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For those looking at garden tractors, the Craftsman line is worth consideration. I purchased a Craftsman 2015 GT5500 after looking at Husqvarna, John Deere, and Cub Cadet. It's hard to ignore the GT5500's price point and features. For the price of one John Deere X360 I could almost buy two GT5500s (plus the on paper the GT5500 has better specs than the X360 such as a stronger transmission, more hp, tighter radius, larger tires, and a bigger deck).

Here is my review of the GT5500.

A little about me. My garden tractor experiences include a Cub Cadet 2000, a John Deere G100, and an IH Cub Cadet 1000. I use my tractors for mowing, snow removal, and light ground engagement. I also recently purchased a Johnny Bucket Jr.

In 2014 Craftsman retooled their garden tractor line. The GT6000 model 28861 was redesigned as the GT5500 and the model number was changed to 28861x. As in year's past, the GT5500 is based on the Husqvarna and is assembled in the same plant.

After a few days leaving the assembly plant, my GT5500 arrived at my house with 0.1 hours.

The tractor looked and ran great. Cosmetically it had no imperfections and looked well lubricated.



I paid $2607 for my tractor (I had a 10% off coupon plus saved another 5% with my Sears card) and I earned nearly $170 in points that I used to buy weights that will help with my Johnny Bucket.



The GT5500 has been pretty impressive so far. There is a lot of pick up and go and it mows pretty well.

It's a little loud with the deck going, but it's not too bad.

I would strongly recommend anyone who buys a Craftsman mower to inspect the tractor. While on the surface it looks great, I was concerned to see so many loose bolts. I found bolts were surprisingly loose on the battery terminal and the brush guard.





When removing the deck, I found some stray packing from the factory. There was a loose rubber band on the deck and there was paper on the transmission pulley. The tires were also grossly over inflated. The back tires should only be inflated to 10 psi, but were filled to 30 psi. I'm guessing a tractor from a dealer would have a more proper inspection.







I'm not too keen on the Sure Start feature. Probably more of a gimmick. But it works and I've grown accustom to it. Honestly it's easier to just turn over a key than to have to press a series of buttons in sequence.



Deck removal isn't too bad, but does require removing about half a dozen pins. My 30 year old IH Cub Cadet has less complicated deck removal system. Overall the decks comes off in just a few minutes. Just make sure you keep track of the pins and bars that keep the deck in place when removed.



Now that the tires are properly inflated, the GT5500 rides pretty well. The seat has just enough bounce to accommodate any bumps. I find getting on and off is a little tight, especially if the deck lever is lowered.



The frame seems sturdy, but it's definitely not comparable to my 30 year old IH Cub. The body is also pretty firm. The hood is metal and the back is heavy gauge. If you're like me, sometimes I have to lift the back of the tractor and scoot it around the garage. I often worried I may bend the metal on my previous tractors.

Overall the GT5500 seems to be a good buy. Just be sure to take some time and inspect it.
 

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Congrats on your new tractor. Years ago, I worked at Sears for awhile. The tractors usually came out of a warehouse. The folks that prepped the tractors didn't always check them thoroughly. It's always a good idea to check the bolts no matter where you buy it. The tires are overfilled at the factory to facilitate pushing the tractors around. They used to put a sticker somewhere to advise the buyer. Good luck with it and thanks for the review. :fing32:
 

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Thanks Mike. I'm sure the Craftsman isn't going to hold up as well as perhaps a John Deere. Maybe in 10 years when it's time to sell I can get into the JD 700 line. Overall I'm happy with the purchase.
 

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I have one question. With the push to start, do you have to push and hold until it starts or just push once and it will disengage the starter once the engine gets going, similar to push button start in most cars...


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Discussion Starter #7
After entering my code, I just push the button once. I do not hold it down. If it's cold, the tractor will automatically spin the starter until the tractor turns over.
 

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Thanks APinNY. Knowing that you worked with Sears, do you recommend the warranty?
Sears sells a lot of extended warranties. In fact, a good portion of their profit comes from those warranties, not just for tractors but for many things they sell. Whether or not to buy it is a crap shoot. Some folks asked for it without prompting, while others wanted nothing to do with it. It's just another insurance policy. You pay the premium hoping you will never need it. Sears tractors are no worse than any other brand. In my time there I found that very few tractors required warranty work compared to the number of tractors sold. Personally, I don't buy them, except for my Jeep GC, which is loaded with tech, so I thought it would be a good idea. So far after three years, I haven't used the extended warranty because the manufacturer's warranty was still in effect. We'll see what happens over the next four years. :dunno:
 

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What do they use for a differential? Are they serviceable?
Since I don't have hills, I didn't spend much time investigating differentials. I can confirm the GT5500 does not have locking differentials. Husqvarnas are very similar to the Craftsman line and some models include locking differentials for a few hundred more. Since differentials weren't a priority to me, I can't offer much more input. Maybe someone else can chime in.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Nice machine! Did you check for grease on the center spindle of the deck? I like the 54", I have the same one on my Craftsman.
Thanks.

I actually wanted a smaller 48" deck to move around obstacles, but the 48" Craftsman Garden Tractor I believe has a smaller transmission and tires - a trade off I wasn't wanting to make. I'm expecting the tight turning radius to be a great feature - so after a year of mowing I'll probably be glad I have the bigger deck.

