My Full-Tilt-Boogie Restoration on My 2002 Exmark Lazer Z HP Mower

Discussion in 'Original Pictures Forum' started by EdRouze, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. EdRouze

    EdRouze LawnSite Member
    Messages: 175

    Hello, Everyone,

    I thought it might be fun to post some photos of the restoration work I'm doing on my Exmark zero turn mower.

    Before we get going, some background.

    The mower was manufactured in 2002 by Exmark, a zero-turn builder in Nebraska. It is a 52-inch cut Lazer Z HP powered by a 23 hp Kawasaki motor.

    I've owned this mower for approximately eight years. I bought the mower used off of eBay. It came from a town about 100 miles from where I live in Alabama. I had the advantage of not having to bid against a whole bunch of prospective buyers as one might find in a large metropolitan area. Consequently, I was the sole bidder on the machine, and I won it for the reserve price.

    I have forgotten just how many hours it had when I bought it, however, now, in October of 2015, it only has 551 total hours. I'm just guessing, but I'd say the mower had about 200 to 225, or so hours when I bought it. I paid $2,500. I seem to recall reading somewhere that this model mower had a list price of about $7,800 in 2002. The seller had several small businesses, and it was my understanding that he used the mower to tend to his properties. It never was used commercially in the sense of someone using it to mow accounts.

    During the time I've had it I've used it to mow my lawn and the lawns of six houses and two vacant lots, all of which I own. These nine properties are all adjoining, therefore, I have no need to move the mower about on a trailer.

    Although the mower has relatively low hours, especially considering its age, it has suffered a good bit of neglect – practically all of which has been cause by me, the owner. Incidentally, I don't think anyone has operated it other than me during my term of ownership.

    Much of the neglect has been caused by, I hate to say it, ignorance and laziness on my part. And in addition to that, the mower has never been in covered storage, thus rain and the elements and lots and lots of sunshine have taken their toll on the mower.

    Amazingly, the mower has only required the replacement of the push-pull blade engagement switch and one new gas cap. I won't go into how I forgot to screw the cap back on and how it vibrated off. I will say I was impressed at just how far a gas cap will sail after mowing over it. The mower has had fairly regular oil and filter changes, greasing, replacement air filters, a battery or two and several sets of new blades.

    Despite the inattention and constantly being outside in the elements, the mower has never failed to start and perform except on one occasion when I had to replace the battery. Once a new battery was in, it returned to being ole reliable. It still has the belts and spark plugs it had when I bought it.

    I suppose it would not be surprising to know that the seat has probably caused me more minor problems than anything else on the mower. The vinyl, in the last year or two, has become stiff and much less pliant than it originally was. But the biggest trouble has been that the staples used to hold upholstery to the inside wood rusted in two. So a couple of years ago I disassembled the seat and replaced the wood. While the seat was apart I also made a weld repair to the backrest metal pan to fix a split in the metal.

    And as a quick aside, my background has been in newspaper writing and editing, and following that, I operated for 15 years a business that restored antique automobiles. Many of the techniques I learned while doing that are being used on this Exmark restoration.

    I have been thinking for a number of months I ought to tend to some of the neglected areas on my Exmark as a preventative measure rather than fixing things after they break.

    I decided I'd start by working on the mower deck. The spindle bearings are the originals and I couldn't help but notice the extra noise they were making the past several times I used the mower. Also, the blades themselves were dull and beat up, so they needed replacing.

    And speaking about the blades, I have found a great use for the old beat-up blades I used to throw away. Here's what I have been doing. Some time back I realized that the center hole in my Exmark blade was the same size as the hole in the blade on my Tru Cut push edger. When I discovered this I started using my metal-cutting chop saw to cut the old mower blades so that they are the exact same length as a never-used edger blade using the center hole as a point of alignment. The now-shortened mower blades last much longer than the edger blades I used to buy. How much longer? I'd say they last at least 5 times as long.

    Now, back to the Exmark project. Once I had the deck out from under the chassis, I started giving everything a good, visual inspection. Immediately I noticed that a spacer used to position one of the idler pulleys had a lot of wear. Further inspection revealed that the belt guide plate had a groove in it from where a pulley had ridden against it for quite some time. I already knew one of the five anti-scalp wheels had gone missing. There were several other things I found that either were a problem now or would become a problem in the not-so-distant future. Finally, I saw places, most particularly along some of the factory welds, where the powder-coat finish had flaked off and rust was beginning to appear.

    And this was just the deck. I'm going to need to think long and hard about the project I'm considering.

    Next time: My plan of attack.

    used exmark.jpg
  2. OP

    EdRouze LawnSite Member
    Messages: 175

    To get started, I decided to work first on the mower deck.

    I knew I needed new bearings for the spindles so I removed the blades and then unbolted the spindle housings. Once off, I broke the spindles down into individual parts. The bearings were indeed shot. I degreased everything and put it all aside.

    I also removed all the pulleys. When I came to the idler pulley, I found that the spacer had deep rust pits, so a replacement went on my “buy” list.

