Craftsman lawnmower opinions?

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I have about .4 acres to mow. Originally I was looking at self-propelled, but have been convinced by a long- time mower friend (this is my 1st house and I've NEVER mowed before), that a push-model is good enough. That the more complex a mower (i.e. Propel vs. push), the more things can go wrong, and I'm 30 & fit so a push should not be an issue. Land is mostly flat, backyard slants up about 30 degrees. Obviously, electric not an option.
After looking at Consumers Reports and reading a lot of stuff in general, I'm considering the Craftsman 38886. It's a push, large-rear wheels, with mulching & rear- bagging. I wish I could find out if it is ball-bearing or not (I'll go this weekend to look at it and hopefully the salepeerson would know....we'll see....is there any way to tell myself?)
Any opinions on Craftsman push mulching/rear-bagging mowers, specifially the 38886? Oh yea, it's B&S 6.5hp
Thanks a ton, trying not to make a bad decision considering I've never owned a mower before, and I figure a $220 Craftsman is better than spending $700 on a Honda HRX217HXA now that I have mortgage payments...
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G wrote:

FWIW, My beef with Sears (Craftsman) is they only guarantee repair parts availability for *one years* now. Back when, the said parts would be available for "life". Sears is nothing but a marketing outfit that sells what they get from their vendors, and that can change monthly.
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On 9/29/2005 9:34 AM US(ET), Stubby took fingers to keyboard, and typed the following:

What Craftsman repair parts would you need for a push mower? After all, it is just a chassis to hold an engine with a mower blade attached. Replacement mower blades, wheels, and other non-Craftsman common parts are available almost everywhere, like engine parts for B&S engines. My Craftsman self-propelled, B&S powered mower is over 20 years old and I have only changed the blade once and the pull starter cord once (neither of which were Sears parts). It looks like s**t with the rust, dents, and cracked plastic parts, but it cuts grass as well as it did when new.
--
Bill

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willshak wrote:

I looking for saddle clamps that hold the blades (4) on my mowing deck in place. Thanks.
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I think you pay to much for the name and the gray paint. If that is the quality you want you might as well go MTD.
From Mel & Donnie in Bluebird Valley
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I've had a craftsman rear-bagger push mower (not sure of the model) with normal size rear wheels for 3 years now and it hasn't missed a beat. It starts first pull every time. The only maintenance I do is to brush it off after each use (mostly to keep rotting grass smell out of the garage) and I sharpened the blade and replaced the oil at the start of it's third cutting season. I'll drain the gas and wash it down at the end of each cutting season.
Jon

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zeppo snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com says...

Jon- How big is your property approximately? Also, do you mulch as well, if yes, does it work well for you?
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About 1/4 acre and flat. Takes about 40 minutes to cut the grass. I use the bag for most of the cuts, but will let it mulch every once in a while if I'm in a hurry. The mulching blade cuts it pretty small but makes the deck and wheels harder to clean. If the grass is pretty high and the deck gets a lot of mulch build-up it can bog down the mower.
Jon
says...

off
and I

cutting
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Push it if you want, but look at a rider and weedeater to get the job done in a shorter period of time.
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Ralph Mowery wrote:

I used to have a self-propelled rotary mower and I liked it. Then I bought the craftsman tractor and mowing deck. I've used it for 17 years but frankly, I believe a zero-radius ride-on mower would have been better or maybe a fancy self-propelled. I have about 2/3 acre with lots of gardens to go around. I have worked hard to make the gardens mowable -- no inside corners, mowing strips next to stone walls, etc.
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Sears buys from whoever will make, their close to spec mowers, to meet a price point. I don't know who is making this year's or last year's models. It's probably an MTD which are basically throw aways after 5 years.
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On 9/29/2005 7:02 PM US(ET), Tightwad took fingers to keyboard, and typed the following:

What if it's still working after 5, 10, or 15, years?
--
Bill

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0.4 acres is pretty small. a push is OK, but I have always liked self-prop mowers. I have a craftsman 5.5hp that is about 8-10 years old now. rear bagger, mulcher (chute optional). I think it was $300 back then. Replaced this year with a JD riding mower, but it still works just fine.
What I would do in your case is buy a self prop or a big wheel mower. I would also suggest a honda engine, but that often puts the price higher than you want to pay.
If going craftsman, buy a new blade, air filter, belts (if any), and blade to keep in hand when you need them.
Kirb
G wrote:

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G wrote:

If you get a push mower just about anything will be ok provided you take good care of it. There is little to go wrong outside the engine. I would look for a heavier gauge steel (or cast Aluminum or Aluminum/Magnesium alloy) for the deck. Don't leave a lot of wet grass clippings impacted on the bottom of the deck after you mow, as this will encourage rust - especially if you have recently fertilized. Change the oil at the end of the season and either run the gas out of the tank or put some gas stabilizer in the tank. Don't leave your mower outside in the weather uncovered (you'd be surprised how many people do this). Preferably keep it in a garage or a enclosed outbuilding. If you can't do that at the least throw a tarp over it and stick it under something (deck, lean-to, milk crate, whatever).
Personally, for .4 acres I would go with a good quality self-propelled. If you let the grass get high (and who on occasion doesn't unless they have nothing to do but cut the lawn) a push mower can be a real chore to manhandle through higher grass - even on a perfectly flat lawn. A good brand self-propelled (Honda, Toro, Husqvarna, and maybe a few other select brands) should give years of reliable service if you take care of it (same kind of maintenance as mentioned earlier). I've got a Honda Harmony self propelled that I bought at Home Depot about 5 years ago and it has never given me a problem. The self-propelled unit is working fine and it starts with one pull every time just like when it was new. Your gonna pay around $400 ~ $450 for a good self propelled (yes, you can pay more). You might squeeze in a little under that $400 figure if you shop around now at the end of the season. I think I saw Lowes selling a Husqvarna self propelled (with a Honda motor, same as on my Harmony which I consider to be a definite plus)for just under $400.
On the motor, I can't overstate how pleased I am with the Honda 5.5hp engine on my self-propelled. I've owned or known a lot of mowers growing up and through my adult life. Most were Brigg and Stratton with a few Tecumsehs thrown in here or there. Some were hard to start right out of the box. All got harder to start as they got older. The best of them would start in 3 or 4 pulls after a couple of years of service. Some were quite a bit harder than that. I generally check and change plugs often, but no matter what it seems that all my Briggs or Techumseh motors would at some point give me trouble starting. Sometimes I could fix it with new plugs, other times I had to rebuild the carb. A few would just never reliably start over any reasonable period of time. This Honda has performed flawlessly. You set the throttle to choke, you pull the cord (and an easy pull at that) and the thing just fires up. Five years on it starts as readily at the day I brought it home. One year I didn't bother to run the gas out and forgot to put stabil in the tank. Put the mower away in November. Come late February or early May I pull it out of the garage for my first mow of the year, choke the throttle, and pull the cord and the damn thing fired right up - first try after sitting for a little over three months (I live in the Southeast and we have a pretty long mowing season if you have a fescue lawn).
Good luck with whatever you get.
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snipped-for-privacy@moya.org says...

Thanks for this great reply!!! I just picked up the Sears Craftsman 38886 push mower with large rear wheels. They have a 30-day return policy so if I find it's really a chore, I'll return it and go w/ a Honda self- propelled, the majority of folks seem to agree that Honda engines are really the most reliable over time. I hear that southeast grass can get thick, I live in the Northeast so I'm hoping even if it does grow a bit long, it will never be like those thick blades of the south so I'll be ok. Hopefully this thing mulches up the leaves pretty well as well. Thnx again for all the replies, I'll repost with an update on how the mower feels.
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I"m leaving the rest of the post. I thought you said 4 acres. This is why most people write 0.4 acres, because you don't know what my monitor or room light is like or how good my vision is, etc. There are lots of typos on the net, and if there seems to be an extra space between t and 4, no one will think that is strange.
Most of what I wrote is fully applicable to the smaller lawn you have.

