Zero-Turn lawnmower mechanics, chime in please.

bisleybisley Senior MemberPosts: 10,651 Senior Member
I have a Troy-Bilt XP Colt 42" zero-turn riding mower - which I now discover (after 6-7 years) was built by MTD, who simply changed the brand labels and put a Kohler engine on it to make it not appear to be an MTD. In fairness, it has been pretty reliable, not perfect, but no major repairs - just belts and batteries and front tires that will roll over if not over-inflated. Not a terrible record for a low-end zero-turn - better than I really expected.

Anyway, it now appears that one of the transmissions is bad. Unlike the higher end zero-turns, this one has a single sealed transmission unit on each side that contains the hydraulic motor and pump, as opposed to individual components that can be repaired or replaced, fluid added, etc.. It has lost power on the left side, most noticeably when there is any sort of uphill grade. I have checked linkages and wheel brakes, and didn't see any obvious problems, although I'm not really sure I could tell about the wheel brake, if there was something wrong.

My question is whether there are any little quirks in the adjustments, wheel brake, drive belt, etc, that I may be overlooking, that might cause this. A new transmission is about $850 - more than 1/3 of what I paid for the whole thing, several years ago. I hate to spend that, knowing that the mower assembly has a lot of wear, and also wondering if I can expect the other transmission to develop the same symptoms. It has had 6-7 years of pretty hard use, but the Kohler engine is still ginning nicely.

All advice is welcomed.
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Replies

  • Big ChiefBig Chief Senior Member Posts: 32,995 Senior Member
    Put some handlebars on it and push it around, I mean it runs and the blade turns right? :jester:

    Sometimes buying new is a better option. Sounds like this one has too many non-repairable/replaceable parts without buying whole major assemblies.
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,146 Senior Member
    I have an 8-year old Hustler 'Super Z' which is a professional grade zero-turn mower from my old lawn-care days. It has been extremely reliable with the exceptions you mention. Although I have never had to replace either of the propelling 'hydro's', which is what they are called down at the shop I take mine to when something goes wrong, I know a friend in the business who had to have them changed on the same brand as mine. From what I understand, there is no repair on the broken unit that can be done, although I'm no expert on the subject. I would suggest searching the internet for a parts supplier to find a replacement hydro for it, and fix it yourself. They're probably not cheap, (maybe couple hundred $) but better than scrapping it or having a mechanic do it. Maybe you could check your local lawn equipment repair center to get a feel for what it would cost and what difficulties you could expect....good luck.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    The $850 I mentioned is for the hydro replacement only (no installation). I'm trying to get a feel for what I'm looking at, before I load it up and carry it to a shop. My experience has not been very satisfying with any of the local shops. They usually just want to replace everything and charge top dollar and keep it for two weeks.

    I like Hustlers. If I eventually decide on a new mower, I may buy one.
  • Farm Boy DeuceFarm Boy Deuce Senior Member Posts: 6,083 Senior Member
    I can definitely recommend either Hustler or Bad Boy mowers, if you decide to replace your mower.
    I am afraid we forget sometime that the basic and simple things brings us the most pleasure.
    Dad 5-31-13
  • HAWKENHAWKEN Senior Member Posts: 1,688 Senior Member
    Most of the professionals I knew in Florida used Dixie Chopper's. I have no idea of the cost.........robin
    I don't often talk to people that voted for Obama, but when I do I order large fries!
    Life member of the American Legion, the VFW, the NRA and the Masonic Lodge, retired LEO
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,146 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    The $850 I mentioned is for the hydro replacement only (no installation). I'm trying to get a feel for what I'm looking at, before I load it up and carry it to a shop. My experience has not been very satisfying with any of the local shops. They usually just want to replace everything and charge top dollar and keep it for two weeks.

    I like Hustlers. If I eventually decide on a new mower, I may buy one.

    I was just taking a guess on the Hydro, as I hadn't needed to replace one. I've had 2 Hustlers, a Mini Z and Super Z, and both were excellent mowers. They have a heavy, solid chassis and built like a small tank. The Super Z goes very fast if you like speed. Mine has a 28HP Koehler engine and will go about 15 MPH going forward.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,146 Senior Member
    HAWKEN wrote: »
    Most of the professionals I knew in Florida used Dixie Chopper's. I have no idea of the cost.........robin

    That probably depends on the area. Where I live, the predominant commercial mowers are Hustler or Husqvarna. I only saw a Dixie Chopper occasionally.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    Lots of Dixie Choppers around here. They have a good reputation. Most of the commercial mowers I see being hauled around here are X-Mark, which is made by the same company as the Hustler, if I remember correctly.

