Top 5 reasons to buy a Lawn Tractor (Riding Lawn Mower):
5. Cup holders for your favorite cold beverage. 4. Sitting while you mow the lawn. 3. Twin cylinder power. 2. Great attachments that increase versatility and value 1. Electric start comes standard.
Pros: Great time and labor savings, great for mowing large yards, some models have optional attachments that add versatility.
Cons: More expensive maintenance required, higher initial cost,larger storage area needed.
Features available: Twin cylinder engines, hydrostatic (hydraulic) transmissions, “3 in 1” deck design ( Mulch, side discharge, rear bagging), snow blades, snow throwers.
Lawn tractors are cool. Invented in the late 1950’s, and marketed to those with large lawns, the lawn tractor ( sometimes known as riding lawn mowers) have come of age in recent years. Now quieter, more powerful, and downright stylish, these machines are loved by millions. Here are the features found in the best lawn tractors.
Lawn tractor engines are always 4 stroke engines ( sometimes known as 4 cycle engines). This means there is an oil reservoir in the bottom of the engine which provides lubrication for the engine. This oil becomes dirty over time, and should be changed periodically.
The best lawn tractors are equipped with engined that feature a pressurized oil system. This allows for the oil to be filtered ( like it is in your car). The oil filter may be changed with the oil, which will help to extend the engine life.
Four stroke engines have either a side valve or overhead valve ( OHV) design. Honda pioneered the use of overhead valve engines on lawn tractors in the 1980’s, and today many lawn tractor manufacturers offer the overhead valve engine option.
Overhead valve engines provide more power and fuel economy than a regular side valve engine. Since the engine is more complicated, the price is usually higher. Look for overhead valve engines on the best lawn tractors.
The less expensive machines come equipped with a single cylinder engine, which typically delivers less horsepower and torque than a twin cylinder engine. If your budget can afford it, you should strongly consider the twin cylinder design.
The transmission is what transfers the power from the engine to the rear wheels. The most simple ( and least expensive) version of a transmission uses gears for different speeds. Want to go faster? Shift into a higher gear. Sometimes this requires the transmission t be disengaged temporarily, by using a foot clutch. Often the tractor must be stopped to do this.
The best lawn tractors use a system called a hydrostatic transmission. This is easily the gold standard, and provides power to the rear wheels using hydraulic fluid in motion. The engine is used to power a hydraulic pump, which puts the fluid in motion. The pump is connected to a hydraulic motor. This provides power to the rear wheels.
So what makes a hydrostatic transmission so much better? Smooth power, baby! Since gears are not used, the pump output can be increased or decreased in almost infinitely small increments. If the fluid flow is reversed, the tractor will go backwards. The problems with shifting are eliminated. An added benefit is the possibility of using the pressurized transmission fluid to power an attachment, instead of using a fan belt.
Most lawn tractors come standard with the ‘3 in 1’ option , which allows the operator to rear bag, mulch, or side discharge, depending on operator preference. Some of the best lawn tractors come equipped with rear rollers on the cutting deck, which helps prevent scalping if the lawn of the yard is uneven.
Setting the deck height is accomplished by a notched lever on the lawn tractor which is usually located near the rear fender. Some models have a foot assisted height adjustment. In theory, a lawn tractor could be equipped with a single blade to cut the grass. In the past, this was very common. The best lawn tractors typically have 2 or 3 smaller blades instead of 1 large blade. This makes cutting the grass more efficient. The downside to this approach is the cutting deck has more moving parts, and maintenance costs are a little higher ( for blade and spindle replacements). The blade spindle allows the transfer of the engine power to the cutting blade. The spindle is a shaft supported by ball bearings. The top of the spindle shaft has a pulley for the fan belt to ride in, and the bottom of the shaft is where the cutting blade connects. Over time the bearings will wear out, so the spindle assembly is made to be removed from the cutting deck when needed. Some tractor models allow the spindles to be lubricated with grease, and others use sealed bearings.
Since a riding mower can tend to be clunky due to the large size, turning radius may be a factor in your lawn. Most brands are designed with the smallest turning radius possible in mind. Why is this important? In tight spaces, a turning radius that is too wide will force the operator of the tractor to stop, back up, and go forward again to get around obstacles. This process may need to be repeated several times to successfully complete a turn. A lawn tractor with a small turning radius can help avoid this problem. For those situations where tight spaces rule, consider buying Zero Turn Radius (ZTR) mower.
Power Take Off (PTO)
Power Take Off (PTO) is a fancy name for the delivering of engine power to a tractor attachment. Most PTO’s are attached to the cutting blades - after all, most lawn tractors are used to cut grass. Most manufacturers offer other neat attachments, like a snow thrower that mounts on the front of the tractor. In this case, the PTO supply power to the snow thrower ( of course, the mower deck is removed before mounting an attachment like a snow thrower).
The PTO can be engaged or disengaged as needed. The less expensive lawn tractors use a lever that must be moved to manually get the job done. The lever tightens a fan belt that is connected to the cutting blade (or attachment). The best lawn tractors use an electric clutch that is engaged with the flick of a switch.
To make the lawn tractors useful in more than just the summer months, a variety of Accessories are offered. This may include snow throwers, snow plow blade, traction chains for the tires. Additional items that might be useful for lawn care include mulch kits, front mount de-thatchers, rear grass collectors, or sunshades.
Most lawn tractors have a frame design described as step through. This refers to the absence of any obstacles to your feet or legs in the center portion of the frame in front of the driver’s seat. This allows the operator to exit from either side of the lawn tractor without having to lift feet and legs to clear an obstacle.
The best lawn tractors are equipped with a cast iron front axle assembly. Why cast iron? It is the most durable material available, and is very resistant to being bent when placed under great stress. Lower cost lawn tractors feature a fabricated steel front axle.
Lawn mower reviews. Now that the basics of lawn tractor design have been covered, it is time to find the best lawn tractor for your needs and budget. All the major brands are represented. Just click on the tractor brand you are interested in to learn more.