GT235: Briggs vs Kawasaki

hfjeffApril 8, 2007

I searched for months and decided on a 1999 GT235 with an estimated 300hrs in great condition with a 48C and powerflow. So far I love the tractor but when I tell people I have a GT235, the first thing they ask is "Does it have the Kawasaki?" When I tell them it has the Briggs Vanguard there is a very disappointing and consistent "Oh." Is the Kawasaki that much better of a motor? My Briggs fires right up, runs smooth and quiet, and is very clean. I pulled the plugs and they are perfect-a light gray and evenly firing with no carbon buildup. Whats wrong with the Briggs?

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Don't let anyone make you second guess, the Vanguard is top shelf, I know, I have 2 of them. . .

Had a few Hondas before, and they were great also, never had a Kawasaki, but I hear they are top of the line also. All good stuff, not a loser in the bunch.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 9:12PM
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You have to be careful when you ask what is wrong with "the" Briggs. Kawasaki has enjoyed a (well deserved) excellent reputation as being a commercial grade engine manufacturer (I believe that is all they sell). Briggs has many entry level (non commercial)engines. Their top of the line Vanguard is NOT an entry level engine. Some say it is every bit as good as the best engines out there. I personally have a fair bit of experience with Kawi's (20+ years) and I love em. Many on this site have Vanguards and swear by them. My guess is that your friends are confusing the entry level Briggs (powerbuilt, etc) with the Vanguard.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 9:12PM
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The Kawasaki is a CHEAPER engine than the Kawasaki, believe it or not. Beefier inside too. The Vanguard is a fine engine. Built by Diahatsu, a division of Toyota. It's a great engine.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 7:24AM
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Thanks for the reassurance guys. I had heard the Vanguard was Briggs' top commercial motor so when I bought it I felt confident. Then when I started talking with people about my new purchase, I started getting doubtful. I was nearly ready to haul it back to the dealer and tell him I didn't want it. Now if it will only warm up so I can get a chance to actaully use it. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 8:20AM
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I have had a number of 235's over the years, and the Briggs/Vanguard is IMO, a well deserved engine, very quiet and smooth.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:06AM
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In this era of the GT235, my dealer likes the Briggs better than the Kawasaki. Biggest thing he likes is that the Briggs has a oil cooler. I have a 235 w/Briggs and is great.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:53AM
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taiser(Northwestern ON)

16 Horse Vanguard here in my Cub 2160, going on 800 hours, not a single problem in all that time, starts right up. I got no worries for this engine. TBO is rated at 2000 hours, mine is a 94 so I'm a ways away from 2000 hours! :D

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:59AM
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Someone said the Briggs & Stratton Vanguard series engine is made by a division of Toyota. I have also heard that the Vanguards are made by Mitsubishi. Does anyone know for sure who makes these engines for Briggs?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 11:50PM
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Briggs & Stratton® Commercial Power has established manufacturing alliances with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Daihatsu, a member of the Toyota Group.

This information is from the Briggs web site.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 12:35AM
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The single cylinder Briggs Vanguard is made by Mitsubishi , the V-Twin by Daihatsu .

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 6:07PM
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Jeffrey_(Upstate NY)

My dealer (the owner) matter of factly said I could buy either version of the GT235, but that the Vanguard was less expensive because JD was switching their line over at the time. He said in his opinion the Vanguard was just as reliable an engine.

Read what you want into that. My impression of what he was saying was the choice was a coin toss, but JD corporate was giving him the Vanguard for less cost.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 12:59PM
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kdiller(6 - PA)

I have a 2000 GT235 with the Briggs Vanguard V-Twin 18Hp. One of the best engines I've ever had. Zero problems.

The Vanguard is a commercial grade engine. Read the article in the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vanguard - B&S and Daihatsu joint venture

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:41AM
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I remember when I was looking at the JD225 vs the JD325 back in 1999. One of the differences was that the 225 had the Vanguard engine and the 325 had the Kawasaki engine. It was suggested then that while the Kawasaki engine was considered a better engine, the B&S Vanguard was also highly rated. I then looked at the maintenance requirements in the operators manuals for the 225 and the 325. If I remember correctly, the 225 with the Vanguard recommended checking the valve clearance every 50 hours. In the 325 manual, the valve clearance checking recommendation was every 500 hours for the Kawasaki engine. If I had to check the valve clearance every 50 hours, it would mean checking it every year. Probably not a big thing, but it would take time and I would have to replace the valve cover gaskets every year. I am not downplaying the Vanguard engine for it's reliability. I'm sure it is a very reliable engine. It just seemed at the time of my purchase, the Kawasaki engine needed less recommended maintenance. By the way, these maintenance recommendations were taken from the respective JD operators manuals that came with the 225 and the 325 tractors, not any engine service manual. Charles Ranheim

