2012 Bolens 38 in, 13.5 hp, Shift-on-the-Go Review

Executive Summary: This is Lowe’s cheapest riding mower.  It is the same mower as the 38 in Yard Machines (it has multiple names and colors)  Plain and simple there are customers who want the “cheapest mower you have”  and this little gem is designed for just that.  If you have a tiny yard, don’t care how long it takes you to mow, can do your own repairs, and are careful not to run into things with you rider, this little mower actually is a very good buy.

by: Paul Sikkema

Brand/Manufacture: Bolens / MTD
Model/Series: 13W1762F065

Street Price: $949

Basic Quality: (Cheap, Good, Best, Premium, Don’t Buy)  This is Cheap quality. There are no mowers that Lowe’s sells that are less quality. 

Type: (Riding Mower, Lawn Tractor, Yard Tractor, Garden Tractor, Estate Tractor, Sub-Compact, Zero Turn, Stand-On) Riding Mower There are very few attachments available and I don’t recommend a snow blade or pulling anything with this rider. A small cart used to pick up leaves is about it.
Compare it to: Yard Machines 38 in, Poulan XT 42 in.

2012 Bolens 38 in, 13.5 hp, Shift-on-the-Go Review 1

2012 Bolens 38 in, 13.5 hp

Shift-on-the-Go Trans
Faster than a walk-behind
OHV Engine

Can easily be damaged.
Will Not Mow In Reverse
Lightweight Tube Front Axle
No anti scalp wheels
Large 18 inch turning radius

Retail Price: $949.99 

My Review:

There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for.” If you want the cheapest riding mower on the market, this is it.  It looks like a lawn tractor, but it isn’t.  It mows lawn and I would not recommend putting any attachments on it. You can buy a 2-bin bagger and mulch kit. 

This riding mower is made by MTD and goes by many different names.  Bolens is the a line of mowers that were popular in the 60’s and 70’s. MTD bought the manufacture out and now uses the name for inexpensive mowers and some Canadian sales. 

I call this class of tractor an “cheap riding mower”  This class of tractor is inexpensive, mows lawn and will not last long if you don’t take care of it or abuse it in any way.  If you just want to mow the grass and are careful not to bang into things, don’t run over rocks and tree branches, and only have 1/2 acre or so to mow, you may have good luck with this machine.  I know quite a few of these riders that are owned by “retired tinkers” and they last them many years.  I know of many other owners who only get two years out of this rider because they think they can pull attachments, and generally beat around with this mower.  

This article was first published at TodaysMower.com 

This mower uses sealed bearings, a sealed transmission, cheap tires, and Brigg’s & Stratton’s least expensive engine.  When something breaks you replace the part, there is no repair.  If you have specific questions leave a comment below and myself or the readers will be glad to answer them. 

Comfort – Ease of Use:  Most of you will not like this mower.   Cheap low seat, standard operator controls, steering will get sloppy over time, good field of view, fairly noisy motor. 

Power For Mowing:  If you mow every week and only mow and inch or two it does fine. It doesn’t have the power for tall or heavy grass.   If you want to mulch I don’t recommend this mower. It is under-powered for that task. It will bag but not as well as all the other tractors out there.

Reliability – New to 3 yrs: This tractor is serviced by your local authorized MTD repair center.  Parts can be hard for you to get from the retailer you purchased it from, but the parts are readily available from places like Amazon2012 Bolens 38 in, 13.5 hp, Shift-on-the-Go Review 2 . If you hit something like the foundation of your shed, you can “tweak” the deck supports and you will have to straighten everything back out. 

Handling – Traction/Steering:  Traction is below normal because it is a lightweight mower with almost no tread on the tires.  I recommend you never use a mower like this on wet or drought-dry slopes. 

Mow – Mulch- Bag:  This tractor gets poor to average marks by owners for cutting and bagging.  But, be aware this is not a “high-speed” deck.  It mows perfectly at 2-3 MPH but don’t expect it to mow as fast as the tractor will go (5.5MPH) and give you the same results.  

Specifications, Features, Benefits

The rest of this article is taken from the retailers website.

