Pros: Reliable, Durable
Land ownership is one of the coveted investments one could make, that is of course unless it surrounds your home and you are subjected to all the tasks and perils that accompany the care and feeding of that property. The one thing that you learn early in the game with regard to the purchase of tools and equipment is that Commercial grade equipment generally serves you both better and longer than consumer-grade gear found at many hardware and home centers. If you choose to have a nice lawn on that property, you have just upped the ante on the game and unless you do your homework, much like at a casino, the house wins every time. Experience can sometimes sober one to the reality of a situation, much like it did me.
Over the years I had tried to accommodate my needs within my budget and try to manage all the tasks at hand. Granted a lawn doesnt seem like a major concern and initially I tried to get away with the cheapest solution in a riding mower, which took me to Sears. I purchased a 10 hp rider/bagger combination with a fixed 30 deck that lasted all of 4 years and about $300.00 in repairs. The Sears was an absolute bust! My mechanic said it best: "Sears mowers keep the light on around here!" Say no more. After 4 trips, for everything from a busted axle to a bad steering and starter, not to mention having to Order blades not buy them off the shelf. I moved on.
My next purchase was a Wheel Horse, prior to being bought out by Toro. It lasted 10 years with a few trips to the dealer for parts and bandages. I had been told I was under-buying my need, which was a medium Garden tractor, but at $3000.00 I thought I would do just fine with a $1500.00 Wheel Horse. To some extent, I did okay with the Wheel Horse. It was not a bad machine, perhaps a little underpowered at 12 HP for my property. It cut fine but I noticed I was buying replacement parts frequently. Things like belts, blades, pulleys, and I was disheartened at the beating the 39 deck was taking. After 6 years it looked like it was run into the wall it was so banged up. It plowed snow with some effort and took care of all my needs. Overall not terribly bad but it showed signs of wear early in the game. (5 years) Now it is out to stud occasionally plowing snow and seeding/fertilizing
Okay, the writing was on the wall here. It was plain to see that either of these mowers was not up to the task of my property, which is heavily treed and is not completely flat. I needed to do some serious shopping to accompany the dose of reality I was experiencing.
The purchase of a riding mower is much like that of an automobile. You spend countless hours in pursuit of research, visiting dealers asking questions and test riding. I tried a lot of mowers out. I looked at Snapper, Cub Cadet, Simplicity and a host of others. The one thing they all had in common is that at some point in the sales pitch, the salesman would always compare it to a John Deere. So, it just seemed logical to go see the John Deere. As it turns out the road could have been shorter and less traveled, had I gone to Deere First!
To say I was impressed as soon as I walked in my local John Deere dealership would be an understatement. John Deere is built to last, a fact that is plainly evident to the naked eye, without having set foot on one! I was fortunate enough to be in the dealership while the Deere rep was there. As I tried a few tractors out (cutting the dealers lawn in the process) I decided to pick the reps brain. Explaining that on my treed lot, Fall is a real treat leaf-wise and it is a job to get a nice clean appearance. I was looking to really get on top of this job. He was helpful here. He spoke highly of the 42 mulching deck, but was quick to point out that, given the amount of leaves I pickup, it would be unreasonable to expect perfection. The deck would leave confetti-sized leaf clippings. To achieve close to perfect results I would have to consider either a bagging or vacuum unit.
His suggestion was a better option. Stick with the 38 deck, work the engine less thus work more efficiently, and spend the money on a hydrostatic drive. After looking at a few models, I had narrowed my focus onto the model LT 155, primarily because it had an automatic, hydrostatic drive transmission, that simply put, meant I would totally eliminate shifting. I would estimate I had shifted approximately 150-200 times, each cut, for all the years I had owned the Wheel Horse and it was, in a word, tiring! In addition, I took him on up on his suggestion to buy the 38 deck and a twin bagging unit. The dealer agreed to deliver the machine that afternoon.
Okay, I am pretty excited awaiting this delivery. Finally a panel truck with a John Deere green and yellow paint scheme pulls into the property, and now I am really excited! The delivery was in a word dramatic. The deliveryman was dressed in a John Deere uniform and hat and proceeds to drive the LT 155 out of the truck on a ramp. He then proceeds to drive up the driveway. I am completely still watching him take the 45 second drive toward me and now I am beside myself! Settle down Lou, its only a Garden tractor a $3000,00 investment into your future peace of mind! The Deliveryman goes into a delivery presentation touching on operation, the manual service schedule, much like he was delivering a Lexus. I dare say I was really impressed and informed after he left. Get this as he was walking away, he turned back and gave me this sort of casual salute goodbye. Thats when I lost it! I died laughing!
