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View Full Version : The great Kawasaki VS Kohler debate


ProStreetCamaro
02-07-2006, 11:53 AM
I know this has been talked about off and on before but I felt we should make a single dedicated thread about it. I searched but couldnt find a thread like this on this subject. Mods if you could start a poll that would be much appreciated.


The main question here is which motor do you prefer and give us the main reasons why you choose one motor over the other.


I will start off with my reasonings.

I will be right up front here and say I do not like the Kawasaki motors.

1. Kaw's are extreamly tempramental and hard to start unless conditions are perfect. If its cold or damp they get real hard to start. Especially if you have a pull start Kaw. Kohlers on the other hand tend to start right up time and time again never needing any adjustments which I can not say the same for the Kaw's we have owned. We just got our Gravely Z34 out of the shop for being hard to start on chilly days. Now its going back in because under full load it acts like it is running out of fuel which it is not. It has the 15hp twin Kaw on it.

2. From our experiance with the many Kaw's and Kohlers we have owned over the last 15-20 years the Kohlers have almost doubled the life of the Kaw. Our average Kaw tends to kick a rod or loose to much power around the 1,500 hour mark. Our Kohlers go 3,000+ hours with little to no down time and no noticable decrease in power. Our Gravely Pro 50 had 3,200 or so hours on it when we sold it and to our knowledge it is still going 2 years later and god knows how many hours.

To date we have not had a single Kohler let go and bite the dust. We tend to sell the mowers and get new ones before the Kohlers give up the ghost. We start looking to sell around the 3,000 hour mark so we can incorporate a new mower into our line up.

To date every Kaw we have had has either blown up or lost to much compression and had to be replaced before we decided it was time to sell and get a new mower.



This thread is just to get an idea what everybody likes. This thread is not intended to start a flame war so please keep it civil and on a professional level.

MBDiagMan
02-07-2006, 12:20 PM
You offer some very good thoughts and give good information from personal experience.

What must be taken into consideration, however, is which MODELS of these two makers compare together. Each of these makers, as with anyone else who makes mechanical equipment, have models that are better than others.

What would be most useful in this thread would be to come up with a chart that would give information leading to the choice of the two in a particular category.

As an example, I don't remember which Kohler it is, but there is a particular Kohler engine in the 18HP or so, area that is VERY problematic. It would be good to identify that particular engine so that we all know which it is.

At the same time, I'm sure that there some equally bad Kawasaki's in a particular category. I am sure that not ALL Kawasakis are bad, just like I am sure that not ALL Kohlers are good.

By getting information here that helps us all know the strong and weak models from each maker, this would be one of the most valuable threads to ever be on this forum.

Thanks for starting the thread,
Doc

Joel B.
02-07-2006, 01:07 PM
Do we really want to start a thread like this? I have a feeling it's just going to turn into a bashing thread or a "Chevy vs. Ford" thread.

Bottom line is both motors are good (why else would major mower manufacturers use them) and will have problems from time to time. Any mechanical piece of machinery can break. We all have experiences with crappy Kawasakis and great running Kohlers and great running Kawasakis and crappy Kohlers.

Hopefully this will be an informative thread.

meets1
02-07-2006, 01:22 PM
I run all kawa on equipment. I feel for our equipment used, they are a better engine. I have 4 toro proline 44 with 850 -1200 hours on a kohler - not one problem. I have 4 trac vac systems with 5.5 kohlers - not one problem.

So that is my experience with both engines.

Our trencher, power rake, tamper, log splitter, aeration machine - all HONDA.

ProStreetCamaro
02-07-2006, 02:27 PM
You offer some very good thoughts and give good information from personal experience.

What must be taken into consideration, however, is which MODELS of these two makers compare together. Each of these makers, as with anyone else who makes mechanical equipment, have models that are better than others.

What would be most useful in this thread would be to come up with a chart that would give information leading to the choice of the two in a particular category.

As an example, I don't remember which Kohler it is, but there is a particular Kohler engine in the 18HP or so, area that is VERY problematic. It would be good to identify that particular engine so that we all know which it is.

At the same time, I'm sure that there some equally bad Kawasaki's in a particular category. I am sure that not ALL Kawasakis are bad, just like I am sure that not ALL Kohlers are good.

By getting information here that helps us all know the strong and weak models from each maker, this would be one of the most valuable threads to ever be on this forum.

Thanks for starting the thread,
Doc



Well I will start off with the motors we have had.

3 Kawi 12.5hp single cylinders on 36" wb's that have all been relatively hard to start and early to fail. They have all developed an oil leak in the same area on the front bottom part of the motor.

