24-inch push mower advice

Discussion in 'Mechanic and Repair' started by Paul in Maryland, Jun 21, 2003.

  1. Paul in Maryland

    Paul in Maryland LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I just joined. While I cut grass during the summers in my teens, I'm now 46. I am shopping for a 24-inch walk-behind mower, commercial-grade, to cul my 0.9-acre lawn. Since 1997 I've been using a 21-inch hi-wheel Scotts with a 6.5 hp Intek Edge engine. The Scotts is a superb bagger (as reported in Consumer Reports that year). But it's only OK as a mulcher. Of course, I'm using the stock blade, which is probably high-lift, designed for bagging.

    My Scotts is not self-propelled. It takes me about 3 hours to cut my grass, but I don't mind; the lawn is flat, and I actually welcome the three hours of exercise. For this reason, I do NOT want self-propelled, though I'd consider it provided the drive would not add friction when I push.

    The problem is, my yard is full of gopher holes and depressions. The Scotts' wheels are consumer-grade, and every year since 1998 or 1999, my local shop has had to replace a wheel, replace a wheel attachment part, or actually weld a part back onto the deck where the wheel attaches. I'd like to keep the Scotts for those times when I must bag (because I've waited too long to mulch). But I need an industrial-strength mower for my week-in, week-out mulching. Because of all the holes and soft soil (where I can actually feel my foot sink), high wheels are a must.

    I've researched for a month and have narrowed my choices to Sarlo M624I-C or simply 624,(http://www.sarlomower.com/highwh.htm),
    Kee KC-24 Classic (http://www.keemowers.com/steelDeckMowers.cfm ,
    and Johnson Big Wheel, now made by Mackissic (http://www.mackissic.com/JohnsonBigWheel.htm).

    A dealer who sells both Sarlo and Kee feels that the Sarlo is slightly more durable, in that the wheels attach to the frame, whereas on the Kee they attach to the deck. He also had high praise for the Sarlo's "perfect circle" deck, a feature he wasn't certain was shared by the Kee Classic. The Sarlo 624 is so durable, the Florida Department of Corrections bought 1900 of them.

    The Johnson may be the best built of all, and, unlike the Sarlo, even has a blade clutch. But I was nervous about the small 6-inch wheels; won't they dig into my soft soil as I push?

    The Kee's big appeal is that, of the three, it's the only 24 available with an 8 hp engine (Briggs I/C). In fact, it may be 8.5 hp; I can't get Kee to answer my email, in which I ask them to clarify the apparently two versions of the specs.

    Johnson will sell me the 24 push version directly for about $900 shipped, with mulching kit. (I don't live near a dealer for any of thes brands, but my local repair guy can fix anything; he just needs the parts.) As I understand the Mackissic brochure, however, the 24-inch models come with 16-inch weels; the 20-inch wheels are reserved for the 26-inch models. On the Sarlo and Kee mowers, even the 24-inchers have 20-inch wheels.

    The Sarlo is available for $800 shipped, plus $40 for the mulching plate, from http://www.tropicallawnmowers.com/lawnmowers.html . (They list the SP self-propelled version at that price but confirmed that it's the price for the push version; I think they said the self-propelled is the same $800 shipped, which would be incredible.)

    The Kee is about $784 shipped with the 8 or 8.5 hp engine and mulching kit at , sold at http://www.wikco.com/Keemower.html .

    The Kee was a no-brainer till I learned that, just this month, Sarlo replaced the 624's 6 hp I-C engine with a 6.75 Intek Pro (or Intek I-C).

    Would the Kee's more powerful engine let me mulch when the grass is a bit taller or a bit wetter? Or is a 6.75 Intek Pro sufficiently close to an 8 or 8.5 hp engine that I wouldn't notice a difference? Or would the Sarlo's "perfect circle" deck make it a more capable mulcher, no matter what?

    Would a Gator Mulcher blade made any of these such capable mulchers that any power differences wouldn't matter?

    To compare power, would I have to know how conservatively the manufacturer has limited the rpm? The Ariens 21 commercial model, for example, uses an Intek Pro 6.75 hp engine but the manual (online) says that rpm is limited to, as recall, 2900 rpm. That's well below the 85% maximum that Briggs recommends.

    Weightwise, the Sarlo weighs about 111 lb, the Johnson, 135, the Kee--well, I've seen 135 and 165. I'd trust 165 for the 8 hp engine. How heavy a mower can someone actually push on flat ground (like mine)? I'm counting on those big wheels to help me out. I'm tempted to go to a 26-incher, where the Kees Classic is available with a 9.5 hp I-C engine (10.5 hp on the Kee aluminum model!).

    And if I can get the Sarlo self propelled for the same price as the push version, should I go for it? I was afraid that the 7-inch swivel wheels might prove less able to handle the depressions.

    Well, that's enough. Feedback is welcome.
  2. Paul in Maryland

    Paul in Maryland LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I neglected to mention:

    Kee offers a special mulching blade; Sarlo and Johnson Big Wheel do not. Coupled with its more powerful engine (8 or 8.5 hp vs. 6.75), would the Kee's mulching blade give the Kee a clear advantage as a mulcher?

    It's a good thing the Kee has its own mulching blade, because I'm not sure I can count on the Gator Mulcher to fit its three-hole mounting; according to this comprehensive list of Mulcher blades at http://www.oregonchain.com/oep/pdfs/oep_blades_b.pdf , none of the 24-inch Gators come with 3 holes. I guess I could have my shop drill the holes for me.

