Pros: Good maneuverable size, plenty of power, comfortable to operate, stable, easy to work on.
Cons: Stock transaxle quit after four years of my ownership and had to be replaced.
At the end of last mowing season my 12-38XL locked up and wouldn't mow. I ended up using a dolly to drag it to the garage. Later my son and I jacked it up and got the wheels turning so that at least it would roll, but it was clear that there was internal transaxle damage.
We removed the stock Peerless 915-020 transaxle from the tractor and took it apart. We found a gear that had fragmented into several pieces, so I ordered parts to repair the old transaxle, but at the same time began looking into putting a newer transaxle into the tractor. The repaired 915-020 never worked quite right so we ended up replacing it with a Peerless MST 205-509, which was used in later versions of this tractor.
Being a bargain shopper I found a similar MST 205-510D for $109.95 vs the -509 version for $743. We had to switch out some parts to create an MST 205-509, and change a linkage, a spring, and had to slighty modify the frame. It was a frustrating process, but I'm happy to say that the conversion has made this tractor better than ever. The -510D modification route ended up costing me about $300 total, but that was a lot less than the $743 the genuine -509 would have cost.
I just mowed a short while ago, and the improved shifting and generally smoother running is a great improvement. I suspect this lawn tractor will be around our house for several more years to come.
Having used Toro walk mowers, both push and self-propelled for over 30 years, it was natural to look at Toro when I decided to buy a lawn tractor.
For over twenty years, we used two Toro self-propelled mowers to keep our acre yard looking good. I enjoyed for the most part getting out and mowing, as I viewed as a cheaper investment than the health club, with about the same time commitment. But in the spring of 2006, increasing arthritis in my right knee made it impossible to continue walk-mowing our hilly yard. So, it was off to our long-time Toro dealer to see what we could do to replace the self-propelled mowers.
After looking through the catalog of new tractors, with prices a lot higher than what I wanted to spend, the dealer mentioned that he was expecting a nice used 1995 Toro Wheel Horse 12-38XL to come in within a few days. Shortly thereafter he called to say that the tractor was in. I ended up buying that tractor, with its brand-new 12.5hp Briggs and Stratton engine.
This is a gear-drive tractor, meaning that the operator manually shifts from gear to gear. Toro's design includes "Shift on the Go," or the ability to shift from gear to gear while moving, as compared to some other manufacturers' equipment which must be stopped to shift gears. I've read that a gear tractor is best for a hilly yard like mine, and I have to say that I'm pleased with this method of shifting, though it takes some getting used to. I usually start out in second gear for edging, and then shift up to fourth for mowing the body of the yard. Fifth feels so fast that I only use it, when the blades aren't engaged, to get quickly from one area of the yard to another.
The 12-38XL is a basic tractor. I added an hour meter to keep track of oil change intervals mainly. I also installed a black bicycle-style water bottle holder on the black side panel of the mower. Other than those changes, this tractor is like any other that Toro made.
I find this tractor to be a joy to operate. Where walk-mowing our front yard took two to four hours generally to mow, I can now complete that job in 50 minutes. I alternate the direction I mow each time I do it, so I experience our hill from three different perspectives. The 12-38XL is a very stable and powerful tractor that handles our hill with ease no matter how I attack it. Like any tractor, however, wet grass will make it slip when going uphill.
When I first got this tractor I spent a good deal of time adjusting the deck per the owner's manual. The result has been a nice even cut that's produced compliments from neighbors. The 38"-wide deck is also great for maneuvering. We have lots of trees and shrubs, plus a fence gate to go through in the back yard. The 12-38XL goes everywhere I need to go.
No lawn tractor can get into corners, so I use our self-propelled Toro 20037 to handle that chore.
No matter what the manufacturers say about noise, a lawn tractor is loud. I use earmuff-style ear protectors to minimize noise damage.
The front-hinged hood makes the engine compartment easily accessible. Oil changing is easy, and both air and fuel filters, as well as the spark plug, are right in front of the mechanic (me). The owner's manual calls for changing all filters and the spark plug yearly, and the oil every 25 hours. Ease of access makes all these chores about as simple as they can be. I should also mention that in this day of high-horsepower lawn tractors, I find 12.5hp to be plenty and easier on gas too.
I'm 6' tall and 195 lbs., and I find this tractor to be very comfortable to operate. The big wide rear tires make for a relatively smooth ride. Steering is easy, and reversing when necessary is simple too.