TN Hillbilly

Lawn Mower Recommendation

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So I have posted this here in the Coffee Shop because I know some of you are like me and don't venture to the cub page often, but I also know almost every one of you has a lawn mower or 3.

So my old John Deere 318 has reached the end of its life (cracked block, cant find one to fix).  I have been using a Simplicity Sovereign which is hydrostatic and a nice enough machine.  However, previous owner was not good to it and it leaks and uses a lot of oil.  Now, I have a small yard, takes 20 minutes to mow with the 42" deck on the Simplicity (small yard = larger hayfield, good math!) and I will mow around barns, sheds, garden every 3 weeks or so (maybe 1.5 hours).  The most important task it performs, though, is pulling a 4X8 trailer loaded with firewood (500lb?) into the basement every 3-4 days in the winter.  The John Deere was perfect, the Simplicity just okay at this.

So I want to get something to replace the JD, sale the JD318 for parts, and also sale the Simplicity while it has some value.  Came up with the perfect solution--get a Cub 154 Lo-Boy!  Until I told my wife.  She kindly pointed out to me that while I would LOVE running the new 40 year old machine, SHE might prefer something a little easier to mow our small yard with, something hydrostatic, maneuverable, etc. 

So I need advice.  New John Deere mowers of a large enough size are $3500-5000.  New Cub Cadets $2750-4500.  New MTDs $2000-3500.  Now I don't mind buying something used, like a Cub 149, but I know nothing about them, and I want reliable and dependable.  I know and expect to spend time working on our tractors, mowers, haybines, rakes, tedders, balers, loaders, tillers, trailers, wagons, chainsaws, 4wheelers, vehicles, etc, etc, etc.  When I come in to mow the yard, it would be really nice to just turn the key on and mow.

So...advice?  Thanks, as always.

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The Deere 318 is one of the all-time greats.  They still command strong money around here.

Lawn & Garden Tractors:  I don't like much of anything Deere builds now until you get up into the X700-series...then you're at the price of a good, used car!  I am not familiar with Cub Cadet's line these days.  The MTD parent company thing tends to make me nervous.  Simplicity seems to still build some good mowing machines.

If you are just mowing, it is hard to beat a zero-turn mower if you have flat land.  I think that a Hustler Raptor SD would fit the bill for you.  It will dramatically reduce your mowing time.  Hustlers have an excellent cut in my experience.  I have a little 42" Raptor at home with a mulching kit and really like it.  At work, we have a rear-discharge Hustler Super Z Hyper-drive and it is an absolute animal!  What your local dealer sells comes into play.

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For small yard like you have i think a normal tractor style be ok.  We have 2 Husqvarna 42" units.  Hydro etc very pleased 

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I would consider the zero turn but for a couple reasons--the yard is level enough, but when I mow around barns and such, I get into what we call "sidling" ground (aka steep).  Also, I don't know if the zero turn would pull the firewood trailer all that well.  BTY, I was at the Deere dealer yesterday and told him I needed to replace a 318.  He showed me the X700s...nice machines, but out of my price range!

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Why not repower the 318 with a Honda? 

Nice, easy to start, best of both worlds...

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Son bought a new Deere year ago this past spring.  He got frustrated with the CC 100 I restored for him and brought it back early one Saturday morning about 6 am.  It's almost a 3 hour drive.  Anyhow, he has several trees in his back yard, was making a turn looking where he was going, not where he was at and bumped a front tire into a tree. When he parked the tractor in his garage he noticed he tweaked the front axle almost an INCH.  It's an X540, 24 hp Kawasaki, 48 inch deck.  So yeah, X700 series, nothing cheaper.

After mowing yards for 52-53 years with Cub Cadet garden tractors, pushing snow, blowing snow, plowing at CC PLOW Days, I'm back to having a 1965 Model 100 I ran when I was 10 years old, a '68 model 72 with a 14 hp engine I bought used in 1980, and my 982 I bought in 2000.  I did have a 129 w/44A deck I refurbished about 1989 that I sold in 2006. Plus my new CC Tank zero turn, 27 hp Kawasaki, 54 inch cut.  Took 4 hrs to mow with 982, 2-1/2 hrs with Tank. I find a zero turn handles slopes O-K as long as they're dry and drive wheels remain on downhill side.  Slopes the tractors would slide off of the Tank will run along on nicely. Cub Cadet makes zero turns with steering wheels, glad I got levers, turns are totally effortless.  If my 2-1/2 acres yard was smoother I could cut another hour off the mowing time.  The zero turn deck does WAY nicer job mowing than the 40 year old IH decks.

