John Deere L Series Lawn Tractor L120

37 ratings (33 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
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John Deere's L120 Tractor and Attachments

Dec 28, 2003 (Updated May 20, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Well priced for tractor class, well built, many attachments offered

Cons:Fuel fillcap position, Poor design of bushel rear bagger attachment and parts, expensive parts replacement

The Bottom Line: Recommend based on my own years of experience and quality of product.

My decision to purchase the L120 tractor was based on having a piece of equipment that would be capable of cutting my lawn well and provide additional options with the use of attachments.  The day I walked into the John Deere dealership, the owner asked me one simple question, "What are you looking to do with your tractor?”  I told him I wanted to cut my lawn, maybe haul some stuff with it, do a little extra lawn care with it, and throw snow with it.  He then asked about the dimensions of my lawn.  I told him I had about an acre or more to cut.  His best recommendation was the L120 because of the horsepower for the hauling, the tire traction for the winter work with the snow blower attachment, and overall customer satisfaction and performance.

Since my purchase (summer of 2003), I have had 100 hours of very few problems with the tractor.  I have cut several lawns, hauled dirt and stones in a 10-cubic foot attached trailer, de-thatched and aerated my lawn with the John Deere 40-inch Thatcherator attachment, and used the John Deere 42-inch two-stage Snow Blower attachment to plow out my driveway up here in New England.

The L120 is recommended for lawns between 1 to 2.5 acres, according to the dealership.  My purchase was a good purchase for the coverage I have.  This particular model also pushes out 22-hp on a V-Twin Briggs & Stratton engine.  The dealership told me that most of the lawnmowers you purchase at retail, like Sears or Home Depot, are low-end Briggs and Stratton engines.  I did not know that and it probably explains why I had so many problems with my Craftsman push mower the previous years.  The nice thing I like about this mower deck is the width, which is 48-inches wide with three cutting blades underneath and optional mulching blades.

With my old Craftsman push mower, that had a 20-inch deck, it would take me a couple hours to cut my lawn and the lawn was less than a half acre.  With the 48-inch deck, the first time I was out in my yard cutting the lawn, I had about six inches of grass height to cut and it took me a little under an hour to cut.  My wife could not believe how quick it took me to get the job done.

The nice feature of the engagement of the mower blade is that it has an electric PTO for instant mower deck engagement.  It ties in with the 12-volt battery that is onboard with the tractor.  With this onboard battery source, you also have an electric start, so no more pulling that cord to start the engine.  You just choke the engine and turn the key.  Speaking of the choke, the choke and speed control have separate controls and are easily mounted on the left side up where you can control them. 

A handy 12-volt power port is just at the foot of the seat in front where you can plug in anything that requires a 12-volt source, like a cell phone or radio, or even a portable TV to keep up with the sports while you are cutting the lawn.  The tractor also has 22-inch wide rear tires, which come in handy when in tough spots or places you need the tires to grip and making for a smoother ride.

The L120 Tractor has automatic transmission with two pedals on the right to control where you drive, reverse and forward.  Cruise control exists on this, can you believe it?  It is easy to set and makes for an enjoyable ride.  I rarely use the cruise control because I would rather have the control of the machine under my foot almost all the time.  I suppose that if I had a longer area to cover, it would make more sense to use the cruise control feature. 

When you are in cruise control, sitting back watching your favorite sports game with your TV plugged into the 12-volt power source, you can sip away at a nice cold one that sits in the cup holder on the right of you.  The seat is adjustable (forwards and backwards) with a lever just under the right side of the seat.  Headlights are onboard for driving at night or dusk; they really do work.  I have cut the lawn at dusk and a little later too.  I have used the headlights at night when it snowed to assist in clearing my driveway.  They are certainly bright enough to see what is in front.

Other features highlighted from
 – LCD hour meter monitors operating hours, reminds you when tractor needs servicing
 – Deluxe-comfort high back seat with lumbar support; lets you change position while seated (provides a comfortable ride)
 – The EDGE™ Cutting System with heavy-duty welded-steel mower 48-inch deck converts from mulching to bagging to side discharge.  Comes with mulch cover (bagger sold separately) – expect to pay around $250 for the bagger attachment.  It is well worth the purchase though, especially if you prefer to pick up the clippings.
 – Full-length welded-rail frame for strength and riding comfort; no bolts to wiggle loose
 – Tight 18-inch turning radius for maneuverability
 – Cargo Mount System™ for easy hookup of front and rear attachments and accessories
 – Low-effort seven-position mowing height adjuster features cutting-height reminder
 – Fuel sight gauge lets you check fuel levels at a glance (this is located just under the driver’s seat)
 – Fuel tank capacity is 2.1 gallons.  Fuel tank fill cap is located in the rear, under the drivers’ seat, (in a lousy place too).

