Honda 21" Commercial Mowers...

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    (Model HRC2162HXA) are not the right machine for commercial lawn mowing companies. I have invested in an entire fleet of these things and have finally concluded that these machines just aren't built for commercial use.

    I own 9 of these machines and use them commercially, so I do feel qualified to talk about this issue in a public forum.

    This year, repeatedly, these machines have been coming in with worn out drive shafts. There is a steel shaft, with two joints, that runs from the tranmission to the engine. To replace this shaft is about an hour, give or take, plus $65 worth of parts and that is with Mowpart.com. God only knows how much the local dealer would charge for the same parts. Probably in the $100 to $115 range. All I know is, our local dealer charged us around $300 for labor and parts on one of these machines last winter, before I took over the repairs.

    Anyway, the machines that were coming in with worn out drive shafts were all over a year old. But yesterday, I had one come in that we bought in late April. This machine has been used commercially for less than 6 months and the drive shaft is completely worn out.

    Other problems:
    These machines are built with a wheel sprocket (that's what I call it, anyway). It is a spring loaded device that engages the tires in one direction, but not the other. If these things fail, the rear wheel will not be engaged by the transmission. ONe tire spins, the other doesn't. The machine that was less than 6 months old had one of these fail also. These wheel sprockets get clogged with dust and dirt and then they simply won't function. They are fairly easy to replace, but it is poor disign. The lcoal dealer was charging over $19, with mowpart, we are getting them for just over $13. These things need to be replaced about twice a year with heavy commercial use and there are two of them on each mower.

    The hydrostatic transmission sounds like it would be much better than Toro's belt drive. Reality is, these things are a real pain in the azz. First of all, if the engagement cable isn't adjusted to perfection, you will have one of two problems. If the cable is adjusted too tight, the wheels are always engaged with the transmission in self propel mode. If the cable is too lose, these machines travel at a ridiculously slow snail's pace. I have one that I just can't seem to get adjusted correctly. I can't get the thing to go any faster than a very slow walk.

    The other MAJOR problem with the hydraulic tranmission is it a real liability. I have two of them that I pulled out of my mowers and both are leaking. One just had heavy grease build up all over the casing, and I am not sure that one of the workers didn't remove the fill cap and fail to get it back on tight enough or if there is a leak elsewhere. The other tranny is definitely leaking because it flowed out of the case and pooled on my garage floor. A new tranny, uninstalled, through Mowpart.com, is $385. I will try to order new seals and an axle from mowpart and see if I can fix it myself.

    All in all, these are not bad machines. The engines are great. But they just are not up to the task of commercial use. Honda's bright idea to use a hydraulic tranmission instead of a belt drive is a mistake if you ask me. Almost 100% of the failures with these machines has been a self-propulsion issue. Since the start of the year, it is the exception and not the rule that I can go Monday thru Friday without a break down with these machines. And we only use 5 of them for production...4 of them are spares.

    Anyway, I am married to these machines because I have over $2,000 worth of parts in a drawer in my garage and I've also got 5 sets of blades for each machine.

    I have seen the Toro machines and talked with Z-Clark from lawnsite about them. They appear to be of superior design. He says he rarely has any self-propulsion break downs. With the Honda's, I am seeing a self-propulsion break down at least once a week.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  2. saw man

    saw man LawnSite Bronze Member
    from utah
    Posts: 1,021

    Sorry to hear that.

    I had the opposite experience, they held up fine for me and they were used on over 200 accts. a week.

    The drive shafts can be saved if you push the mower a little and then engage the lever. Shouldnt take an hour to replace one, maybe 15 min.
     
  3. jsf343

    jsf343 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,767

    Wow!! sounds like you are having some big time issues. are they mostly the same mower(s) that are having issues or all of them? Have you contacted Honda about it? Could it be a employee issue? not accusing, just curious if they treat them fairly. I had a guy who would bring the mower down the trailer ramp and at the bottom would engage the drive to slow it down or stop it. :nono: This was with the mower on or off. Idiot!
    anyway hopefully you see why I ask. I agree with you on the wheel sprocket or whatever it is called. It is not encased or protected and gets all kinds of debris in there. I try to clean it out every couple of weeks. That is REALLY a dumb design, or lack of. Get in touch with Honda and show them this thread or let them know about the problems you are having. Will they do anything? hard to say, at least they will take a harder look at the design for future mowers. Hope they help you. jeff
     
  4. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    Maybe the Honda's are being improperly used by my crews, maybe they aren't. I am not with them during the day, so I have no idea.

