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Powered walk behind

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by G&Plawn, Jan 6, 2004.

  1. G&Plawn

    G&Plawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 55

    Hello im a new LCO and a frequenter of this site. I am going to try to get up to full time this summer witha 3 man crew and would like to hear any suggestions on powered walk behinds or ztrs preferably used equipment. Thanks G & P lawn and landscape maint.
  2. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Things we need to know in order to help you:
    Sizes of your average properties, size of smallest property and maybe largest property.
    Budget- how much can you spend? Obviously the more you can spend the better machine you can get which in turn makes you more money in less time.
    New or used? Are you able to work on your own equipment or do you need something with a warranty? Even if you can’t work on your own machines, good used machines don’t break down often enough to make much of a difference. Paying a shop to fix the occasional breakdown on a used machine will be cheaper than a new machine with warranty (not to mention you can sometimes have problems getting warranty work done).
    What brands of machines are sold in your area? Which of these are “known good dealers” and “known bad dealers”?

    Let us know your situation and we can help you better. Exmark makes excellent walk behind and zero turn riding mowers. I would say they have the best cutting deck on the market today and an all around great machine.
    With walk behind mowers you have the choice of fixed deck or floating deck. Fixed deck mowers have the front wheels attached to the deck and floating deck mowers have the deck hanging from a frame which the front wheels are attached to. Floating deck mowers can float over bumps using small plastic anti-scalp wheels, and they’re easier and somewhat quicker to adjust the cutting height on them. Fixed deck mowers can be more likely to scalp (depending on property, cutting height, operator skill, etc.) and aren’t as quick and easy to change the height on, but they’re cheaper. Generally a fixed deck is fine on 32”, 36” and sometimes 48 and even 52” deck sizes (depending on height and properties and skill again). Floating deck is usually, for most people, not a big advantage until you get to 48” or bigger deck sizes. ZTR (zero turn radius) riding mowers all are floating deck design.

    There are also two kinds of walk behinds, or maybe three I should say.
    1) belt drive – this is the cheapest kind of drive system, reliable and pretty simple to use and work on. They have a transmission that has shafts with pulleys on the shafts to turn belts going to pulleys on each rear wheel and you can clutch the belts with the levers on the mower to make it turn (it also has brakes on each wheel hooked to these levers). Good starter machine or for backup/occasional use, or even full time use if you want.
    2) Hydro drive- these use two hydrostatic pumps hooked up to two wheel motors on each drive wheel. The speed of each wheel is controlled by the control levers via the hydro pumps. These type of mowers are a big improvement over the belt drives although they cost more. They pull a sulky (riding attachment you stand on with wheels on it) much better than belt drive’s and they do not slip in wet weather like belt drives can. Also you can “zero turn” a hydro by reversing one drive wheel while making the other go forward (belt drives only slow down or lock up one wheel while other goes forward, you can’t reverse it) also a hydro lets you instantly go into reverse without shifting gears like on a hydro. More maintenance free than belt drive’s but more expensive if something breaks (not likely to break though).
    3) Then there’s single drive gear drives, which would be like the Troy Bilt 33” mower you see at Lowe’s. Another one is Sutech Stealth and then the Billy Goat walk behind. These three all have gear transmissions but you have to manually steer like a push mower, not with levers like other walk behinds. These are generally considered homeowner quality machines and not many LCO’s use them (most that do only use them for small backyard gates).
    4) The last type of walk behind is a single hydro drive. I think Ferris is the only big name manufacturer that makes these on a commercial grade level. It is like a regular hydro drive mower except you steer it manually like #3, no levers to turn it. The Ferris single drive (SD) walk behinds usually cost about the same as most belt drive’s.

    I’m pretty positive you can’t use sulkies with single drive type mowers like #3 and #4 and they also will not perform on hills as well but from what I hear Ferris has a locking front wheel kit that makes theirs do better on hills. Ferris SD is only made in 32” and 36” deck size and #3 type mowers are only made in up to 36” deck sizes that I know of (any bigger and these types do not steer well due to weight and size).
    I would only advise you to get a belt drive or dual hydro drive type mower if you decide to go with a walk behind. Walk behind mowers, particularly hydro drives, go very well on hillsides. ZTR riding mowers are like a dual hydro walk behind except bigger and faster and you ride on them. Riders have more power and you have better bagging options, and they’re faster and can come with bigger decks of course. But they don’t handle steep hills like a walk behind can. Walk behinds are better in smaller areas too, while ZTR”s are usually better for larger areas.
    There are many different types of controls for walk behind mowers. The standard type of controls is called “pistol grip” this design is pretty old and “traditional” shall we say. It is not comfortable after many hours of constant use and is rumored to lead to carpal tunnel eventually.
    Exmark makes what’s called the ECS control system. It’s much like pistol grips but turned upside down and pointed inward not outward. Solves the ergonomic problem with pistol grips but lets you have complete control over each wheel individually.
    Toro makes the T bar control system. This is a very simple to learn handle type that has a T shaped bar that you push either side to make that side’s wheels go forward and pull back to slow down.
    Hustler makes the H bar system which is unique and difficult to explain almost, but it’s like a T shaped handle with grips on it like a motorcycle. You twist it forward with your hands and it goes forward, or backward and it goes backward. Then you turn the handle (like a bicycle or motorcycle) and it steers in that direction. It controls each wheel for you.
    Snapper, Husqvarna and Gravely all make systems similar to each other, commonly called loop handle steering. Basically it’s got two levers that look like miniature ztr handles but mounted on the frame of a walk behind and you control each wheel with those levers.

