Problems With Craftsman Turn Tight Technology – Updated for 2012

2012 update!

From Craftsman: At just 6 inches, Craftsman Yard & Garden Tractors continue to set the bar with the tightest turning radius among all major brands in it’s class, beating the closest competition by 50%! The Turn Tight Technology has not changed from 2011, but Craftsman Lab testing has validated that the technology and has found the turning radius is not 8 inches as previously advertised, but 6 inches!  If you have a 2011 model, be assured that the steering on your tractor is actually 6 inches.

Let’s get a perspective on this problem.  Is it even a problem?

2012 Update: My Perspective

After a season I have to say there have been no problems with the turn-tight on the YT3000, YT4000 and YT 4500 tractors. Everyone likes the turning radius and it is plenty tough enough to handle all your mowing.

The only concern I have heard was from 2 GT6000 owners.  They had problems with the tie rod bending.  We were able to determine with the one tractor that they were driving it like a sports cars and going way too fast around the corners. This was causing the tie rod to bend. Go ahead and read the rest of this article to find my solution.

The other tractor we were never able to find the exact problem why they tie rods were bending.  Sometimes it’s not possible to troubleshoot using email :)

2011 Article:

There will be thousands of you who will be looking to buy a new mower this year and you will consider the new Craftsman yard and garden tractors with Turn Tight Technology.  You will read the reviews on mysears, craftsman.com, viewpoints, consumersearch, and the tractor forums. You will find many helpful reviews and a few reviews from people who hate this new steering.  I want to spend a little time explaining why you will read some of these negative reviews.

Click to enlarge

If you remember in 2010 I wrote an article on the steering on the new Craftsman Professional tractors.  I warned you that to go below a 14 inch turning radius the new lawn tractors had a “negative camber” that was very different from the steering you were used to on your old Craftsman.  This new Turn Tight steering is also different from what you are used and it will take a few simple changes in the way you drive to make it work well for you.

This is the first time this tight of turning radius (6 inches) has been offered on a residential mower, but extremely small radius turning has been available on commercial mowers since the 70’s.  This tight of steering is similar to the steering used on the old front mount commercial mowers.  The Toro Groundsmaster, Jacobson Turfcat and John Deere F930 all used a radical steering to give those mowers a very tight turning radius.  I have a lot of experience driving and owning these older units, so I want to give you a little heads-up with your new tractor.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I like this new Turn Tight Technology.  I think it is the  answer that most of you have been looking for that want the maneuverability of a zero-turn mower but don’t want the hassles of a zero-turn.  Zero-turns are expensive,  notorious for tearing up your lawn, being hard to learn to drive and the residential zero-turns in particular, being terrible on hills.  Besides…these new tractors will pull stuff!

Ok, So what problems will some owners have with the new Turn Tight Steering?

1. Speed. When grass is very wet or very dry is becomes slippery.  Especially when you are mowing downhill it can be slippery enough that your tractor will not want to turn well.  Because you are inside the magical “14 inch” radius the
Turn Tight will be a little more sensitive to these types of turns and there will be times when you can’t use the Turn Tight feature.  So what do you do?  Plain and simple – slow down to make your turns.   When you come up to your turn slow down to a “walking speed” and then make your turn.  Use common sense (your own experience mowing your lawn) to determine when you need to slow down and make a turn.

2. Camber and Radical Geometry. To help you turn Craftsman has put a small amount of negative camber into the steering.  This causes the wheels to “tilt” towards the inside when you make a very sharp turn.  This helps the tractor turn better, but …… if you mow in extremely sandy soil the front wheels may dig in and leaves scuff marks when you make the turn.  So if you typically mow more sand burrs than grass you may find that you can’t use the Turn Tight feature without tearing up your lawn.  The solution, don’t turn it as short as the actual mower will turn.

