2013-07-02 New John Deere Mower

When we first moved here in 2009 I must have thought my Murray would last forever.  No such luck!  Within a few months the old Murray gave up the ghost.  The hydrostatic transmission went out.  I had to buy a new mower fast.  Hmmm.

Like most guys I had my heart set on one of those new Zero-Turn mowers.  But I really wasn't prepared to pay $7,000 and up for a professional model.  Even the consumer models were going for around $3,500 to $5,000 at the time.  Too rich for my blood.

Fortunately several manufacturers were coming out with models at a cost that hovered around $3,000.  The least expensive of these that was a reliable brand was Snapper at just under $3,000.  It was still a little rich for me but I thought, "Hey, it's a Snapper, right?"  WRONG!

Not sure why I didn't heed the warnings immediately.  The front wheel fell off the day I picked it up BEFORE I even left the dealer.  Bad sign, right?  There's more...

Oh, it cut fine and I loved the zero turn streering.  The 21 H.P. Briggs and Stratton engine was plenty powerful to race around the yard at 5.5 mph.  After all, the old Murray had lasted nearly 10 years.  You'd think a great brand like Snapper would last at least that long.  I've had friends tell me they kept a Snapper 10 years and it was just as good as the day they bought it.

I wasn't aware at the time that the mower deck was stamped from very thin metal.  The deck travels only a couple inches off the ground.  All it takes is a root or a rock sticking up a little on irregular ground (and I have LOTS of irregular ground).  With one wheel low on unlevel ground, the deck is a lot closer than it would be if the ground was level -- too close.

You wouldn't think traveling at 5.5 mph is very fast, would you?  It's way too fast to hit something with a thin mower deck.  And you don't even realize you've hit something with a thin deck.  The mower doesn't stop.  It doesn't even slow down.  You're first indication you've hit something is when the bent deck starts getting whacked by the blades.  Then you shut the mower off, look underneath and find you need a hammer to straighten things back out.

The problem is straightening metal too many times weakens it.  That's what happened here.  The first thing I noticed was the bent front edge.  In July 2013 I had have the deck welded and reinforced.  A machinist nearby did an excellent job.  This thing won't bend again for quite a while I'm sure but now the resale value is impared.

What I didn't notice (but was pointed out by a mechanic friend) was the mountings had begun to fail.  He told me the deck was almost gone.  I didn't realize what he meant 'til the deck fell off while I was cutting grass one day the end of June.  Double Hmmmm.

When I removed the deck from under the mower I saw where the metal had completely cracked around both mounts and failed like a bent can around one of them.  There were other cracks around the deck.  My machinist neighbor repaired it all for me and welded the mounts back with reinforcing plate on both sides for just $300.  I realize that doesn't sound cheap to some but it's only about a 1/3 the cost of a new deck.  Besides, a new deck would be just as thin as the old one.

Well, we can't have mower decks falling off, now can we.  I went shopping for a new mower.  I fell in love with a zero turn Husqvarna at Lowe's for only $3200 but my mechanic, my friends, and my wife all persuaded me to go with a new John Deere for about the same price.

Here's a pic of the new J.D.  It's a model D170, not very large but still nice.

The mower deck on my previous two mowers (the Murray and the Snapper) were both 42".  The deck on the J.D. is a foot wider.

Although it isn't a zero turn mower, I still have my old mower as long as it lasts.  I'll use it to cut the tight places.

The new John Deere will cut most of my 2 acres.  The new 52 inch deck gets the job done a lot faster.  It has its problems.  Because of the wide deck, it tends to gap the grass (irregular cutting heights) on turns and on unlevel ground.  I'm not a perfectionist.  I can live with that so long as it cuts fast and effeciently.  I had read that in the reviews before I bought it.  None of my previous two mowers cut all that perfect either.  Besides, the "grass" on my 2 acres is mostly poor anyway, some weeds, some different varieties including a little Bahaia which I always have to cut twice.

The Best plus about the new mower is Linda loves to use it.  That way I can stay inside enjoying the air conditioning while she mows the lawn.  Sweet!

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