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Best small engine


Jim1957's Avatar
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03-08-15, 01:28 PM   #1  
Best small engine

I'm looking to replace my 42" garden tractor and will replace it with another of the same size. I've looked at most of what's out there and I see three main engine manufacturers, Briggs & Stratton, Kohler and Kawasaki. I'm looking for informed opinions on which is the better engine. Not necessarily which is better for the money but which is best. I know this forum has a number of members who make their living working on these things, so I'm sure there are plenty of opinions backed by experience.

Thanks,
Jim

 
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03-08-15, 04:39 PM   #2  
All fine engines I'd be far more concerned with where are you going to get it serviced and the brand of mower.
Why does it have to be 42"?
42" tells me home owner grade mower.
I mow at least 8 lawns a week plus my own.
For many years I had John Deere 48" Z turn and spent a ton of money on spindles, seems like every week I had to pull the deck and beat out the bent deck because it was so thin.
Finely sold it and bought a Massey Ferguson 48" Z turn and it has a metal plate not stamped metal deck, far bigger bearing in the spindles, better ride, and in two years all I've had to do is change the oil and blades.
If it's made by MTD you can count on really thin decks and a royal pain to do simple mantaince.

 
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03-08-15, 05:59 PM   #3  
Joe,

Thanks for the response. It has to be 42" because I really don't want to start replacing gates to get it from one area to the other. I mow a little over 3 acres weekly.

You are correct that most of what I see are lower end homeowner grade machines whether Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna, etc.

I've looked at the John Deere X300, which seems to be a much higher quality machine and the price reflects it. It also has a Kawasaki engine. I found several Husqvarna machines online that have Kawasaki engines and look to be higher quality but haven't found them locally yet.

I was asking because the higher end machines seem to have the Kawasaki engine.

Since you mention MTD, which other brands do they make?

Also, I'd love to get a ZTR but I have about 600' of ditch on the highway in front of the property that I mow and everything I've heard is that it would be hard to maneuver on the steep inclines parallel to the ditch.


Last edited by Jim1957; 03-08-15 at 06:10 PM. Reason: added comment about ZTR mower
 
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03-09-15, 07:11 AM   #4  
They are all fine engine makers but not all model engines are the same.

Look for something with a cast iron bore. It will last longer than an aluminum bore. Usually "industrial" or "commercial" series engines.

Look for pressure lubricated engines. They will have an oil filter. Many small engines are splash lubed.

On the mower itself, check the chassis for cast suspension parts versus stamped steel. Look for grease fittings.

Hope it helps.

 
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03-09-15, 08:03 AM   #5  
I agree with the others, and don't think that you would be disappointed by any of the engine choices you mentioned. The big thing for me though with something like this is maintenance. Partially of the engine, although you will find that most of them today make the drain plug, spark plugs, etc. accessible, but of the entire machine. How easy can I service the transmission, change belts, take the deck off, etc. Also, just a rhetorical question, but what else will you use this machine for? If you plan to put a snowblower, tiller, or whatever on it, yup, definitely want a lawn tractor. If it's only for mowing, you might want to consider a mower, smaller obviously, but similar to what Joe mentioned. A lawn tractor can do more than just mow, but they are generally less maneuverable, and the gearing is different, so they're generally slower at mowing. A lawn mower does not need to devote anything to "grunt power", so it puts more to ground speed and the deck.

 
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03-09-15, 11:57 AM   #6  
Gotya on the gate problem. I have one yard I mow that has a narrow gate but I got lucky because my girl friend had a 32" John Deere that I use for that one.
Got a catch 22 situation there.
3 acres is a whole lot of lawn to be mowing with that small a mower.
Going to take a lot longer and wear out faster because your stuck with a Homeowner grade mower.
How big is that area with the gate?
Just thinking a self propelled mower for that part if it's small then a regular mower for the rest.
Got a lot of shrubs and trees to mow around?