3. Wide Stance and Obstructions. Structurally this new front steering has been beefed up to handle the tighter turning radius but you need to realize it is now 2 inches wider than your old Craftsman riding mower.  This means that you and your teenager need to watch out for the tree sticking out of the ground and the corner of the foundation the first few times you mow.  If you smack a tree with the front steering going full speed you may just bend or break it. The front wheels are now as wide as a 42 inch deck.  If you do a lot of trimming and have inside curves in your landscape beds I suggest going with a 46 inch or 54 inch deck

4. Making sense of the negative reviews.

Let’s put the negative reviews you may read into perspective.  There will be thousands of you who buy these new tractors.  But how many will actually go back to the review sites and tell everyone else how you like your new yard tractor?

I haven’t asked Sears, Kmart and the review sites for specific data, but my educated guess is for every thousand mowers sold, 2 to 3 people write a review.  And those reviews are skewed by owners who either really like their mower well enough to tell everyone else or by owners who have had problems with the mower (or the retailer) and need to vent.  This skewing is further compounded by the fact if one person is really unhappy they will go to ALL the review sites and vent.

If each of the 1000 Sears Full-Line stores sell only 20 yard tractors a year and each of the 1500 Sears Essentials, Sears Hardware and Sears Hometown stores sell only 10 a year that means at least 35,000 tractors sold.  How many reviews do you typically see on a review site?  Thousands?  No, Go take a look on Sears.com.  You will see 10 reviews, 26 reviews and in a few case maybe 60 or 70 reviews for a given tractor.

So when you read 5 negative reviews for a yard tractor on one of the review sites remember that there are at least another 5000 people out there who are satisfied enough with the tractor not to write.

2012 update: I also have realized that many customers have problems and write negative reviews because they don’t want to use the methods Sears has to get their problem resolved quickly and fairly – they just want to gripe and complain.  There are ways to get your problem resolved. 1st read your sales receipt.  There are specific ways and phone numbers on the receipt to help you.

Here are the four main numbers you need to know at Sears: Always call the repair number before you call a Sears Store or return a mower to a store.

Repair

1-800-469-4663

Delivery

1-800-732-7747

Installation

1-800-326-8738

Part Orders & Inquiries

1-800-366-7278


Please give your city and state when you comment

  1. Hi Paul. I have a Sears YT 3000 6 speed Gear drive that is not shifting properly. Sometimes it shifts to a new gear and sometimes it wont. It now refuses to go into reverse. Is there any adjustments I am mssing? I figured out the crummy brake system and can now address that but , not having Neutral or Reverse is a pain on a 4 year old tractor.
    YT Richard

    • @Richard, With the engine off does it shift OK? If it’s stiff with the engine off it may just be the linkages need WD-40. Reach up under the fender on the gear shift side and spray everything down. Also spray down the idler pulley pivot points. I talking about the idlers on the belt that runs from the engine to the trans.

      These transmissions don’t usually go bad.

      The braking system on tractors is basically just a parking brake.

    • I will give that a try Paul.. I sure DO NOT want to have to rebuiild or repalce that trans..I will spray the linkage and idler pulley pivot points every which way from Sunday.. Thank You Paul .. I will post how it goes.. YT Richard

  2. I’m looking at buying the new T-2000 with the geared transmission. I have a 100 yard hill with a moderate slope and am a bit nervous about buying a hydrostatic.
    Is the “turn tight” axle and a geared transmission a good fit? The teenagers sometimes mow the lawn and I can’t imagine them slowing down for a turn. I’m having a tough time seeing myself downshift.

    I know the MST tranny doesn’t have a clutch, but can you “shift on the fly” at all? Feather the brake and slip gears. or do you need to come to a full stop everytime?

    • @Ryan, It’s a good fit. No it’s not a shift-on-the-go but we all slam it through the gears instead of stopping to shift. This transmission has been around for years and it is all but indestructible. I have a 15 year old version and when I’m afraid I may hurt the tractor with the hydro…out comes this one. Last year I used it to “sled” fifty or so 300 lb boulders for my wife’s landscaping project. The old gal never missed a beat.

