SVSS riding mower showing signs of age - RC Groups
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Jul 24, 2016, 06:30 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Discussion

SVSS riding mower showing signs of age


The club owns a Husqvarna riding mower with a 52" cut. it was purchased in 2010 and has served us well. Unfortunately at 275 hours of mower run time it is showing signs of wear with a series of recent repairs. Here's a quick rundown:

1. On June 15 the steering failed and required replacement of a gear plate that had developed a series of stripped gear teeth. SVSS members did the repair work. At that time we also replaced the drag links (steering linkage bars) whose ball joints had become a bit loose.

2. On July 15 our onsite repair service tech diagnosed a very loose left wheel as having severely damaged bearings (both inside and outside inserts) that required new bearings and a new tire rim. That work is also being performed by SVSS (not done yet). The right wheel is also in the early stages of "bearing looseness" and will get a new outer bearing insert soon-fingers crossed that rim is not already damaged.

Worse, upon closer inspection on July 22 I discovered that the left front wheel axle is deeply scored to the point where the left side spindle assembly will also need to be replaced. This repair will take a little longer. I may have our repair service come out and do this one.

3. The forward speed of the mower is much less than it used to be. Also, when you first start the mower it takes 10 minutes before the transmission warms up and produces normal mowing speed. Our repair technician Curtis inspected the trans drive belt and found it to be okay. He said that means the transaxle very likely has to be rebuilt (new seals, etc) or replaced soon. Either way this will be an expensive repair (a new transaxle is $1100 --or-- repairs will be labor intensive).

The nature of these repairs underscores the fact that our mower is simply not designed for long term service on the north and south winch lanes terrain and on the unirrigated area around our landing zone grass (squirrel holes + taller weeds, etc).

Mower life: how much is left?

At 275 hours Curtis suggests that we need to start thinking about what our next mower will be. Curtis figures that by 300 hours we will start to see lots more parts failing--not so much with the motor itself but with the transmission and the entire front-end assembly (linkage, joints, bearings, etc). He explains that the Husq. mower is simply not meant for the size of our property.

Option 1: Keep repairing the mower

One option is to completely refurbish the front end and then have the transaxle rebuilt. I am not willing to spend much more repair time on the mower so unless another club member really enjoys this kind of thing we will have to pay to get it done. I have no idea what the total cost would be for this. Parts for rebuilding the front end would probably be $250, labor is unknown. The wild card is dealing with the transaxle. I'm guessing a rebuild would run $500 but that's just a wild guess. If we want to explore this further I'll make some calls.

Option 2: Buy a new mower in 2017

You can buy cheap (Home Depot grade) to very expensive lawn tractors with a 52" cut. Our current mower is a mid-grade unit: a good motor and fabricated (not stamped) deck but a lower-grade chassis, transmission, and front end. With a higher grade lawn tractor (in $4.5k-8K range), and with training a smaller number of SVSS guys for just "winch lane mowing," we might do well using our pull-behind mower in an offset configuration (adds to width of tractor cut).

Or we could decide to purchase a higher end (used) tractor with a heavy duty mowing deck but that would require way more $$. We could finance such a purchase over a longer term but that would bring significantly more liability to whomever co-signs for the financing.

With all his service experience Curtis seriously recommends a John Deere 52" fabricated deck mower. He explains those units are built with much heavier-duty parts and will last a very long time in use at Grasslands. He gave one example: the steering linkage arms on the Deere units are 2-3x fatter than the Husq. unit. He gave other examples too.

Our park host Jesse suggested that we consider buying a higher end refurbished John Deere lawn tractor. He has good experience with a place in Sacto that we could check out.

If we do want to consider a new mower Curtis also says if we sell our current mower before it gets too much more beat up we could get $1500 for it pretty quickly.

