How to get the machinery for your new business without breaking the bank. General purpose mower

So you’ve taken the plunge to become a self employed gardener and you’re thinking about what machinery to buy. I guess that you’ve probably joined a few facebook groups to ask the seasoned professionals what is the best machinery on the market to start your business. Then you’ve gone on to the manufacturers websites to look at the cost, and then you’ve taken a look at your available balance. Depressing isn’t it? That realisation that those pros have probably taken years to build up their machinery portfolios and you need the machinery to get started but don’t have the funds. Well, don’t hang up your gardening gloves just yet. First, sit down and think what it is you are actually going to need. A mower to start with, and it’s going to have to do a multitude of roles if you can only afford the one. You are certainly going to need to have a collection capacity and a rough cut capability for longer grass. To actually make some money you are going to want the widest cut that you can afford and at least a 5hp engine for the customers that only want a fortnightly cut. So what would you expect to pay for that, £700, £800 maybe? So how does a 22″ cut, 7.5hp engine, zero turn with caster wheels for £499 grab you. Yes the TitanPro 22″ Zero turn mower has collection, side ejection and mulching capability for under £500. We’ve been testing this mower for the entire 2019 season to see how it copes in a day in day out contracting environment.

So what is it like out of the box? Well, pretty much assembled. You have to attach the handles and add the oil but then it’s ready to go. First impressions are that it feels like a big mower. Those caster wheels at the front give it a pro look and it certainly draws interest from customers when you first roll it down the ramps. It has a Kohler 7.5hp engine, model XT775, displacement (cc)10.6 (173), gross torque ft lbs (Nm),  splash lubrication, certified Power ft lbs (Nm) 37.46 (10.11).

One small but very good detail is the wide petrol cap opening. I use a filtering funnel but it just makes refilling that much easier

It has auto choke and no primer so you just pull the chord and off you go. It has started first pull all year, even when hot. Impressive. In fact the engine has been totally faultless, producing plenty of power and never really bogging down in normal use even on wet mornings. Of course economies have to be made somewhere and in this case there is no electric start or blade brake. This means that if you are collecting you have to release the deadmans handle and restart the mower on every box. Personally, I have a sliding strap that goes over the deadman’s handle and leave the mower running when I empty the box and only slide it off when the chute becomes blocked. (Obviously we are not advocating this practice but just saying, you know). At this point we come to a little bug bear with the mechanism. Where the grass chute meets the grass box there is a spring loaded door that snaps shut when the box is removed sealing off the chute. The problem comes when you try to re attach the box. Its where that third hand would come in useful. There is no latch to hold the door open so you have to manoeuver the grass box with your right hand, hold open the door with your left hand and with that third hand move the pull cord out of the way. It can be done, and you do get a technique for doing it but please come on guys have a re think here.

That brings us to the collection performance. In all honesty, not that good. The fact is that the mower has a very deep deck, and this means it cannot create a big enough vacuum between the top of the deck and the grass surface to lift the cuttings very well. it will collect grass, but it does sometimes leave some debris and it won’t really pack out the box. The box is a decent size though at 80 litres.

Next-side discharge. The side collection  chute on the deck is held on by two nuts (with their own plastic grip so no tools required). Undo these, remove the side collection chute and replace with the side discharge chute. Straight in to some long thick wet grass. Absolutely no problem. Not brilliant but certainly adequate for all but the most ridiculous of conditions. Unfortunately this was where we encountered another of the machines liabilities-the thickness of the plastic. obviously the main deck is made of powder coated steel but the two chute are made from plastic and are simply not thick enough. the side ejection chute got caught on a stump and split quite easily and a conifer cone smashed through the side wall of the collection chute making a replacement necessary. Nearly £30 for a collection chute so when a few weeks later it did it again I did a bit of diy and pop riveted a bit of plastic dustbin to the chute to strengthen it. problem solved. A real shame about this as just a bit thicker plastic or a metal set of chutes would solve the problem. We also found the nuts a bit difficult to interchange. Overall though the build quality is really quite good. It looks and feels strong.

So you are probably thinking that we were not too impressed with the machine overall. You couldn’t be more wrong. Last but certainly not least-mulching. Yes, that deep deck comes in to it’s own. Truly awesome mulching performance, no matter what the conditions, and I mean AWESOME. What a great finish, virtually impossible to tell that you haven’t collected the grass, top marks for this Titan. The machine is worth buying for the mulching capabilities alone, it really cuts the time down for big open spaces. Of course when it comes to tight spaces, for example orchards around the trees, it’s time to utilise the other stand out feature of this machine-the caster wheels. By a simple lift of the levers on each front wheel, the mower goes from a straight line master to having shopping trolley like maneuverability around obstacles. No need to lift the front wheels off of the ground to turn, it’s a peculiar feeling but once you get used to it there really is no going back to fixed front wheels.

 

Now here’s a weird one-height adjustment. When I first got the mower I looked at the back wheels and yipee-one lever height adjustment. Then I moved to the front and…..horror! I need a spanner to adjust the height! So I thought I’ll leave it on the setting it was delivered with until I need to alter it. Never needed to. Yep the back lever adjusts it enough for most normal grass cutting without having to touch the front. I said it was weird!

At 47kg the mower is of course power driven. It’s just a belt coming off of the crank to a gearbox on the rear axle. Great for the first few months and then we started to get problems. The first problem was that as the belt started to wear it started to pop off on the odd occasion if debris was allowed to accumulate under the belt cover. We replaced the belt and it ran ok for a couple of months and then the drive cable broke. An easy replacement but then we noticed that no matter how much we adjusted the cable, the drive would sometimes slip. It looks like it could be the plastic drive cogs. All are simple repairs and cost around £20 for the parts but I was hoping not to get drive problems in the first year.

So what’s the verdict, is it actually good value or a liability? Well, although it has quite a few niggly little problems the mower does represents truly great value. It has outstanding mulching performance and a fantastic engine.

The machine that  we tested was cutting over 8 acres per week during 2019.  

 

 

 

 

 

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