 
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03-09-15, 08:36 PM   #7  
Kawasaki is your best by far of the given choices. There are others that are on par, but pretty much nothing above Kawasaki as far as I'm concerned. The X300 is pricey, but it is worth it. It's an excellent machine and as long as you take care not to break the plastic hood (the worst part of this mower), you should have an X300 for many years even mowing 3 acres. I am using a LX188 with a water cooled kawasaki from the 1990s and it still works perfectly and I neglect and abuse it... (you know, the tailors clothes always needs mending). The husquvarna is a decent mower, but will require more repairs and maintenance over the years and won't hold up nearly as long on 3 acres.

That's my take based on 17 years of running a small engine shop.


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03-10-15, 05:39 AM   #8  
I had a LX188. It's amazing how one series tractors and mowing decks were constructed compared to today's models. You need to go to a 300 or even a 500 series (by this years model numbers) to approach the construction of the old LX188.

I would also rate Kawasaki as the highest quality of the engines you listed. I also place Honda's GX series engines high on the list. Then would be Tecumseh, Kohler and Briggs. The price and weight of the machine can give you a rough idea as to quality. A X300 costing $3k weighs about 150 pounds more than a similar $1'500 tractor. That extra steel/weight and money goes somewhere.

 
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03-10-15, 03:19 PM   #9  
Thanks everyone for your responses. I appreciate your expertise. At this point I'm definitely leaning towards the X300 but I still would like to actually look at the Husqvarna YT42XLS Husqvarna YT42XLS - Garden tractors . It appears to a better machine than the consumer grade for $1500.

Thanks again for your help!

 
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03-10-15, 03:42 PM   #10  
I've owned 3, John Deere's biggest issues I had was with the spindles, I'd make sure I lubed them more then once a month and still the bearing would go bad on all three of them, and no I was not over lubing.
The second issue I had was the decks.
Being stamped metal, hit one property marker, hidden stump and it's bent into the blades.
#3, Was the cheap plastic wheels on the decks with no bronze bushings and only one bracket to keep them straight.
Might be fine for someone mowing there own lawn week after week and knows where everything is but did not work out for me in the long run.

 
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03-10-15, 06:32 PM   #11  
What john deeres did you have Joecaption1? There is a huge difference between them. Did you get your mower from lowes?

I've seen the bearings in the good deere decks last for over a decade with commercial use and the decks take huge beatings, but then, I'm talking good deeres, not consumer grade deeres.

If you're buying lowes models, you're buying consumer grade and you might as well get a husquvarna or something else for the money.

Pilot Dane, I run a LX188 even now. It still runs great. I agree on the honda GX series... they are excellent engines. I could never put tecumseh above any other engine though. They have been out of business for a long time now though.


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Last edited by cheese; 03-11-15 at 08:34 PM.
 
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03-11-15, 06:42 AM   #12  
Saying John Deere doesn't narrow things down. If it's one of their cheaper consumer models then it's very similar to other sub $2k mowers except for the green paint. I use older X595 and current X700 series and the spindles are not an issue. I do a lot of "combat mowing" and routinely catch rocks, rugs, cables, tires, toys... and catch them hard enough to drag a diesel dead and still have no spindle issues.

As for the decks I've been mowing with the pedal to the floor and caught stumps or rocks with the deck and gotten the wind knocked out of me when I slid forward and got the steering wheel in the stomach. Have caught rocks & posts with the edge hard enough to shove a 1'500 pound 4WD diesel sideways and have never done more than scratch the paint on the deck. There is a huge difference between something meant for residential and hard commercial use. Unfortunately there is also a huge difference in price.

As for my old LX188 I sold it to a friend 15 years ago and he still uses it for finish mowing around the house and driveway on his 15+ acre horse farm. This man has no common sense for machinery and can break anything but the 188 is still going strong.

 
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03-11-15, 08:37 PM   #13  
That entire LX line was quite possibly the pinnacle in Deere mower quality. Most of the mowers from that time period were just awesome. The f725 is another from then. I wish they still made them like that.


"Who is John Galt?" - Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

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