    I'm going to cripple along with the Troy-Bilt till it won't go any more, I think. It is tricky to use, but reverse still works on the left side, so it can be wiggled around well enough to get the yard mowed, if I use the push mower a little around the edges. When Mrs. Bisley gets completely sick of it, I'll go get another one.
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,146 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    Lots of Dixie Choppers around here. They have a good reputation. Most of the commercial mowers I see being hauled around here are X-Mark, which is made by the same company as the Hustler, if I remember correctly.

    I'm going to cripple along with the Troy-Bilt till it won't go any more, I think. It is tricky to use, but reverse still works on the left side, so it can be wiggled around well enough to get the yard mowed, if I use the push mower a little around the edges. When Mrs. Bisley gets completely sick of it, I'll go get another one.
    I think you're right about the X-Mark. The Hustler factory also makes a brand called Big Dog. My neighbor has one and it looks pretty speedy and solidly built.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • FisheadgibFisheadgib Senior Member Posts: 5,685 Senior Member
    Didn't Buffy's family own a mower/equipment shop? He would be the person to offer some experience on this.
    snake284 wrote: »
    For my point of view, cpj is a lot like me
    .
  • coolgunguycoolgunguy Senior Member Posts: 6,455 Senior Member
    Around here, within a short drive's distance, we have at least two mower 'boneyards' where you could buy the part/s you're looking for. Do you have anything like that in your area?
    "Bipartisan" usually means that a bigger than normal deception is happening.
    George Carlin
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,146 Senior Member
    Fisheadgib wrote: »
    Didn't Buffy's family own a mower/equipment shop? He would be the person to offer some experience on this.
    I believe they own a distributorship of a brand I can't remember the name of, but I'm sure he could offer some guidance on the workings of a zero-turn mower.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • RugerFanRugerFan Senior Member Posts: 1,811 Senior Member
    Check with some repair shops to see if they have a mower like yours with a bad motor. They might be willing to part it out. Or sell them yours and you can buy a new mower.
  • gatorgator Senior Member Posts: 1,689 Senior Member
    We have a cub cadet zero turn at work that had the same symptoms..........there is a belt from the engine to the drive transmissions when the belt starts to go bad the they lose power.
    Ours started by losing power on one side first then the other, we changed the belt and problem solved.

    Hope this helps.

    Sent from my SM-T530NU using Tapatalk
    USMC 80-84
    -96 lbs
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    gator wrote: »
    We have a cub cadet zero turn at work that had the same symptoms..........there is a belt from the engine to the drive transmissions when the belt starts to go bad the they lose power.
    Ours started by losing power on one side first then the other, we changed the belt and problem solved.

    Hope this helps.

    Sent from my SM-T530NU using Tapatalk

    This is good information. I thought about the drive belt, but logically (to me), it would show symptoms in both transmissions. It is definitely worth a new belt to find out, in my situation. I'll try it. Thanks for chiming in.
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    No. That is for a walk-behind mower. The part I may need is a combination hydraulic pump and single wheel motor assembly for a zero-turn riding mower. It has one on each wheel that is driven by belt from a 20hp engine. I'm gonna try a new belt, first.
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    I replaced the belts and improved the problem significantly. There was an oil leak that was dripping oil onto the drive belt, allowing some slippage. While I was at it, I replaced the blades and belts, did some repairs on the deck, and changed the oil and all of the filters. Took it out for a test, and it was doing pretty good...till the engine blew!

    The engine revved up high (on it's own) and went "Clunk!" Smoke came out of the dipstick hole, and there were bright shiny particles of metal from one end to the other of the dipstick. I figured a thrown rod or maybe the top of the piston blew. Anyway, it's toast, with less than 1000 hours on it, and I was sick of tinkering with it.

    So, I went shopping. Looked at Bad Boys, Exmark, Snapper, and Hustler, and decided on the Hustler SD, with heavy duty hydros and 25 HP Kohler V-Twin, 54" cut. There is a dealer 10 minutes from my house that does full service, and he gave me the same price Lowe's is selling them for, except he services them to the point you can drive it off the trailer and start mowing.