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 10:47AM
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Just for clarification we are talking about a 235 not a 225. Very different motor. My manual for the 1999 235 with the Briggs specifies to check & adjust valve clearance every 500 hours.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 11:47AM
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Thanks for the clarification. I was surprised that there was such a difference in maintenance requirements between the two B&S engines. I have never had bad experiences with any of my air cooled engines, probably because I take care of them with the proper maintenance. When I tried to get more detailed information on my Kawasaki engine from Kawasaki tech support direct, they said I would have to get it from JD because they have their own requirements on the engines they use in their tractors. The person I spoke with assured me they use the better, engine features available on their engines for JD. I then asked about using synthetic oil (Mobil 1). They said it would be helpful to use it, and that it would run cooler with synthetic in hot weather. I also asked about running the engine at high idle (full speed) vs a lower speed to save on wear and tear. The engineer said it is better to run the engine at high idle all the time because it keeps the combustion chambers cleaner, and prevents valve problems due to carbon buildup. Thanks again for your information on the 235 engine. If I remember correctly, the 225 engine was 18hp and the 235 was 20hp. Charles Ranheim.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 10:31AM
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I purchased a GT235 new with the Kawasaki engine in April 2003. Told it was the better engine. After 50hrs of use the engine oil turned black & the engine developed a noise. The dealer sent a person to pick it up & he examined it in the driveway. The whole shaft had gone off center & the top flywheel was rubbing into the cylinder fins. The top graphite bearing had fell apart. They replaced with a new engine (under warranty-$2000) After 10 hrs of use the engine oil turned black. Called the dealer who hauled it into the shop. They said nothing was wrong & changed the oil & sent it back to me. Now after 100 more hrs the engine died in a puff of smoke. Fusible link wiring melted while cutting the lawn. Dealer picked it up & then called me to tell me that the whole engine was completely shot. The same thing happened as the first. Now the cost is $2600. Told the service manager the story that this was the 2nd engine in the tractor. He was shocked & said that he would call John Deere. I waited longer so that I could get the Kawasaki engine under the sales manager's recommendation. Sorry that I did. After paying about $5000 initially I do not look forward to any cost for a new engine. So how does a John Deere owner cut his lawn? - he borrows his neighbor's Cub Cadet!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 3:52PM
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Update to my previous post. Dealer now tells me that the present & original problem was caused by the PTO not being properly grounded & causing current to flow through the drive shaft, into the graphite bearings & thus disintegrating them. This time they will also replace the PTO. District rep is willing to cover $1500 in parts but not labor. I am trying to negotiate with them. I told them that the 2nd engine was bad but they didn't listen.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 2:44PM
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earj123, if your dealer's diagnosis is correct, your problem was a defect in manufacturing or assembly that occurred during your warranty period, and should be covered by JD regardless of whether you are still in warranty or not. Don't take any BS from the district rep. Go up the food chain if you have to. This repair should not cost you one red cent. This all assumes that you didn't modify the tractor in any way that could have caused or contributed to this problem.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 8:58PM
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New update. Received call from the dealer. My share of the cost is $1451.00. Total repair bill is $6000.00 (Yes that is Six Thousand Dollars!) The tractor only cost $5000.00 new. I told the service rep that why didn't you just give me a new tractor, it would have been cheaper. He has no answer. So far John Deere will have invested $2000.00 + $4500.00 = $6500.00 in a $5000.00 machine. My investment is $5000.00 + $1451.00 = $6451.00. Grand total $12,951.00! The whole thing is ridiculous. Now the real kicker. Why the bill is so high above the original $2600.00 estimate - the 1st engine that John Deere sent them this time was defective. Now doesn't that give me a warm & fuzzy feeling about getting it back. I worry now that it will just do what the 1st replacement did & I will be back to square one. I think that I should check into lemon laws to see if this qualifies. Anyway, the machine arrives tomorrow & I will have to say goodbye to my neighbor's Cub Cadet. I just have to return to being a satisfied John Deere owner. Something I'll have to think about the next time I have to purchase a new tractor.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 4:07PM
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I don't understand why you are incurring any of the cost. This seems like a manufacturing or assembly defect, and the problem occurred during the warranty period. It doesn't matter whether the warranty has now expired. It only matters that it happened during the warranty period. And that you can prove it, and that's the hard part most often.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 6:37PM
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So, $4500 for an engine replacement and new PTO?! And JD wants $1451 to cover labor?! $6000!!!! =:~O

Jim's Tractors in Minn, MN advertises GT re-power projects; one of which was converting a Simplicity 9020 from a 18HP Onan to a 23HP Vanguard for $2300 installed! Without installation, they sell a 31HP Vanguard re-power kit for $2300. I don't understand how the JD dealer can even remotely rationalize $6000 for a new engine and PTO. To me it reads like a $3000 job - tops; and with considerable latitude for the "JD" and "Kawasaki" nameplates.