Optional Attachments:
 – Rear Bagger 6.5 bu. 2-bags (approx. $250)
 – Mulching System High performance plug
 – Snow Blade 46 in.
 – 42-inch two-stage Snow Blower (approx. $1500)
 – Front Bumper
 – Tow-Behind Tools
 – 40-inch Thatcherator (approx $250)

I purchased the 42-inch two-stage Snow Blower attachment rather than the 46-in snow blade for many reasons.  See my Epinion here:

The snow blade would limit the amount of snow to push, rather than get the snow out of the area immediately by blowing.  The two-stage snow blower had more power and can push the snow out of the area quick.  Using the snow blower attachment in the winter has been a great add-on, which I highly recommend to anyone who experiences a great amount of snow. 

I have a lengthy driveway that I would rather not shovel when it snows.  This snow blower throws the snow about 30-50 feet out, depending on how you angle the chute.  It is a lot of fun to shoot for a tree off the driveway when the snow piles up in the driveway.  Aiming for the tree at the highest level I can get the snow to blow makes for an enjoyable time in the snow. 

The snow blower works well with all kinds of snow, whether wet or sluggish.  I have even used it to clear slush off my driveway and it does the job.  The difference in price between the snow blade and snow blower is about $1100.  The snow blade runs about $225, where the snow blower runs about $1200 with no chains or weights.  After all weights and chains, you can spend close to $1500 for the entire snow blower, but it's well worth the money if you get a lot of snow, particularly if you live in an area like I do, in New England. 

You will need to purchase the snow and weights because without them, the tractor will slide and slip, allowing for no traction in snow or icy conditions.
My Opinions:
I have experienced very few negatives with this tractor.  One of those negatives being that of the location of the fuel fill cap.  I have a 5-gallon can of fuel I use to fill the 2.5-gallon tank on the tractor.  To fill the tank, you lift the seat and try not to spill any fuel all over the place.  Trying to balance the spout in the hole is rather difficult.  I have been forced to come up with a makeshift downspout that is easy enough for me to use to fill the tractor tank and at the same time watch the amount of fuel I fill in while it is being poured in.  It would be better if John Deere had the fuel fill cap on the side of the tractor rather than under the seat.  At least that way it would be easy to fill the tank.  The fuel sight gauge is also in a tight spot and at times can be difficult to read.  It would be a good suggestion for John Deere to have the gauge up on the dash so the driver knows the fuel is getting close to empty rather than hear the engine sputter or run out completely in the middle of a job.
Another negative is the loudness of the engine.  If you are not in the habit of wearing ear protection, you should when you get on this tractor.  It is good practice anyway, so may as well start now.  The engine is not all that loud but loud enough to be irritating for a long time, especially if you plan to ride the tractor for a great length of time.
The snow blower controls could be designed better.  They are a bit awkward where they are positioned and can get in the way when getting on and off the tractor.  The snow blower attachment is bulky too and awkward to store because of the handles.  John Deere did not do a very good design with this item.  It is not compact and certainly not capable of easy storage.
The bushel rear bagger attachment was designed terribly.  I thought it would be easy enough to dump clippings after spending as much money on the bagger that I had.  This bagger is made of polyester, so I do not know how long it will last.  For $250 for the attachment, it had better last a long time.  I will probably end up replacing the bags in a couple years though.  They really are not durable.  That bagger attachment is not very sturdy, in my opinion.
The output attachment that connects from the deck to the bagger attachment has been a problem for me since the purchase.  I have had to replace this item twice because of it splitting at the base near the deck.  The design of the item is very poor.  Apparently, this item is replaced often on these models.  I have spoken to my dealer who has said that they are aware of the split but can only recommend replacement, since Deere has not come up with a new design.

