If you’re in the market for a new mower you’ll definitely want to consider a zero turn radius (ZTR) mower to cut down on your mowing time. Once you have the feel for it, the zero turn radius mower can save you anywhere from 15 to 45 percent of your mowing time.
Zero turns are good for sloped land because of their low center of gravity and are especially great for maneuvering around obstacles. Zero turn radius mowers use a steering mechanism that controls the direction of travel by operating the drive wheels with two small hydrostatic transmissions. Most zero turn radius mowers utilize lap bars to control the forward-backward motion of the rear tires. However, some manufacturers are experimenting with steering wheel controls.
You’ll have your choice between consumer and professional grade models with professional models generally having heavier components and engines as well as longer life spans. Zero turns generally cost anywhere from three thousand dollars up to more than sixteen thousand for a commercial grade model. It’s a hefty price but a worthwhile investment for those who maintain large lawns or rural property.
Aside from cost, the biggest decision related to the purchase of the zero turn mowers is probably the placement of the mower deck. Center mounted mowing decks have blades that turn directly below the operator similar to the position on a conventional riding mower. You may want to consider a front mounted deck that allows you to watch exactly where the mower blades are going without craning or leaning. As a bonus front mounted decks can mow under shrubs, fences or other obstacles and some even raise up allowing for easy servicing.
There are many fuel options on today’s market from traditional gasoline to diesel, electric or even propane. Zero turn mowers typically have engines in the 18 to 25 horsepower range and have belt driven blades that are reliable. But if you’re looking for a bulletproof option you can always go for a shaft driven commercial machine. Just remember it will cost you considerably more.
Features to look for a zero turn mower
We would prefer at least a 23 horsepower engine preferably a Kawasaki or a Kohler based on their reputation and durability.
Foot pedal is used to raise and lower the deck although some mowers have a hand lever for this purpose. The reason we think a foot pedal is better because when you’re holding both handles and you have a dip in the lawn or you’re trying to avoid a sprinkler head or something, you know you can keep both your hands on the handles and raise the deck with your foot. On the other hand when using a hand lever you have to take one hand off and raise it or stop and raise which is little inconvenient.
Since you’re going to be riding on the mower for a considerable period of time it just helps to have a nice comfortable seat.
Solid Front Tires
It’s not mandatory but it is preferences if you got a zero turn mower and it has the solid front tires then you don’t have to worry about picking up a nail and they just last you know a long time.
Advantages of zero turn mowers
You can get the job done a lot faster with a zero turn lawn mower. It has a lot more power hence more speed and faster cutting.
The parts in a zero turn mower are made of stronger materials and are much more durable than the smaller push mowers.
Because of the stronger parts, ZTR mowers will go through a lot more damage and still be reliable. You can hit rocks or small obstacles and it would keep going. Bear in mind that the commercial version is a lot stronger than the residential version.
When you turn right or left with a ZTR mower it makes an instant spin on one wheel while remaining in that position.
Tips on operating a zero turn lawn mower
If you’ve ever noticed torn up patches of grass after you mow, you might be turning too sharply. Sometimes folks come to a halt when they’re about to make a sharp Zee turn. It’s important to keep driving and always make sure both drive wheels are moving during the turn. That avoids the dreaded turf tear up.
One thing you want to do at the end of your path is slow your speed down, keep all tires rotating because if you don’t, you will create a divot as you pivot around the inside tire. So what you want to do is, think of it as a three-point turn like in a vehicle. Come to the end of the path, keep your tires moving, over shoot your path slightly, back up and then continue moving forward.
An alternative is getting at the end of the path, slow your speed down, have your outside tire go forward and your inside tire going backwards. They’re creating the radius around the center of the machine and not the inside tire creating that divot.
ZRT mowers react quickly in uneven terrain that hides ruts and bumps. If you’re not careful it could lead to loss of control and cause a rollover or crash. Drive in the safety zone by steering clear of hazards and high-risk situations. Risky situations include drop-offs like retaining walls or wet areas that can cause a unit to slip into a hazard. Do not mow on steep hills greater than 15 degrees. Driving in the safety zone means steering clear of these areas.
It’s always a good idea to check the area for debris. Before leaving the operator seat always move the control levers to neutral. Set the parking brake and disengage the PTO. Remove debris such as a tree limb or rocks or other items that could damage the machine or be discharged from the cutting deck and injure someone or something.
When mowing around trees or any other obstacles always make sure to stay far enough away so that you don’t damage the cutting deck or the obstacles you’re mowing around. Keep the grass deflector in place and always have it in the down position while mowing. If you are climbing a hill and the wheels start to slip, back straight down the hill. Do not try to turn around. If you should ever have to climb a curb or any other obstruction, have the deck raised. Approach the curb slowly and at an angle.
Although the operations of the zero turn mower can seem quite complex at first after a short period of time say 10 to 15 minutes of operating it, you will find that it becomes quite intuitive and you’ll be running the machine like a pro in no time.