Earj123, I'd be hotter than an oil-starved Kawasaki. Does your local municipality have small-claims courts? Perhaps a letter to your state Attorney General. It seems that you have a valid complaint...and you should have recourse. Good luck to you.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 6:38PM
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grassmaster(5b MO)

You need an attorney. They should give you a whole new tractor.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 7:32PM
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The entire Briggs theory is apathy, same as a Craftsman Tractor. The thinking is that most people don't pay much for Briggs powered equipment, so it doesn't see any maintenance, and for the most part is abused; e.g. left outside all winter, no storage, fuel contamination and so on and it is really a shame to see what shops are quoting for repairs when they can get to them in September!

Two cases in point just today: Two Craftsman tractors, a 1000 and a 2000 series. The 2000 I started in on first, a two-year old machine which would only run with the choke on last fall was subjected to outdoor storage, on Cape Cod with the crazy wind and driving rain all Winter. Long story short, with a crankcase full of water, the #2 connecting rod in the 20 HP Briggs I/C Plus broke. What a shame. It now has
a 14 hp Kohler Command sitting between the frame rails, thanks to Craigs list. The 1000 is not so fortunate. The 14.5 hp Briggs Intek had no air air filer housing on it, and is packed full of water. No worries, I/m not an Intek fan anyway. Thanks again to eBay motors, a local pickup on a Vanguard twin was made and once again these nice machines will mow acreage.

Flip these machines over and they are pretty much the same underneath. Sure some have a cast front axle and electric PTO's however they share the same powerplants and transaxles.

My personal mower? A Deere (later model ) 317 with a Kohler and a hydro rear mounted tiller.

Have a great one!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 8:42PM
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Something does not "smell right" about the excuse the dealer gave about the PTO having a defective ground causing the PTO to "seek" a ground back through the crankshaft. The operating coil of the PTO is stationary, meaning it has no physical connection to the crankshaft. The coil is a continuously wound circuit with both terminations in the form of a 2 wire connector, no internal grounding provision is provided for. I do not comprehend how the dealer came to the conclusion that the "PTO ground" was the cause. In fact, I can't envision a single defective electrical component or ground fault that would lead to an electrical current passing into, or out of the crankshaft, on it's way to somewhere. Discussion? Rebuttal? Popcorn?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 5:36PM
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Somehow, I think we're not getting the whole story here.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 9:11PM
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I agree that I'm not getting the whole story. The bill that they gave me only shows the labor charges & not the repair details only that the warranty for any parts (which they say they have the list) will be for 1 yr from now. Labor for only 90 days. Previously JD customer support would not refer me higher within the company stating that the local district rep was the highest authority. They would not give contact info for him stating that it was personal info! Very fustrating. I mailed a 4 page letter yesterday to the JD CEO , if it will do any good. I'll wait for a reply before pursuing other avenues.
The statement about the grounding came from the service rep at the dealer's who said that he got the info from a JD Tech person. I don't know all the internal workings of a tractor. The tractor has never been abused. The oil & filters were changed at the recommended intervals. I cut only grass (1.4 acre flat land) & after each use it is blown off or washed & wiped/blown dry before being put away. It looks like the day I bought it in 2003.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 8:40AM
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butchs_hobby(s texas)

This whole story makes me look at my old Massey Fergusons, (Kohler K's and one Onan) and grin. My gut feeling is that the dealer is jacking you around, I'd be p---ed! Go to Jims tractors web site, he's knowledgeable, experienced, and will talk to you on the phone(or e-mail). He may be able to shed some light on your problem.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 9:23AM
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Please keep us updated on this story. I'm fascinated to see how it turns out. If the facts are as you say, then I'd be finding a lawyer and filing suit. You should not be paying any of the cost. Best of luck on this.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 9:23AM
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Thanks for the all info. We did receive a reply letter signed by Robert Lane's (JD CEO) assistant. It stated that although all letters could not be read by Mr Lane, that our letter has been referred to the appropriate division for investigation & will be addressed. Will post a follow-up if something is received. Meanwhile I'll try some of the advice that some have suggested. Oh yes, after several weeks of cutting grass, the engine oil is normal so far. I check it before & after each use.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 12:43PM
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earj123, I don't have a clear picture of your out-of pocket expenses for these repairs, but ....

First: the factory isn't going to have to pay anything near the retail for any engine or part.

Second: The whole deal sounds like faulty manufacturing and parts, which should have been covered totally.

Third: The repair figures they are giving you, sound like they are jacking them up and your share would actually cover their expenses. .. nothing out of their pockets!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 1:37PM
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There is a 1999 GT235 for sale in my area for $2850 with a power flow bagger. I think it has the 18Hp Vangard engine. The machine is very clean and appears to have been well maintained. Does anyone have an opinion on the asking price?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 10:59PM
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like_my_yard(Central NC.)

If it's the one in Clayton NC. The ad has been on CL several times. I contacted the seller about it,seems like a pleasant guy. He sent a very nice email reply back. If this is the one and it test drives OK I think it would be in the $2200--$2500 range. By the pics and his message it appears to have been well cared for.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 8:52AM
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