Archive for Compact Tractors
Here you are searching Craig’s List once again for that great deal on a John Deere garden tractor.
Then you see this ad “John Deere Garden Tractor For Sale – $XXX”. With great anticipation you
click on the ad expecting to see a 140, or a 318, or perhaps a 430, and there it is a RX75 rear engine
rider. Or perhaps you’re clearing off your drive way with your John Deere X748 when your
neighbor asks about your “lawn mower”. Annoying, yes, and perhaps nitpicking, but when will the
populace learn that your garden tractor isn’t just a lawn mower.
Riding mower, lawn tractor, garden tractor, the names get tossed around and can get intermingled
and confused. So with this in mind, this little article will help explained what is what and what
nomenclature we should be using to avoid confusion and our own annoyance.
First off, there are several different categories, rear engine rider to a super garden tractor. Knowing
what constitutes a machine in each category will help you explain to your wife that your “garden
tractor” is not a “lawn mower”.
First what is a lawn mower? This term can be used for a walk behind mower to a ride on mower.
It isn’t really a category, but more or less a generalization or a cross of several categories. I would
categorize a walk behind, a rear engine rider, and a lawn tractor as a lawn mower. These machines
usually have just one function or just one function it does well, and that is cut grass. For this article
sake, a lawn mower is not a category, but a blend of several machines that only functions well
when it’s mowing grass.
Since we all know what a walk behind, or push mower, is we will skip that category. Sufficient to
say, they only have one function and that is to mow grass and it’s pretty oblivious to all that this is
what we will call a lawn mower.
Our first category we will discuss is the rear engine rider. The category name pretty much
describes this category. It’s a ride on lawn mower and will have the engine in the rear of the
machine, either behind the operator or slightly underneath the operator. They normally have small
tires and rims, have small decks as small as 24 inches, but can have decks up to 38 inches. They’re
fairly light machines, usually under 350 lbs and may even have a bicycle type handle bars instead
of a steering wheel. Some manufacturers even offered a small snow blade for these, but they’re not
heavy enough to be efficient enough to push snow. They’re pretty popular for small, postage size
yards, but are not suited for larger yards.
Next category we will discuss is what is known as the lawn tractor. Keep in mind that some will
call a rear engine rider a lawn tractor, but in theory a rear engine rider is not a lawn tractor for it’s
not a tractor at all.
A lawn tractor will usually have slightly larger tires than a rear engine rider, have the engine in the
front of the machine or at least in front of the operator. They’re excellent at mowing the lawn, but
can handle attachments like a small snow blade or a small snow thrower on a small scale. They can
pull a small yard cart, an aerator, a spreader and other non-ground engaging implements. Deck
sizes can range anywhere from 24 inches up to 54 inches. Even though they can handle a snow
blade or a snow thrower, their transmission isn’t rated for heavy implements or for ground
engaging implements. Some in this category will have updated, expensive features like power
steering, liquid cooling, bolt on rear rims, upgraded, high back seats, front bumper guards, etc.
They are mainly designed for mowing grass and are best suited for small to mid-size yards. We
must understand their main function is to mow grass and were first designed to do that task. Snow
blades and snow blowers were options to appeal to homeowners who didn’t want to spend more
money on a garden tractor.
Next category is what I would call a cross over – a yard tractor. They are usually a lawn tractor
with bigger rear tires. They may be able to handle some ground engaging equipment, like a tiller
with its own engine. They will usually have a larger engine and a more robust transmission than a
lawn tractor, but not always. Decks are usually from the 42 inch range to 54 inch range. Some
manufacturers will just put larger tires on their lawn tractor and call it a yard tractor. Unless you
want a smoother ride the larger tires provide, I wouldn’t really look at a yard tractor over a lawn
tractor as their capabilities aren’t that much more than a lawn tractor. If you think you need a
garden tractor, then I would overlook this category and go straight to a garden tractor. If you want
to mow the lawn, then buy a lawn tractor unless your yard is rough and the larger tires are
The last category is the garden tractor. I will place the super garden tractor in this category as well
as a garden tractor will do as much work as a super garden tractor and have almost as much
A garden tractor will have at least 23 inch rear tires and 16 inch front tires, minimum. They are
usually bought originally to mow the lawn, but with an eye for other implements. A garden tractor
will have decks ranging from 38 inch to 60-62 inch. They are excellent mowing machines and are
best suited for mid-size to very large yards. Most only see mowing duties, but their real value lies
in their ability to handle several implements and attachments, and can handle them very well. The
garden tractor were designed for home owners, estate owner, etc., who wants their machines to do
more than mow grass. Garden tractors can handle snow blades up to 54 inches or more, 2 stage
snow blowers, mechanical as well as hydraulic tillers, center (mid) dozer blades, back blades, box
blades, mold board plows, disk harrows, cultivators, etc. 3 point hitches, including category 0 or
category 1, are offered for the garden tractors, as well as integral (sleeve) hitches. Features can be
hydraulic lift, even up to 3 spools of hydraulics, power steering, rear and front PTOs, liquid cooling,
diesel engines, tilt wheels, 4 wheel drive, differential locks, turning brakes, etc. If you want your
lawn mower to do more than mow a lawn, then you want a garden tractor.
