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Discussion Starter #1
Short Story
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I am going to be purchasing my first garden tractor this spring (now!). My property is basically flat and I will be doing mowing 90% of the time. I have light excavation, grading, and hauling that I would need to do and I viewed that doing that with a Johnny Bucket Jr would take longer than heavier equipment, but I also view that renting equipment is throwing the money away versus having a better tractor and a johnny bucket for many years. So in short I am looking for buying advice for someone that has never owned a garden tractor that can fit a Johnny Bucket Jr.


Long Story
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I am going to be purchasing my first garden tractor this spring. My property is mainly flat with some minor raised areas around my backyard landscaping surrounding a swimming pool. If all I was going to be doing was mowing, then I’d head over to a big box like Lowes, HD, or Sears and snag one and this thread would be over.

I have a number of DIY landscaping projects that I will be in need of doing over the course of the upcoming summers. For example, last years project (i.e. nightmare) was a 18x50 raised paver patio. This required me to rent a bobcat skid-steer and a dingo (ditch witch) multiple times over the summer which ate into my supposed savings by doing projects myself. I have a number of additional projects that I will be tackling over time and each of these would encounter the need to rent heavy equipment and/or do a bunch of shovel work.

Thanks for being kind to the following “wet behind the ears” questions.
I am aware that a JB Jr is not a skid steer and have no expectation of comparing one to the other. I was able to find a bunch of info by searching this forum that led to this summary (Thanks!)

Types of Projects
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Hauling – I will be in need of hauling limestone for paver sub base. Many cubic yards of mulch, mushroom compost, and topsoil. In the next two years I would likely need to haul 10 ton of gravel, 17 cu yard of mulch, and 30 ton of top soil. In addition, I will be needing to haul trees to their new planting locations (< 200 lbs each). Firewood hauling as well.

Excavation - I will need to dig about 6-9 inches of rocky/hard top soil for paver base 12x36 side patio. In 1-3 years I will need to excavate for a 12x16 or greater for a shed. The yard slopes so I will either be cutting in or raising up.

Grading/Cultivating – I will be in need of sod cutting a 5x175 section around the outside of my pool fence to create an area for landscaping/mulch. I will be reseeding nearly my entire side yard (63x225) so some cultivating and especially grading of new top soil for leveling will be in need.


Advice Please
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Are the garden tractors at big box stores such as Lowes, HD, Sears acceptable for the projects I outlined above?

Are the projects outlined above complete DOA for a < $2000 garden tractor? < $2500?
If so then please suggest model that I can search for used to lower cost

Should I have lug tires out of the gate?

Minimum front/back tire size?

Minimum horse power in engine?

Transmission? (type and need special fluid?)

Anything special to have or to avoid with the frame on the tractor? (metal type, 1 vs multi piece, etc)

Is there a minimum weight the tractor itself should be?

Any suggestions on weights? Fill washer fluid tires? Wheel weights? Concrete in back? All of those or which one best?

Do any of your answers change if I viewed there were two options a) Garden Tractor / JBJr only and b) tiller first, then JB Jr to scrape/scoop? If yes to the tiller stand up individual tiller or tiller attach on the back of tractor?



Thanks so much for taking the time to read and provide some guidance for me!

-Brandon
 

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are you mechanically inclined. so you can do some of the fab work yourself or are you going to buy all of the accessories for the tractor. you can get most tractors used if you look hard enough and ask here as their are great tractors for sale some with the accessories that you would need.
 

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Re: First time garden tracker and johnny bucket Jr (buying advice)

First, the JB Jr.

That would be a good choice for most of what you want to do. They are very well built, and have a reputation for excellent customer support The heavier excavation might be pretty slow since you are talking about hard, heavy dirt. For the heavy digging of larger areas, renting may still have to be an option, unless you are going to have a lot of time.

For the tractor, a Cub Cadet GTX 2000 or GTX 2100 would be a really good choice. especially when you do a price/performance against the comparable Deere tractors which a lot of people are going recommend. I specified those two models as they have power steering which will be a big help with a full load on the JB Jr. They will only be available through a Cub Cadet dealer. A lot of Case/IH dealers will have them as well.

As for tires, I'd go with the AG tread tires right up front. You would want the R1 tread as opposed to the less aggressive R4 tread that you see on most sub-compacts these days I'd also have them loaded with Rim Guard. There will be people that will recommend windshield wiper fluid and other water based solutions, but Rim Guard will: add more weight/gal, is not toxic, animal safe should it leak, and bio-degradable and good to sub-zero temperatures. It's basically derived from beet juice.
 