Not sure there is a garden tractor mower worth a darn anymore. Would not buy a Husky, or Deere, or Toro.  Parts to keep an IH Cub Cadet are easily available, not cheap, but available.  But they do need work occasionally.  The 982 CC was the only CC that used the Onan B48G engine, and it's the part of my 982 I hate the worst. Fragile conn rods, I haven't broken one but I run the engine like they're made from glass, Governor is terrible, who thought putting the points in the top of the crankcase was a good thing?  The tractor itself is rock solid.

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I have a little 618 Grasshopper with a 52 inch deck and I am very happy with it. I have a good sized pond I mow all the way around and in places where the old cub cadet would make me nervous, I just throw the sticks forward on the Grasshopper and don't even think about it, they have a very low center of gravity. If you are going to get a rider, you can't go wrong with a Cub Cadet 1811 or 1812. They have an 18 hp kohler opposed cylinder engine and are basically a newer version of the 782. They are also the last steel hood and fender Cub Cadet made.

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X2 hustler. My mom and I each have a hustler fastrack mowers and love them. Been great. I see your point about the wagon though. Zero turn wouldn't do you much good there. Do you have a small tractor that you could make a 3pt carryall for the back and use instead? We hauled train loads of wood on a carryall when I was a kid. Still use one once in a while. I can tell you  new mowers in the caliber of mtd or anything from Lowes or equivalent are a waste of money imo. I would repower your old one or find a nice one and save yours for parts if you can't get along with a zero turn. At moms we mow pretty steep hills with no trouble. You have to learn when and how to do it. Or one last option is to make or find a 4 wheel wagon. I would think as long as you arent pulling loads up out of the woods with big hills it would do that just fine. Mom has one of those vacuum attachments she pulls behind hers,cyclone rake I believe it's called and it does fine even full of mulched up oak leaves. You can feel a little more hesitation in the controls but no power loss or spinning. 

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X2 on repowering the 318 with a modern V-twin, whether it's Honda, Kohler, Briggs, etc.... there are many kits available to make it an easy swap. And you won't believe how much more capable and efficient the tractor will be with the new powerplant. 

As to a zero turn, why wouldn't it pull your trailer? Think about it, they have their weight centralized around the drive tires to effectively steer, and the hydro's are built heavy since they have to take the abuse of constant speed and direction changes to facilitate turning.

For a heavily built new tractor, unfortunately, JD is about the only game in town, and that green paint is expensive. By the sound of what you plan to use it for, I would think some of the lesser built brands - as long as you get one of their larger models - should do the job just fine.

For a Cub Cadet, you may be interested in finding something used from the late1990's or early 2000's. The metal hood Cub 2000 and 3000 series are excellent machines and you can get them for $500 to $2500. 

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3 hours ago, EquipmentJunkie said:

The Deere 318 is one of the all-time greats.  They still command strong money around here.

Lawn & Garden Tractors:  I don't like much of anything Deere builds now until you get up into the X700-series...then you're at the price of a good, used car!  I am not familiar with Cub Cadet's line these days.  The MTD parent company thing tends to make me nervous.  Simplicity seems to still build some good mowing machines.

If you are just mowing, it is hard to beat a zero-turn mower if you have flat land.  I think that a Hustler Raptor SD would fit the bill for you.  It will dramatically reduce your mowing time.  Hustlers have an excellent cut in my experience.  I have a little 42" Raptor at home with a mulching kit and really like it.  At work, we have a rear-discharge Hustler Super Z Hyper-drive and it is an absolute animal!  What your local dealer sells comes into play.

What makes the 318s better? I see a few locally w/wo baggers going around $1600. 1000 hr machines. One has a Honda replacement motor but tractor has 1500 hrs total. I would like to have a bagger at home. 

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REpower the 318. You would have to spend in the 7$K range to get a new one even close. 

http://www.smallenginewarehouse.com/Repower-Old-Equipment/John-Deere-318-Category/

http://www.repowerspecialists.com/johndeere318.php

There are other kits out there, I just picked these 2 for an example. If it were me, I'd go with the Honda. 