Financing a new mower

The biggest challenge with buying a new mower is that SVSS does not have quite enough of a cash reserve to outright buy a heavy duty unit. So the most likely approaches are: (a) ask every club member to do a one-time contribution to a new mower fund, or (b) have the club make a down payment and finance the balance over 3-5 years with a co-signer.
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I don't have a personal stake in either option (i.e. repair or get a new mower). It's up to the club to discuss first and then decide by vote.

Feedback and thoughts welcome.

Chris Bajorek
VP Field, 2016
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Jul 24, 2016, 07:43 PM
Old Prop Buster
Sir Dumb Thumb's Avatar
Chris:
Would it behoove us to think of a different plan, maybe hiring someone with big mower to come out (X) amount of times a year to mow and the club just weed eats? Or maybe hiring someone (X) times in the spring and we repair the mower and we mow when it takes less effort to keep up on it? Maybe a mower that attaches behind the tractor that we have been so lucky to get? Anyway just a few ideas, maybe not good ones?
Gary
Jul 24, 2016, 07:58 PM
Martin
A big reason the mower got beat up this year is all the extra land we are mowing compared to prior years. We have been mowing parts of our field that in prior years was left alone and was never graded to facilitate mowing. Mowing that area with all of its ground squirrel holes subjects the mower to unnecessary punishment and added unnecessary hours of mowing and probably is the cause for the axle damage.
We also did not do a good job of cleaning the cut grass and weeds from under the mower and in the belt system. We had so much grass clogged into the mower recently that it was seriously impacting performance and I'm sure overloading components.
When we purchased this mower the team that recommended it said it was a very good fit for our needs.
I would like to see a full report from the repair people with their recommended repairs, costs, resale options and new mower costs and specs before anymore discussions on this matter.
Mart
Jul 24, 2016, 08:15 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Gary, thanks for your inputs. A few data points on the size of our mowing area:
Irrigated grass = 2 acres
Area surrounding the irrigated grass = 1.3 acres
North winch lanes = 2.4 acres
South winch lanes = around 4 acres
TOTAL area to mow: around 10 acres
Last November I checked on the cost to have a tractor service come out and do our mowing. It was quite expensive. e.g. one service (Xtreme Green Grass) charged $225/acre. The cheapest I found was $150-180/acre if we made long term committments. So we just don't have the budget to pay for a heavy duty tractor to do the work, evenb just for the winch lanes area.

By the way we already do have a tow-behind mower (that is also not really designed for being pulled over squirrel holes) but have not used it this year (battery needs replacing but is supposed to be operational). As I explained in my 6-month report it was not feasible to train the larger # of volunteers on the tow-behind mower especially consider how much time it took to deal with the sprinkler repairs. However I have my fingers crossed that I can get some time between now and later this year to get it going and see how it does.

Chris
Jul 24, 2016, 08:17 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrfski
I would like to see a full report from the repair people with their recommended repairs, costs, resale options and new mower costs and specs before anymore discussions on this matter.
Mart
Your job is to facilitate discussion, not suppress it. Club members should always feel welcome to offer comments and ideas.
Jul 24, 2016, 10:13 PM
Registered User

mower


Are there procedures in place as to what to do when finished mowing?
Washing the deck and underside of the mower?
Check for loose belts?
Check oil?
etc.
Jul 24, 2016, 10:43 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by foxcraft
Are there procedures in place as to what to do when finished mowing?
Washing the deck and underside of the mower?
Check for loose belts?
Check oil?
etc.
I'm at the field at least once a week and have taken the responsibility to check the mower, check gas cans, clean it off using the blower, etc. Thankfully the mower holds oil well so it only needs to be checked a few times a month. If the belts get loose symptoms will pop up (blades won't turn or the mower wont move) so there's no need to explicitly check them.

I have not asked the volunteers to clean the underside of the mower partly because we did not have an easy way to raise the deck (we do now). From my experience with Husqvarna mowers on our property using the cleaning port (hose hookup) makes more of a mess than it does removing the impacted grass.