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:MTF_wel2: , Nodnarb!!

Your budget is too low for a new GT with the capability to survive your projects. A better choice is an older GT that will have a frame capable of standing up to the punishment of extended use of a JB jr hanging on the front. A hydrostatic transmission is almost a necessity, and foot control of the hydro is a major plus. Likewise, power steering has distinct benefits, but I ran my FEL GTs without it for 3 decades.

Absolute minimum horsepower with a hydro tractor and loader is 12 hp, with 16 hp being more realistic. There is no appreciable gain with over 20 hp. Few hydros can deliver more than 12 hp to the ground and fewer tractors are heavy enough to not spin the tires at that level of power. My 20 hp MF1655 can spin easily at 2/3 throttle and 2400+ lb of working weight.

My MF12H had 23x8.50-12 turfs with chains and calcium loading on the rear with 16x6.50-8 turfs on the front. It would handle your chores quite comfortably, if you had the time.

My MF1655 has 26x12-12 turfs with chains and calcium loaded tires on the rear and 18x9.50-8 4-ply trailer tires on the front. Your chores are a walk in the park for that beast.

Both of those tractors used the same FEL, with the 1655 sporting a much larger bucket. Either one, or a welded frame GT sized anywhere between them will handle your tasks. I would hesitate to recommend a stamped frame for JB jr use.

Weight counts for any kind of FEL work, whether it's a full-on FEL or a front mount mini-loader. Minimum tractor alone weight, before adding attachments and ballast, 650 lb. I recomment heavier for a mini-loader, more like 775 lb minimum.

Ballasting a FEL of any description starts with loaded tires. I have used calcium chloride in the past with success, but at the cost of new rims every 12 years due to rusting out. Rim Guard is the only product currently available which can come close to the same density. It weighs 11.3 lb / gal and plumbing antifreeze with the same freeze level protection weighs less than 7.5 lb / gal. A substantial difference in final loaded weight.

Depending on the base weight of the tractor, wheel weights next, 50 lb per wheel or more. If a tiller is purchased for the GT, it makes a very good counter weight on the 3PH. More reasonable for your tasks is a back blade or box blade with some weight added.

Tire chains will add an additional 20-30 lb, if the tractor is going to be a dedicated loader. If it has to switch duties to lawn mowing, that may or may not be a good idea, in which case a more aggressive tread than turfs should be used on the rear. (I'm choking on that one! :ROF :banghead3)

A tiller attachment is superior to a stand alone tiller. It has the weight of the tractor to keep it under control. It turns faster and does a better job of breaking up the soil with few clumps.

There are many older GTs that will be satisfactory for your needs. MF12H/14/16, 1450/1650/1655/1855, many JD hydro models in the 200/300 series, Cub Cadet hydros, and the list goes on. Others can list the specific models better than I. JD 4xx and X series tractors are usually well beyond your budget.

If you are not handy with wrenches now, you will be by the time you are done with your project list. (You're never done with the project list if you have a loader. There's always one more to add!)

This is my MF1655 in my driveway from which it excavated approximately 150 yards of material to a depth of 3'. Note the turf tires and lack of wheel weights. It weighed 2000 lb plus me in this picture and had no trouble with the sandy soil. You will need a tooth bar for your rocky soil.

 

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With your projects and rocky/hard soil I would be looking at the JBSR with the hydraulics for better digging and control, tractor mounted tiller for ballast/weight and a budget increase in the $4000 neighborhood. Used JBJR/SR's are hard to come by. Good luck. slkpk
 

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JB Jrs can do a little digging, but are really recommended only for lifting and carrying. On their site, they recommend using a tiller first to loosen the ground.

I have to agree with TUDOR. A stamped frame is not likely to last very long with a lot of bucket work (for digging, at least), if all you are doing is moving mulch, etc. it would probably be OK. It's not the lifting that's the issue, it's the leverage/smashing into hard ground.

Mike
 

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IMAG1503 by Tx.Uploader, on Flickr[/IMG]

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IMAG1509 by Tx.Uploader, on Flickr[/IMG]

If you can dig your soil with a shovel. The jbjr will dig it. On my soil I use the towable backhoe or pickaxe to break soil. So it's up to the soil you'll trying break into earth.
I had some mounds and I tried to break under them. I tried straight on but when the teeth gets in, the roots kind of holds the soil together and I can't lift. So I hit the mound and turn the wheels left or right fast as the teeth just about to hit the mound and the teeth acts like a saw. It works great.
If the bucket can swivel left or right, that would be sweet.