One other category I guess we should mention is the zero turn. If you want to cut grass and get it
done very quickly and have no need to move snow or plow a field, and have a fairly large area to
mow, then you might want a zero turn. They’re good for one thing, and one thing only, to cut
grass. Some zero turns are best suited for hilly or sloping yards, but are great for mowing large
areas. Some may have dual steering levers, some may have a steering wheel. Engines are usually
in the rear behind the operator and some may have casters as front wheels. Decks can range upto
72 inches. Some zero turns are designed for commercial use and will have more robust frames,
heavier built decks, roll over protection (rops), commercial grade engines and separate, dual hydro
pumps and motors. Some are made for residential use and will be more economical to buy, but will
have less expensive engines, lighter decks, some may have single hydro pumps and motors, and
overall aren’t as robust or durable.
The next category I guess we should mentioned here and that is the front mower. Front mowers
are meant to cut grass, but some can handle a front snow blade or snow blowers. Engines are
usually in the rear and deck sizes range up to 72 inches and are in the front, hence the name front
mowers. They can have dual steering levers are a steering wheel and usually have hydraulic lifts.
Some may have a single tire on the back.
The last category is the SCUT or sub-compact utility tractor. These machines will come equipped with diesel engines, 4 wheel drive, a mid and rear PTO, and a limited category 1 three point hitch. These tractors are designed considerably more heavy duty and are just the smallest version of the big boys on the farm. They will easily handle heavier loads on the optional front end loader and rear 3 point hitch. The best way to explain a SCUT is it’s a tractor that can mow, not a mower that can do limited tractor chores. With one of these machines, you can quickly find your list of chores get shorter much quicker. In fact you’ll look for a lot more to do other than just “cut the lawn.”
If you have more questions on tractors you can visit the John Deere Forum at Green Tractor Talk.com
Mowing doesn’t have to be just another chore. You can have fun cutting the grass. Have you noticed the lawns the professional landscapers mow? The nice striped effect can easily be replicated on your lawn too. Your lawn mower, garden tractor or compact tractor has a high quality mower and you can easily achieve an excellent cut just by making sure it is set up correctly and level. The mower deck needs to be properly adjusted as in level side-to-side and about 1/4″ low compared to the rear of the mower. Be sure to measure the blades and not the deck for the best accuracy. To measure the blade you might have to manually turn them by hand under the mower.
To mow my lawn, first I’ll cut the perimeter of my yard, usually two passes. By doing this, I have plenty of room to turn the tractor around and the clippings will stay in the yard and not on my driveway or in my landscaping. My first pass with a new pattern is right down the middle. I’ll concentrate on an object in the distance and steer the tractor as straight as I can towards that object. Then you need to alternate directions in subsequent passes keeping the straight lines. If you notice a pass isn’t straight, no problem. Your next pass can correct it. Just don’t take a full width pass the next time. This will allow a little wiggle room to straighten your lines. It’s important to change the pattern that you cut the lawn to avoid soil compaction. Some won’t experience this problem and will cut the same pattern over and over, but it depends on the soil type you live on. I like to change my mowing pattern every time I mow to avoid any compaction issues, plus it keeps mowing interesting and fun!
Here is a topic I have seen some complaining about on other sites; MMM (mid mount mower) independent lifts on the 2000 series machines. The complaint is “My deck won’t stay up unless I keep bumping the up lever”.
Let’s explore the reason you would actually need the independent lift option. The original intent of the design is to use the standard “mechanical lift”. This mechanism is power slaved off the 3pt hitch and does exactly the same thing as the independent lift “it raises the deck” so that you can set the proper cutting height or lock it in the full up position. Now, there may be an application where you want use the 3pt hitch function yet control the deck lift separately. I have just the example. In the fall I attach a trailer vacuum to my 2305’s 3pt hitch that is fed directly from the deck. Well I don’t want the blower and trailer hitch going up and down when I raise and lower the deck. So I added an independent lift to the 2305 and now can raise and lower the deck separately while leaving the 3pt in the full up position. It works great.
There are a couple of issues here that need clarifying.
First off, hydraulic cylinders are not designed to hold applying forces for extended periods of time. The piston seals are not capable of not leaking. In a hydraulic cylinder the seal will always have some kind of leakage or seepage. And with use will get worse and eventually get to the point it will need replacing. Just read the numerous threads out there complaining about their loaders leaking down. The MMM lifts are the same way. To expect the cylinder to hold the deck up for extended lengths of time is unreasonable. Now don’t get me wrong, there are things that Deere can design in to make this happen. The problem is it is not cost effective or practical. The point is the cylinder does exactly as designed; it lifts the deck so that it can be set to the proper height.
