Pros: Attachments install and remove easily. Cutting height very precise, adjustable in 1/4in. increments.
Cons: Maximum cutting height setting 3.5", need higher for tall lawns. Small gas tank 2.75gal.
Wow what a machine! I just took delivery of a GT235 with a 42 inch snow thrower and a 48 inch mowing deck. The cost was $7000 with all the accessories before discounts, $5279 for just the tractor. After a generous trade-in the final cost was $5025 plus tax. Other dealers in the area wouldn't beat this price.
For the last 14 years I have used an Ariens YT15 and recently a 1540 both with a 36 inch snow thrower. The snow thrower is a 2 stage so I had reservations going to a single stage. Those that I spoke with assured me that a single stage works equally well. So far all I can say is that the snow thrower is very quiet while running. Next winter I will update my review.
As for the GT235, it is in a different league than the Ariens tractors. Heftier components not withstanding. I got the 1540 since my YT15 needed some repairs and since Ariens doesn't make these tractors any more I wanted to get one of the last ones because I had such good luck with the YT-15. What a disappointment! In the snow I got stuck on a regular basis. There just wasn't enough power getting to the rear wheels, they would stall and simply not turn. As you can guess in snow and ice the wheels need to turn to get out of a jam. This 1540 just wasn't up to it. In addition the push rod controlling the steering would bend when the the wheels got mired in wet snow as I was trying to turn the wheel. What a disaster! The local Ariens repair shop got the problems fixed but I was not happy.
I soon went to my local John Deere dealer and upon a 10 minute inspection I could see that the GT235 was a more beefy machine, more horse power (18HP, bigger components, the whole package.
Now that I have had some personal time with my GT235 I just love it. The attachments go on/off with ease...amazing....I had to muscle the Ariens snow throw on, and the mower deck had to be squeezed by the tires. It is obvious that the J.D. designers thought through all aspects of this tractor's design.
Starting is a little different than the other tractors that I have owned, you set the throttle and then have to hold the spring loaded choke into the set position until the engine starts, then let it go. It is easy to over choke this engine in warm weather use 1/2 choke.
The left hand turning radius is a lot tighter than the right hand turn. The left side is intended for trimming. Steering effort is very low for a tractor of this size even when the snow thrower is attached. The reverse PTO override needs only be held upward until you start to move rearward while cutting in reverse, then you can let it go. I am all for safety but this is a bit annoying if you forget to engage the override the blades stop and the PTO switch has to be turned off then on. Until I get used to this the PTO clutch gets a workout! The cruise control is great to use while cutting for long periods. Contrary to other reviews it does disengage when the brake is pressed. It would be nice if it worked in reverse as well. Then you could use the lever as a secondary speed control. This machine is fast, 7 mph forward, 4 mph reverse. With that kind of speed I can get to the end of my 300 ft driveway in no time. With that much speed you have to be careful.
The cutting height is very precise with 1/4 in. increments. The attachments are raised and lowered by the foot pedal on the left hand side.
You must also set the locking control to release the attachment before releasing foot pressure. The right side foot pedals are for the brake (upper) and forward speed control (lower left) and reverse speed control (lower right). Operation of these pedals is pretty intuitive. The forward speed control is a little sensitive on start up which can cause the machine to lurch forward. It takes some care and getting used to for smooth operation.
The mower deck is available in 48 and 54 inch cutting widths. Each have 3 blades. I bought the mulching option for $169. It includes a set of mulching blades with 2 more cutting surfaces per blade at the midpoint of the blade and a baffle made of high strength plastic that blocks the exit chute and fits closely to the blade tips on the front of the deck. This is removable by unscrewing 3 wing nuts but you must remove the deck to get it out. The cutting height control is marked up to 3.5 inches. You can get 4 inch cutting height if you cut in the transport position, that is, with the deck raised. To set the cutting height the deck must be raised while the adjustment is made. When lowered it gently descends to the new height. The cutting quality is exceptional. The lawn looks like a carpet. There are no missed blades of grass anywhere to be seen.
Operation of the snow thrower controls is standard. On the left side of the tractor just above the attachment lift pedal is a bracket that holds the chute controls. The chute rotation control is screw driven and operates through 200 degrees of angle. There is no lock to keep the position fixed but it's tight enough to prevent movement. More on this later. The chute deflector can be angled to direct the snow over a full range from slightly downward to full upward.
The engine is an 18HP Kawasaki V-Twin with fully pressurized oil system and filter. The filter is easily accessible. The oil drain is convenient but has a plastic plug! The engine is very quiet at full throttle. Starting is straight forward but the choke must be used carefully in warm weather or the engine will flood. I find it a bit tricky. Run time per fill up is 3 1/2 hours.
The delivery man was extremely thorough with his introduction to the machine. He showed me how to remove the snow thrower and install the mower deck. Even the J.D. dealers are better!
Cutting the lawn is a breeze, the seat has a nice high back and is very comfortable, the springs are adjustable to 3 positions for ride smoothness. Seat position is adjustable...stay tuned for the winter operation review.
Speaking of which, we had our first snow of the season end of November, about 3 inches. The snow blower attachment went on easily accept for the right side rear latch which required a bit of jockeying to get the unit into a position that would allow the latching mechanism to seat. The snow was very light, which is typically doesn't throw very far even with a 2 stage. The range for the light snow was 6-7 feet. I find the throwing distance on the marginal side. When I got down to the street where the treated heavier snow had been pushed up by the plow the throw distance went out to 12 feet, a more respectable performance. Performance of the snow thrower clearing a 12 inch accumulation is acceptable though not excellent. The available power handles most load situations without effort but the throwing distance does not compare with a 2 stage thrower.
During my first winter of snow clearing I had several instances where the engine would loose power and finally stall. My local dealer said water was getting into the carburetor, which was not exactly right. Operating to remove light snow caused some signs of moisture to accumulate inside of the air filters but that was not the problem. I was getting carburetor icing just like in airplanes. The Kawasaki engine uses a carburetor that is not in the flow of warm cooling air and is thus susceptible to icing. Finally, in the spring John Deere shipped a kit to restrict cooling airflow and increase engine temperature thus eliminating the icing. I have not seen this in action. I am hopeful that it works.
The snow thrower has several areas on the paint that are already rusting through. John Deere has offered to have the dealer re-paint these areas. They have stopped short of replacing the housing. This is the first sign of poor quality that I have seen on this machine and its attachments.