NZ Life­style Block’s ride-on mower guide

6 mis­takes to avoid when buy­ing your first ride-on

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Nadene Hall

Buy­ing a ride-on ride- on mower is a big in­vest­ment, and it can be dif­fi­cult difffffff­fi­cult if you’re new to a block. Here are six mis­takes you want to avoid.

1 Don’t get a ride-on that’s too small (or too big) for your gar­den

Ride-on mow­ers vary greatly in size. There are small, light models with 60cm-wide decks, de­signed to mow flat, fine-grass lawns. At the large end, you’ll find heavy ma­chines with 160cm-wide decks for large gar­dens which can mow a lawn sig­nif­i­cantly faster.

The ride-on you need is the one that will fit through the gate into your gar­den.

2 The cheap­est prob­a­bly isn’t the most eco­nom­i­cal

If your lawn is small and level, you will find a small, light ride-on mower is ad­e­quate. But a larger, wider mower is go­ing to do the job much faster.

If you of­ten leave grass to grow long, a smaller ma­chine is go­ing to strug­gle. It will of­ten be at

the limit of its ca­pa­bil­i­ties, caus­ing belts and bear­ings to wear faster. You need to use a ma­chine well within its ca­pa­bil­i­ties so it’s work­ing ef­fi­ciently, and that’s of­ten a high­er­spec, more ex­pen­sive model.

3 Don’t buy a mower that’s too weak

Ev­ery ride-on mower will have a brochure full of num­bers. Horse­power and to­tal dis­place­ment are the two that con­fuse some peo­ple.

Get the num­bers wrong and you’ll ei­ther buy a ma­chine that’s too weak to han­dle your re­quire­ments, or end up with one that is more than you need to do the job.

Horse­power (hp) is what makes the ma­chine move for­ward and ac­cel­er­ate un­der nor­mal con­di­tions. If you have hills, or you want to tow a trailer full of heavy stones, you need more horse­power.

En­gine dis­place­ment gives you an in­di­ca­tion of an en­gine’s power. It’s mea­sured in cu­bic cen­time­tres (cc or cm³); the higher the cc rat­ing, the more pow­er­ful the en­gine and the more torque it gen­er­ates.

Torque is the ‘grunt’ that turns the blades, and keeps them turn­ing them un­der stress, like long, wet grass.

If your lawn is flat, your speed con­sis­tent and you mow reg­u­larly, you don’t need to pay for as much horse­power or torque as some­one whose lawn is steep or is mow­ing rougher or longer lawns.

Ride-on mower en­gines vary in size, mostly from 13-37hp. The av­er­age is around 18hp and that will be per­fectly ad­e­quate for most peo­ple.

A ma­chine that is over-spec­i­fi­ca­tion for your needs does have ad­van­tages. It will do the job faster, han­dle tough sit­u­a­tions bet­ter, and last longer due to less stress on its com­po­nents. How­ever, it will be a big­ger, heav­ier ma­chine, and cost you more.

An un­der­pow­ered ma­chine, al­ways work­ing at its lim­its, won’t last as long. It will also be low in torque. If you put it un­der too much pres­sure, for ex­am­ple by try­ing to mow long, wet grass, the blades won’t turn as fast and you’ll get a poor fin­ish. It’s more likely to get block­ages of grass un­der the deck as it can’t clear it out fast enough.

Worse, the mow­ing deck and en­gine come un­der a lot more pres­sure. There is a higher like­li­hood of break­ages, and the ma­chine will wear out more quickly.

4 Don’t buy a mower that can’t han­dle your ter­rain

If your lawn is flat, you can buy al­most any ride-on mower and it will do the job.

But many block own­ers want to mow grass on slopes. This re­quires a ma­chine with a low cen­tre of grav­ity. If it gets too steep, it’s go­ing to re­quire spe­cial­ist ma­chin­ery, or it may be too dan­ger­ous to mow it at all.

If there are slopes or steeper ar­eas you want to mow, ask for an on-site demon­stra­tion from a dealer. A good sales­per­son will ad­vise you on whether the ma­chine can do the job safely.

Talk to a sales­per­son and ex­plain the dif­fer­ent types of mow­ing you want to do. If that’s not pos­si­ble, en­sure they have a good un­der­stand­ing of the slope an­gles on your prop­erty.

5 Don’t buy a mower if you have nowhere to store it

Ride-on mow­ers are ro­bust-look­ing ma­chines, but they are not de­signed to with­stand the weather. Rain, dust, hu­mid­ity and hot tem­per­a­tures will cause dam­age to belts, steel, joints and electrics.

The dam­age may be slow and hard to spot, but it will cost you ex­tra in main­te­nance costs. Even­tu­ally, it will cause a ma­jor fail­ure. 6 Don’t buy a ride-on un­less you test it first If you have a lawn that is big enough for you to need a ride-on, it’s im­por­tant to be com­fort­able while you’re do­ing it.

Ride-on mow­ers come in a range of dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes. You need to find one that is easy for you to mount and dis­mount, that is com­fort­able for your body shape and frame. Con­trols need to be within easy reach. Can you eas­ily empty a catcher? Tilt a deck? Turn to see be­hind you?

Horse­power and to­tal dis­place­ment are two num­bers that can con­fuse some peo­ple

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