      When you shift on the fly with this tranny it will jerk when it goes into the next gear but you and the kids will soon get used to it. It shifts on the fly best when you move the throttle down to 1/2 speed when you shift, then speed it back up to mow.

      Make the kids stay in 3rd or 4th gear to mow and it will do fine.

  3. My brother has bought himself a Sears Professional ride on with the 46″ deck and a 24 hp kolher engine, with the tight turn and the front wheels will toe out when going ahead and return to neutral when you back up is this normal for this type of steering or a flaw with the product and do you or anyone know what the flaw may be ie; the front tie rod the steering gear box or shaft it`s self, help it is still under warrenty and under 45 days of ownership Thanks

    • @Rick, No that not normal. Call 1-800-4MY-Home and get a tech out to fix your steering. He will come out, diagnose the problem, order parts. When the parts arrive at your house he will come back out and replace them.

    • They have replaced just about everything on the ends of the front axles and the problem still is there and almost seems worse Thanks for the fast reply this site rock`s

  4. @dave, I like the MTD made 28980 and it has had no issues at all but in this case I would go with the yt4000. The YT has a good oil pump motor, the new turn tight steering, and the snow thrower is made to fit on it first. The mounts for the MTD were an afterthought and it takes an extra hour or so to get the Craftsman snowthrower mounted to the 28980.

    And Berko makes a heavy – duty snowthrower that fits on the YT4000 easily.

    If you are going to mount a blade I STRONGLY suggest going with the 24428 instead of the 24441. The 24428 is a lot heavier, easier to operate and mounts so you get “weight transfer” to the rear of the tractor. You will have to take the deck off to mount the 24428, but it is worth the extra time.

    • @dave, The deck on the Pro is the best 42 inch MTD makes. It was rated 2nd last year by Consumer Reports (it was on the Craftsman Revolution) The engine is worth $300 more by itself. The YT is Briggs best residential engine but the Pro has the “commercial” Briggs. Chrome valves, heavy bottom bearing, electronic ignition and fuel control. I like the electric PTO myself and is worth $75 to me over the manual. It is no easier to change the deck. I don’t know if the tractor still comes with the bumper, (the 2011’s don’t) but if it does that’s another $125 worth there. So to me you are getting $375 to $500 more value than the YT so the extra price is worth it.

      I have one customer who has two of the Pro models and mows 20-25 hours a week with them. He had no issues at all with it.

  5. That was an excellent answer to Mark’s question. As I have written before here, this tight turn technology may be good for some people but I’m more than pleased with the 12″ Craftsman Pro (28980) that I purchased earlier this year. I’ve now had a chance to use it a few times to scalp and cut down some pesky weeds before the lawn actually grows grass and the 12″ radius is perfect – as is the rest of the tractor. In fact, it is so perfect that it looks like Sears is keeping it as is for this year. I do not see a 2011 model on the website. Either that or they are going to discontinue this series when they sell out of 2010s, which would be a shame as it seems (so far) to be very well built and an excellent value.

    Only one little thing I noticed the other day and I’ve called Sears to come out to look at it (of course they can’t get here until April so I’m glad it is nothing important). That is the rear scalp wheel on the deck on the right side (looking down from the seated position) hits the rear tire of the tractor when the deck is raised to the last two highest cut positions. I never run it in those high positions but I should be able to without the deck wheel hitting the rear tire. The deck looking down on the left side is square with the frame but it is angled to the rear a bit too much on the right side causing the rear deck wheel to rub against the rear tire when in those two highest mow settings. I’m sure it is a minor adjustment but wanted to call Sears to see how responsive they would be. As you mentioned before they might have been more responsive if I had purchased a warranty.

    Anyway, the tight turn technology is not a gimmick like so many things and is a good replacement for someone who wants a zero type mower but the added features and attachment handling of a tractor. But for me, I have found I do not have to change my mowing speed or habits very much at all with my 12″ radius on the Pro. I’m pretty certain I would with a tighter radius.

