Deere Refines, Expands Residential Rider Line

John DeereZTrak Z375R riderLook for a John Deere zero-turn rider at a dealer next spring, and you’ll see a bevy of new models. The manufacturer of everything from residential lawn tractors and riders to high-end construction, agriculture and forestry equipment will add several models to its line of Residential ZTrak Zero-Turn Mowers.

The ZTrak line will remain split among three segments, the entry-point E, mid-range M and higher-end R (shown above), with the Z500R models bordering on commercial, the realm often dubbed “prosumer.” Common to the selection of Z300 and Z500 machines, whichever the segment, are Accel Deep stamped decks. For certain models, you’ll get more choice in deck sizes, up to 62 inches.

Easy mode switching
An option on some of these is a feature Deere released last year, called MulchControl. Shown below, it uses a lever, mounted on top of the deck, that lets you use a single blade for either mulching or side-discharging grass clippings. Turn the lever to one position, and it closes the side-discharge baffle to keep clippings whirling around. In the other, it opens the baffle to let those clippings fly. Fewer riding-mower users bag their clippings, but those who do will need a separate bagging kit.

Other improvements to the line, as we saw at GIE+Expo last week, are better-contoured lever-steer controls, a deck lift you can operate with your foot, more comfortable high-back seating options and beefier tires. You can keep track of fuel levels, maintenance needs and more using the John Deere Mower Plus smartphone app, which also works with other brands and models.

John Deere residential decks, already commendable, have improved further over the past few years, and Deere machines are known for their durability. Full specs and pricing won’t go public till early 2017, but if you’re looking for a zero-turn rider and want to avoid budget models, these look worth waiting for.

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Putting away Your Lawn Gear, Part 2

Mower blade change / Credit: SearsWhen it’s time to put away your mower for the season, you might feel a little apprehension already over the hope it will start up again next year. We recently covered the most critical tasks to ensure easy starts and long-term durability. The following duties, carried out either now or in the spring, also can affect starting and the machine’s longevity, but one also helps keep your lawn looking its best.

From a little spark…

If you’re paying attention to your fuel in every way, the next possible reason a mower won’t start is the spark plug. The usual recommendation is to change it—or them if you’ve got a twin-cylinder engine in a riding mower—every 100 hours of operation. But could you pin down how many hours a season you mow? If you do, check it once a season, wire-brush off any crud and check the gap. (See the video below for how to do that.) If not, consider changing the plug once a season. Wait for the engine to cool before removing it.

Your manual might advise coating the spark plug’s threads with a bit of oil or an anti-seize compound before tightening the plug. A mechanic would also recommend tightening to a given torque range, for which you’d need a torque wrench.

The kindest cut of all

A sharp mower blade slices cleanly through each blade of grass, helping the little plants recover and get back to growing. Never sharpening the blade, however, results in brown-tipped, damaged grass because your mower rips rather than cuts. Consider it a quick and efficient way to turn your lawn brown.

Tractors and riders need sharp blades, too. It’s more of a hassle to remove and reinstall the blades, but since owners of these machines tend to have larger properties to mow, you can ruin a lot more grass through neglect. Removing the blades now, when you no longer need to mow, gives you plenty of time to get them back on.

Keepin’ it clean

A walk-behind mower might have only an air filter, but a lawn tractor or rider has fuel and oil filters, too. All help protect the engine in various ways, aiding in smooth running, and your owner’s manual will tell you how often to change the filters and how you do it. Pay attention to part numbers; a given brand likely uses more than one engine manufacturer.

Oil filters don’t necessarily need changing whenever you change the oil, but the oil must be drained from the machine before you change the filter—as with a car. Similarly, wait till you’ve run your gear dry of gas before you change the fuel filter. You’ll still need to keep a small container on hand to catch spills if the filter doesn’t reside in the gas tank.

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