Pros: 3-speed self propelled, 4-stroke engine, quick & easy starting
Cons: Pricey, no throttle control lever
I bought the John Deere JS63 self-propelled walk behind lawn mower in August, 2001 at The Home Depot. I brought it home, opened up the instruction booklet, and started reading. Fortified with the wherewithals of my new lawn mower, I started putting it together. The mower went together very easily. One thing I noticed though...the picture of the lawn mower on the box showed a throttle control lever on the mower handle in addition to the speed control lever for the belt driven self-propelled drive.
Mine didn't have it.
I looked over the lawn mower manual again, and there was no mention of a throttle control lever.
Doesn't really matter. The 21" deck lawn mower starts easily and cuts beautifully. I bought a John Deere walk behind mower because I already own a John Deere 212 riding mower with a 48" three blade mowing deck, a 36" single stage snow thrower attachment and a 33" rear mounted power rotary cultivator. I'm very satisfied with my JD 212.
I used to have a Lawn Boy 2-cycle self-propelled lawn mower for a little over ten years, but I finally got tired of mixing gas & oil together, forgetting the mix ratio, digging out the owner's manual to remind myself, then doing the mental gymnastics of calculating how much oil to put into a 1 1/2 gallon gas can to get the proper 32:1 mix. Maybe some of you out there know what I'm talking about.
Anyhow, apart from John Deere's reputation for good, quality products, the new mower had a distinct advantage over the old Lawn Boy: (not counting a 4 stroke engine and no more mixed gas)
The JD JS63 has a belt driven rear axle.
The Lawn Boy had a rotating, knurled shaft that rotated the rear tires, and had a carriage attached to the handle that lowered the knurled shaft on top of the rear wheels. It worked OK, but the knurled drive shaft would eat off the rear wheel treads every 2-3 years and I would have to replace the rear wheels.
The JS63 uses a belt tensioner pulley. Whenever you pull up on the drive handle, the pulley engages the transmission via a cable connected tension spring and off you go, at whatever speed you have set.
The plastic cover for the self-propelled drive is located on the rear of the mower deck. It is easily removed for cleaning or adjustments over time and usage. The instruction manual has many good illustrations to show how to perform routine maintenance and adjustments to the mower.
If you are trimming around things and you don't want the self-propelled feature, let go of the self-propelled control lever and you're pushing the mower with very little transmission resistance. When you want the self-propelled feature again, pull up on the control lever with your fingers and the mower takes off. Very easy to use. The self-propelled transmission has positive engagement with no slippage, very nice for mowing uphill.
The JS63 has a safety shut-down handle that you have to keep pulled down to the lawn mower handle. If you release the handle for whatever reason, the lawn mower engine will stop. Very nice, and very safe, because you are not near the mower deck when you start the engine. The JS63 has an adjustable height mowing deck and the handle bars are adjustable to the height of the operator.
The mower has an overhead cam 6.5 hp Briggs & Stratton engine that is capable of handling moderately heavy mowing conditions. This mower also has a catch bag and a side discharge chute. The mower is capable of mulching by removing the discharge chute and placing the cover back over the mowing deck. Don't try mulching if you are cutting wet or even damp grass. The cut grass will clump and clog under the mower deck and stall the engine.
I'm very satisfied with this mower and the self-propelled 3-speed feature makes grass cutting fun instead a j-o-b, but let's face it, it's a small mower designed for light to medium jobs which it does very well.
Instead of a choke on the engine (no throttle control lever, remember?) it has a priming bulb. You just push the little rubber button a few times with your thumb for starting a cold engine, a couple of quick pulls on the cord, (remembering to keep the safety shut-down handle pulled back) and you're off.
So far, the mower is trouble free. The only drawback is the price. I Like the JS63 lawn mower, but I feel that you're paying a premium for the John Deere name. I will point out that I looked at a Honda Harmony self-propelled walk behind and the asking price was $800.00+ at The Home Depot but it was a more robust, bigger mower with a much bigger engine with solid-state ignition, overhead cam, electric start, low oil level shut-down, and a real geared transmission.
Plus, I believe in truth in advertising. If the mower doesn't have a manual throttle control, it should be known. Some of us actually LOOK for features like that, and it can get darn disappointing when you drive 120 miles round trip to buy it, bring it home, then find out it's not exactly what you were led to believe it was.
Also, if you ask too many technical questions about a specific product to some of the people at The Home Depot, especially the younger ones, they shrug their shoulders and look at you like a calf staring at a new gate.
I have a great little walk behind lawn mower, even without the throttle control lever, and I would recommend it if you're in the market for a small lawn mower like this one.
Especially if you can get it cheaper than $450.00.