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6 minutes ago, yellowrosefarm said:

REpower the 318. You would have to spend in the 7$K range to get a new one even close. 

http://www.smallenginewarehouse.com/Repower-Old-Equipment/John-Deere-318-Category/

http://www.repowerspecialists.com/johndeere318.php

There are other kits out there, I just picked these 2 for an example. If it were me, I'd go with the Honda. 

My Buddy put a Briggs & Stratton 18 hp in his 317 Deere,  came from SEW,  only 2-3 hours from truck delivery till his test drive.  Been trouble free for 7-8 years now.  Burns less gas than the Kohler KT-17 that was in it.

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MTO, the 318 Deere (and its brand X & Y brethren) is about as sophisticated and durable as lawn and garden tractors got before the bean counters realized that they lasted too long.  The Cub Cadets plateaued in that same era.  The next series of machines that replaced them were dramatically cheapened.  For instance, shafts gave way to belts.  Welded steel gave way to stamped/formed frames.  I often say that the '70s was a low point in many aspects of American culture (cars, fashion, hair and argueably music)...but it was the Golden Age of lawn & garden equipment.

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I say get a 340 with a belly mower :D After I decided to give the 240 to my wife "officially" I got a 60" finish mower for it. She loves it. But we just use it for the big areas. It takes about 3 hours to mow with a 20hp Ranch King.

I've got two Allis Chalmer (simplicity) mowers as well. I love the flat twin briggs for smoothness and quiet operation.

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18 hours ago, EquipmentJunkie said:

MTO, the 318 Deere (and its brand X & Y brethren) is about as sophisticated and durable as lawn and garden tractors got before the bean counters realized that they lasted too long.  The Cub Cadets plateaued in that same era.  The next series of machines that replaced them were dramatically cheapened.  For instance, shafts gave way to belts.  Welded steel gave way to stamped/formed frames.  I often say that the '70s was a low point in many aspects of American culture (cars, fashion, hair and argueably music)...but it was the Golden Age of lawn & garden equipment.

One weak point on Deere garden tractors is the wiring harness.  The new tractors are actually worse, more electrics and imported harnesses.  The IH Cub Cadet harnesses were good, but how good depends on if they were stored inside and if a prior owner hacked them up.  I put a new OEM harness on my CC 70 restoration, Dad had been hard on it,  but the factory harness on my 1968 #72 is still fine. It was 14 years old when I bought it.  It's 49 yrs old now.

I'll say one thing about MTD,  they fixed several weak spots on Cub Cadets. And what's nice, those improved parts fit the old tractors. The later Cyclops tractors had much improved splined and clamped spindles on the front axle, and installing one on any vintage CC from a 70/100 to a red one is referred to as the Super Steer Modification.  Tightens steering radius, eliminates slop in the linkage.  MTD also increased rear axle size, high HP hydrostatic tractors had twisted ends off the axles in rare instances. Also installed couplings between engine and trans similar to a Lovejoy coupling that beat a spiral roll pin in service life.

I think the CC mounting of attachments beats Deere hands down. Front, mid, rear.  Didn't take Deere long to copy IH'S Sundstrand hydro, but they stuck with the Peerless gear drive, so every quarter scale pulling tractor that does any good starts with a gear drive Cub Cadet.  And that variable speed drive Deere put on their gear drives is/was nice when it works, but has a shorter service life than IH'S Torque Amplifier. One thing I learned early was that 4-1/2 inch dry clutch on Gear Drive Cub Cadets handles an Unbelievable amount of abuse!

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I'm takin the 318 to a guy that may be able to fix the block.  You guys have got me scared to purchase new!

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Like everything else, new=disposable. You can buy quality but it seems to start around 4k. Most under 3k seem to be rather cheaply made. And even 3k can go a long way to refurbishing an old lawn tractor.

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I have a 316 and worked as a tech at the dealership when it was sold new. I have a 345 also, but would sell it first if I had to only have one. One of our customers back then was mowing a 30 acre field every week with a 318. I've seen them in situations no riding mower should be in and surviving nicely. We fitted half a dozen of them with foot straps for people who were paralyzed but still wanted to mow. The only really bad thing was the paint that tended to flake off in sheets on some of them. Mine is that way and I'm just touching up the newly exposed areas until it's all off and then will repaint the whole thing. Last year I rebuilt the deck, welded in a support ring around the center spindle and all new bearings and paint. Good for another 20 years.

