I want to be upfront in this article and tell you…….this is not a problem.
I am going to talk about the new tighter turning radius on the 2011 Craftsman Yard Tractors and Professional series and the change you will have to make to get the best out of the mowers for your yard.
But it is a change from what you are used to with your old Craftsman tractor and it will require a change in thinking on your part. Just like learning to use the new safety features on todays mowers, you will need to be aware of this change and how to adapt to it once you start using your new machine.
The 6 inch turning radius is exclusive to Sears and the Craftsman YT 3000, YT 4000 and GT 6000 tractors. No one else has a system that works this well or turns this tight.
The 12 inch turning radius is also found on Cub Cadet, Toro, Troy-Bilt, and YardMan so that steering system is not exclusive to the Craftsman Professional. The Cub Cadet 1000 series, Toro, Troy-Bilt, and YardMan tractors will turn the same as the Craftsman Pro.
Is 6 inches on the Turn Tight Mowers to short? Is 12 inches on the Craftsman Professional to short?
Both the new 6 inch turning radius on the YT Series and the 12 inch turning radius on the Professional series are good, (better than 18 inches on the John Deere 100 series, right?) but you need to be aware of the changes you will have to make when owning this tight of turning radius. There are trade-offs in the design and manufacture of just about any riding lawn mower and this is a great example of one of those trade offs.
First, I want to use your car as an example. When you turn sharply with your car the front wheels turn, but they also tilt to decrease the turning radius (the outside front wheel is tipped to provide traction, right front wheel in a left turn, left wheel in a right turn). The longer the vehicle the more tilt is needed to make it turn sharp. If you watch the front wheels on a Honda Civic turn sharply and then an extended cab pickup, you will see what I mean. The front wheels on the pickup tilt more than the Civic so it can turn sharply.
So what does that have to do with my lawn tractor?
With the common wheelbase (length) for todays lawn tractors, 14 inches is about the minimum turning radius and still keep the camber neutral with conventional steering systems. With this turning radius the front steering tilt can stay relatively straight and is not tilted so much that it digs up the turf when you turn. If you go smaller than that (say 12 inches) you run into the problem of having to increase the tilt in the front axle to the point where the front outside tire will dig ruts in poor turf.
So what can be done to get this tight of turning radius?
Over the years various companies have created different solutions to this problem. Husqvarna doesn’t go tighter than a 14 inch turning radius. John Deere and Snapper have rear axles that steer. New Holland developed the “Super Steer” on the Boomer where the front axle pivots. Craftsman’s Revolution used two transmissions to “zero turn.” Kubota uses an over-speed system on the front axles of their four-wheel drive. My 1953 Super H Farmall uses independent brakes for the rear axles. But all these solutions cost, and add hundreds or thousands of dollars onto the cost of the machine.
In my opinion Craftsman hit on the best solution with the new Turn Tight technology and choose to keep the cost down on the 2011 Yard Tractors and Professional Series Tractors by not incorporating these other expensive solutions. They are determined to give you the best value and dependability while still offering as many features as possible to make your mowing fast and enjoyable.
Alternatives for you:
If you have a good healthy lawn this increased tilt on the front wheels will not be a problem for you. You will like the tighter turning radius and how you can mow your lawn faster. The new Turn Tight on the YT 3000 and YT 4000 models is especially well-designed. There is not as much tilt as the 12 inch radius of the Professional Series.
If you have a poor lawn though, especially a poor one on sandy soil you need to know that you will not be able to turn the Yard Tractors and Professional Series Tractors as tightly as described in Craftsman’s sales literature without tearing up your lawn.
The solution is simple:
Simply stated: If the tractor is digging up your lawn, don’t turn it that sharp!
Craftsman has many different styles of riding mowers and tractors to choose from. You can find a tractor that is right for you. You should look not only at the size of tractor relative to your lawn, but look at the number of obstacles and the condition of your lawn. If you have a poor lawn but few obstacles I suggest you look at the Craftsman Lawn Tractor Series geared Garden Tractor Series. If you have a poor lawn with a lot of obstacles look at the Yard Tractor Series or Excellerator Garden Tractor Series. Be aware of what your new Lawn Tractor, Yard Tractor or Professional Series Tractor can do, but also be aware of what limitations your lawn will put on the performance of your new tractor.