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.
Over the past several years lawnmower manufacturers have been changing the design of the lawnmower deck and how it functions. Originally the decks were designed to rest on the ground with its gauge wheels supporting it. This allows the ground to completely control the contour and height of the cut directly related to the deck. The new designs now suspend the deck from the tractor with the gauge wheels set at about a quarter inch above the ground when the blades are set to the proper cutting height. The difference here is the tractor wheels now control the contour and height of cut. The gauge wheels only prevent scalping of uneven ground. I myself really prefer the new designs as I feel a much better finished result is achieved.
Now let us focus in on the deck maintenance. The majority of the deck maintenance is the same regardless of the mounting design. For example, cleaning, lubrication, blade sharpening, bearing and belt inspection and replacement are all the same as before. And basically, so is gauge wheel inspection and maintenance. The gauge wheels should need replacing less often without the deck being supported by them less often.
OK, now on to the major difference of these two designs. I was wondering if anyone else heeds the advice of their operator’s manual for their mower deck. I currently own a 62C and 72 John Deere mower decks. The 62C is mounted on a 2305 John Deere tractor and the 72 is mounted on a 2520 John Deere tractor. Both of my owner’s manuals have detailed procedures for leveling the mower deck front to back and side to side. I just did a recheck on mine and they were both in need of adjustment. The 62C needed the front to back tweaked and the 72 needed the side to side. I cannot recommend more highly the use of the leveling gauge sold by John Deere. What a great inexpensive tool. It really makes the job go so much more smoothly. Incidentally, I did check the level of both decks as delivered straight from the dealer when new and found that they did require some slight adjusting at that time as well. I am thinking that a level check is only needed every couple of years, or unless there is sufficient reason to do so sooner.
I find that doing my maintenance in the fall after the mowing season is finished works the best for me. I clean, inspect, and fix all that needs attention. I also sharpen and balance the blades at this time. Then come spring, all I have to do is mount the decks and mow. I do however check my level at this point rather than the fall. Having well maintained and leveled mower decks really yields premium results in a well groomed lawn.
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.