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Doctor Evil, I agree about the wiring harnesses on Deere lawn and garden tractors.  My brother had fits trying to get his 120 tractor straightened out after age and a groundhog did a number on his.

I won't disagree with your assessements about the Cub Cadets.  The drivelines are very durable.  I should have clarified that MTD's influence seemed to get worse with time.  The early models that looked like IH's were good machines.  It seemed like things began to go downhill like everything else in the industry in the '90s.

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I'd say Cub/MTD held out a little longer than most before cheapening them up.... longer than they get credit for.

They had the cyclops tractors up to around '96, and as Dr.Evil said, those were still pretty similar to the IH Cubs. Then the 2000 and 3000 series with metal hoods were still pretty good machines.

Around 2005 when the plastic hoods went on, all bets are off on quality, and man are they ugly.

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5 hours ago, EquipmentJunkie said:

Doctor Evil, I agree about the wiring harnesses on Deere lawn and garden tractors.  My brother had fits trying to get his 120 tractor straightened out after age and a groundhog did a number on his.

I won't disagree with your assessements about the Cub Cadets.  The drivelines are very durable.  I should have clarified that MTD's influence seemed to get worse with time.  The early models that looked like IH's were good machines.  It seemed like things began to go downhill like everything else in the industry in the '90s.

Agree.  I bought a commercial zero turn. They don't make the model anymore, salesman was adamant I would not be happy with anything less after running the 982 for 15 years.  He was absolutely right. I would not have bought a new CC lawn or garden tractor.  CASE/IH used to make a sub-compact tractor, DX-18 IIRC,  I would have probably bought their little 30 hp Farmall. Or maybe the 35 hp to get a cab and heater/AC, use it year round.

Yep, good stuff still made in 1980's, but by 1990 stuff was disposable.  And even the good stuff not built like 25-30 years before.

If I had to buy a new zero turn I'd look REALLY hard at a Bad Boyz, and "Mow with an Attitude".  I'd have to get a signed poster of Mallory first.

 

 

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6 hours ago, yellowrosefarm said:

I have a 316 and worked as a tech at the dealership when it was sold new. I have a 345 also, but would sell it first if I had to only have one. One of our customers back then was mowing a 30 acre field every week with a 318. I've seen them in situations no riding mower should be in and surviving nicely. We fitted half a dozen of them with foot straps for people who were paralyzed but still wanted to mow. The only really bad thing was the paint that tended to flake off in sheets on some of them. Mine is that way and I'm just touching up the newly exposed areas until it's all off and then will repaint the whole thing. Last year I rebuilt the deck, welded in a support ring around the center spindle and all new bearings and paint. Good for another 20 years.

Had a nice discussion with a salesman at the Deere L&G dealer in Silvis, Illinois years ago.  Most hours usually were 1000 to 1200 hours with the Onan, city owned tractors that had the hours put on fast would get around 1500, salesman said most he ever saw was 1700. KT-17 Kohler was less, sometimes lots less.  Even the little diesels were not the total answer.  My Buddy saw the invoice for the 430-diesel garden tractor Deere Davenport bought from Horicon, $10,000 for just the tractor back then, 1990's?

We got discussing mowing the lawn once at work at the machine tool company I worked for. I mow 2-1/2 acres, coworker mowed most of 5 acres, one guy almost 10.  He knew a guy who mowed so much it took him better part of five days to mow.  I'd be fencing off lots of acres and grazing cattle or horses, sheep. Great Plains makes a finish mower something like a Batwing, biggest size was 18 or 19 feet.  The local school district had traded their old 14 ft for a new 11 ft, less trimming in places the bigger one wouldn't fit and I was interested in it till salesman said $17,000 plus tax for it. THATS what you mow 30 acres with.  With a 6 ft bush hog at 5 mph I covered just over 3-1/2 acres an hour, nine hours for 30 acres.  A 318 with a 48-54 inch mower is the wrong tool.

I saw guys on WFM.COM complain about the switch from liquid to powder paint.  The old fiberglass hoods were another thing they didn't like.