The 15hp Kaw on our gravely is a twin cylinder with 340 hours on it and from day one it has been very hard to start and in many cases we had to use starting fluid to get it going first thing in the morning. It has now developed a problem of almost cutting out when its under a load as if its running out of fuel which its not.

As far as Kohlers go we have had the 18hp Kohler magnum twin cylinder on the gravely pro 50 which had to have a module replaced around 2,500 hours and thats it. Always easy to start and always had tons of power.

We had a 15hp kohler command commercial single cylinder on a 54" Bunton WB that was easy to start and never needed anything dont to it and had plenty of power for such a large mower.

We currently have a 18hp Kohler command pro series twin cylinder on our 48" Lazer HP which is super easy to start and never a days problem and it currently has well over 2,000 hours on it.

I am going to throw in the Techumsa (spelling?) that we put on one of our 36" wb's after yet another kaw blew up on and it lasted a good 1,500 hours before it kicked a rod and it started better than the kaw's but not as easy as the kohlers. It did have just as much power as the kaws and at less than half the cost of the 12.5 kaw's it served us very well and we were happy with it.



And yes your right I have heard reports of one model of 18hp kohlers that werent any good. If anybody has any insight into which model it was please feel free to post it up.


I can say that all our kaws have been smaller engines and this current one is still only 15hp because its on a small 34" ztr. We have no experiance with the larger kaw's in the 18hp+ range. Our kohlers have been from small to large and all have served us well so far.

ProStreetCamaro
02-07-2006, 02:30 PM
Do we really want to start a thread like this? I have a feeling it's just going to turn into a bashing thread or a "Chevy vs. Ford" thread.

Bottom line is both motors are good (why else would major mower manufacturers use them) and will have problems from time to time. Any mechanical piece of machinery can break. We all have experiences with crappy Kawasakis and great running Kohlers and great running Kawasakis and crappy Kohlers.

Hopefully this will be an informative thread.



You are absolutely correct. I didnt want this or intend this to be a bashing thread. Like you said everybodys experiance is and has been different. I was just trying to get a baseline here to see which most people prefer and have had less problems with. Maybe that can lead to people making wiser decisions on what to buy on there next large investment. With all the options out there everybody wants the best bang for the buck and it can get sorta confusing and make a person go :dizzy:

MBDiagMan
02-07-2006, 02:51 PM
Well I will start off with the motors we have had.

3 Kawi 12.5hp single cylinders on 36" wb's that have all been relatively hard to start and early to fail. They have all developed an oil leak in the same area on the front bottom part of the motor.

The 15hp Kaw on our gravely is a twin cylinder with 340 hours on it and from day one it has been very hard to start and in many cases we had to use starting fluid to get it going first thing in the morning. It has now developed a problem of almost cutting out when its under a load as if its running out of fuel which its not.

As far as Kohlers go we have had the 18hp Kohler magnum twin cylinder on the gravely pro 50 which had to have a module replaced around 2,500 hours and thats it. Always easy to start and always had tons of power.

We had a 15hp kohler command commercial single cylinder on a 54" Bunton WB that was easy to start and never needed anything dont to it and had plenty of power for such a large mower.

We currently have a 18hp Kohler command pro series twin cylinder on our 48" Lazer HP which is super easy to start and never a days problem and it currently has well over 2,000 hours on it.

I am going to throw in the Techumsa (spelling?) that we put on one of our 36" wb's after yet another kaw blew up on and it lasted a good 1,500 hours before it kicked a rod and it started better than the kaw's but not as easy as the kohlers. It did have just as much power as the kaws and at less than half the cost of the 12.5 kaw's it served us very well and we were happy with it.



And yes your right I have heard reports of one model of 18hp kohlers that werent any good. If anybody has any insight into which model it was please feel free to post it up.


I can say that all our kaws have been smaller engines and this current one is still only 15hp because its on a small 34" ztr. We have no experiance with the larger kaw's in the 18hp+ range. Our kohlers have been from small to large and all have served us well so far.

Thanks for the details on the models, or at least the HP and cylinder number. If everyone will keep posting such information from the own experience about both brands leaving the emotion out and the details in as you just did, this thread will be a worthwhile endeavor.