Fortunately, the two times I have had to replace this output attachment, it has been covered under warranty.  My original warranty has run out though, after two years.
Warranty Notes:
The original warranty is for two years; at least that is what it was for my tractor.  Before the warranty runs out, your dealer will send a card in the mail with an extended warranty option.  This extended warranty can be expensive and possibly not worth it.  The warranty is good for one year only, although it would depend on your dealer.  My dealer offered the extended one-year warranty for about $190.  To me, that is an expensive one-year warranty.  However, the dealer stated the warranty covers two home services and any other maintenance issues during the year.  I can do the services myself, so that would save me some money.  Concerning coverage of any problems with the tractor?  The problems I have had with this tractor have been minimal so far, so I am hoping not to experience any major issues.  I do not understand why John Deere does not provide a good warranty for this tractor, particularly considering the money you put into purchasing it.  You would think that after spending over $2000 for the product, they would at least give you a warranty deal that will last at least five to seven years.
Additional Attachments Purchased Summary:
 – 6.5 Bushel Rear Bagger (w/mulcher attachments) - $250
 – 42-inch Two-Stage Snow Blower, with weights and chains - $1599
 – Utility Cart - $100 (Purchased at Home Depot rather than JD.  JD has the 7 Utility Cart, which is basically the same as the Home Depot 10 Utility Cart, except the 10-Utility Cart has more cubic feet to it.  However, JD provides a more durable product but for more money.  Depends on what you want to spend for a utility cart and what your needs are.)
 – 40-inch Thatcherator - $225
The amount of time I have spent cutting my lawn, snow throwing, and hauling, this has been a pretty good purchase.
My recommendation is that you purchase from a John Deere dealership.  Reason is that they will take care of you first before any other customer.  My dealer will help anyone, but obviously makes their own customers priority before Home Depot customers.  Home Depot sells the tractors for the same money.  You will not save anymore at Home Depot than you will at a local dealer.  You will certainly get better service and longer lasting service from a local dealer than if you were to buy from Home Depot.  I am not knocking Home Depot because I enjoy shopping there; I am only making a ‘best judgment’ recommendation of where you should purchase your investment.
Home Depot does not provide the service to the John Deere tractor.  They rarely carry the correct parts for the tractor either.  It is best to buy the tractor from the manufacturer and be serviced from the manufacturer, if convenient.  Good luck!
– – – UPDATE June 6, 2006 – – –
It has been three years since purchasing the L120 tractor and I am finally experiencing some problems that require possibly spending money on the tractor. Since I use the tractor in the winter for snow plowing, I remove the deck before the winter season and then install the deck when winter season is over.  When it is installed, I always inspect every part for accuracy and wear. 

This recent season, I replaced the blades, which cost about $40 from Home Depot.  The blades are typically available at Home Depot; if not, you can purchase at any JD dealer.  The other blades were badly worn and had never been replaced.  The manual says every 50-hours sharpen or replace the blades.  The old blades had about 90 hours on them.  You should replace the blades as needed.
I have used the tractor to cut the lawn three times this season.  More recently, I discovered a problem.  When the deck was engaged, I heard a loud buzzing/humming noise.  I was not sure what it was so I put it up on some ramps to see if anything was obvious.  I felt the secondary belt for tension and thought it was too loose.  The secondary belt is very difficult to get to and probably best to have the dealer replace it.  I thought that was most likely the problem and took tractor to the dealer (the same place above where I purchased the tractor).
When I spoke with dealer about problem, they said they would look over the tractor and give me an estimate on the job.  A couple days after they had the tractor, they started in on a "run down" of items that needed to be replaced, according to the mechanic.  Here is their list: the spindles on the deck, one deck wheel that was flat instead of round, and some other items (I ignored them).  I stopped the service guy and went back to the spindles on the deck subject.  I asked him about these and he said the technician said the spindles were badly worn.  I asked how that could be if this tractor has only seen about 90 hours of cutting.  He said that depending on how you run the tractor, it would cause the spindles to wear.  The cost for replacement and repair of the spindles?  Do you really want to know?  They said it would take a couple hours to replace and cost over $250.  That is crazy in my mind. 

