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Old 09-25-2012, 10:18 AM
 
3,779 posts, read 7,171,349 times
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I have sold my DR Power Brush and Field mower and moved to a much smaller place. Now I need to choose a mower to mow about half an acre of grass. I want to walk, not ride. I'll get a self-propelled gas mower.

The decisions that remain:

Front wheel or rear wheel drive? Is rear-wheel easier to steer? More powerful?

Key start or pull start? Do pull starts require a lot of strength? Are key starts more likely to have problems? And what is an "auto-release choke pull start"?

I'm looking at Lowes, though I could change my mind. Most of theirs that have good ratings are Troy-Bilt. Anything good or bad to say about those? (The Lowes website shows mowers up to $400, then jumps to over $1000. Shouldn't there be some good mowers in between?)

Or if I order from Home Depot I can get a Honda with a 3-yr warranty.

Last edited by sll3454; 09-25-2012 at 10:44 AM..
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:19 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
16,852 posts, read 51,350,636 times
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You want to walk not ride. Actually, that can be a good decision healthwise.

I prefer front wheel drive with small front wheels and large back wheels. That allows you to rock the mower onto the two back wheels when reversing in high grass, and not have the wheels get caught as easily in vetch or other weeds. Much of the drive is also enclosed or encased, compared to rear wheel drive, so it isn't as easily jammed with grass or weeds.

For anything larger than a postage stamp, forget the rear baggers. They have gone from the old large rear bags to ones that hold about two cups worth of clippings. I have two of the bags I've tossed on the junk pile.

What I do for heavy grass is take an old metal computer case and bend it into a deflector that goes on the back where the rear bagger would attach. I hold it on with C-clamps and duct tape. If you take a common mulching mower and do this, it (somewhat surprisingly) gives you the cutting power of an engine three times the horsepower. I literally mowed a small hay field in back of our house this way to get it back into shape.

Troy-bilt -don't fall for the hype, it is the same junk as everything else. This last high rear wheel mower I got that was a troy-bilt had the bushing on one of the rear wheels fail within a week of use. I had to use a pack of washers to make a new bushing and then a couple larger washers to hold the wheel in place.

No way would I pay retail for a mower like this. I paid $120 on Craigslist for one that was almost new, instead of $350 for the same mower new.

Engines are much better at starting than they used to be. I've been used to three pull starts, but the current crop of engines almost always start on the first pull. Skip the added complexity of a starter.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:25 PM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
13,166 posts, read 10,585,610 times
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With just a half acre you could probably mow it easily with just a push rotary mower. Regular push mowers are lighter than self propelled units.

But; it all depends on your strength and size. I think that more people prefer the front wheel drive mowers, over the rear wheel drive ones, because of turning the mowers without disengaging the wheels. You can simply push down on the handle and lift the front wheels off the ground.

Most manual start mowers start very easy. Perhaps you have a neighbor, friend or family that would let you start their mower to see if you would have problems. Many lawnmower shops will let you get the feel of the equipment before you buy. There is no sense in selling you something that you will return. Electric start mowers are easier to start – but you have more parts to maintain.

I see that some people have had problems with those automatic chokes. Most chokes are just all the way forward on your throttle – then you just pull it back as the engine warms.

You might like the bagger attachment for your leaves. While picking up your grass clippings can be a pain in the neck; many mowers are great at shredding and bagging leaves.

Now is the time to buy. Many stores want to clear their floors of their summer equipment. Money does not always buy quality.

Good luck.
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:00 PM
 
Location: Central Texas
13,720 posts, read 24,628,032 times
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I prefer rear drive because of better traction (my lawn is not flat). I recently bought a Honda (replaced a 12 year old Honda). Like most Hondas it has an overhead valve engine. It starts pathetically easy (pull). And the drive engages with a variable speed. I can step to the side, rotate the drive lever on the handle (either side) and make the mower move. It also has a blade clutch, which means the engine can run without the blade turning. Mowers without a blade clutch will shutdown when you take your hand off the handle.
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:50 PM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
13,166 posts, read 10,585,610 times
Reputation: 9332
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoffdano View Post
I prefer rear drive because of better traction (my lawn is not flat). I recently bought a Honda (replaced a 12 year old Honda). Like most Hondas it has an overhead valve engine. It starts pathetically easy (pull). And the drive engages with a variable speed. I can step to the side, rotate the drive lever on the handle (either side) and make the mower move. It also has a blade clutch, which means the engine can run without the blade turning. Mowers without a blade clutch will shutdown when you take your hand off the handle.
If you have a hill and you tend to pull down on the handle; you will loose traction with the front wheel drive (self propelled) mowers. That is where the rear wheel mowers do a better job. Don't rely on a front wheel drive to pull you around the property. Both have their strong points and weak points.
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:13 PM
 
Location: Planet Eaarth
8,957 posts, read 17,013,046 times
Reputation: 7193
Quote:
Originally Posted by sll3454 View Post
I have sold my DR Power Brush and Field mower and moved to a much smaller place. Now I need to choose a mower to mow about half an acre of grass. I want to walk, not ride. I'll get a self-propelled gas mower.