    This thing is a hoss! I mowed our 2.5 acre obstacle course in quite a bit less than two hours, plus a half acre that used to be my garden that I had been mowing with a brush hog, behind a tractor. Just raised the mower up all the way and waded in. It handled a full width cut on very thick grass, three feet high, but I felt bad about it and started nibbling at it around the edges, for fear it might tangle up in the belt.

    Mrs. Bisley climbed on it when she got home, and handled it like a pro. She was grinning widely when she got off, so we may fight over who gets to operate this wonderful new toy. There is really no comparison between this one and the little Troy-Bilt 42".
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    There is zero comparisons between real mowers and home owner mowers.

    Yes, it is really unbelievable. I may never buy a lawn/garden tool again that is rated below commercial. I won't mind taking care of this one.
  • SirGeorgeKillianSirGeorgeKillian Senior Member Posts: 5,458 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    I have a Troy-Bilt XP Colt 42" zero-turn riding mower - which I now discover (after 6-7 years) was built by MTD, who simply changed the brand labels and put a Kohler engine on it to make it not appear to be an MTD.


    They are all that way. Husqvarna is owned by Electrolux, same company that owns Weed Eater and Polloun and Craftsman.
    Unless life also hands you water and sugar, your lemonade is gonna suck!
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    I'm in love with a Glock
  • Farm Boy DeuceFarm Boy Deuce Senior Member Posts: 6,083 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    Yes, it is really unbelievable. I may never buy a lawn/garden tool again that is rated below commercial. I won't mind taking care of this one.

    Once you have own GOOD yard equipment you will never go back to the big box store crap. I have a Bad Boy mower, a good Stihl chainsaw, the biggest homeowner Echo weed eater and a Bear Cat (now owned by Echo) chipper. Every one of those tools is worth the extra money.
    I am afraid we forget sometime that the basic and simple things brings us the most pleasure.
    Dad 5-31-13
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,146 Senior Member
    cpj wrote:
    There is zero comparisons between real mowers and home owner mowers.
    bisley wrote: »
    Yes, it is really unbelievable. I may never buy a lawn/garden tool again that is rated below commercial. I won't mind taking care of this one.

    I think you will be happy with your decision. I got out of the business in 2012 and decided to keep my Hustler because I still have 1.15 acres to mow, and the John Deer I had before I started the business was a piece of crap.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    Once you have own GOOD yard equipment you will never go back to the big box store crap. I have a Bad Boy mower, a good Stihl chainsaw, the biggest homeowner Echo weed eater and a Bear Cat (now owned by Echo) chipper. Every one of those tools is worth the extra money.

    My second choice was the Bad Boy with a 23 HP Kawasaki engine. It is almost a clone of the Hustler, except for the paint job. It was $300 higher, because of the Kawasaki engine, and the dealer was about 30 miles away, so I mainly decided based on my opinion of the dealer, and easy access. Also, the 25 HP Kohler - engine sounds like a Harley, when idling. :jester:
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    I think you will be happy with your decision. I got out of the business in 2012 and decided to keep my Hustler because I still have 1.15 acres to mow, and the John Deer I had before I started the business was a piece of crap.

    Yeah, until you get up into the big buck commercials, the John Deere is in the same category as the Troy-Bilt and low end Cub Cadets. They work OK on a smooth, flat lawn, for about 3-4 years, but get ragged out pretty quickly on rough ground. Hustler makes one in the same size range for residential use for about $3000, that would be my choice for an entry level. But it doesn't have the heavy duty hydros and is pretty cramped for a man my size. Even the Raptor SD is almost too small for me, but one that would fit me would cost $8000, and I'm expecting Mrs. Bisley to take this one away from me, pretty soon. If she does, I'll buy myself a new Stihl weedeater and be the 'detail boy.'
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    Stihl FS90.
    Been using one for 3 years. Other than the primer bulb (thanks, ethanol) it's been perfect. And it's been left outside most it's life, sometimes covered, mostly not. And it does 8-10 yards a week.
    It's the "single" handle if you will, not the bicycle style that requires you to wear a harness to use it. I HATE that harness.
    You can put a brush cutter blade on either, they just don't recommend it for the single handle for safety sake. Screw safety. :up:

    Here is how I will be using it:

    It will be used hard for about 40 hours, while I reclaim some areas of a 2 acre area that I've been neglecting for the last 3-4 years. After that, it will get used about an hour per every two weeks, against pretty light weeds and grass.