Type:  riding mower
Maximum mowing area per hour (acres): 0.75 acres at 3 MPH
Recommended for moderate slopes? No
Excels in mowing around obstacles? No

Manufacturer: MTD
Brand: Bolens
Engine Power: 13.5 hp* 
Displacement: 344 cc
Manufacturer: – Briggs & Stratton
Cylinders: Single
Type: OHV, splash Lubrication
Charging System: ?
Battery: ? cold-crank amps
Choke/Speed Control: Separate levers
Fuel Tank Capacity: 1.5 U.S. gal. 
Transmission: Shift-on-the-Go
Transmission Control:  Single lever on dash, clutch
Cruise Control: NA
Forward Speed: 0-5.0 mph
Reverse Speed: 0-2.75 mph
Chassis: Stamped Steel
Front Tires: ?
Rear Tires: ?
Front Axle: Welded Steel Tube
Hood Material: Steel
Hourmeter: No
Tool Tray: No

Cupholder: Yes
Headlights: Yes
Translucent fuel tank or Fuel gauge: Yes
Deck washout port: No
12-volt outlet: No
Steering: Type 2-wheel steer
Turning Radius: 18 in.
Uncut Circle Radius: ?
Spindle Bushings: Metal, replaceable
Seat Back Height: low back
Fore-aft Adjustment: Manual with screws
Seat Suspension:  No
Deck Lift System: Fender
Mower Cut Height: 1 in. to 3.5 in.
Cut Height Increments: 1 in.
Preset Cut Height: No
PTO clutch: Manual

Mower Deck

Type: Side discharge
Mower Cutting Width: 38 in.
Mower Deck Material: ?  in.
Mower Wheel Adjustment: No
Mower Level Adjustment: With Tools
Mower Drive System: Manual Lever
Mower Attachment: with Tools
Mower Drive: Belt Tension Spring
Mower Wheels Rotate For Deck Removal: No


Wheelbase: 49.4-in. 
Overall Length: 70.5-in. 
Width without mower: ?-in. 
Width with mower: 46-in. 
Width with mower: (deflector raised for storage) 40-in. 
Height: ?-in. 
Weight: 425 lb with mower, no fuel

U.S. Warranty: 2 year LIMITED

Optional Attachments

Mowers: NA
Material Collection System:  19A30003OEM
Mulching System: OEM-190-116
Front Thatcher: No
Front Blade: No
Tractor Shovel: No
Snow Blower: No
Front Bumper: OEM-190-679
Brush Guard: No
Bucket Holder: No
Tow-Behind Tools: No

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JamesDavid NoonkesterRobert B.PaulTerry Recent comment authors
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Gear will not shift. It will move to neutral and that is all. Have any ideas?

David Noonkester
David Noonkester

I bought this Bolens lawnmower 9 years ago and it has done a good job. I needed a smaller lawnmower and this is the one that I found. I bought a grass catcher really to pick up leaves and it does a good job. I hall dirt in a small trailer and I don’t have any problems doing this. Now the tires doesn’t have a lot of tread and it will spin on a hill. So, far the only parts that I have bought is a set of blades and you have to do this for any mower. I probably… Read more »

Robert B.
Robert B.

I own 2 of these mowers and I love them. Have owned about 4 over the last 10 years. I enjoy doing a little work on them. If you take care of them and maintain them they’ll give you good service. Are they the most heavy duty mowers out there? No but for the money they are well worth it.



My father gave me a used mower in bad shape. He says it runs and all. I am connecting the solenoid to the battery and starter per instructions from a friend. I have a problem where the negative battery cable is disconnected from the battery and from the other location. Where would I connect the other end of the negative battery cable?


Been there done that. .every one that has carburetor trouble do your self a favor. Buy a new carburetor. It’s cheap and easy to change. I see several rebuild carbs and the don’t work.


Actually, I have owned mine now for over 6 years. I bought it because it was the NARROWEST mower I could buy. I need to get between the many tress on my 2 1/3 acres. It usually takes 1 to 2 hours to mow depending on how tall the grass gets. It’s been as tall as two feet. This is not the toughest of machines and I haven’t tried towing anything outside of felled trees for which it does a fair job. I have had to replace the carburetor because of alcohol in the gas rusted it out after sitting… Read more »


We own one and now when you let our clutch it dies after just a few seconds of running. We have changed gas, and tried carb cleaner. What else can it be?


I need to change my solenoid. How easy is that? Baton Rouge

Everett Robinson
Everett Robinson

I own a bolens mower and it has worked pretty good. My yard is not big but it takes just over an hour to cut with a walk behind mower. I’ve owned this bolens mower for 7 years and I’m just now running into my first problem with the steering getting loose.

Aurora, IL


I own one and everything you said is true. I am now having problems with the engine running erratic. Is the carberator easy to clean?

Madison, MS


[…] Tractor Does not handle snow blade or snow thrower. Compare it to: Poulan XT 42 in, Bolens Craftsman 42 in 17.5 hp […]

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