    What I do know is, the guys who run Toro's are not having these problems.

    I agree about the hour...the problem is, you have to remove a plate from underneath the mower and the rear scroll. All told, there are 11 bolts that must be removed. To take those bolts off, replace the shaft and replace the plate and scroll usually takes me around an hour or so. One of the bolts for the scroll is in a position that you can only get to it with an open end wrench because the axle is in the way. This is the one that always ends up eating the time, both to remove and re-install.

    The plastic drive shaft cover has to be removed too. Why Honda would put a phillips head in a place like that is beyond me. I went to NAPA and bought 10mm hex heads. The philllips heads get stripped if the cover hasn't been removed in a while...it's a wrestling match once they are stuck. I am usually beating on the end of flat head screw driver with a hammer. The 10mm hex head is never a problem, even with rust.

    Then there is the inevitable wrestling match with the pliers and the drive shaft clips. There must be a special tool for this that I am not aware of or something.

    Often times, I have to use a wheel puller to get the sprocket off. Not usually necessary, but the last two times I've had to use it.

    The repairs take less and less time each time. Experience helps. I have made this repair (drive shaft replacement) 5 times this year.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  5. saw man

    saw man LawnSite Bronze Member
    from utah
    Posts: 1,021

    the bottom plate does not need to be removed.

    I know guys that have had these mowers for 10 years, some 5, and some 1 year that start having these problems. It is most definatley a problem with your guys, everyone will have different problems with a piece of equipment they use.
     
  6. specialtylc

    specialtylc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,656

    I have been running the Hondas for 8 years now. Yes they have parts that wear out, as with any brand. Like you, we have only been able to get 1 year out of a drive shaft. At first we didnt even get 6 months. It helps extend the drive shaft joint life to occasionally inject some grease into the boots. Transmission is also a crap shoot. We also drain and install new hyd fluid at least once a year. At most we get three years before they fail.Slow drive speed is a symptom of pump failure, adjusting the cable tighter will not help. The drive clutches/pins do break some times and we carry spare parts, also drive shafts. The new machines are made out of thinner steel than the old models. As in the wheel adjuster assy. and the bag retainer brackets.
    But even with these faults I still prefer the cut and bag quality and general mower operation of these to the Toro, John Deere. Is there any other commercial 21s available?
     
  7. MJB

    MJB LawnSite Silver Member
    from Wa
    Posts: 2,869

    Is there a big difference between these mowers and the Honda Versamower.
    I'm not that happy with the versamowers cut when mulching. Sounds like I won't need to worry about it to long though before I'll need to look at something new.
     
  8. specialtylc

    specialtylc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,656

    MJB. I havent found any mower that will mulch a real lawn.
     
  9. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++Slow drive speed is a symptom of pump failure, adjusting the cable tighter will not help++++

    Oh, man. That is something I did not want to hear. These hydro tranny's are a friggin' liability. Looks like I've got two that are leaking and one with a weak pump. $385 X 3 = $1155

    I'm mad.

    I had a worker earlier this season who was constantly insisting on adjusting the carbs and running the engines faster than designed. We had to replace one engine because of his insistence. I am guessing too many RPM's on the drive shraft could be a cause of premature pump failure.

    These mowers are just a money pit.

    Without a hydraulic tranny on the Toros, I honestly don't see how they could be as expensive to keep running.

    Do you repair the hydro trannies when they break down yourself? I can't imagine that being a very clean repair. That's gotta be messy as anything.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  10. MJB

    MJB LawnSite Silver Member
    from Wa
    Posts: 2,869

    I don't use walkbehinds much but I thought the versamower with the door opened just a bit would mulch and bag the extra without having to bag all of it. It seems to leave a strip on certain lawns I use it on.

    Which Hustler are you running ? Have you tried mulching with it ? I mulch all the time with mine but I have to double cut to clean it up. But it does a decent job on plush lawns. I too am a WA St eastsider.
     

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