    • @Marty, The 28980 has been discontinued. It has been a great mower, but Sears has too many 42 inch hydros and with the advent of the Turn Tight on the YT series the 28980 has become redundant. Instead they have a new 46 in 26 hp model 288880. The 50 in is also going away.

      I’ll get the reviews up soon.

  6. i can’t help but notice your relentless affinity for everything “craftsman”. You mention in a link in part of your “reviews” that you get paid for a craftsman purchase. After a brief time (1-1 1/2 hrs) of going through your site it is evident that you are clearly biased. I am still leaning toward purchasing a craftsman tractor but question whether you are indeed an independent “reviewer” or a department at sears…

    • @Mark, Actually my favorite tractor is the B2250 Kubota and the X748 Deere. My favorite residential zero-turn is the Husqvarna MX6128ZT and the new MZ5225T. My favorite mower is the Toro Grandstand. I hate the Craftsman SRD mower and two other Craftsman’s (you will have to read my reviews to figure out which ones I don’t like) But it’s really not about me and my bias. It’s about finding the best mower for you.

      A little more about me not in the press release tab up top. The Gravely Pro-Stance is based on a design I gave Dane Skag (original owner of Skag and Great Dane Mowers) in 1996 so of course I like that. I own and mow my lawn with a 2004 Dixon 30 inch zero-turn. I do not own or have ever owned a Craftsman riding lawn mower. I also currently own a KutKwik SuperSlopeMaster and a Ransomes greens mower.

      Now let me answer your concerns;
      First, I also get paid a commission if you buy a John Deere, Cub Cadet, Ariens, Husqvarna, Poulan Pro and Snapper by clicking through one of the links on my site and buying online.
      Second, I am not done with my reviews and I won’t be done until at least May 1st. Craftsman and Snapper published their 2011 line-up in Jan. Deere in Feb. Ariens (Home Depot) just announced their 2011 line-up last week. I still don’t have all of the 2011 Cub Cadet and Husqvarna info I need to write complete reviews.
      Third, If you live near Chippewa Falls, WI you are welcome to stop by and visit.
      Fourth and most important. My goal is to help you decide which mower is best for you. There are too many horror stories of websites taking your money and not delivering the product or not taking care of it after the sale. My customers here are willing to shop online and buy online and it is my job to help them find the best value for their money and purchase from a company they can trust.

      That decision you have to make I know is based on price, availability, service and reputation of the brand. Most of my readers want a mower in the $1000 to $3000 dollar price category so I focus mainly on these mowers. And that’s where most of the Craftsman’s are priced. Lawn Tractors in the $4000 to $8000 range are a completely different area and I don’t know if there is even enough interest online to review them.

      Sears is hard to beat in any of these four categories for 2011. This year they will match Home Depot and Lowes on price for any comparable tractor. This year Sears is keeping more inventory in their central warehouses so they can move inventory around the country faster get it to you faster than they have in the past. Sears has nationwide in-home service. You don’t have to worry about your local dealer going out of business in 2 years. You don’t have to own a trailer or pickup to have take it somewhere to have it serviced. Sears is the only retailer that offers 5 years of in-home problem free use. (They offer 7 years on Husqvarna Tractors) The only thing not covered are tune-ups and blades.

      You know there are currently only four major manufactures of lawn and garden tractors (Husqvarna, Briggs & Stratton, MTD and John Deere.) Sears uses 3 of them to make the Craftsman lawn and garden tractors. If you look at each Craftsman and compare that to the actual manufacture’s brand, in every case the Craftsman has a bigger deck, or a bigger motor, or a better motor or more features for the same money or less. Sometimes a lot less than the exact same model with a different color or name on it.

