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Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

Posted by kmfisher (My Page) on
Wed, May 16, 07 at 15:09

I'm looking at a few different mowers to get because I have a 2-in-1 Yard-Man, Model 503, with a Tecumseh LEV 90-120 engine that just cannot get the job done. It's going to die or clump badly no matter what and it takes me a good hour to 1.5 hours to do just over 5,000 sq ft. I have to take baby steps to prevent it from choking/dying. I've been religious with the recommended maintenance, cleaning, and replacing of filters, blades, spark plugs, etc.

So, I am going to upgrade to a 3-in-1 push mower. I don't need self-propelled and actually enjoy the exercise of the push. I don't have a set price range, but I think that over $350 is really going to push the budget. So, that's pretty much ruled out the Lawn-Boy, Snapper, and Toro. I've been reading here and looking around and wonder what you thought of these 3-in-1 mowers:

Troy-Bilt TB542 ($239 @ Lowes) -
PROS: 160 CC GCV Honda engine, rolled steel deck, high wheels, big 2.3 cu ft bag
CONS: MTD like Yard-Man

Cub Cadet CC500 ($229 @ Home Depot) -
PROS: rolled deck, ball-bearing wheels, cyclo-cut system, single-level height adjustment, 173 CC OHV Chinese Engine (can't figure the brand out exactly) (6.75 ft/lb torque)
CONS: 1.9 cu ft bag, small wheels, 19" cutting width!

Craftsman 38813 ($219 @ Sears) -
PROS: high wheels, 190 CC B&S Engine (6.75 ft/lb torque), 1.9 cu ft bag
CONS: side-valve engine

My main concern is that the engine is powerful enough to mulch without dying. I will bag occasionally if the lawn gets unruly. I ruled out all Tecumseh engines, but which one of the three here is most powerful? The Honda is rated lower (5.5 HP), but from what I've read B&S lies on their ratings. Is the Honda engine actually more powerful? Or is the Cub Cadet mystery engine the way to go?

Any thoughts, or a different recommendation for me? Thanks!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

  • Posted by canguy British Columbia (My Page) on
    Wed, May 16, 07 at 15:46

All the three in one gives you is a side discharge if you do not want to bag or mulch. It will not improve performance.
Make sure the engine is running at the proper speed with a tach. I have been finding engines running 200-300 rpm too slow out of the box. A local shop might check and adjust it for you for a nominal fee.
Is your grass thick or wet? How much are you taking off? All the mowers you are looking at should so a decent job under favorable conditions.

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

How tall is the grass you are trying to mow? If you're trying to mulch more than an inch of damp grass, you're probably going to have trouble.
Mow a narrower swath-

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

My 2-in-1 is mulch or side discharge. No bag. :( I probably wouldn't need a new mower if I could bag.

The mower I have is a few years old. It may be running too slow, or some part could be going bad. I don't know enough about engines to do anything without taking it in. The grass is thick because I've been good about fertilizing, seeding, aerating, etc. I have the mower set to maximum height of 3.5" and tend to mow every 6 days, sometimes 5. The grass grows fast though, and can be 2" to cut off. I wait for it to get dry, but it still struggles even after 5 days of no rain and hot sun. Thanks for the help.

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?


Since you seem to be cutting high enough that the grass can side discharge or spray out from under the mower, here are some suggestions that will work for your current mower or even a new one.

Most cheap mowers have cheap shallow decks that can allow quick grass buildup underneath which will effect air flow.

Buy bigger wheels. A lot of the cheaper fixed axle mowers come with 6" wheels. If you get 7" or 7.5" wheels, that will give you slightly higher clearance with more room for the grass to blow out from the discharge chute or out from under the mower.

Get yourself some generic high lift blades. The high lift blades cause more air flow which should help by giving you more force to throw the grass out.

Buy a Snapper PUSH model 21" mower that uses the same deck as their self-propelled units. The shape of their deck creates fantastic air flow and I think all of their blades are high lift.

Good luck!


RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Wed, May 16, 07 at 17:25

The first comment about the rpm speed might be the clue. On the inexpensive mowers it's so easy to bump into a pine tree branch and bend the thin metal tab which controls engine speed. I've seen many knocked down 500 rpm or more just by hitting a branch.

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

Is there a place where I can adjust this tab? It's a Tecumseh LEV 90-120 engine. I'm not concerned about blowing it up since I am already planning on getting a new mower. Thanks.

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Wed, May 16, 07 at 19:48

I'm not familiar with all the models, but if I saw a picture, I could tell you. It's not something you can do by ear though.

RE: Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?

Here's a picture I found on a small engine forum. Mine looks just like it. What do I bend and which direction? Thanks.

Mine looks just like this

Re: Budget push-mowers.

I have an issue...I want a good little push mower that the wife and I can trim the yard with. Our local dealers (only have two) carry Troybuilt (says he has to to compete with our only two stores Wally world and Lowes, and the other carries Husqvarna. The Husky dealer has the 7021p for $260.00 and says it is a real good mower.

Everyone seems "commercial crazy" and that is way overkill for my needs and my budget. the Husqvarna 7021p a good mower or not? I can get Honda, John Deere, and Troybuilt at Lowes, also Brute and Yardman at Wally world. Not a great selection, other dealers are at least an hour away.


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