The decisions that remain:

Front wheel or rear wheel drive? Is rear-wheel easier to steer? More powerful?

Key start or pull start? Do pull starts require a lot of strength? Are key starts more likely to have problems? And what is an "auto-release choke pull start"?

I'm looking at Lowes, though I could change my mind. Most of theirs that have good ratings are Troy-Bilt. Anything good or bad to say about those? (The Lowes website shows mowers up to $400, then jumps to over $1000. Shouldn't there be some good mowers in between?)

Or if I order from Home Depot I can get a Honda with a 3-yr warranty.
After having owned many mowers over the years ranging from cheap throw away mowers to ultra expensive Ariens Commercial mowers IMO the best mower for the average home owner with a small to medium sized yard (under 1/2>1/4 acre) is the Honda Harmony walk behind line.

I just bought a Honda Harmony plain jane mower that just cuts grass and nothing else. IMO this is one fine easy to use/care for mower that follows my basic plan in life.....K.I.S.S....(Keep it simple stupid!) (Note: This Honda mower switches from mulch to side discharge in less than 5 seconds!)

I see that you've already looked at the Honda mower line up so all I can say is.......Get going and buy that Honda Harmony mower that just cuts grass and enjoy mowing again!!!
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Old 09-26-2012, 07:43 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh area
9,918 posts, read 19,697,373 times
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Honda is generally good and reliable, and a lot of other brands buy Honda engines anyway, although I've had good service from my Toro Super Recycler that I bought 9 years ago and it has a Briggs and Stratton motor (still starts on 1 or 2 pulls!) FWIW my neighbor liked his old Honda better than the new one he got a few years ago; he wishes he had just gotten the old one repaired. Heh. But that may just be personal taste.

Front vs rear drive: either is probably fine on flat. I have a pretty big hill so I was always choosing from among rear drive models. If you decide to look at skipping the drive altogether, make sure the mower is light enough to make a difference. I considered that when I bought mine and they're like no, you don't want to do that because these mowers are just too heavy. And it's a good thing too, I'd never get up the hill very well with a push mower that was only a few pounds lighter than this thing.

The way the drive works might be an interesting choice to look at as well. Mine has Toro's Personal Pace setup, which goes faster the more you push on the handle. (Some other brands have a similar setup I think.) I think this may work better for a flat yard vs what I have. Although I've never tried another kind of drive setup, I think this yard might have lent itself to something where I could just set the speed. Even in a flat yard though some people hate this setup from what I understand. The only thing I can think of is that I think it would be slow on a flat yard! But then again, if you go too fast your mowing is going to be sloppy so it's just as well if it keeps you a little bit slow. Also it does mean to a certain degree you're always pushing on the handle a bit, even if it's not really an effort. I think that bugs some folks. So check out how these different drive systems work.

A blade clutch is generally preferable to the whole engine stopping when you let go of the handle, but since mine's always been very easy to start I don't find the engine stopping to be a huge deal breaker. It saves a few seconds and maybe some wear on the engine since starting is usually stressful for it (although warm starting really shouldn't be that bad). Not a must have but a nice feature. Electric start: only if you really don't have the muscle to start it, which shouldn't be too much these days. Should start on 1 or 2 pulls without too much effort.

Make sure you can do what you want with the grass: side discharge, bag and/or mulch. Mine can only bag and mulch, and although there was a chute attachment for discharge available as an accessory, I've heard it doesn't work well. Not a huge problem, I usually bag the front and mulch the back, and occasionally mulch the front as well, but it would have been nice to be able to just discharge the clippings in the back because I don't care as much back there. The bagging does pack it in pretty well, but getting it out of there is a little bit annoying with that bag design.