As far as loose dirt, gravel or what ever.
The specs say 200# lift.
I tested mine and it will lift 215#.
Traveling with 215# plus say 100# for the bucket it self.
315# on the front without power steering works ok. Not a big difference.
My tires are antifreeze loaded at 98 lbs each.
I had no reason for AG tires. Tried them before on my old little tractor and they were useless. It would take 4k + pounds to get the bars to bite into the ground.
On wet or dew on the side of slopes, They slide side ways like slicks. The turfs don't.
Less a month I gave the tires to a friend.
I went to All-Trails and no more slipping.
Towing, I figured about 3-4k with no problem.
The 5' rear scrapper I use is 250#.
Now the new little tractor paid for it self already vs renting.
Total price $3700.00 in picture. All brand new.
Johnny Bucket and JB Sleeve hitch. $2000.00 plus the GT6000 (ayp/hop) $1600.00 (was 50% off) plus rear rack, front wheel roller bearings, front spindles bearings, hood latchs.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you so much to all that replied and so many helpful insights from experienced GT owners.

The two factors that I found while researching this is that the lower cost LT do not have a welded frame. Is having a welded frame more important for the lifting and hauling (front or back) over the digging like replied above? I believe I know what a stamped frame means, but can elaborate further?

The other factor I found was that lower cost LT have a belt drive and not direct drive. I believe this is for non slippage, is this that important for just hauling things around?

Again thanks for the help and the insight on my further research especially tips of trying outlet stores and end of season to add to trying to find a used model that will meet my needs.
 

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Good luck looking for a GT that is direct drive with manual gear box and wet or dry clutch.
If the GT is hydrostatic, there is no direct power from engine to wheels.
Hydrostatic pump takes around 6-10 hp from the engine. The pump can be connected directly to the engine or extension shaft or belt.
Then the hydro pump runs the hydro motor directly or by hoses.
If pull up to a tree or wall and have enough traction to lock the wheels and hit that pedal. The relief valves will open between the hydro pump and hydro motor.
The engine will not stall or the belt won't slip or burn.
If you're looking for a hydrostatic unit.
I would go with a G730 or k72 or higher.

If the GT is hydrostatic with "drive shaft" or "shaft driven"
Both words are sales pitch. Like also "heavy duty" transaxle.

As far as frame. The jbjr and use is equal of a snowblower or snow plow.
 

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Hydrostatic pump takes around 6-10 hp from the engine. The pump can be connected directly to the engine or extension shaft or belt.
Then the hydro pump runs the hydro motor directly or by hoses.
If pull up to a tree or wall and have enough traction to lock the wheels and hit that pedal. The relief valves will open between the hydro pump and hydro motor.
The engine will not stall or the belt won't slip or burn.
If you're looking for a hydrostatic unit.
I would go with a G730 or k72 or higher.

If the GT is hydrostatic with "drive shaft" or "shaft driven"
Both words are sales pitch. Like also "heavy duty" transaxle.

As far as frame. The jbjr and use is equal of a snowblower or snow plow.
Hydros have an 80% efficiency rating for transmitting power to the rear wheels. There are very few GTs that have the capability to utilize 8 hp at the rear wheels. They will break traction first.

Ditto for putting the nose to a wall or tree without sufficient ballast to put the axles at risk.

The JB jr will also put a lot more stress on the transmission and frame than a snow blower or snow plow. There is a huge difference in traction between snow and hard packed dirt.

V-belt drives are found even in industrial applications with motors of considerably more horsepower than any GT. They are relatively easy to line up and install, as well as less expensive than shaft drives.

A stamped frame is made from one piece of plate and is formed in a hydraulic press, the same as car parts.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks so much again for all of the replies.

If I were going to be doing hauling and excavation all of the time then getting a more durable GT would be in the cards. However, I view my excavation needs to be lighter and limited in duration. The ability to move materials from one place to the next is the most attractive option. Any time I can avoid loading anything with a shovel is a bonus. For as much as I will need to break up hard ground, I can use the difference between in budget to purchase a rear tine tiller and still be ahead. Then use the JBJr to scoop the loose materials up.


I really appreciate txsteve advice and setup as it is one that I am leaning towards, especially the tip on the Sears outlets.