Secondly, on the 2305 and the 2320 Deere has designed a very nice device right into the platform of the tractor for controlling the deck cutting height and locking it in the full up position. The 2520 and 2720 have add-on options to set cutting height and full up lock out. When used properly the items work flawlessly. So, enjoy your tractor and always think safety.
When choosing the right tractor for your needs you will also be faced with making a proper tire selection. And when you are a first time tractor buyer it is difficult to know what is best. I know I struggled with this decision when buying my tractors. The tires are classified in the industry as R1, R3, and R4 which designates the construction, sizes, and treads.
The R1 tire is the “agricultural” tread which is the most aggressive in providing excellent traction and is superior in the field and muddy conditions. There are 2 different types of R1 tires, rice paddy found on the Japanese tractors and regular Ag tread found on most farm tractors. Rice paddy tires have deeper lug treads which help “paddle” the unit through very wet muddy conditions. Regular Ag is more of the field tire if choice. It does not have as deep of a lug as the Rice paddy tire and yet it still provides excellent traction. The R1 Ag tire provides a better ride on the fields and roads. R1 tires are also self-cleaning so when operating in muddy conditions the distance between the lugs is large enough that the mud has a difficult time sticking to the tire. R1 tires also are the narrowest of the three.
R3 tires are generally known as “turf” tires and are most commonly found on the golf course or the typical riding mower. Turf tires are grass friendly and tend not to tear the ground up, especially in soft wet conditions. They also have the most ground contact area since they have the shallowest tread depth. R3s do provide the smoothest ride compared with the other two types. R3 tires are also the widest of the three to help provide a large ground contact patch to yield a large traction area to the ground. This tread pattern is not very efficient in a muddy environment. Bear in mind though, one can still do damage to the lawn if the wheel is allowed to spin.
The last is the R4 or “industrial” tire. This tire is commonly used by contractors, landscapers, and now home owners as an all-purpose tractor tire. It has large, shallow, closely spaced lugs that provide traction and is still easy on the lawn. The R4 tread is designed similar to the R1 in that it tends to be self-cleaning. The R4 tire has a very sturdy sidewall construction capable of handling heavier loading. This means that if you have loader work, these tires will handle it unlike the R1 and R3 with softer sidewalls. R4 tires provide great traction and being that they are wider than the R1 tire, they gain the advantage of extra contact with the ground. Due to its large contact area with the ground the R4 tire is easy on the lawn. In 2wd, the R4 tire will be no more damaging to a lawn than a R3.
PTO vibration is caused by the universal joints and is especially pronounced when cornering. The output velocity of a single U-joint operating at an angle fluctuates, even though the input velocity is constant. This output velocity fluctuation becomes greater as the angle of the U-joint is increased. To eliminate the velocity fluctuation and hence the PTO vibration, two universal joints are used. The velocity fluctuation caused by the first U-joint is cancelled by the second U-joint, only if both are operated at the same angle and are in phase with each other.
Since most tractor/implement PTO‘s use the two U-joint system, why may there still be PTO vibration? It is because the U-joints are not operating at the same angle. Most tractors with a 540 rpm PTO have a distance of 14 inches from the end of the tractor PTO shaft to the hitch point. Most implements, however, have a distance greater than 14 inches from the hitch point to the end of the implement input shaft. This design is necessary to allow sufficient telescoping action of the PTO shaft, so the shaft does not bottom out on sharp turns and does not allow the two parts of the PTO shaft to separate when the PTO is in line with the drawbar. This geometry however, does not allow the U-joints to operate at equal angles, when cornering.
Many implement manufacturers are supplying a tractor hitch extension with their implements. This extension increases the distance from the end of the tractor PTO shaft to the hitch point. The implement and PTO shaft are designed around this new geometry so the U-joints will operate at equal angles. This geometry is commonly called the EQUAL ANGLE HITCH. Existing equipment can be modified to obtain an equal angle hitch. For example, a 540 rpm PTO driven machine is hitched to a tractor. The distance from the end of the tractor PTO shaft to the hitch point is the standard 14 inches. The distance from the hitch point to the input shaft of the machine is measured and found to be 20 inches, making the overall distance 34 inches (14 and 20). For the PTO to operate at equal angles the hitch point should be 17 inches (34 divided by 2) from both the end of the tractor PTO and the input shaft of the machine.
A 3 inch extension is bolted to the tractor drawbar and the machine hitch is shortened 3 inches. It should be noted the overall distance of 34 inches has not changed and the original PTO shaft can still be used. However, the machine cannot be operated unless the drawbar extension is bolted to the tractor drawbar.
As mentioned earlier it is important to phase the U-joints correctly. Proper phasing of the U-joints allows the velocity fluctuation caused by the first U-joint to be cancelled by the second. Improper phasing compounds the velocity fluctuations and will cause severe vibration. The two parts of many PTO shafts are designed to fit together the correct way only.