In the end one of the reasons I got the Toro was because at the time I could walk up the road to an indie dealer and buy it. If that dealer had sold Hondas instead, I would have bought one. If they had sold something else, I would probably have driven to buy the Toro or Honda at the time, not sure which. I was pretty sold on the Toro back then, not sure how they're doing now, but I will say it has held up well to a pretty good beating in this yard. I change the oil, plug, air filter, get a new blade every couple years (and sharpen in between) and even have been more neglectful at times and it still works pretty well. Surprisingly no problems with the drive system yet except having to replace a few dollar spring that's in the handle mechanism, and then adjust the cable. That's it.
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:10 PM
 
Location: Planet Eaarth
8,957 posts, read 17,013,046 times
Reputation: 7193
Quote:
Originally Posted by greg42 View Post
Honda is generally good and reliable, and a lot of other brands buy Honda engines anyway, although I've had good service from my Toro Super Recycler that I bought 9 years ago and it has a Briggs and Stratton motor (still starts on 1 or 2 pulls!) FWIW my neighbor liked his old Honda better than the new one he got a few years ago; he wishes he had just gotten the old one repaired. Heh. But that may just be personal taste.

Front vs rear drive: either is probably fine on flat. I have a pretty big hill so I was always choosing from among rear drive models. If you decide to look at skipping the drive altogether, make sure the mower is light enough to make a difference. I considered that when I bought mine and they're like no, you don't want to do that because these mowers are just too heavy. And it's a good thing too, I'd never get up the hill very well with a push mower that was only a few pounds lighter than this thing.

The way the drive works might be an interesting choice to look at as well. Mine has Toro's Personal Pace setup, which goes faster the more you push on the handle. (Some other brands have a similar setup I think.) I think this may work better for a flat yard vs what I have. Although I've never tried another kind of drive setup, I think this yard might have lent itself to something where I could just set the speed. Even in a flat yard though some people hate this setup from what I understand. The only thing I can think of is that I think it would be slow on a flat yard! But then again, if you go too fast your mowing is going to be sloppy so it's just as well if it keeps you a little bit slow. Also it does mean to a certain degree you're always pushing on the handle a bit, even if it's not really an effort. I think that bugs some folks. So check out how these different drive systems work.

A blade clutch is generally preferable to the whole engine stopping when you let go of the handle, but since mine's always been very easy to start I don't find the engine stopping to be a huge deal breaker. It saves a few seconds and maybe some wear on the engine since starting is usually stressful for it (although warm starting really shouldn't be that bad). Not a must have but a nice feature. Electric start: only if you really don't have the muscle to start it, which shouldn't be too much these days. Should start on 1 or 2 pulls without too much effort.

Make sure you can do what you want with the grass: side discharge, bag and/or mulch. Mine can only bag and mulch, and although there was a chute attachment for discharge available as an accessory, I've heard it doesn't work well. Not a huge problem, I usually bag the front and mulch the back, and occasionally mulch the front as well, but it would have been nice to be able to just discharge the clippings in the back because I don't care as much back there. The bagging does pack it in pretty well, but getting it out of there is a little bit annoying with that bag design.

In the end one of the reasons I got the Toro was because at the time I could walk up the road to an indie dealer and buy it. If that dealer had sold Hondas instead, I would have bought one. If they had sold something else, I would probably have driven to buy the Toro or Honda at the time, not sure which. I was pretty sold on the Toro back then, not sure how they're doing now, but I will say it has held up well to a pretty good beating in this yard. I change the oil, plug, air filter, get a new blade every couple years (and sharpen in between) and even have been more neglectful at times and it still works pretty well. Surprisingly no problems with the drive system yet except having to replace a few dollar spring that's in the handle mechanism, and then adjust the cable. That's it.
Does anyone really need all the extra crap they can put on a mower just to cut grass?? Hell, no!!!

Like it or not the best mower is still the simplest one you can find. All the rest of that crap just adds to the cost to buy and to repair when the crap breaks!!
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:28 AM
 
Location: Sarasota FL
6,521 posts, read 8,612,228 times
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Any brand mower with a B & S 6 hp, mulcher deck and blade, front wheel drive will get the job done.
Push the prime bubble 4 times and it starts with one easy pull.
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:18 AM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
13,166 posts, read 10,585,610 times
Reputation: 9332
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandpa Pipes View Post
Does anyone really need all the extra crap they can put on a mower just to cut grass?? Hell, no!!!

Like it or not the best mower is still the simplest one you can find. All the rest of that crap just adds to the cost to buy and to repair when the crap breaks!!
Back in the 1970's I sold Toro, AMF and just a cheap no-name mower. In the early spring I would travel to the National Hardware Show in NYC. There I would buy one hundred cheap push rotary mowers for about $25 each. Even with shipping and set-up I could easily sell them for less money than the AMF mowers or the more expensive Toro's. By the way; back then almost everything was three and a half horse power. The cheap mowers and AMF's had B&S motors and the Toro's had Tecumseh motors. I rarely ever got one of the cheap mowers back for service. I also did not get too many AMF's back for service. The Toro's were frequently back. The more features you put on these mowers; the more problems you can experience.
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