ROTFLOL. I thought the choice would be between self-propelled and riding. In JHS and HS, we had about 1/3 of an acrre, counting where the house was. With a self-propelled mower**, it took 90 minutes for the front lawn and 90 for the back. If we figure you'll go twice as fast as I did, that will be 18 hours to mow the lawn.
**Admittledly I kept the engine running slowly and that made this model proceed quite slowly.
They do make self-propelled with one throttle for the engine and a separate one for the speed the mower travels. I don't think they are common though, they probably all have big engines (see below) and the maximum mower speed at any given time is I'm sure limited by where you set the engine speed.
AFAIK, It is better to have the front wheels driven than the rear. I had to shift to neutral all the time to pull the mower away from the trees etc. With front drive, push down on the handle and the rear wheels move freely while the front is off the ground, ass uming no one is in front of you to get hit by stones or sticks or pine cones. Seriously, it's immoral to injure someone this way, and these days you'll be liable, and you have to make looking the automatic first step all the time. Otherwise you'll forget to look on the infrequent occaions someone is there.

We had a Moto-mower. I think the transmission did break once in the 8 years we lived there. They don't use that style of transmission anymore, but I don't know if the new ones are better or worse. "Transmission" is an overblown word, maybe the wrong word. It was just a clutch, a little box 3 by 3 by 3, with a belt, a pulley , and a couple 45 degree gears and a lever.

LOL. I was 12 to 18 and fit. My land in Indiana was totally flat.
Now that I see you mean point 4 acres, it will be a lot of exercise to push the mower, but I think you can do it. And riding mowers have major problems around obstructions, like others have described.

Thirty degrees!!!!! You don't think it will be hard to push on that! BTW, if it is really 30, you have to go sideways, not up, and they say not even down. I think, or the mower will fall over ON you. Even if you go sideways on the hill itself, somewhere you will be pushing your mower up that hill, over and over..
If I were you, I would absolutely borrow your neighbor's mower before I bought anything***. I think you have no idea of what this will be like. If he won't let you mow your lawn (unlikely) offer to mow part of his.
***It's a good way to get to know your neighbor. But don't mow near the rock garden or any place else you might hurt the blade. Just leave that stuff for next time. It's a bad way to get to know your neighbor if the first thing you do is nick his blade, or worse. When you are mowing one swath, you can keep your eyes on the next swath to see if there are any rocks that you're going to hit next time. Not necessary most of the time, but probably is the first time you mow the lawn. There are kids around here, and I keep finding white stones that are used in a bush or flower bed. It comes and goes but sometimes I keep finding them in my yard.
If he has a riding mower (likely) keep going down the street until you find someone with a push mower. If he thinks he can win an ally in the push mower brigade, he'll readily lend you his mower, because he thinks he's smarter and stronger than those with riding mowers. He may well be, but you should make sure in advance that you want to be like him.

The larger rear wheels mean nothing on really flat land (whether level or not). They are there to help you go over rough land, curbs, etc. The same reason a bicycle can handle ridges and bumps

And you're going to bag too! Do you realize how many loads there are in 4 acres? 50? Just a guess. I predict with a wlaking mower you will never finish, even the first time. I never bag. it's good fertilizer