The only real way to get the bulk of the packed grass out is to pry and scrape it off. We now have 2 ways to raise the deck: a small floor jack to raise the deck on each side (I used it Thurs just fine) and 2 small ramps that Dudley just donated. And Neil Nolte is going to provide a few custom "grass scraper" tools soon to make it even easier (thanks Neil).

In any case running with the impacted grass did not cause damage to the mower. Often what happens is large chunks will break free from the last mowing session as you are mowing so I've found you usually end up with fairly stable regions of "packed grass" underneath. However 2 weeks ago after an early morning (wet) mowing session enough grass was left that the next time it prevented the deck blades from turning (rare). Won't happen again as long as we clean the deck at least every other time.

Hope that covers your questions, Lou.
Jul 25, 2016, 04:41 PM
Registered User
jtlsf5's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoaringDude
Your job is to facilitate discussion, not suppress it. Club members should always feel welcome to offer comments and ideas.
And its not your place to stiffle anyone's thoughts or input on this issue when they appear to be at odds with your agenda, especially not the person elected to head the club and that in most organizations you would be required to report to. Remember that you were not elected as the sole voice of SVSS, you are just another contributor.
Jul 25, 2016, 05:20 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jtlsf5
And its not your place to stiffle anyone's thoughts or input on this issue when they appear to be at odds with your agenda, especially not the person elected to head the club and that in most organizations you would be required to report to. Remember that you were not elected as the sole voice of SVSS, you are just another contributor.
? I opened the thread for inputs and questions. It is still open. No idea at all what you are talking about.
Jul 25, 2016, 06:49 PM
Registered User
jtlsf5's Avatar
No surprise.
Jul 25, 2016, 07:08 PM
Old Prop Buster
Sir Dumb Thumb's Avatar
Chris:
The mower attachment I meant was like the county uses to mow the road shoulders. It attaches to the back of a tractor and does not have wheels on it to bounce in squirrel holes. I have attached a picture. Maybe this could be the path we go down IF we get there?

I am sorry I live 1.5 hours away from tools to work on the transaxel. Somebody who is closer needs to tackle that job.


Gary
Jul 25, 2016, 07:16 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir Dumb Thumb
Chris:
The mower attachment I meant was like the county uses to mow the road shoulders. It attaches to the back of a tractor and does not have wheels on it to bounce in squirrel holes. I have attached a picture. Maybe this could be the path we go down IF we get there?

I am sorry I live 1.5 hours away from tools to work on the transaxel. Somebody who is closer needs to tackle that job.
Gary
Thanks for the pic Gary. That looks like a nice option. I need to run this by John Eaton and see if our onsite tractor could work with an attachment like that.

I'm getting some other nice emailed ideas from members today. I may copy some of them to this thread when I get some time.

No worries on the transaxle thing--you live farther away than I do
Jul 25, 2016, 09:14 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Gary, yes, John says our tractor has a PTO shaft that can be used to run a mowing deck. So this is another option. John will be at the meeting this Sat.
Jul 27, 2016, 08:34 AM
Skyking

Out of bounds


Quote:
Originally Posted by jtlsf5
No surprise.
I doubt Chris has a agenda. He wants things to work and has put many volunteer hours into making the our site look great. The front axle issues were due to driving into holes. Care needs to be exercised and those of us that have mowed realize that you can't go full speed sometimes and have to be more careful. This is a discussion area and anyone trying to stop that is out of place.
All members have an opinion and should be able to express it.
Jul 29, 2016, 04:24 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir Dumb Thumb
Chris:
The mower attachment I meant was like the county uses to mow the road shoulders. It attaches to the back of a tractor and does not have wheels on it to bounce in squirrel holes. I have attached a picture. Maybe this could be the path we go down IF we get there?

I am sorry I live 1.5 hours away from tools to work on the transaxel. Somebody who is closer needs to tackle that job.


Gary
This is called a flail mower. They cost in the $3000 to $5000 range. They need the power from the big tractor to run them. But they are very robust and some models claim to even be useful on grass.


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