Have a great day,
Doc

lawnboy dan
02-07-2006, 03:02 PM
both are very long lasting. i have seen a kawi go 17 comm years on a walk behind. i have a koler with 13 comm years but its very tempermental to start when cold or idle for a few days.

cborden
02-07-2006, 03:35 PM
I have two single cylinder Kawasaki, both are 12.5hp on is very hard to start the other one starts on the first pull. My other three Kawasakis are 17hp (FH500V) Never had a bit of trouble out of any of them, lots of power and first pull starts. I also have a 27hp water cooled Kawasaki, no problem with it either. I have one Kohler Pro Command 25hp, other than needing a minute or two to warm up in the mornings, never had any trouble with it. I think both Kawasaki and Kohler are fine reliable engines.:blob4:

Charles Odell
02-07-2006, 04:45 PM
starting I belive the EFI is the way to go on ANY engine
no stall outs on steep hill sides due to loss of fuel in carb
bowl No choke to mess with

JKOOPERS
02-07-2006, 04:52 PM
my 12.5 and 17 kaw were hard to start till i adjusted the choke right, now it starts on the first pull . the co i used to work for had kaws and kohlers and the kohlers always developed oil leaks and shot craps morer than the kaws

lawnmaniac883
02-07-2006, 05:33 PM
I prefer kawisaki's. Mainly because they focus mainly on engines instead of sinks.

That being said my 17hp kawi on a 44z is having the SAME EXACT problem your 15 is having. It has stalled on me multiple times and will be going to the dealer soon if it keeps this crap up. Only way to keep it going is either feather the hydros or shut off pto, sit, and wait. It will happen after around 10 minutes of mowing and will stop after a few minutes.

Please let me know if your machine is having the same problems as I have described and when you get it back from the shop, pm me or something about what the fix was. Feels like a bad coil or governor, but I dont know and its really pissing me off.

carlriv
02-07-2006, 05:48 PM
I have had many Kohler and Kawasaki motors with good luck with all.

EXCEPT I bought 2 Wright Standers 3 years ago with 23 HP Kawasaki motors. At 1200 hours I had problems with the governors on both of them. My dealer told me those motors seemed to be lasting guys between 1000 and 1500 hours. I had 1325 and 1339 hours when I changed them to Kohler 23 HP motors... What was a real kicker is that on the serial number tag on the Kawasaki motors it says "USEFUL LIFE 1000 HOURS" See the picture attached.

Oh ya I had a 12.5 Kawasaki with a pull start that nearly broke my wrist when the cam wore out.

lawnboy dan
02-07-2006, 06:06 PM
i too would like to see more engines with efi

jtkplc
02-07-2006, 07:04 PM
My 15 HP Kawasaki (130 hours) on my 36" Gravely walk-behind hasn't had any problems and will start on the first pull, even in cold weather. I also have a 25 HP Kawasaki (498 hours) on my Gravely 260Z and haven't had any problems with that either.

The other company I work for has 22HP Kohlers on their Super Surfers and they are very hard to start and need to be warmed up for a couple minutes. One of them has chokes out during normal cutting for whatever reason.

The 22HP Kohler is more noisy than my 2 Kawasaki engines.

I'm not biased towards either brand. I would take either engine. Like someone already said, either brand will have their troublesome models, but overall, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the commercial engines.

Flex-Deck
02-07-2006, 07:14 PM
I have one of each - both single cylinder 15hp - both perform equally, realiably, sound good, run good.

ProLawns
02-07-2006, 07:46 PM
That being said my 17hp kawi on a 44z is having the SAME EXACT problem your 15 is having. It has stalled on me multiple times and will be going to the dealer soon if it keeps this crap up. Only way to keep it going is either feather the hydros or shut off pto, sit, and wait. It will happen after around 10 minutes of mowing and will stop after a few minutes.
Have you checked the fuel filter? It may be clogged or a brand where the element is to tight for enough fuel to pass through to supply the engine.

Cobra Jock
02-07-2006, 08:26 PM
starting I belive the EFI is the way to go on ANY engine
no stall outs on steep hill sides due to loss of fuel in carb
bowl No choke to mess with
I have a 26 HP Kohler E.F.I. on a Walker MTGHS. I would highly, highly, highly, recommend that you stay away from the EFI engine, UNLESS, you know that there is a certified mechanic (no bullshi8er's allowed as the engine manual has over 90 pages for the EFI section, Shadetree Joe at Stumpy's mom and pop equipment store need not apply). They truly are smooth and powerful when they run, but......I have owned both motors in comparable hp'ss, and I perfer the KAW.

Greg

PROCUT1
02-07-2006, 08:52 PM
This is actually a good debate..... We have numerous crews worth of equipment, all KAWI..... On all of the equipment we do experience a higher than what would seem normal problem rate.....

All the Kawis dont want to start when its cold

They seem to go through a lot of starters

The upper bearings are not replacable and the engines are not made or marketed to be rebuildable

They dont hold much oil and have NO tolerance if they run just a LITTLE low

Lotsa idiling and carb problems

Now the oldest machine I have is a 2001 and we do have a VERY ATTENTIVE maintenance program and a full time on-staff mechanic.