    Do I still need the $300 model, or will the $200 model suffice, in a Stihl? I had a small Stihl that I used pretty hard for awhile, then much lighter use for about 10 years, and it was great, but it got too hard to start and I swapped it off. This was early '80's technology.
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    Got it.

    It's what I was thinking, but I didn't want to buy something that I couldn't use up in the next ten years, or so. I don't anticipate using a blade, but I might. One of my neighbors had one, about 30 years ago and I reduced a small plum thicket to ashes in about 4 hours with it - pretty impressive, and it was only a McCulloch - plenty of power, but a bitch to keep running.
  • Farm Boy DeuceFarm Boy Deuce Senior Member Posts: 6,083 Senior Member
    If you have any amount of buck brush, wild sunflowers, Johnson grass or even heavy native grasses the blade will save a ton of time. I prefer the cross shape blades to the circular saw looking blades.
    I am afraid we forget sometime that the basic and simple things brings us the most pleasure.
    Dad 5-31-13
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    I have let the place grow up around the edges, since I was having some problems with vertigo for several months. It's mostly bermuda grass, weeds, sunflowers, and briars that have grown up around outbuildings, bushes that my wife likes, and some old junk and building material that I have put into 'purgatory. I call it purgatory because it contains stuff that was too good to throw away, so I let it rot for a few years until I don't love it, anymore, and then throw it away. :silly:

    Anyway, I'll clean it up with string, so I can see the junk. If some of it has gotten too big for the string and there is too much for a machete, I'll get a blade.
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,651 Senior Member
    I would do it and get away with it, but then Mrs. Bisley would try it and cut her head off.
  • BuffcoBuffco Senior Member Posts: 6,244 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    I have a Troy-Bilt XP Colt 42" zero-turn riding mower - which I now discover (after 6-7 years) was built by MTD, who simply changed the brand labels and put a Kohler engine on it to make it not appear to be an MTD. In fairness, it has been pretty reliable, not perfect, but no major repairs - just belts and batteries and front tires that will roll over if not over-inflated. Not a terrible record for a low-end zero-turn - better than I really expected.

    Anyway, it now appears that one of the transmissions is bad. Unlike the higher end zero-turns, this one has a single sealed transmission unit on each side that contains the hydraulic motor and pump, as opposed to individual components that can be repaired or replaced, fluid added, etc.. It has lost power on the left side, most noticeably when there is any sort of uphill grade. I have checked linkages and wheel brakes, and didn't see any obvious problems, although I'm not really sure I could tell about the wheel brake, if there was something wrong.

    My question is whether there are any little quirks in the adjustments, wheel brake, drive belt, etc, that I may be overlooking, that might cause this. A new transmission is about $850 - more than 1/3 of what I paid for the whole thing, several years ago. I hate to spend that, knowing that the mower assembly has a lot of wear, and also wondering if I can expect the other transmission to develop the same symptoms. It has had 6-7 years of pretty hard use, but the Kohler engine is still ginning nicely.

    All advice is welcomed.

    What make are the hydros? See if there is any stickers on them with identifying marks.

    Low oil can cause the symptoms you describe, as can loose drive belts. Honestly though? You've gotten your money's worth out of it. Our top end Hydrogear and Eaton hydros cost $890-1200. No way I'd put that much in a unit that old and make.

    It can possibly be serviced, but I'd need more info on the hydro.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
  • BuffcoBuffco Senior Member Posts: 6,244 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    Lots of Dixie Choppers around here. They have a good reputation. Most of the commercial mowers I see being hauled around here are X-Mark, which is made by the same company as the Hustler, if I remember correctly.

    I'm going to cripple along with the Troy-Bilt till it won't go any more, I think. It is tricky to use, but reverse still works on the left side, so it can be wiggled around well enough to get the yard mowed, if I use the push mower a little around the edges. When Mrs. Bisley gets completely sick of it, I'll go get another one.
    Hustler is it's own company. Exmark was bought and is owned by Toro.

    Dixie Chopper, that's the company that everyone in the industry is taking bets on when they fold and go under. Long story.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
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