Mowers introduced in mid-season easily get lost in the shuffle since shoppers did their mower shopping back in the spring. But although mower trouble mostly tends to show up at the start of the season, some machines give up the ghost around Labor Day, too. The self-propelled Craftsman 37441, $340, is one to consider for a late-season trip to your local Sears. You can also hit the website, where at press time it is was selling for $17 less, with free shipping to that nearby store.
A couple of the 21-inch 37441’s attractions owe to the mower’s 163cc Briggs & Stratton engine. Your neighbors might appreciate a gas-powered mower that doesn’t drown out their scholarly ruminations about the Kardashians, and the engine’s Quiet Power Technology (QPT) provides muffling that lets you cut grass without hearing protection, at least in the mulching and side-discharge modes. And did your former mower die because you never changed the oil? Then you might fancy the “Just Check and Add” feature. It’s just what it sounds like: You never have to change the oil, though you can’t fully ignore it, either.
Setup was easy and tool-free, aided by an included 15-ounce bag of SAE 30 oil (the engine’s capacity), and the machine started like a dream on the second pull. This is part of Craftsman’s guarantee—that the engine will start, no priming or choking needed, on the first or second pull…or the repair is free. Of course, you have to follow the manufacturer-recommended maintenance on the schedule outlined in the manual.
Keeping up a comfortable pace was a snap with the variable-speed control, a feature that plagues many a manufacturer of self-propelled mowers. You can adjust the tension, but the default was just fine. If your last mower was a rear-drive model, you might also find yourself digging up a divot or two with the front wheels—at least till you learn to release the drive control before you back up. Overall, though, the 37441 felt lightweight to maneuver with only a gentle touch on the drive control.
Another word about front-wheel drive on any mower: It can be tricky should you take the mower up an incline in bagging mode. As the bag fills up, it tends to weigh down the rear, which makes the drive wheels rise unless you pull up the handlebar—tough while you’re also trying to forge on ahead. Another alternative is to keep the bagger off for slopes.
Also aiding in maneuvering are the large-diameter rear wheels, which Sears claims work better for varied terrain. One drawback, however, is that to accommodate the larger rear wheels, the manufacturer must move the engine a smidgen forward. This makes the mower feel heavier than you might expect when you need to lift the front end to change direction. We liked the deck-height adjustment, which uses just two levers for front and back, though the stops for the levers, numbered 1-5, correspond to nothing in particular. Here’s how to measure the height to which your mower will cut:
Most of the right noises
In both mulching and side-discharge modes, the 37441 cut evenly without clumping or leaving noticeable rows. Briggs & Stratton says its QPT muffling cuts sound by up to 65% over the noise of the Honda HRR216VKA and Toro 20371 mowers’ engines. What matters most: We didn’t need hearing protection in these modes on the Craftsman. Once we switched modes and installed the separate bagging blade, however, the mower found its voice and roared like any other mower. (Cutting in this mode worked very well, too.) To no surprise from past testing of QPT mowers, the hearing protection went on.
Nothing in the Craftsman 37441 is new or groundbreaking, considering that both the Briggs engine and the deck, made by MTD Products (maker of Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt and other brands) debuted in past seasons. But you don’t need novelty to make your lawn flourish—just a fine mower and lots of TLC, such as routine water and fertilizer. The Craftsman 37441 does its part; the rest is up to you.