    Many brands only offer pistol grips, several offer pistol grips and their own ergonomic type of handles, and some only offer their own style handles. You would have to try all of them and make your decision after that.

    I hope I was able to help you in any way and I hope this may make things less confusing for you.

    Welcome to Lawnsite!

  3. G&Plawn

    G&Plawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 55

    Thanks for the great post Eric. The smallest account is a trailer home thta takes aproximately 20 mins with a 21in push mower the others are 2 1/2 jobs with one 21 in push, (sorry no square footage its in my paper work stack) Most yards are easy to get around on with little to no fence issues. The largest accounts thta i hope to get can be up to a few acers. I know that a ztr would best suite these acounts.

    As far as budget im tying to stay under 2500 so that i can still purchase some other much needed equipment. Toro and Husqvarna seem to be about the only local shops there are a few out side the area that i can get to but iam unsure of what brands they carry.
    Thanks again
  4. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Hey no problem. For you a 48 or 52” walk behind would be a big step up from what you’ve got and with a sulky even ones two or three acres can be knocked out in OK time (will seem fast to you and it is slower than a Z but gotta do what ya gotta do) With my 52” hydro Exmark walk behind and sulky I can mow my yard (2.1 acres, most of it hilly) in exactly one hour (plus trim and blow). Pretty much the biggest i mow other than mine is in the ½ acre range approximately so for me a 52” ZTR would not really be faster because you can’t go any faster than 6mph (what mine does) on these size lawns. A 60” Z would benefit me somewhat, especially as I plan on getting a few larger jobs this year. What is more important is deck size not speed. You can’t cut much faster than 6 or 6.5 mph on many yards and most walk behinds go 6 or 6.5mph. You’d only gain a small amount of actual cutting speed with a Z but a w/b does so much more, like hills for example. I take my walk behind on a couple banks that are so steep that the mower actually slides downhill about 4” for every 2’ I drive forward (on dry days)! That’s mowing them across as they’re too short and steep to mow up and down. I would love to have a 60” ZTR rider but I’d still have to have what I use right now. I would tell you to get a used 48” or 52” walk behind with a sulky. If you get a belt drive, Toro T-bar is the best because the belts won’t really slip on you so it works better in wet conditions, on hills and with sulkies. I would say you’ll do fine with a T-bar belt drive and a good sulky. Don’t worry about 52” being too big- mine goes everywhere except through small gates. I wouldn’t think a thing of it to do a house trailer yard with it. With this mower you can do up to a couple acres, sure you won’t be as fast as the guy on the big ZTR but I’m guessing you wont’ have as much income either. Just don’t go get 5 or 6 acre jobs, leave that to the big guys :) If you only have a few gated yards here and there then keep your 21” for those. You won’t get a new Toro Tbar belt drive and sulky for $2500, but a used one may even be less than that and you can have alittle money to get extras for it (such as a bagger) or to put toward other stuff or just pocket it. I know of a 48” Toro Tbar, 2002 model, belt drive for $1500 OBO and the pic is a very small black and white and I can see the shine on the deck in the pic still so it’s in good shape. Same guy has a ’03 Scag 48” belt drive for $2500 OBO. Sulky will run about $200-300 new and a bagger $150-250 new I think. That would let you get that Toro and sulky and bagger in your budget (actually the Toro has a bagger on it already it looks like). Or you may get a deal like I did- ’99 Exmark hydro 52” floating deck for $2,000. I even bought a ’96 Scag 61” front deck rider (not exactly a zero turn but it turned around a pencil like a belt drive just couldn’t do a true zero turn. It was hydrostatic drive) for $2600 in good shape but sold it for 3350. A year ago I got my first commercial mower- early 90’s Scag 52” hydro walk behind for $800. Sold it for 925. This just gives you some ideas on pricing. I have gotten some good deals in my time, but they can be found. Oh here’s a 2002 Gravely 48” belt drive walk behind with a mulch kit and sulky for $1950. The Toro, Scag and this Gravely I’m telling you about that’s for sale are in the Indiana Auto and RV which is like a trader paper. This one covers Indiana and parts of Michigan and Ohio. Look for local catalogs similar to this and see what you can find. Now’s the time to buy mowers during the off season they’re cheap. Check with dealership to see if they have any trade-ins or maybe a good deal on a demo model.
    Good luck.
  5. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Oh pistol grip is fine on belt drives too, but Tbar is better if you can find one with it.
  6. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,501

    I'm impressed Eric...you really helped this guy out a lot. Very good info btw too.
  7. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Thanks Rod LOL. I like to help when I can and try not to sound like i've been there, done that if i haven't.
  8. 4734

    4734 LawnSite Member
    from Houston
    Posts: 43

    Great reply Eric, you answered several questions I had about different control systems.

  9. Tbarchaser

    Tbarchaser LawnSite Senior Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 449

    Great reply Eric....nothing to add, I think you covered it all.
    Even LGF would be impressed!
  10. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Thanks, again i just like to help. and i have alot of free time sitting here this winter LOL.

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