And yes, the center spindle did have grease.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Here's an update on the G5500. Overall I'm still happy with the buy.

I have used this tractor for mowing, moving dirt/stone/wood with a Johnny Bucket, and hauling heavy loads (no ground attachments yet).

MOWING
It mows pretty well and is a very comfortable ride. On a straight run, I think my old IH cub does a better job, but overall it mows great. The turning radius is great, but not as tight as I expected. I still have to loop around trees a couple times. I find I have to keep my deck pretty high up to get a good cut, not a big deal. If you're shooting for 3" grass expect the deck to be raised quite a bit. Yes the tractor can go 7mph, but when mowing I'm maybe half that speed.

When hitting bumps and dips, the tractor handles well. The deck doesn't cut into the yard, but may rock a little. I feel the frame have some flex, which makes for a comfortable ride, but has me wondering how solid it really is.

I have trouble reading the gas gauge. I just fill it up every other mow. I did run out of gas once and the reserve was a nice feature that saved me some time.


JOHNNY BUCKET
Love this device. Attaching the Johnny Bucket required me to cut a small notch off one of the side plastic panels so I could bolt it on. Otherwise assembly wasn't much of a problem.

I do find the Johnny Bucket leans ever so slightly on the same side as the lift/pump mounted on the bucket. I was able to adjust the bucket a little to correct this.

The hood on the Craftsman is so lightweight and plasticy, that the hood doesn't fit as snug with the bucket on. Very minor, not sure it's worth noting.

Overall I've found the JB so useful I now wonder if I should have bought a larger front loader and tractor - then I look in my wallet and remember why I bought a Craftsmans and JB.

I have the JB teeth attachment, doubler, turbo dump, and the caddy arms.

The teeth are a no brainer. If you buy no other attachment, else get this.

The turbo dump is nice, and for $50 it's a good buy - not sure it's necessary.

I debated buying the arms thinking I could engineer something myself. Looking at the bucket, I probably could have saved $50 and worst case bolted on 2x4s when needed. But I have 100% confidence these arms are rock solid and found myself using them to haul lumber - most recently to the back of the yard for a landscaping project.

The doubler surprisingly was not as handy as I had hoped. I probably should have saved the $115. I have my permanently mounted to the bucket, but I rarely find myself hauling items (even mulch) to maximize it's design.

Overall good tractor and at half the price of a similar sized John Deere, I'm glad I bought it.
 

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I just bought this GT5500 and I hear you on the Sure Start feature, my first thought was it's a safety feature to keep kid's out of harm way. And people that just take liberties before asking so I like it and I won't loose the key. Thank for the review haven't seen to many yet and this is my first Garden Tractor.
 

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I just bought this GT5500 and I hear you on the Sure Start feature, my first thought was it's a safety feature to keep kid's out of harm way. And people that just take liberties before asking so I like it and I won't loose the key. Thank for the review haven't seen to many yet and this is my first Garden Tractor.
Hmmm. That is what a removable key was for, Way too much electronics to trouble shoot a "no start" issue. I have never understood the need for auto start, Cup Holders, Cruse Control, Heated Seats, Safety switches out the ying-yang, etc. On a GT. I guess I like the older models, including Cars.
:hide:
 

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Has anyone had any problems with the deck belt always coming off? I've had SEARS out twice already, they leave thinkng its fixed but then I star to mow and the belt jumps off again, I have another appointment. Totally frustrated.
 

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There's only a few reasons why a deck belt will keep coming off.

1: belt old, heat cracked or stretched too much that it slings off when engaged or after a few moments of usage. I like Kevlar belts for all the belts on my mowers as Kevlar is a product that holds up to heat better than regular rubberized cloth bound belts.

2: Deck idler pulley(s) spring or springs have gotten weak or broke and don't hold the belt in tension anymore. Most of the springs have got different tension slots that one can use to help with spring belt tension. Another backyard trick if springs can't be tensioned tighter is to get some strong wire and wrap a couple spring coils together to not separate, which will make the other coils tighter.
Something I've done with good results is get another spring of smaller size, but with good strength and just a tad shorter and put this smaller spring into the center portion of larger spring to make it a double spring to make a weak and no-longer-available (NLA) spring usable again. Most home/tractor supply stores will have a decent supply of utility springs to see if they'll work. If not one store, go to another.

3: Belt v-pulleys, either one or all are worn and need replaced. Or, by spinning each v-pulley by hand one can see if that pulley is bent or loose on spindle shaft the pulley attaches to.

4: Spindle shaft(s) of one or more need rebuilt with new bearings, or whole mandrel assembly needs replaced as something has egged-out the assembly and it can't be rebuilt.

5: Deck bent from hitting something and thrown a pulley off kilter with alignment to other pulleys.

6: If something was changed on that deck, either a new mandrel assembly or a new pulley of incorrect size/shape, its possible that whatever it is, it's maybe out of alignment with the other pulley's. Even a bolt washer in wrong spot could tilt a pulley off and throw the belt. Everything needs a close inspection to find the cause.

These are some of the things I can think of and I'm sure there's more, but without seeing where the problem lies, one needs to go through the process of elimination and it takes time.

7: Don't let that Sear's tech leave after saying they've fixed the problem, without you using the mower for at least 5-10 minutes if belt comes off like you say.
 
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