I had popped into Mower Magic the other day for some bits and overheard them talking with a customer about ride ons and the different types of gearbox. If you’ve read my other articles, you’ll know I have a relativly small lawn and a robot that keeps that mown, so not really in need of a lawn tractor, but still, I thought it was interesting and after a little bit more research, thought it might be useful to a few people to know.
There are two main types of gearbox, manual and hydrostatic. Although they seem to ary a little the basics are all the same. Typically you’ll be looking at paying £150-£300 more for a hyrdorstatic gearbox.
Manual gearboxes work pretty much like they say on the tin…sort of. A little like in a car, you have a gear lever that selects your gear. BUT on a ride on think of it more like a speed selector than gears. Without a seperate clutch, you need to stop, select your speed, and release the brake/cluthc to then set off in that speed. This is a cheaper system and perfect if you’re looking to stick at one speed for most your mowing. I think this would get a bit tedious if you had a complicated garden which required lots of changing speeds to move around obstacles.
Ride ons with a hydrostatic gearbox work like an automatic car (with one difference; the brakes – but we’ll get to those later). The further you push down on the accelerator, the faster you go. To slow, simply lift off the pedal and you will slow down. To go into reverse there is a ‘seperate’ pedal of sorts. Most hydrostatic lawn tractors have a rocker pedal so you push down with the ball of your foot for forward, and use your heel on the back plate of the pedal to go backwards (it sounds more complicated than it is – I have ridden a friends hyrdo ride on before and it was very simple to get to grips with). These have the advantage that you can easily slow down to turn and instantly smoothly speed up once you need to.
Braking with both of these type of ride on is done through the accelerator pedal. While they are fitted with a brake, this is a parking brake and really just used for if you’re stopping and getting off. Otherwise the accelerator is all you need. I was told when chatting infact that on some machines, if you release the accelerator quickly, you can lock the drive wheels and skid to a stop (not what you’d aim to do but gives an idea of why they don’t need a normal brake to manage drive speed).
As I’ve said before, Mower Magic are my local dealer. They mainly sell Mountfield and Stiga ride ons so this has been based on those, but looking around they all seem to work on a similar basis.