      One more thing I like about Craftsman. I believe the lawn tractors in this country are at least 15 years behind where they could be. For example, I just got a press release of a lawn mower coming to the US from Japan that is far superior to anything you can buy under $8000 made here. Great Britain’s Countax has a rough cut deck that fits under a lawn tractor. Craftsman is one of the few retailers that is willing to try new things and see if they sell. The Revolution, the SRD, the Turn Tight and the 30 hp 28985 are just a few examples.

      So it’s not that I am biased. In fact if you can look independently at all the tractors and pick the best value (price, availability, service and reputation) in the $1000 to $3000 it is hard not to pick a Craftsman.

  7. HI PAUL I AM GOING TO REPLACE MY 11 YEAR OLD LAWN TRACTOR 850HR,IT IS BETWEEN JOHN DEERE C130 1899.99 CRAFTSMAN 28856 1529.99 ON SALE.HAD A TEST DRIVE ON THE DEERE I LIKE IT NO TEST DRIVE ON THE CRAFTSMAN SO FAR IS THE DEERE THAT MUCH BETTER ? I DO ALL MY OWN MAINTENANCE.HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU –THANK YOU BOB

    • @bob, I am just going to go over the differences and let you make up your mind.

      Deere L130 $1899, Craftsman $1529.99

      Deere Extended Warranty 4 years, manufacture defects (includes transportation to shop) $249
      Craftsman Protection Plan 5 years, includes normal wear & tear plus defects (includes in home repair) $579

      Deere – Get tune-up and parts through dealer. Ok, if you have local dealer. Usually can get parts in 2-3 days
      Craftsman – Get parts through searspartsdirect.com Get tune-up parts through local store. 25% discount on tune-up parts through searspartsdirect with protection plan. Usually can get parts in 4-5 days.

      Deere Plastic Hood, Craftsman Metal Hood

      Consumer Reports rated both as “recommended”

      Deere 22 hp, full pressure lube
      Craftsman 24 hp, full pressure with oil pump. Integrated hose for oil change.

      Craftsman turning radius = 8 inches with new turn tight steering
      Deere = 18 inches conventional

      Craftsman beats Deere on price, engine, turning radius.
      If walking into a dealer and ordering your parts at a counter is important to you the Deere wins.

  8. Your post shows a good, common sense approach to this technology. I was wondering what your “official” position would be because of what you said last year concerning the Professional model’s 12″ turning radius. Basically, you are saying the same thing – be careful and slow down if you find that you are messing up your yard.

    As you may remember, I asked you a couple questions about the 42″ Pro model tractor and, after reading your thoughts along with those of actual owners and users, I decided to buy one. I picked it up in January and I got it at a good price since it was a closeout 2010, plus there was a family and friends special that made it even cheaper. I’m glad I did because from what you have said, this model is unchanged in 2011. I still have not used it to cut grass but I’ve made a couple “trial runs” around the yard and the obstacles I have to mow around. The turning radius is perfect and I do not think the tighter turning afforded by these new Craftsman tractors would serve me any better.

    As you point out, there are always pluses and minuses to consider. This tight turning technology may be very useful for some but I think most people with residential lots will not find it any more useful than a 12″ or possibly even 14″ radius tractor. I think the old Scotts tractor had this same “zero turn” on their tractors but they died out rather quickly. If I can’t mow as fast as I did before and must slow down or otherwise compromise my mowing habits to accommodate the tractor’s turn radius, then “tighter” is not necessarily “better”.

    For the few folks the tight turn will work for I am sure they will be overjoyed, but frankly, I think the people who really need this will be far and few between.

    • @Marty, My intention without saying it is that people should look at the Turn Tight tractors as THE alternative to a residential zero-turn, but since they do turn much shorter than their old tractor that there is a learning curve.

      I agree that most people will not use the 8 inch turning radius most of the time.

      I have a feeling these new tractors will have a much longer life than the old Scotts just because people are more aware of zero-turns today. John Deere was messing around with a marketing strategy for “box store” tractors back then and that is why they died. Deere couldn’t get people to buy them because they were “inferior” to the dealer tractors.