    Off came the anti-scalp wheels, the discharge chute, the deck-lift chains, the struts and pivots, the belt shields, and so on until everything was removed from the deck.

    Initially I figured I would use a wire wheel to skin off the old powdercoating on the deck, but I found the stuff was really on there. So rather than wasting any more time, I began piling up parts to deliver to the sandblaster. I also made arrangements with a local powdercoat shop to work their magic as soon as the sandblaster completed his work.

    I wanted to have the deck powdercoated in the same bright red as the Exmark factory used. I delivered the just-blasted deck, both of the belt covers, the discharge chute mount as well as a few other parts to the powdercoater.

    During the disassemble process, I found:

    Two idler pulleys had rough-turning bearings.
    A deep groove that cut about half-way through the belt-guide plate.
    A broken roller bushing on one of the anti-scalp wheels.
    Several badly rusted pulley spacers.
    I also discovered that the bolt that serves as the anchoring point for the heavy duty expansion spring had been eaten away so that only about one-third of the bolt's original thickness remained.
    Many of the nuts and bolts were rusty, although this wasn't a surprise at all.
    Finally, I knew the anti-scalp wheels were showing a fair bit of wear, so I added them to my shopping list.

    When I got the muffler and exhaust pipe removed I began the task of skinning off the entire rusty surface until I came to bright metal. I have posted a photo of the muffler when about half of it was stripped down. Once completely done, I sprayed on several coats of VHT FlameProof Primer, following the maker's directions. That was followed by several coats of VHT Flat Aluminum. The primer and paint must be oven cured following a heat up and then cool down process that goes for three rounds. I was impressed with the end result, and just to test it, I used a torch flame to turn a small area cherry red and the paint showed zero results of my torture test.

    Over the course of several days I continued the disassembly process, working until the main frame (see photo) was picked bare. I'll degrease this before taking it to the sandblaster.

    As I did my disassembly work I was surprised in one way, and not surprised at all in another, at the amount of rust on the various nuts and bolts used to bolt the entire outfit together. For the most part, the fastening hardware was simply zinc-plated nuts and bolts. I was surprised how some fasteners had virtually zero rust while other pieces were covered by plenty of surface rust. Hardly surprising with the mower staying outside all the time, I suppose.

    In order to combat this I decided I'd use stainless steel fasteners exclusively. I took my Exmark Parts Manual, and went through each parts group with a fine-tooth comb. I made a list, jotting down each type of fastener I came to in so far as the bolt size, the particular thread for that bolt and the fastener length. I used tally marks to keep track of the numbers needed. Once I had an inventory list I went to Albany County Fasteners ( of Sayreville, N.J., and put in the number totals I needed for each fastened I recorded. In a few instances, I found I might need just one of a certain kind of bolt. In other cases, 5/16 nuts, for example, I found it easier and more economical to order in lots of 100. Anyway, I placed my online order on a Sunday evening and received everything in hand on Wednesday.

    I liked ordering all the nuts and bolts bolts from one source. I was able to buy the exact number of whatever bolt I needed from Albany County Fasteners, they came bagged with the size on the outside, and just two fasteners were on backorder, and those arrived two days later on Friday.

    All total, when weighed together, the total weight for all the stainless fasteners was 17 and 1/2 POUNDS! (See photo)

    And finally, let me tell you that this deck (52-inch cut) is one heavy hunk of steel. The guys who unloaded it at the powdercoat shop could barely believe how heavy it is.

    Next time: Parts back from the powdercoater.

    main frame.jpg

    muffler four.jpg

    ss bolts.jpg

    muffler one.jpg
  3. lawnpropm

    lawnpropm LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 606

    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. OP

    EdRouze LawnSite Member
    Messages: 175

    Here are a few pictures of the deck and first parts I got back from the powdercoater.

    red powder one.jpg

    red powder three.jpg

    red powder four.jpg
    hort101 likes this.
  5. Grant11

    Grant11 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    subscribed. If you don't mind me asking, what was the cost of sandblasting? What was the cost of powder coating?
  6. OP

    EdRouze LawnSite Member
    Messages: 175

    Hi, GranT,

    Thanks for your interest in my project.

    I paid $80 for the sandblasting work. Ready for pickup the following day.

    The price for the red powdercoating was $120. A couple of days turnaround.

    Again, thanks for following and your yinterest!

    -- Ed

    I'm happy to answer questions.
    FerrisDiesel and 504mal like this.
  7. mowerdude777

    mowerdude777 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,734

    Subscribed! I always have wanted to do this to my original walk behind. A 1987 Ferris 32.
  8. cutshortlandscaping

    cutshortlandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 610

    subscribed this is something i always wanted to do as well never enough time
  9. OakNut

    OakNut LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,482

    And you guys think I'M goofy for waxing my mower.


    Good stuff!
  10. OP

    EdRouze LawnSite Member
    Messages: 175

    Yeah, I was beginning to see without a lot of work, I soon was going to have a mower that wasn't much good. It was do this or lay out thousands for another mower in a year or two.

    -- Ed

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