Now with that being said, I keep buying Kawis, cause they are more money and supposedly the best.....

Now that I think about it I have no idea why I keep buying them and dont try the Kohlers

Ive had great luck with other equipment in the past that used Kohler

ProStreetCamaro
02-07-2006, 09:50 PM
I prefer kawisaki's. Mainly because they focus mainly on engines instead of sinks.

That being said my 17hp kawi on a 44z is having the SAME EXACT problem your 15 is having. It has stalled on me multiple times and will be going to the dealer soon if it keeps this crap up. Only way to keep it going is either feather the hydros or shut off pto, sit, and wait. It will happen after around 10 minutes of mowing and will stop after a few minutes.

Please let me know if your machine is having the same problems as I have described and when you get it back from the shop, pm me or something about what the fix was. Feels like a bad coil or governor, but I dont know and its really pissing me off.


I will keep you updated on this problem as soon as I get it into the dealer. I am willing to bet it is simply some sort of adjustment that got out of wack when the dealer replaced the choke cable for the recall. It was fine before we took it in to them and yes it has the same problem as you described.

ProStreetCamaro
02-07-2006, 09:56 PM
I have had many Kohler and Kawasaki motors with good luck with all.

EXCEPT I bought 2 Wright Standers 3 years ago with 23 HP Kawasaki motors. At 1200 hours I had problems with the governors on both of them. My dealer told me those motors seemed to be lasting guys between 1000 and 1500 hours. I had 1325 and 1339 hours when I changed them to Kohler 23 HP motors... What was a real kicker is that on the serial number tag on the Kawasaki motors it says "USEFUL LIFE 1000 HOURS" See the picture attached.

Oh ya I had a 12.5 Kawasaki with a pull start that nearly broke my wrist when the cam wore out.



I am sorry but thats just scary. 1000 hours is nothing at all for commercial equipment IMO.

ProStreetCamaro
02-07-2006, 09:57 PM
This is actually a good debate..... We have numerous crews worth of equipment, all KAWI..... On all of the equipment we do experience a higher than what would seem normal problem rate.....

All the Kawis dont want to start when its cold

They seem to go through a lot of starters

The upper bearings are not replacable and the engines are not made or marketed to be rebuildable

They dont hold much oil and have NO tolerance if they run just a LITTLE low

Lotsa idiling and carb problems

Now the oldest machine I have is a 2001 and we do have a VERY ATTENTIVE maintenance program and a full time on-staff mechanic.

Now with that being said, I keep buying Kawis, cause they are more money and supposedly the best.....

Now that I think about it I have no idea why I keep buying them and dont try the Kohlers

Ive had great luck with other equipment in the past that used Kohler



Well on your next mower purchase try out another kohler. They really are good engines and I am sure it will serve you well.

Jpocket
02-07-2006, 10:05 PM
Personally we've had problems from every other motor EXCEPT Kohlers & BRiggs.

Thats why these are the only motors I wish to have on any machines, except maybe an old Wisconsn or an Onan.

YardPro
02-07-2006, 10:27 PM
have had only 12.5, 14 hp and 19hp kawie's, and 15, 18 and 25 hp kohlers..

toss up for which brand i like.. the 12.5 kawie is cold natured, and can be hard to start after sitting a few days.... BUT the mower is 13 years old ( at least)

the 14 kawie's have been trouble free.. have over 10K hrs on one.. not one problem yet..

19 hp kawie has had the muffler bracket mount at the head crack ( needed new head) twice in a year.. have about 700 hrs on the machine now..


the kohlers have had some issues as well... backfiring, hard to start when hot... etc..

Green Quality
02-07-2006, 10:34 PM
Briggs Vanguard!!!! Baby! Briggs Vanguard!!!!!need I Say More!!!

Smalltimer1
02-07-2006, 10:45 PM
As an example, I don't remember which Kohler it is, but there is a particular Kohler engine in the 18HP or so, area that is VERY problematic. It would be good to identify that particular engine so that we all know which it is.

The KT-17 Series 1 (17hp) was a disaster. The engine itself ran fine, but the 5 psi oil pump in it didn't do much for it on hill sides and many of those went boom early on unless you kept it on flat ground all the time.

It was replaced by the KT-17 Series 2 which ran about 50 psi oil pressure and therefore those engines are capable of long lives and can go on hillsides.

6'7 330
02-07-2006, 10:55 PM
We were blessed with three 1998 25 horse problematic Kohler commands,they blew head gaskets.

