This write-up may differ from typical reviews, which usually are in the realm of "I've had it 3 months and it's doing great!"
Here's the short story - If you have a lot of money to pay a mechanic, and you like "cute" little mowers, it's a good deal.
Or-- You plan to use the mower no more than one season, then sell it for about half price - okay, go ahead. You shouldn't have too many repairs to make in that time span.
But for me... ahhh!!
Here's the dirty, gritty sweaty "Real World" story... (And hats off to Kirklandd, who wrote an earlier review, we graybeards have much in common)
I've worked my little YardBug (not YardMan, or YardBoy, it's "Bug", and very aptly named) over 3 years in conditions that would challenge most ride-on mowers short of the "tractor" class. It looks like a bug, it handles like a bug, and it moves like a bug (a s-l-o-o-w bug).
I maintain a partially-wooded campground which has many types of terrain, including a lot of gravel, pine-straw (and small branches), and some really thick, hairy grass that tends to choke mowers. I even have some frontage on a muddy creek that presents marsh grass, fiddler crabs, and clam shells left by raccoons. Oh yeah, the pine cones, hickory nuts, pecans, and the hard spiked balls from gum trees too!
Year one was fairly uneventful, with exception of the "stinger" pipe on the tacky little muffler falling off. I spent $30 on a new pipe and it didn't last 6 months. The replacement part displays the Briggs and Stratton logo, as did the original, . B&S should be ashamed of the poor quality.
Not only is it frustrating, but it's very dangerous to have hot metal parts of a mower falling off. The second one fell off and got slammed into the grass catcher basket at high velocity. I thought I'd been shot!
The mower uses 3 belts: a long "deck belt" for powering the blade, and 2 smaller "drive" belts for getting power to the wheels. The belts last just about one season. I've noted the dates when I replaced them, and it's been within a week or two of one year each time. I have to order the parts from MTD parts supply on the internet (from Ohio).
What I like:
* - It can cut grass very well. The deck floats with terrain, leaving a pretty, smooth lawn (if you have a lawn).
* - Motor starts and runs faithfully, as long as battery and starter are in good condition.
* - Good pulling power for carts and wagons.
* - Compact, with tiny turning radius - can work in confined areas.
* - Grass-catcher basket works well, and is mostly durable plastic.
* - Not too loud (until the muffler came apart).
* - Low center of gravity provides a margin of safety from tip-over.
What I don't like:
* - Looks like a fat bug (my friends tease me about it).
* - Very slow --- slower than people walk!!! My property is almost a thousand feet long, and I almost fall asleep when I have to haul a load that far.
* - Brakes are a joke - (Be careful around steep grades, you may not be able to stop where and when you want to). The "disk brakes" are not-- This machine has one little disk (try to find it) about 3 inches in diameter that loses it's effect REAL fast.
* - I hate all the annoying "safety" things that are designed to keep the manufacturer from being sued, such as the sensor switch under the seat- you raise your butt... mower shuts off. Switch into reverse with blade engaged... it shuts off. Try to start engine without depressing the
non-existent brake- it won't start. That's why the plastic starter parts need replacing so often - in a long day's mowing, the starter will be used way too often! Another safety item is the heavy metal ring that serves as a blade guard. A chunk of debris can jam between the ring and the
blade and in a few seconds, can ruin the expensive drive belt. Yeah, I know -- safety... etc.
* - Replacing belts is a horror-story. If you have to do it yourself, hoist the mower's rear end as high as you dare- read the manual about 6 times till the mystery begins to clear, and have a little stool to sit on. In my experience, only the big deck belt can be changed with all wheels on
the ground. Either one of the drive belts will require removing both, and putting everything back in place. (I wonder what I'd have done if I'd had to pay for the work this little critter has required of me.)
* - Replacing the reverse-gear selector cable makes the belt work look like child's play- I only succeeded by fabricating a special tool from a screwdriver. It involved heating the screwdriver blade to remove the tempering, drilling a hole in it to capture the cable-end, and cutting a slot to the hole to allow removal of the tool after the @#$@#$%^ cable was installed!! SHEESSSHHH!!! (Don't do it, pay someone!)
* - Steering mechanism is not very impressive- after the second season the front wheels developed a large amount of play, so that if something impacts one of the wheels the steering wheel can violently spin. Be careful! I have not been able to adjust the steering, looks like new parts would be needed to get the slack out.
* - Did I mention it was SLOW? Oh yeah! It's slow! If you can, try before you buy!
Changes/mods that I've done...
* - I replaced the cheap iron fasteners in the grass catcher door with stainless parts. Highly recommended if you plan to keep it.
* - I carry a push-mower, weed-trimmer, and extra fuel in a small Rubbermaid cart. Also rigged shock cord across vents on backside to tuck gloves and other things under.
* - A really useful mod is wiring a cut-down 2 liter soda bottle on the plastic steering shaft cover. I keep a water bottle and small items there.
* - After warranty was expired, and taking full account of danger involved.... I got really tired of having to start the motor every single time I had to raise off the seat, so I "defeated" the sensor switch under the seat. (DO NOT DO THIS)--- there, you've been told.
* - I also got really tired of having to disengage the blade when going into reverse. Defeated sensor there too. (Don't DO That!)
*- After 2 seasons, the "clutch" became lazy. I would approach an obstacle while cutting, lift my foot off the "go" pedal, and the darned mower would roll into the obstacle! That could be dangerous, expensive, or both! It appeared to be a case of weakening return springs, so I
cured the trouble with a small bungee cord rigged to push the pedal against my foot. Now when I let up, it stops.
Many belts have been worn out, 3 control cables, 3 blades, a battery, 2 solenoids, a starter kit. I won't mention tire trouble, I think all mowers have tire troubles.
With all it's faults, the mower has performed far and away beyond it's intended usage. The transmission is now failing, but the motor and cutting gear are in fair condition.
I have my eye on a used Snapper that may be an improvement over this little bug.
I've learned a lot with this machine, but I'm tired of working on it.
Some might say "Why write a review? The mower is no longer being manufactured. I think because of the robust components and reliable engine, we'll see these used bugs offered for sale for a long time to come.
Recommend this product?
Sears Craftsman model 13A-344-099 - It's the YardBug with a different paint job and a 10 horsepower motor. Searches at Sears.com don't show the model listed, but the Sears in Mobile, Alabama has one for sale.
Or -- The White company has one, same appearance different paint- Model LR927. They claim it has "hydrostatic drive"--- hmmmm.
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