So at this point I am leaning towards getting a reconditioned from an outlet or trying to find one used. Since I am naive to tractors I don't know enough to judge a used tractor that is more than a few years old. I am mechanical/hands on, but from a necessary evil and not from a kill my entire summer fixing things perspective.

If I go the outlet route it will likely be with a Craftsman GT5000. I'd like to go with GT6000 like txsteve setup, but there are none of those in outlet for 150+ miles.

I cannot find anything that shows the differences between a GT5000 and GT6000. Also, there are two GT5000 that I can find and I would be going with the Hydrostatic version of it.
 

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:MTF_wel2:

GT5000 is no longer made GT6000 is its replacement. i have one and LOVE it the foot hydro control is excellent!

you will want to add weight to the tractor though, even with my 300 pound ballast (me) it still spins out easy. loosen the soil you wish to dig with the moldboard plow then scoop it out with the JB

there are a few members here with the same setup as Txsteve and no one has complained.
 

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I was looking at going with a new high end garden tractor and the Johnny bucket.

After some thinking I found a some what neglected looking 900hr SCUT with FEL & a box blade for just a bit more money. So far I have had to replace a front tire and lube a few linkages.

Small tractors seem to be seasonal in price.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for all of your assistance. At this point because of price and the limited amount of big jobs I will need a GT for, I view I have three options I am considering


1) The GT6000 - http://www.sears.com/craftsman-54-in-26hp-kohler-turn-tight-hydrostatic/p-07128861000P

2) Craftsman LT4500 - http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_07128858000P
My sears had this guy and a GT6000 side by side. For $1000 less, what am I missing besides arm rests and slightly bigger tires? I looked at the frame between the two and they seemed identical between LT4500 and GT6000. This one has a Briggs where the GT6000 has a Kohler. It appears most would prefer a Kawasaki over both but is Kohler that much better than a Briggs?

I tried comparing parts between a GT6000 and a LT4500 but searspartsdirect.com was not cooperating with me currently.

3) USED 2007 Cub Cadet 2554 - http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/grd/3743394637.html
Does this beat out the GT6000 if I can get this for less than the $2400 asking?



Oh, also Transmission? How do you find out what type of transmission in these tractors? I keep seeing things like "a K46 is not a GT", how can I know what is in it?
 

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The lt4500 has a light duty transaxle.
Gt 6000 (made by ayp/hop) has a Hydro-Gear G730.
That Cub Cadet (made by mtd) has a Hydro-Gear pump/motor that is bolted to an unknown made in china rear end..and it is driven by hydro, not by a drive shaft.
 

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The lt4500 has a light duty transaxle.
Gt 6000 (made by ayp/hop) has a Hydro-Gear G730.
That Cub Cadet (made by mtd) has a Hydro-Gear pump/motor that is bolted to an unknown made in china rear end..and it is driven by hydro, not by a drive shaft.
What drives the hydro? Belts or shaft?
 

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What drives the hydro? Belts or shaft?
I'll call it an Extension Shaft or anything but not a drive shaft..If you put a gear box unit behind that so called driveshaft..You won't go too far.It will shear right of the flywheel.
One of my motorcycle has a Driveshaft and some are belt or chain.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks so much again txsteve, I knew there was a reason for the lower cost and lighter duty but wanted to make sure it wasn't just a marketing catch. The GT6000 might be overkill in some areas for me but I'd rather that than the opposite.
 

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I've done many projects over the years with my JBjr. on my Cub Cadet GT2542
Excavated 6 inches deep around my in-ground pool.
Moved two dump truck loads (tri axle dumps) of inch and a quarter stone.
Moved six or more Tri axle dump loads of top soil.
Clearing out Brush, moving fire wood, hauling in bucket while pulling loaded trailer. etc, etc, etc.
I have two sets of AG tires. I use the narrow AG's with chains and wheel weights for snow duty.
I use a wider set of AG's with wheel weights in spring, summer and fall.
And I have a set of turf tires.
I have a couple of suit case weights I only use them once in a while.
When I'm working the GT hard, I change the oil and filter frequently, grease all the fittings and clean or change the air filter.
I think I replaced two actuators for the JBjr (had them repaired)
To loosen the soil up, I usually set the bucket in dump position, lower the tooth bar into the soil and back drag or drive forward, sometimes I use a cultivator.
As much as I love the Cub and JBjr, my current projects have me looking at a kubota BX with a front end loader.
 

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