    I neglect to mention another 24-incher, the Maxim RM624BITS, at http://www.maximmfg.com/NewFiles/RM624BITS.html. But I don't like the fact that it has no height settings other than 1 inch and 3 inches.

    At $1,200, Billy Goat's Contour is just too expensive for me. What's more, it's self-propelled, and its Johnson-sized wheels--16 inches in the rear, 6 in front--don't measure up to the Sarlo and Kee. I've watched the videos at the company's Contour page (http://www.billy-goat.com/contour.asp) The videos are impressive, but I'm curious why they show the Contour bagging and side-discharging, but not mulching. I suspect that the answer is, 6.5 hp just isn't enough to mulch well on a 24-inch deck, or at least on the Contour's; the man would have to move very slowly to avoid leaving clumps.
  3. ealbertson

    ealbertson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 256

    I bought the Kee big wheel this year with the 10.5 HP Briggs. It is called commercial but is far from it. I would definitely not recommend it.
  4. Paul in Maryland

    Paul in Maryland LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    Can you elaborate?
  5. ealbertson

    ealbertson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 256

    It is an overall poor design. When I first got it, it was incredibly slow. I had a time getting them to put a bigger pulley on the engine side to pick the speed. They are now going to market the new pulley and belt as an option. They do have a means of adjusting the speed, but the change isn't much and it requires adjusting the tension on two other belts after the initial adjustment is made. The adjustment is done by changing the width of one of the drive pulleys. Another thing I don't like is the handle bars are the same width as the deck which means your knuckles scrape on chain link (or other type fences) when mowing along them. It is very hard to handle when going along hills (I am not talking about very steep hills either.) due to a high center of gravity. They could improve this by lowering the motor which wouldn't be too hard to do. As soon as the tires get at all wet the drive cogs slip to the point that it requires a lot of pushing ( I think this would be the case with most big wheels that use this drive system.) They have solid ribbed tires that eliminates the silpage, but they have a tendency to tear up the ground especially on hills (This may not be the case on hard dry ground.). The belt cover blew off when it was on the trailer. I believe it was properly attached. Several parts are rusting. This came from it getting wet on the trailer. I keep it under cover at night. It tends to leave clumps in wet grass (which it seems like is all we have had so far this year) . Also, when pulling it backwards on wet grass it leaves a line along the left side of the deck.

    ON THE other side of things the 10.5 hp motor has plenty of power. It does a great job on heavy grass. It also does a nice cut on dry grass.

    I did have a chance to return it which I didn't because of two reasons: The first is I didn't have the box it came in or the time to deal with all the hassle doing that. The other reason is I was very impressed with the job it does on high grass.

    I hope this helps.
  6. saw man

    saw man LawnSite Bronze Member
    from utah
    Messages: 1,037

  7. Paul in Maryland

    Paul in Maryland LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    The Snapper was on my long list, but I eliminated it.
    First, at 6 hp it seems underpowered for a 26-inch deck.
    Second, the 12-inch rear wheels are too small for my needs.
    Third, it comes in a self-propelled version only, although at 147 lb it's probably the lightest 26-inch self-propelled model out there. But the light weight arises, I suspect, from the underpowered engine and 14-gauge deck (vs. 12 gauge on the other brands I'm looking at). If I knew that the self-propelled mechanism wouldn't engage the wheels until I engaged the drive, I could live with the weight.
    But these mixed reviews from another site, stopped me:
    live near Toledo Ohio....Not one dealer I talked to would stock them because they cant afford all the returns...I really wanted one till I talked to them...They say the deck is borrowed from a rider and does a lousey job mulching or bagging....After I bought a new gravely 21 I saw a 4 month old snapper 26 for sale for 300. Some one wanted to get rid of it.
    Posted by: mowerking 7b (My Page) on Sat, May 24, 03 at 10:20

    I'm a snapper dealer in SC. In the past 3 years I've retailed 6 of these units. They have proven to be a well built machine, and have held up very well. The're worth the 1K price tag, compared to commercial units!
  8. Paul in Maryland

    Paul in Maryland LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I had written to MacKissic with some questions about the Johnson Big Wheel. Here's their reply:
    "We acquired the Johnson Big Wheel® Co. in 2000 from Lee Johnson in Ridgeland, MS. Lee was one of the developers of the original Yazoo mower and used this experience to develop the Johnson Big Wheel®. The key to the durability of the Johnson Big Wheel® is the one inch, all welded, steel tubular frame that completely surrounds the mower instead of a bolt together frame or using the deck to bolt to. The Johnson Big Wheel® also has a blade support welded into the frame for maximum strength, it relies on the deck for no support at all. Other features on the 24” push mower include, recessed all welded T-type handles for easier trimming, 20 “’ pneumatic tires, four position height adjustment by simply moving to other attachment holes. The standard mulching blade fits our d-hole shaft and attaches with a nut & lock washer, our deck is 12 gauge and is perfectly round, it mulches great with the mulching baffle, the self propelled mechanism does not prevent free wheeling when pushing if not engaged, the blade brake on all models excluding the 26SP is provided by the S-2 braking system on the engine. The recessed front wheels do provide better access for front trimming. You will not find a better-constructed mower in the industry today. Our manuals are not available electronically at this time."

    Blade brake clutch, perfect-circle deck, inset wheels, simple height adjustment, a push-friendly self-propelled drive--all points in the Johnson's favor. No one said my choice would be easy!

    Paul in Poolesville, Maryland

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