"I bought this tractor specifically because of the hydro and it was the largest deck available that permitted the mulch and bagging systems.
The first unit I bought had the old style skids in front of the deck and the salesman assured me it would not scalp my terrain and Craftsman was not going to change the design. This old design scalped my lawn everywhere and I was very disappointed and the deck design and it did not support a front center roller option. Then several months (maybe a year) later I see the new design (with 4 wheels and a center roller) and the store manager exchanged the tractor for a new one.
He asked me to tell all my friends, and I did. I am still telling them. I have used the tractor to create walking paths through the woods and mulching the heavy accumulation of leaves in the fall.
The mulching system operates well with grass; however, I tend to cut too late or too early in the morning; or too tall for what it is designed for. When the grass is dry, it has no problems. The mulching kit has been a tremendous time saver with the leaves, sometimes I might have to hit the same area twice if I am going too fast. The mulching with the addition of plug aeration has dramatically improved my VA clay soil.
The tractor has been a very easy keep! The first thing I did when I got it home was to install grease fittings in the blade spindle hubs (I recommend this very strongly since the spindle/bearing assembly had very little lubrication). I service the tractor regularly myself and it was last year that I had to replace the battery, fuel pump, and the deck secondary belt.
This past winter I repaired the gas tank and fender steel. I cracked at seat mount, I assume, due to rough terrain and I repaired the cracked plastic tank with a soldering iron. It appeared distressed at the tank mounting bracket/flange possibly due to improper factory seam clearances at the corners adjacent to the flange. Circa 2003/2004 the left front deck support broke and was welded, most likely due to my terrain.
I highly recommend this tractor and I would suggest paying the extra money for the Craftsman OE replacement battery."
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