Wheel Horse 520h
Posted September 15, 2012 - 09:15 PM
The 520H and the 520HC, whats the difference?
How good of a mower are they with the 60" deck?
Are they worth $2000.+ like I see some advertised for?
Just looking for info on these from those that have them.
Posted September 16, 2012 - 08:52 AM
I'm in the market to buy one of these.
Posted September 16, 2012 - 09:15 AM
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Posted September 16, 2012 - 09:24 AM
You got to make sure that you keep the Onan motor clean and also let it cool down before you shut it off, because if you don't, you can have major problems. In my opinion, they are more of a high maintenance tractor, but are well worth it.
Not sure of the difference between a 520H and a 520HC. I believe that the 520HC was only made for a short time, so it is going to be a lot easier to find a 520H.
The 60" deck should be a great combo with the 520 and the 520 has plenty of power to handle that deck.
As far as price, you should be able to get a nice one for between $1,000 and $1,500. I feel that $2,000 is way overpriced, unless it comes with a lot of extras.
Hope this helps,
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Posted September 16, 2012 - 05:35 PM
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Posted September 16, 2012 - 07:04 PM
In a recent auction in my area, there was a 520H with around 800 hours on it. Fair condition, ran nice, 48" deck, bagger, and a snowblower. The whole package went for under a grand. I had my heart set on a JD 445 with 1,000 hours on with a 60 deck, nothing else included. The JD went for $3,500. Should of bid on the WH.
Lots of differing opinions on the later Onans. Cost of maintenance, parts availability, etc. One thing is agreed upon though: They're a well built, long-lasting engine if maintained correctly.
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Posted September 17, 2012 - 12:19 AM
520H (first gen) - produced 1988 & 1989. Features - 20hp Onan, 42" or 48" deck. Hydro trans & lift. Identifiable by maroon stripe decal package.
520H (second gen) - produced 1990 only. Features - 20hp Onan, swept forward frt axle, 1" frt axles, optional 60" deck. Hydro trans and lift. Identifiable by Black stripe decal package and fwd swept axle.
520-8 - produced 1990 only. Features - 20hp Onan, swept fwd axle, 1" frt axles, optional 60" deck, 8 speed trans, manual lift. Identifiable by black stripe decal package & 8 speed trans.
520H (third gen) - produced 1991 - 1997. Features - 20hp Onan, fwd swept axle, gear reduction steering, 1" frt axles, Hydro trans and lift, optional 60" deck. Identifiable by Black stripe decal package with Toro printed on them & gear reduction steering. There were slight variations through the years (decal design changes and a few cosmetic) but pretty much stayed the same tractor until the end of production in 1997.
520H were the Cadillac version of W/H GT's. They still are great, stout machines that will do just about anything you want them to. I personally have owned 3 of these glorious machines and will probably never be without one again. I would strongly reccomend purchasing one 91 or newer just for the gear reduction steering. They, like every other, have some drawbacks. The 20hp Onan is a very thirsty engine. It also, if neglected, can develope valve seat issues. The average life span of the Onan is around 1200 hrs depending on how it was cared for. I have seen them go close to 2000 hrs. Parts for the Onan are a little pricey and becoming harder to find. A very affordable alternative to rebuilding is repowering with 20+ hp Honda's.
Unless the one you're looking at is mint or NOS, it's not worth $2000 in my opinion. My first was a 1200 hr machine for $200 (used it for 4 seasons). My second was a 600 hr machine for $800 and my third was (is) a 400 hr machine for $1200. Look around, they're out there.
Edited by jusjeepn, September 17, 2012 - 12:22 AM.
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Posted September 17, 2012 - 03:47 PM
Posted September 22, 2012 - 08:40 PM
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Posted May 12, 2014 - 09:22 AM
I bought a new Wheel Horse 520H with the Onan 20HP Performer engine and 48inch side-discharge mower deck in 1991 and have used it ever since. It is a powerful tractor, I use it mostly for mowing but I also have the mid-mount scraper blade and a lawn roller. The tractor has newer needed any expensive repairs, but I have had to use some Yankee engineering over the years which have saved me a ton of money.
The turf tires were junk (always going flat), so I replaced them with Goodyear cleated tires on the rear, and I found some dual-ribbed tractor tires at Gemplers for the front. These front tires really made it a lot easier to steer, it felt like I had added power steering, and they probably reduced the turning radius by about a foot because of the improved grip. I use a steering knob on the wheel and I can easily manuver it with one hand now.
The deck wheels wore out in just a few years, so I replaced them with industrial caster wheels that have needle bearings and grease fittings on them. They last forever if you keep them lubed.
The safety interlock switches kept going bad, so I bypassed them all in the wiring harness and removed them. These are the limit switches on the seat, the deck engagement, and the forward/reverse lever. These were not the kind of switches that could tolerate wet conditions.
