field & brush cutter

purchase of field & brush cutter (mower) under consideration
debating between Snapper and John Deere.... any experiences and/or suggestions?
I am referring to a self-propelled 2 wheel machine .. not a string cutter
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On Tue, 4 Sep 2012 02:50:43 -0700 (PDT), Frank Thompson

I have an older model DR field and brush mower (17.5 hp Kawasaki engine). It works well. I did get aggravated when they came out with a new model with some nice attachments the year after I bought mine. Still the mower works as advertised and will cut through 2 inch diameter brush (like bush honeysuckle) with the heavy blade. I've had it for 11 years and no problems except the normal run ins with rocks. I mostly use it around the house and around a cabin I have. Mowing an acre or two is quite doable, but for larger jobs I use larger machines.
As to which brands you may want to get, do any of the local big box stores rent one or more of the models you are interested in? That would be an economical trial I would think. The DR takes a bit of muscle, especially when the differential is locked. It is a bit difficult on inclines. It goes up and down fine, but across inclines it can tip over. It would be horrible to try to clean up a ditch with it. OTH, it makes a fairly smooth cut, almost a finish cut.
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...snip...
I feel your aggravation.
I bought an Ariens Sno-Tek snow blower the first year they came out. It blew (no pun intended) all the other $599 price point machines away in terms of quality and value.
Ariens vs. Troy Bilt/Craftsman/MTD. Which would you choose?
The following year they upgraded the unit to include a remote crank for the deflector but didn't change the price. In doing so, they also changed the discharge shoot design so I couldn't just go out and buy the deflector control mechanism.
If I could adjust the discharge shoot from behind the machine it wouldn't be a big deal, but I'm just too short to do it comfortably while operating the machine, so I have to stop, walk around, adjust and then go back. Remote deflector adjustment would be sweet!
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-snip-


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcQj6IVP7sE&feature=endscreen&NR=1

<g> Jim
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Yep...I've seen a few of those mods over at http://www.opeonthenet.com /
In fact, it was a member of that forum that suggested the Ariens machine when I asked about the $599 Troy Bilt/Craftsman/MTD machines.
Those guys are pretty serious about their outdoor power equipment.
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wrote:

here is what you want:
http://www.youtube.com/embed/JKrc5NIAzb4

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That is, if you want to spend 100k to automate a 1k machine.
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I have the same for about the same period of time and want no more DR products.
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On Wed, 5 Sep 2012 02:06:13 -0700 (PDT), Frank Thompson

Did yours crap out on you? Just wondering what I might expect.
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No, it still runs fine. I am 76 yo & it is physically too hard to operate. I understand that some of the others have different type of drive, transmission or whatever that makes them much less demanding of the person operating. Also the handle is too low & not adjustable. I am 6'3' and have to bend for my hands to hold the handles.... very tiring. I guess it was designed for shorter folks.
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On Sat, 8 Sep 2012 02:58:45 -0700 (PDT), Frank Thompson

I'm shorter (5'8"), but the thing is difficult for me too. I did get the kit to upgrade the wheel clutch with hand grip extensions, which looks like it might help. Now if I'd only get around to putting it on! This is not an endorsement of the machine. I bought it as it was the least expensive (by far) at the time (11 or so years ago) and I haven't looked at others available recently.
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In my search for a new machine I am using the height of handle as a major criteria and also the type of transmission. I am a little confused over the latter. My understanding is that my old DR type of transmission is a contributing factor to the difficulty in handling it. I've read that the ones with a different type are easier to handle. Is the difference one of hydrostatic transmission vs some other type?
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Per Frank Thompson:

I've got a BCS.
I would not recommend BCS to anybody and I would not buy another BCS.
Having said that...
Mine has an absolute *killer* feature: the handlebars are part of a sort of yoke that is:
- Adjustable for height over a very wide range
- Can be canted left or right 45 degrees
- Can be flipped around to point the other way (as when, for instance, moving between roto-tiller and sickle-bar attachments).
Like I said, you don't want BCS; but the yoke implementation is so obvious once seen that I would expect other makers to have it.
--
Pete Cresswell

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based on your post I went to their website (& also Grillo) and was very impressed. Please elaborate why you would not recommend BCS
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Per Frank Thompson:

I bought mine because of the idea of "One engine, many implements": smaller footprint in the equipment shed, less maintenance.
That part worked out, although I would say that the tradeoffs (especially with the mower) are severe enough to warrant a larger shed instead of a multi-implement machine. In retrospect, now that I have a larger shed, that alternative would be cost-effective. The cost of the larger shed was less than the premium paid for the geared implements vs dedicated devices.
Bear in mind that I'm the customer-from-hell. Very few products make me happy and most products I can rant about at length. Don't even get me started on my Chevy Suburban....
But here's my BCS rant:
- The dead-man switch is designed so that if the wire is parted, the motor keeps running and the only consequence is that there is no longer a dead-man's switch. Could be a nasty surprise for somebody out cutting trail or mowing brush.
Add to that the fact that the wire is routed in such a way as to be very vulnerable to passing brush and has a connector in it and the BCS design team looks pretty bad just based on that.
- The starter rope handle gets trapped by the engine guard. Moving one of the engine guard tubes a quarter inch would fix that. I can see it happening on release 1.0... but surely this has been pointed out to BCS and they have not remedied it.
"Kaizen" is probably not in the BCS corporate vocabulary.
- The finish quality is abysmal. My snow blower attachment isn't even primed. It's just a thin coat of paint sprayed over cheap steel. Can anybody spell R-U-S-T?
- The materials (citing the snow blower again) are cheap. I caught the bottom of the blower on a chink in the sidewalk last season and it actually tore the metal. viz http://tinyurl.com/9zhnmjd The nuts on the chute are rusting badly, and the stainless steel circle at the base of the chute has broken twice already.
In fact, I'm on my second snow blower housing - the first one having failed totally where the PTO connects.
- Build quality is poor. Staying with the snow blower attachment: the impellers are sleeved on to drive shafts. So far so good.... But if you look at almost any snow blower in the world, those impellers are connected to the shafts within by shear pins - so that the blower swallows the Sunday newspaper or something the pins shear and the motor doesn't break a connecting rod.
BCS' assembly pounded rolled steel pins in where the shear pins should have been. And they did NOT come out easily....
- Geared-vs-Belt is problematic to me. There are those who say geared attachments are "better" than belt-driven. "Better how?" I would ask.
They are vastly heavier. I don't know what the factor is, but would guess it's at least 10.
They are *much* noisier. Yeah, one should wear hearing protection anyhow. But the neighbors and passers-by do not have the benefit of hearing protection and this thing's gears are *really* noisy.
Are gears more durable? Depends, I think.... What's the replacement cost of a belt vs fixing a gearbox? Think of the hundreds of thousands of commercial mower decks that are 100% belt-driven.
Finally, gear-driven is muy expensivo compared to belt-driven.
- Form factor tradeoffs for multi-implements are severe.
The killer app for this thing is the 5-foot wide sickle bar mower (as long as you don't unwittingly snag the wire for the dead-man's switch...) Buy from there, it's all down hill.
The 28" rotary mower works... sort of... but suffers from the same poor finish quality and compares poorly with a dedicated zero-turning-radius mower.
Ditto the snow blower.
- The steering brake implementation was laughable.
It was vertical levers about a foot forward on the steering yoke so, to actuate one, the operator had to take their right hand (the left hand cannot serve bco the dead-man switch) off of the steering handle and pull on the lever. I found some steering-handle-mounted levers and substituted them.
- The throttle is an ergonomic crime against nature.
BCS wants you to vary the speed via throttle. But after a half-dozen actuations of their throttle lever, one's thumb is already sore - gloves or no gloves.
- They claim 4 gears, but only two are useful for me.
First gear is too slow. Maybe applicable to a rototilling application, but useless for anything else. Gear 4 is strictly for transport and you'd better be riding in a sulky or cart bc even at idle the thing moves at running rather than walking speed.
There's plenty more... but you get the drift.
My overall impression is of a closely-held company where a bunch of cousins/brothers/sisters are running the show.
Either that or a big corporation where this branch has become inbred and/or is being run by the accounting department.
OTOH, I *do* see myself as something of a compulsive fault finder...
--
Pete Cresswell

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<snip>
So _that's_ where that 8&((&! pin came from! I thought it was some moron homeowner had put it there. I bought a basket case 5hp walk behind, put it together and used it for years until the impellor fan pin rusted and sheared. Major job of splitting the case to even be able to get a drift punch on it. I needed a bigger blower anyhow so bought a 11hp Poulan (good machine except for that stupid friction drive that likes to slip on a frosty day (turns out it is just a rebadged BCS or whtever is the daddy brand). I pawned it off on a nephew and haven't heard if he ever got it out of there.
Harry K
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Ooops, mindfart, the 'daddy' company for Poulan snowblowers is MTD. Almost EVERYTHING out there is MTD under the hood.
Harry K
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Thanks for taking your time for such a comprehensive critique, Pete. I copied it & will save it for future reference.
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