Does it have a throttle? 6.5 make a lot of noise, for no good reason unless you're trying to mow a baby forest. Even 3 HP make too much noise to run at full speed. You can run most engines, especially big ones, at half throtte, even in the spring, and still mow the lawn fine, including mulching. 1/3 throttle would be enough when the weather has been dry. IF it has a throttle.
BTW, when I didn't have a "mulching mower" I duct-taped a business size envelope over the grass opening and voila, a mulching mower. I only did this in the fall when I wanted to mulch the leaves. It worked fine.
I would think every engine, especially on lawn mowers, would have a throttle, and they used to, but lately not all do. I have a mower with no throttle coontrol but seemingly a place to connect one. I also have a Craftsman with no trottle and NOWHERE to connect one.
I may keep it for its other features and wear earplugs, but I'm very unhappy about this lack.
Also 6HP engines weigh more, and that will matter a lot when you are pushing the mower. A couple years ago I had one push mower that didn't start, but I borrowed one from a friend, and 've been keeping my eyes open and I've found 4 mowers in the trash. 3 looked brand new, although one of those was made in 1978. Some are 6 or 6.5HP and some 3.5 I have to lift one side to get it up on the cement slab where I store it during the summer, and with some of them, I can just twist the handle and the right side goes up. Others are so heavy I can't do it and I'm afraid I'll bend the handle. I have to go up to the side of the engine, bend down and lift it up, and push it on the slab at the same time. No big deal, but it would be if I had to push the thing everywhwere.

I buy alsmost everything second-hand. Your house was second-hand, right?
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let me know if you have posted also.
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I have a 20" Craftsman Eagle mulching mower. It's about 15 years old. Parts are available from any small engine repair shop or home improvement center. Like the Eveready bunny, it keeps going and going. I've replaced the wheels, starter cord, filters, plug, and had some carburetor work done on it last year. Still runs fine. The only problem with Craftsman mowers are that they're built from several suppliers (MTD, Briggs & Stratton, Kohler) and the parts they use this year may change in the future.
For 0.4 acres, if you're only going to mulch with it, a push mower would be suitable. However, if you're going to bag the clippings, consider a self-propelled, especially for the incline (30 degrees? - steep). Those bag changes get pretty tiring after awhile.
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For some reason, I have had absolutely terrible luck with Sears Craftsman lawn mowers... and yet I keep going back because they are the least expensive (when on sale) and I am not rich. This last time... after my 2 season old Sears Craftsman side discharge with a 4.5 HP B&S engine cracked its block (no, I didn't hit anything) and started leaking oil everywhere... I bought another Sears Craftsman like you have described but with the 5.5 HP Honda engine. I really thought the Honda engine would make a difference, but all I got was an insane level of vibration (hand blisters every time I use it) and terrible, terrible performance, especially when mulching. I have complained and brought it back to Sears twice with no satisfaction. They would not give me a refund. All they would do is rebalance or replace the blade, but its obvious that was never the problem. I am so disgusted with Sears I could scream. If I ever buy another Craftsman lawn mower, someone... anyone... please shoot me and put me out of my misery! :-(
Jake
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I'm not sure who is making mowers sold by Sears under the Craftsman name now. Sears cares little about the quality of the Lawn Mowers and other items itsticks the name Craftsman on these days. They will milk the Craftsman name until everybody finally realizes it is no different than the cheap throwaways available at Walmart, Lowes. Home Depot, etc. You have to look at every aspect of the mower you anticipate buying. Even John Deere Mowers are mostly manufactured by whoever will meet John Deere's price point of the WalMart marketing philosophy clones. John Deere still manufactures all of its John deere labeled Commercial mowers, I believe. Briggs bought Simplicity, Snapper and a number of others. The who owns what has changed so much, in the last 3 years, I cannot remember just who is manufacturing what and for who. Thanks to Wal Mart there is not much American Made Quality left out there.
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I hear you loud and clear. But where does one turn today who is not filthy rich? Which line(s) of lawn mowers and lawn/garden tractors are truly designed and built to last without going $$$commercial$$$ ?
Or did I just answer my own question?
I thought that Honda engine was the answer to all my past Sears Craftsman woes. It was not. While it hasn't failed to start or started leaking oil or exploded yet... the performance is absolutely abysmal and the vibration is nothing short of astonishing. I just shake my head every time I use it. :-(
Jake
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