pulleys

1. Manual Transmission Bypass Lever is Not in the Operating Position

Cub Cadet hydrostatic mowing machines make use of fluid in their transmission. These mowers come with a transmission bypass lever to enable you to move the lawn mower manually.

When the bypass or lever is engaged to manually push the mowing machine, it is important to disengage it after you are done moving it so that the mower’s transmission can move the wheels properly.

The bypass lever is located at the rear side of your riding lawn mower while you can locate bypass levers on a zero-turn mowing machine, one for each transmission (right and left).

Fix: Ensure that the bypass lever is in the operating position. For some riding mowers, make sure that you disengage the bypass rod. 

2. Broken, Worn or Loose Drive Belt

If you notice that your Cub Cadet can’t move forward or reverse, check the pump or drive belt to be sure that it is in the correct position or that it has not fallen off.

Fix: Replace broken/worn/loose drive belt.

3. Missing Idler Arm Spring

The main function of the idler spring is to place tension on the mower’s drive belt. Your Cub Cadet riding mower may fail to move in the forward or reverse position due to a stretched or missing idler spring.

Fix: Replace the missing idler spring.

4.  Missing Key in Axle

It is possible that you missed a small key that fell out of the axle while changing your riding mower tire. This will cause the mower not to move forward or reverse.

Fix: Install the missing key in the axle for the wheel to move. 

5. Defective Pulleys

Your Cub Cadet riding mower might fail to go in forward or reverse position if the pulleys are damaged. Inspect the pulleys for cuts, burrs or nicks that can cause damage to the belt.

Fix: You may need to contact a professional to fix the issue.

6. Drive Release Handle Not in Operating Position

The drive release lever allows your Cub Cadet riding lawn mower to roll in a free manner. The drive release handle also enables the mowing machine to move in a forward position. 

This component can be in the form of a lever, push/pull button and knob.

If the drive release handle is not in the operating position, it may stop your lawn mower from moving.

Fix: Ensure that you check the manual to locate the drive release handle and make sure that it is in an operating position. 

7. Broken or Loose  Linkage

A faulty linkage is one of the problems that may prevent your Cub Cadet riding mower from moving forward or reverse. 

It is important to check the linkage from the pedal to the rear end (hydrostatic drive) if it is not loose or broken.

Fix: It is important to contact an expert to help you to solve the problem. 

8. Air in the Hydraulic System

It is necessary to bleed the air out of the system after changing the hydraulic fluid. Air in the system may make the mower not move and this will affect the functionality of the mower.

Fix: Follow Cub Cadet’s procedures for changing the hydraulic fluid and bleeding air from the system in the owner’s manual.

9. Hot Hydraulic Fluid

Hot hydraulic fluid may also be one of the reasons why the riding mower won’t go forward. 

When you operate your Cub Cadet riding mower with a low fluid or bad hydraulic fluid, the oil will fail to lubricate the hydraulic system well and this results in overheating and increased friction of the fluid.

Fix: It is advisable to take the mower to a local repair dealership to fix the issue.

10. Stuck Mower Deck

Your Cub Cadet riding mower may fail to move forward or reverse as a result of a stuck deck. It is not advisable to mow on a slope that is higher than 15 degrees.

If the mower deck is engaged and climbs a high slope, it may get stuck on the ground, causing the mower not to move forward or reverse. It can also get stuck on a small grade if the pitch of the deck is low.

Fix: It is best to contact a professional to solve the problem. 

11. Non-Transmission Related Items That Can Prevent Your Cub Cadet Riding Mower From Moving Forward or Reverse

If you can detect transmission problems on your riding mowing machine, you may need to check for items that can prevent the air and fuel required to run the mower’s engine.

Inspect mower for issues such as clogged fuel lines, plugged fuel filter, defective battery and charging system.

Fix: Here are some tips on how to fix issues that are related to non-transmission items:

  • To clear a clogged fuel line, spray carb cleaner into the line and remove the blockage with compressed air and then reinstall it.
  • You can also replace the fuel line with a new one if it is in a bad condition.
  • Replace any blocked fuel filter.
  • Contact a professional to fix the issue of defective battery and charging system. 

12. Transmission Failure

Transmission problems can result in an inability to shift gears which will prevent your Cub Cadet lawn mower from moving in a forward or reverse position.

Leaks in transmission lines or fluid reservoirs can cause shifting problems. This can cascade to engine parts like pistons and sticking valves

Fix: It is best to contact an expert to troubleshoot the problem for you.

13. Stuck Brake Lever

If your Cub Cadet riding mower has been sitting for a long period, the brake lever might get stuck. This will prevent the mower from moving forward or reverse. 

Fix: You need to work the lever back and forth to ensure that it is moving freely or you contact an expert to help you fix it.

14. Cub Cadet Riding Mower is Stuck in Gear

The riding mower may get stuck in gear due to some factors such as operator error in adjustments or wear and tear. 

There are some instances where you adjust the brake tension instead of replacing worn pucks or brake disks. This will hinder the gear-shifting process.

Other likely causes may be dysfunctional brake pins or worn parts connected to the transaxle.

Fix: It’s advisable to hire a professional to help you troubleshoot this problem.

15. Carburetor Issues

A faulty carburetor can cause the gas-to-air mixture to become too rich or too lean, causing it to halt when you try to move the mowing machine forward or backward.

Fix: Replace the bad carburetor. 

How Does a Cub Cadet Hydrostatic Transmission Work?

The hydrostatic transmission draws power from the crankshaft so that it can operate the pump motor. The engine of your Cub Cadet riding mowing machine helps to turn the hydraulic pump.

The hydraulic fluid is forced into the hydraulic motor by the hydraulic pump. The force of the hydraulic fluid causes the hydraulic motor to turn. In addition, it operates what is attached to the motor.

The hydrostatic transmission comes with bypass valves, operating valves, and check valves that control the direction, force, and speed of the hydraulic motor. Some of these valves also offer protection to the system against under-pressure or overpressure.


If your Cub Cadet riding mower isn’t moving forward or reverse, the first step to take is to figure out what is causing it.

In this article, we have revealed some of the possible causes such as broken or loose linkage, stuck deck, hot hydraulic fluid, defective pulleys, and worn drive belts.

Read our recommended troubleshooting tips to solve the mobility issue. If the problem persists after implementing the tips shared here, it’s best to call a technician to handle the issue.