Yard-Man 15.5-42 – manual transmission lawn tractor
I understand that the hydrostatic transmissions used in many lawn tractors these days are not as reliable as the older design manual transmissions. There are obvious advantages to the hydrostatic transmissions but longevity does not seem to be one of them. What is your opinion?
Martin from Lawn Tractor Buyers Guide replies:
Hi Roger, thanks for your question.
I think that this largely comes down to the questions of quality and getting the right machine for your needs.
It’s right that a manual transmission on a lawn tractor is simpler, easier and cheaper to fix if it goes wrong and, on the whole, pretty reliable. A manual transmission lawn tractor might also let you manage slopes a bit better than an equally powered hydro.
But, reliability and longevity can be had in a hydrostatic transmission as well. You may have to pay a bit more for it and you need to make absolutely sure you get a lawn tractor that has enough power for the jobs that you are going to want it to do.
A hydro transmission is less forgiving than a manual transmission if you are pushing it (or the lawn tractor) beyond its limits.
As with most things in life, you also get what you pay for. You will almost certainly find that the higher quality hydro transmissions are in the higher quality and more expensive machines.
As you say, there are lot of advantages in having a hydrostatic transmission:
- You can usually get you mowing job done quicker as it’s easier to change direction;
- You have infinitely variable speed;
- It’s easy to adjust and control your speed as you work;
- It’s easier to use something like a snow-blower attachment with a hydro.
My overall opinion is that if I was looking to buy a relatively cheap lawn tractor then I might want to keep it as simple and economical as possible. In which case, I’d probably go for a geared transmission, something like this Yard-Man or, even cheaper, this Craftsman (both pictured above).
If I was going to spend a bit more, on something like a John Deere or a Simplicity lawn tractor, like the Simplicity Broadmoor pictured above, then I’d be happy to have a hydrostatic transmission.
Also, have a look at the debate here. You might find what these guys have got to say to be useful.
(kingston ontario canada)
Do any makers of lawn tractors use Honda engines like the old Sears Craftsman use to?
Martin, of Lawn Tractor Buyers Guide replies:
I’m not aware of any manufactures in the residential market currently using Honda engines. That is, except for Honda themselves. Although their riding mowers/lawn tractors are only available in Europe now I think.
We feature some of the Honda models in our UK Buyers Lawn Tractor Store.
I don’t know why Honda engines are not more widely used. I’ve got Honda engines on a walk behind mower, a chipper/shredder and a string trimmer and they are all pretty faultless in my experience.
Maybe it has to do with price or maybe Briggs and Stratton have just done a good job in sewing up the market.