Tale Of the Tape
As I composed myself I really started to inspect the LT155. The steel chassis on the LT 155 is ample to carry a 15 horsepower Kohler motor, 38 inch, twin blade cutting deck and a host of accessories. The ample yellow seat is high, hard-backed and cushioned in yellow thick plastic, and quite comfortable. The control panel is quite simply laid out. Sitting on the LT 155 you get a sense of a solid piece of machinery under your command, which is immediately gratifying. In order to start the LT 155 you have to have the Emergency Brake, which is essentially a yellow pull lever, disengaged, and your foot on the brake. Turn the key and the Kohler rumbles to life settling into a mild but regimented purr. As you look over the high tensile, headlight equipped, secured plastic hood your line of sight is clear as you sit fairly high.
The transmission comes to life as you depress the gas pedal forward and the traveling speed increases as you depress the pedal. Going into Reverse is simply a matter of first depressing a reverse control button on the control panel and then depressing the reverse pedal located to the outside and right of the gas pedal. Simple!
Cutting Height is simplified by the use of a dial on the floor. Once dialed in, all you need to do now is to lower the deck with the deck release lever. Increase the throttle lever and engage the Mower engagement lever and you are in business! The twin blades operate much the same as a mulcher as it really repeatedly cuts your grass before blowing it out the side exit chute. The deck disperses the cut grass approximately 12 feet from the mower, leaving no hint of a windrow or clumping. Wet cuts are astonishingly very effective as well. The twin bagging unit is ample for a treed lot1-3 acres, but I prefer to either have a garden cart available to dump locally then take the filled cart to the curb, saving 5-6 trips. (Another job for the old Wheel Horse) The nice thing about the John Deere bagging unit is that it can be upgraded to a Power-Flo unit by adding the Power Flo module, which essentially is a passive blower powered from a modified spindle on your deck. The bagging unit sells for approx. $300.00 and the Power Flo unit for $350.00.
The deck floats on two rear wheels, which you adjust four ways to accommodate your height setting. Float is what it does. Over an uneven surface you can look back on a freshly cut lawn with pride. It does indeed cuts beautifully. Adjusting the height on your deck is also very easily explained in the 63-page manual. The steel is heavily gauged and it would literally take a serious act of abuse to dent or bend it, which is perfect for properties with exposed tree roots. The ample 10 x 10 rear tires and 15 x 6 front tires absorb a lot of the shock, making for a comfortable, non-jarring ride guiding the 388 pound LT 155 around the homestead.
Gassing up the LT155 is simple. The ample gas cap is located on the left top fender with a wide mouth to help prevent spills into the 2-gallon tank. Oil capacity is 1.5 quarts, 1.9 with the filter and is easily accessed from a top reaching combo cap, dipstick reservoir.
The care and feeding of the LT 155 is simple. Change the oil every 50 hours, filter every 100 hours, lubricate spindles every 10-20 hours and inspect your belts every year. Maintenance is simple, as all parts are easily accessed and details on all maintenance operations are clearly detailed with pictures in the manual.
John Deere offers a number of optional accessories to literally accomplish most tasks you would be called upon, from snow plows, spreaders, thatchers, tillers and a host of others.
Since owning the LT 155, I have cut my cut time from 1-? hours to an hour flat! I can run this Deere faster to get a cut I had to take time with on the Wheel Horse! Land speeds are 5.8 mph and 2.9 mph in reverse. I get a clean cut, and the thing purrs like a kitten! It rides a little rough but it is solid! I absolutely am happy with it and would replace it in a second! Regular oil changes and service are the order of the day. I had John Deere come out this spring and service it ONSITE. They came out in a pickup with a John Deere trailer and drove it in, put it on a lift and proceeded to service it. Half an hour later DONE! It doesnt get any better than that! I am through with the constant breakdowns and trips to get replacement parts. Oh, one last thing...negotiate an hour meter in your purchase. You will find it really handy for determining service intervals.
The John Deere Website www.deere.com is very resourceful for product research, accessories, warranty information and product support.