Pros: Zero Turn, Dependable, User Serviceable
Cons: Deck Integrity, Ground Speed
The John Deere 23HP EZ Trak Residential Zero Turn Mower with 48 in. brings to the consumer a level of performance that was once reserved for the landscaping professional. Forty eight inches of cutting capability is a huge timesaver on a riding mower, making the EZ Trak a natural given our busy societys demands on our time.
John Deere has a long established relationship with those who work the land. On the consumer level, the brand has delivered on its reputation as a reliable lawn implement, no doubt borrowing on their 171 year history which began in a blacksmith shop.
When choosing a riding mower one of the primary considerations is the engine. Briggs and Stratton is a 100 year old company whose Red & Black Label is a mainstay in the power equipment arena. The EZ Trak incorporates the 23 ELS (Extended Life Series) horsepower, 721 cc 44 cu in. motor on their Z425 and the Z245 which this review is based on a loaner from my Deere dealer as a trial before buying.
The motor is built expressly for high rpm smaller block applications. Durability is manufactured in to the Brigs and Stratton by incorporating:
1. V Twin Dura-Bore Cast Iron Sleeves
2. Full Pressure Lubrication with Spin On Filter
3. Overhead Valves
4. heavy Duty Upper Bearings
Their proprietary Anti-Vibration System keeps stress on the deck to a minimum reducing the fatigue of the decks steel and on the rider. The air cooled motor runs on regular gas and fills at 3.5 gallons which lasts a couple of cuts on our 3 acre property at moderate speed.
The hydro gear transmission is smooth running and quiet with virtually no maintenance required. From experience John Deere lawn products generally suffer from the maladies of consumption i.e. belts, pulleys and deck fatigue; all basically normal wear and tear on an implement of this caliber. Gone are the steering wheel and accelerator and brake; no you now are in another world akin to learning how to drive dads manual transmission, though the learning curve is relatively less threatening.
Motion Control levers handle all Neutral, steering, braking as well as acceleration. As you sit in the robust trademark yellow seat equipped with arm rests, you need to determine if the control levers are set at a comfortable height which is quickly done. You now have to set aside a little time and real estate to get used to the controls. Neutral finds the levers midway and facing one another. Forward is simply a matter of pushing controls forward with the unit speeding as you push further forward and corresponding back by pulling back on the levers. Top turn left, you simply push forward on the opposing lever. Pushing and pulling on the opposing levers more radically tightens your turning radius to an ultimate zero configuration, though I recommend an easing into this maneuver or risk losing valuable shrubs and flowers.
Control wise, its all there:
Parking Brake lever
Mower Lift Lever and stop pin
Mower engagement Switch
Seat Adjustment Lever
Throttle Control Lever
All controls are readily accessed from the seat and on the left fender which incidentally has an integrated cup holder and handy accessory bin which is great for carrying pruners which always seem to come in handy as you cut around the perimeter of your property.
The cutting deck is adjustable from 1-4 inches adjustable in ? increments, which is plenty for most users. The deck will withstand the rigors of a smooth property that does not have ruts twigs, branches or stone. If your property is heavily treed and you dont pick up all the debris from those trees before cutting, you will be patching the deck as it will develop fatigue cracks over time. The steel deck is not as impervious as it appears. I have, in the past, repaired the 38 inch deck on my old LT 155 to the point where it was completely patched around the blade wells. The deck wheels attach to a single deck bracket which is prone to bending on contact with anything hard or over time hard releases of the deck. Granted, this all sounds like abuse of a machine but the fact is, when you own a large parcel of property that is heavily treed there are a lot of surprises that you encounter from week to week sometimes. Our property lies adjacent to a parcel of township land that can have heavily pedestrian traffic and we are always picking up stones, cans and pieces of wood and debris with our mowers, so the deck has to be durable enough to withstand these conditions.
The deck cuts nicely though and is easily removed when necessary on account of the simple 4 point mounting systems. Because of the John Deere 245 EZTraks 560 lbs. you have to get creative when changing blades. Cleaning can be a lot more challenging if it werent for the wash port that gets most of the newly stuck clippings under the deck a handy feature that is finding its way onto many mowers.
Care and feeding is a matter of oil and filter changes after eight hours and then at 50 hours changing oil, filter and lubricating spindles. A more comprehensive and user DIY project happens at 100 hours which you can monitor with the onboard hour meter. Every 200 hours a dealer service is recommended as it involves valve adjustments. Lubricating front arm lifts, wheel bearings and spindle grease fittings is a routine maintenance that you should monitor frequently to assure long life. The Rear 18X9.5-8 and front 13X5.0-6 are all pneumatic and durable Turf Saver tires. Replacing belts and spindles are easy and once more user serviceable. Rear Turf Drive
The ride is comfortable, the cut is nice and the unit is relatively user serviceable. Among my concerns is the ground speed. At 7 mph, the John Deere 245 EZTrak is a little on the slow side for my taste. I like the Kawasaki motors a little better than the Briggs and Stratton for my property, and the decks build integrity concerns me. I think that if you have a pristine piece of trees on the perimeter or treeless property this unit will work wonders for you. My property rolls and is heavily treed and I am certain the John Deere 23HP EZ Trak wont be any better than my LT 155 which had a hard life here. My search for the perfect mower continues.