The spindles do not need replacement and I will tell you why.  The service guy then told me the blades were badly worn and needed replacement.  I then told him he was full of it and that I had brand new blades on the tractor, with only three sessions of cutting grass on them, less than 5 hours of runtime.  The service guy then said it depends on how you use the tractor.  I told him not to replace the blades and not to replace the spindles.  The total cost for them to do the work they talked about was over $500, which included over 4 hours of labor.  I then asked about the original problem about the buzzing sound, since that was not even mentioned in the discussion.  He said the mechanic made no note about it but would check on it.  I told the service guy that is why I brought the tractor in the first place. I have a strong suspicion this dealer is trying to pull the towel over my head only to make a buck.  Otherwise, they looked at the wrong tractor.  Who knows, but I want to know what is wrong with the tractor and why the buzzing sound.  I will let you know the update when I get the tractor fixed.
The purpose of this update is to show a "Buyer Beware" message about how a dealer can really screw you on your purchased piece of equipment.  This is not the proper way to treat an existing customer and certainly not the best way to keep a customer.  Previously, I stated this dealer would make my customer call a priority above any outside customers.  I would like to revise that statement saying that once you buy the tractor, you had better know for sure that the dealer will give you the best service possible down the road when you need it.  I will most likely go to another dealer for a second opinion, as I suspect this one will not resolve the buzzing problem.
– – – UPDATE January 7, 2007 – – –
My update to the buzzing/whirring sound on the deck ended up being three spindles (not the same as what the dealer replaced).  These three spindles are located on the deck and were worn.  The field tech who replaced these showed me the good and the bad, the new and the old comparison between each and how they wear.  He also said that these spindles would be common in replacing every 100 hours.  They are inexpensive, about $7.00 apiece, so that not a big deal.  The fact that they were not replaced back in June 2006 makes me believe that the service center did not know what to look for and did not replace everything instead then.  The technician said that often the service people may not know what to look for, especially since they may not be familiar with this problem on a regular basis.  The replacement of these spindles was done in the field when my snow blower attachment was installed.  Thank you.
– – – UPDATE March 2010 – – –
I thought it was time for another update on the John Deere L120 tractor.  As you can see, it is 2010.  I bought this tractor in 2003 and it still runs.  If I could show you pictures of it, you would think it was still new.  I ensure to keep the tractor in tiptop shape because I use it year-round.
It seems that every winter I use the tractor, something goes wrong with it.  This past winter (2009), it would not start.  The problem resulted in a clutch problem, which was replaced.  Incidentally, in the winter of 2008, I had similar problems with the tractor stalling.  The problem was simple and was not fixed until the Spring of 2009.  I replaced the wiring harness that runs underneath from the clutch to the battery and to the back of the tractor.  The wire connector to the clutch broke in the middle of a terrible snowstorm in 2008.  I ended up having to hire a plow company to clear my driveway because I had no way of getting the L120 to the dealer to repair the problem.  In 2009, the problem was resolved by having the JD Field Tech replace the harness.
The problem with the clutch was that when it spun, it spun wobbly.  Meaning, it was warped from rubbing against the frame over the years.  The field tech was surprised it lasted as long as it did and also was not surprised why the wire harness had to be replaced.  As the clutch spun damaged, the wire connector became loose which resulted in no use of the tractor.  Seven years on the same clutch was not a bad deal either.  The replacement cost on the new clutch ran around $40 and well worth it.
Through the years, I have had to replace the belts no more than twice.  Although, the main drive belt is still the original belt.  That is the belt that is most difficult to replace and would require my having to drop off the tractor to the dealer for service.  It is an intense job and without the knowledge of how to do it, it is smarter to let the experienced guys/gals do the work.
This Spring (2010), I will have replaced the bags in the rear bagger.  This is the first time replacing and a nuisance it was.  Rather than spending another $250 for the rear bagger attachment, you can purchase new bags for about $60 for the kit and install them yourself.  The only problem with that is the frame on each bagger is riveted together.  This means you will need a good drill and drill bit to drill out the rivets and install new bolts.  It took some time to remove the rivets but once I did that, it took a little time to figure out how to install the bags on the frame.  Now that all that figuring out has been done, I have two new bags on the bag, which means no more grass kicking back at me while I cut the lawn.  It also helps reduce the dust that was blowing all over the place because my old bags had rips at the bottom and top of the frame.
I still recommend the John Deere L120 Tractor to anyone interested in buying one.  I know this series is no longer in retail stores, but there are newer tractors that perform the same if not better.  For the money I put into the tractor over the years, the purchase has been well worth it.  The majority of the expense has been the labor cost by the dealer (field tech) to perform service on the tractor.  Otherwise, the parts have been inexpensive.

Recommend this product? Yes

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