Richard L. Parish | 12/17/2004 11:06:48 PM
Zero-turning-radius mowers are popular for professional use, and their terrific versatility is making them increasingly popular for homeowners with larger lawns.
Zero-turning-radius manufacturers offer many new and/or optional features that further increase the mowers' versatility and ease of use. Many of these features will interest mainly professionals because of the cost, but homeowners should be aware of their availability.
Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS)
Most major manufacturers of zero-turning-radius mowers as well as some of the smaller manufacturers now include ROPS as standard on their larger commercial machines. ROPS is offered as an option on many other machines. ROPS should be included on any zero-turning-radius mower.
The most common option on zero-turning-radius mowers is a grass-collection system. This is useful where clippings must be collected, but it adds weight, cost and complexity to the mower and can adversely affect stability on slopes.
Floating Front Suspension
Many zero-turning-radius mowers have rigid frames with fixed front axles. This is adequate for smooth lawns, but if the surface undulates, one front wheel can leave the ground. Some models now have a front axle frame that pivots at the center, thus allowing the front wheels to remain in contact with the ground (Figure 1). With a floating front suspension, the gage wheels on the deck help prevent scalping when the front tires move up and down.
Independent Rear Suspension
Some models go a step further and incorporate an independent spring suspension on each rear wheel. This improves the ride. Once again, the gage wheels will have to do more work to prevent scalping.
Some mower decks can be tilted up for service (Figure 2). This makes it easier to change blades or clean the underside of the deck. On other models, it is necessary to remove the deck or run the mower up on ramps for service. Tilt-up decks are generally found only on mowers with front-mount decks; the frame on most mid-mount mowers prevents tilting the deck .
Some mid-mount mowers allow easy tilting up of the entire mower for under-deck service. These mowers have a leg mounted on the front of the mower that can be rotated down (Figure 3). The mower is then driven forward, causing the leg to pivot into a vertical position, which raises the front of the whole machine. Other models use a front leg that is cranked down with a jack.
Hydraulic Deck Lift
Most zero-turning-radius mowers have a spring-assisted manual lift for the deck, but some offer a hydraulic deck lift. With a heavy deck, this can be a welcome feature when it is necessary to lift the deck often.
Some zero-turning-radius mowers can be equipped with a side-mounted edging wheel to allow edging along sidewalks, driveways or patios.
Attachments to Replace the Deck
Many front-deck models have available optional attachments to mount in place of the mowing deck. These attachments include rotary brushes, snow blades and blowers and turf aerators.
In summary, each brand and model of zero-turning-radius mowers offers different features. Some features may be valuable to you; others may not .