We had a 20 horse magnum on an old scag, 4500 hours.Lately Kawasaki's quality control must have gone south, brand new engine's needing value jobs,engines blowing at the sump,outrageous!

Smalltimer1
02-07-2006, 10:57 PM
My personal preference is Kohler for larger engines, my favorites are the older K-series engines. They're tough, strong, reliable, and perfectly capable of providing 3000+ hours of good service if maintained properly.

For smaller engines I like Briggs I/C's because they're cheap, reliable, and easy to maintain and will last a good 2000+ hours being on my maintenance program.

I have Kawasakis on my JD JX-85 and on my Snapper Kees 36" WB, and both run good, but don't have the grunt that the same size Briggs and Kohlers that I've run. Kohlers tend to have more "guts" to them when loaded down and can torque through those situations at a constant RPM, while Kawasakis tend to compensate for load with more RPM's. Just my .02 though.

ProStreetCamaro
02-08-2006, 12:27 AM
My personal preference is Kohler for larger engines, my favorites are the older K-series engines. They're tough, strong, reliable, and perfectly capable of providing 3000+ hours of good service if maintained properly.

For smaller engines I like Briggs I/C's because they're cheap, reliable, and easy to maintain and will last a good 2000+ hours being on my maintenance program.

I have Kawasakis on my JD JX-85 and on my Snapper Kees 36" WB, and both run good, but don't have the grunt that the same size Briggs and Kohlers that I've run. Kohlers tend to have more "guts" to them when loaded down and can torque through those situations at a constant RPM, while Kawasakis tend to compensate for load with more RPM's. Just my .02 though.


You know what I just thought of something. Your are completely correct about the kohlers have more grunt to them when loaded down and it taking kawi's more rpm to handle the same load. Same holds true to american cars VS imports. American cars and trucks make alot more power lower in the powerband where as imports require alot of rpm to be able to make the same amount of power. Kawi is import VS Kohler which is domestic. Thats an interesting comparason.

CuttingCrew
02-08-2006, 12:49 AM
I've been running a 22 HP Kohler on a 2001 Wright Stander for the last two seasons and have been very happy with it. It had only 900 hours on it when I got it and other than a coil I have had no problems with it. On cold days it requires about two minutes of warm up but so do I so I won't complain about that. I have a light schedule but the lawns I service are tough ones with lots of hills. I also swapped out the spindle pulleys with smaller ones to get the blade tip speed up and the machine has so much torque that it still marches through high grass with no problems. Excellent motor.
At the beginning of last season I purchased an Exmark Metro 36" with a 12.5 HP Kawasaki on it. It performed flawlessly all year. Could not be happier with it. I've only put about 350 hours on it so I can't comment on its' longevity yet. My brother is running a Toro 44" with a 15 HP Kawasaki and I'm sure that his has over 3000 hours and still going strong with no mechanical problems to date so they must be doing something right.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, maintain your equipment and treat it well and you can expect to get a lot of life out of either brand of motor.

Mike

PROCUT1
02-08-2006, 11:08 AM
Thats another thing

We go through a lot of coils also on the kawis...

This thread has really got me thinking why the hell I keep buying them without even thinking..... Im just realizing how many problems we really do have with them.

ProStreetCamaro
02-08-2006, 12:03 PM
Thats another thing

We go through a lot of coils also on the kawis...

This thread has really got me thinking why the hell I keep buying them without even thinking..... Im just realizing how many problems we really do have with them.



Well thats sort of the point of this thread really. To make guys sit back and think "wow now that I think of it I do have issues with this this and this and the opposite brand doesnt seem to have as many issues". This way people can make a possibly wiser choice next time around. payup

lawnmaniac883
02-08-2006, 09:14 PM
Have you checked the fuel filter? It may be clogged or a brand where the element is to tight for enough fuel to pass through to supply the engine.

Better yet, I took the output side of the fuel pump off and turned engine over, plenty of fuel there :realmad: :realmad: . I had thought that the problem was a garbage fuel pump...guess not lol :waving:

ALarsh
02-08-2006, 10:59 PM
300 hours on a 23 hp kohler with no problems except for a little white smoke during start up in the cold mornings.

200 hours on a 27 hp kohler with no problems.

I keep buying 'em because I haven't have any problems with them.

MBDiagMan
02-09-2006, 12:57 PM
CONGRATULATIONS GUYS!!!!!

For the most part you have turned this thread into a VERY informative one. I expected many more rude interruptions than there were. Most of the posts were specific about particular problems, particular successes and particular models.

See what can happen when we focus on the facts instead of the emotion or brand loyalty?

If I get a chance I am going to try to put together a chart with the models and their experience being good or bad.

Great job!
Doc