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My 1997 Cub 2165 during it's annual cleaning and service. This has been a real good tractor, though it does get this kind of care when the blower comes off and the mower goes on.

DSCF0465.JPG

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Ohhhhhh.....to buy or not to buy?  I wish you LUCK!  I just went through this, finally made a decision two weeks ago.  The old mower I had (Poulan Pro, 42" deck) was a good mower, I can't fault it one bit.  Had it for 15 years now and mowed just under 2 acres with it each week.  In the last two years its gradually been burning more and more oil each time I mowed.  Son had his $50 mower crap out on him and wife told he could have our oil burning Poulan - this was before I decided what we were going to buy for a new mower!  Have a 982 that had an Onan - I HATE those things!  Great engine when running right, quiet, smooth - but otherwise, frustration city!  I re-powered the 982 with a used Kohler Mag 20 last fall.  Ran great until I blew the fuel pump on it at the end of the winter blowing snow and filled the engine with gas. :angry:  Have a 782 with a Kohler Series II engine in it, yeah had the fuel pump go on it this spring when I was mowing the grass (think it was the 2nd time this year).  So needless to say my tractor with the 50" deck is out of order.  I wasn't spending the money on another engine for the 782 just yet - would rather put a diesel in it sometime in the future.  The Series II engine isn't worth putting more money into I found.  Its getting tired.

If money wasn't an object, I would be rebuilding the old Cub and mowing with it all the time.  VERY comfortable tractor, heavy, heavy duty!  But, my wife is like your's and she won't drive a tractor she might have to tinker with before mowing.

Couldn't pay me to buy a JD tractor (at least the newer ones).  Looked at Hustler, wasn't impressed with the way they hook their decks to the main frame, seemed light to me??  Looked a the new Cubs, HA!  Sorry to those who do like them, my eyes seen JUNK!  An insult to the Cub name I think.  Would have to go to the 3000 series I think it was (their HD Garden tractor style) to get something even close to the same as the old Cubs - and even then there wasn't any comparison.  The Cub dealer I was at had 6 or 7 different models there, wasn't impressed with any of the tractors or zero turns.  And the price they were asking for them was insane!

I looked at every possibility around here to buy at a dealer where I could get parts and service if needed.  Ended up at Toro and bought one of their Timesaver HD zero turns.  More money than I was looking to spend - but in my opinion, I ended up with WAY more tractor than what I had seen at other dealers.  The dealership is 15 minutes from my house, gave me $650 off the retail price that was hanging on the tag, this year's model.  So I can't really complain.  Its one model down from their commercial entry mower.  54" deck, no steering wheel, decent tires (not as nice as the 982 mind you), VERY comfortable seat too.  Wife has big problems with her spine, and she tried it out on our lawn and was amazed that it didn't hurt her back - and our lawn certainly isn't smooth by any means.

Answer to your problem - you have to do a lot of reading and searching at dealerships I think.  You can't tell anything by looking at the pictures on the web I found.  You need to see them in the dealers yards and see how heavy or not so heavy built they are.  I was seriously thinking of buying a compact tractor at one point to mow with, kill many birds with one stone in buying.  Just couldn't justify spending that much yet to mow the lawn.  Maybe in the future can justify it and be able to have the loader and put it to work in the fields picking rocks or around the farm - but not yet.

I agree with Troy, the Husqvarna's are nice - I hate their foot "paddle" for the hydro  though.  That turned me off right away for my purposes.  Kubota was the same way, aside from the HUGE sticker price! :o

 

Good luck in your search!

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had the same dilemma spring before last when zero turn died but still had my old backup Economy Power King tractor 48" cut but man she was tired [1977 model] took me 6&1/2 hrs to mow looked really serious at Scag mowers then found Big Dog mower at dealer when looking at Dixie Chopper bought the Big Dog 27hp. 60" cut Kawasaki engine just as stable on hills as the Economy and it has chains weights and fluid in all four tires. Big Dog has seatbelt for a reason 16 miles per hour almost like a carnival ride also pulls my old vacuum box wagon with complaint has wheelie wheels on back but haven't needed them yet that I'm a wear of yet {but son might have} 0%interest for 5 years and the parts to repair my old zero turn was the deal maker. really happy with it so far takes bout 1 and 1/2 hours to mow now russ    

 

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