The coil went bad a couple of years ago. The spark was so weak it made it very hard to start (and this was also due to the valve seat issue in the next paragraph), usually requiring a lot of cranking. The Onan uses a coil that is very expensive to replace. I couldn't find one for less than $150. I ended up buying a pair of inexpensive old-style automotive coils at a surplus store (for $13 each) and I made some mounts to attach them to the air cleaner box. I wired the primary sides in parallel (+ to +/ - to -) (but I've since heard others say they wired theirs in series and that works too) and used the original electronic module to switch them on and off. Onan fires both plugs at the same time (since one cylinder is on the exhaust stroke while the other is on the power stroke, it doesn't matter). I was amazed at the powerful spark I had then. The original plug gap specification was very tight at only .018 inches (from memory) and the original coil would not fire them if it was much wider. The engine fires up immediately now, and I can reduce the idle speed to a very low RPM and it keeps on running. But I did have a problem when I began mowing and ran into some heavy grass. The engine started knocking because of pre-ignition when it was heavily loaded. I looked for a way to retard the spark timing, but saw no way to adjust it. I theorized that if I increased the plug gap it would make the plug fire a little bit later (retarded) and I was right. I experimented with this and it eliminated the problem. I now have the plugs gapped at .060 inches, still have a very powerful spark, and no pre-ignition.
Typical of the Onan engine in a lawn mower application, the engine sucks in a lot of grass clippings that plug up the cooling fins on the cylinder barrels and heads. This causes overheating, and eventually the dreaded "valve seat loosening" problem. It's usually the rear cylinder intake valve seat. It happened to me last week, but probably started a long time ago, only this week it started making a loud ticking noise. Last Spring I noticed when I'd first cold start the engine it would start up on one cylinder for a few seconds before the other cylinder would kick in. I found the rear intake valve was out of adjustment, it was holding the valve open slightly. I readjusted the valve clearance to the specification (.005 inches) and was good to go for the rest of the mowing season. But last week I had to investigate the ticking noise so I tore it down and found the seat was loose. It had hammered itself into the block nearly .050", displacing the aluminum in it's bore. This is why I had to re-adjust it last Spring. I did some online research on the problem and the prognosis was terrible. Some said you could peen the seat into place, but this wasn't very reliable, not a permanent fix. Some claimed the only permanent fix is to install an over-sized seat. This would require a complete tear-down of the block to machine a new over-sized bore, and to heat the block to 350 degrees to drop in a liquid-nitrogen-cooled valve seat. Sounds like a nightmarishly expensive fix to me. My Yankee engineering mind went into overload imagining an inexpensive alternative. I thought how great it would be if Loctite had something to fix this! Turns out THEY DO. They make a super high-temperature toughened super glue that is used to attach the carbide insert onto boring bars used for machining parts. That is one of the more demanding applications, but not the only one. It's called Loctite Black Max 380. It's expensive at $36 for a 3gram tube, but if it works that is a very cheap fix. Some claim the only way to remove it is to heat the bonded pieces red hot before they will come apart. I'm pretty sure my Onan's block will never get THAT hot. So, with the help of my brother-in-law who has used this stuff before, I glued my valve seat back into place. Make sure the bore and seat are shined up and free of any oil, use electronic parts cleaner and a q-tip, and wear rubber gloves when handling that glue. Also, the plastic lid on my CDC electronic cleaner press-fitted into the seat and made it easy to use as a handle when I inserted it into the bore. I was lucky that my bore was not very sloppy at all, it measured only about .001" larger than the seat. I'm probably going to re-install the engine in my tractor today, but I'm very confident that this is going to work. I wonder how many have opted to spend $1800 on a replacement engine to avoid fixing this Onan problem! I would gladly gobble all those discarded engines up, fix them, and resell them. If you don't hear back from me you can assume I am out mowing on my 520H and it is working just fine.
One more thing I'm going to investigate is relocating the engine temperature sensor from the front head to the rear head without interfering with the drive belt. The rear cylinder must be easier to plug with clippings and so it usually runs hotter, which is why everybody has problems with the rear intake valve seat. This will give me a sooner heads up when I need to blow out the clippings.
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Posted May 13, 2014 - 07:52 AM
I just wanted to update y'all. Yesterday I finished assembling my "glued" (valve seat) Onan and so far it is working just fine. I ran the tractor for about 45 minutes, and I worked it hard for about 30 of them. If the Loctite was going to fail I think it would have by now. Today I expect to get my whole yard done (about 2 acres) because the weather looks excellent for it. This will be a good test since my grass is over 6 inches tall in places.
I decided to leave that temperature sensor where it was on the front cylinder head, the drive belt would have interfered with it on the rear cylinder.
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Posted May 20, 2014 - 07:33 PM
A year ago, picked up a '90 520-8. Had some problems but nothing overwhelming.
Owned WH's for 40 or so years and, this one just rides a bit different. Sounds like a beast.
Sons (now in their 40's) and grandsons (7 & 6) love takin' this Stallion for a cruise.
Only have a 48" SD deck but, retired, I have time and only an acre to mow.
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Posted May 21, 2014 - 08:59 AM
Very nice looking machine.
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Posted November 21, 2014 - 07:49 PM
My brother has one, 1995 vintage, 250 hours. A great tractor. Lot's of torque!
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Posted November 21, 2014 - 07:51 PM
I should have added, I'm looking for a low hour unit myself. Pricey, but you get what you pay for.