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Troubles Mowing With Trac-vac

trac-vac bolens 850

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#1 MailmAn OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 09:24 AM

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So, I am finally opening this up as a general post after initially PMing only a few people about this since it is actually turning out to be a (hopefully) informative post. So, can everyone please copy over your posts from the PM in the same order so we can preserve the message flow as it is? Thanks a lot!
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I finally got the Bolens 850 going again [2 weeks ago] Friday (yeah!!) and used it last weekend to mow someone's lawn with the Trac-Vac (athough getting around with all of that without a trailer was a PITA!). However, I seemed to be having some troubles with this setup. The guy complained a bit after I was done mowing the lawn that there were "trenches" or lines in the lawn like the tractor was mowing unevenly. Now, I had it on the second highest setting (one notch down from all the way up) to mow it as it was pretty long and there were a lot of leaves already. I figured if I mowed it much lower the tractor would have really bogged down badly. As it was, I had to dump the Trac-Vac TWO times while mowing as it got filled up with grass clippings and leaves! I was really surprised at how quickly it filled up, especially for how big it is!

However, I guess my real question here is what can I do to help balance out my deck when using the Trac-Vac? Is the chute causing my deck to mow crooked if there is too much weight on the one side? Could it have just looked like it was mowed weird because the grass was so long and the deck isn't crooked at all? I was mowing pretty slow too since the grass was so long. I had the engine at max throttle (obviously) and mowed in 1st gear high range. Hauling around the Trac-Vac did add some extra work to the engine, so I can't mow as quickly with it as I can with just the tractor by itself either. (I usually try to mow in 2nd gear high range if I can to get it done faster.) The Trac-Vac did do a nice job of picking everything up though and except for the lines in the lawn, it looked really nice. I did have problems with the chute clogging up with grass where it was really long (and still a bit wet), so I had to take some time to take the hose all apart and pull out all of the grass clippings that were clogging it up.

But, like I said, I need to try and find out if my deck is indeed mowing crooked with the Trac-Vac and if so how to fix it. I don't always mow with the Trac-Vac though, so I don't want to have to keep re-adjusting the deck each time I use the Trac-Vac and changing it back when I don't use it. I know I don't have any wheels on my deck, so IDK if that would help if I had a deck with wheels on it or not. Bruce, I know you checked out my tractor when I was down in Jersey to pick up the Trac-Vac and you thought the deck hangers were messed up somehow and could stand to be re-adjusted? I did notice that the linkage that connects to the height adjustment lever looks bent a bit, so not sure how that would affect anything. I can try to take some pics of how everything looks if that would help in assessing the problem.

I'd really appreciate any help you guys could offer me on this. OldBuzzard, I know you have an E-Z Vac setup, so I thought I'd see if you had any issues with yours when you first got it. Maybe it was all fine though if you bought your tractor with the vac setup so someone else already worked out all the bugs in it?


(Also, I took some pictures of my setup as well as some Before and After pictures of the yard I was mowing to give you an idea of what I'm working with:)

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Edited by MailmAn, October 15, 2012 - 09:25 AM.


#2 BairleaFarm OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 09:45 AM

I have the same problem. It never dawned on me to add weight to the other side of the deck. So in short the trac vac also makes my deck cut crooked.

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#3 HDWildBill OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 10:03 AM

First off I would take your trac-vac off put the tractor on level ground and then check to see that the deck is level. If not then you will need to level it. Once you have the basic set up leveled put the trac-vac back on and check the leveling again. This will tell you if your trac-vac is causing the problem, but I suspect your deck is out of level with out the trac-vac.

#4 Bolens 1000 ONLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 01:38 PM

Here are the Replies from Bruce and I...

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Bruce Dorsi


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Sent October 10, 2012 - 12:21 AM
A few thoughts:

1) The best way to check for an uneven cutting height is to park the tractor on a flat surface such as a concrete slab. .....With the engine off (obviously) turn the blades so that one end is to its outward extreme, and measure the height of the cutting edge from the slab. .....Without changing the height adjustment, do the same for the other side.

You could check this with the vac chute off, then again with the chute & hose connected, to see if the weight of the chute & hose is causing the deck to tilt.

2) Check the tire pressures to see if they are even side-to-side. .....If the mower deck is cutting unevenly, you may be able to add air to the low side to level the deck if it is not way off.

3) If the grass is very high, or wet, or if there is a lot of leaves, you may want to take less than a full swath to minimize clogging of the chute & hose. .....You may need a slower travel speed as well. .....You should be running the vac at full-throttle under these conditions.

4) I don't think wheels on the deck, or a roller on the front of the deck, would help prevent uneven cutting. .....Their primary purpose is to prevent scalping.

5) When cutting, the left wheels of the tractor should be on the uncut portion of the lawn, as that way the discharge is toward the area which has already been cut.

6) Dry leaves are easily shredded by the mower blades and the vac impeller so their volume is reduced, allowing more to be packed into the cart. ....When the leaves are wet or damp, they are pliable and do not get shredded as fine, and they have a greater tendency to clog the hose & chute.

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MailmAn
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Sent October 13, 2012 - 07:44 PM
Well, sorry it took so long to get back to you all on this, but I've been pretty busy this week. Plus, I was kinda hoping that I'd get more replies than just Bruce's (no offense, Bruce...), but I guess if he said everything there was to say already, then I can see why no one else responded back yet. Still, I took step one in diagnosing this issue today (of course after I already mowed everyone's lawn for the week...) by measuring the blade heights on my deck. At first I thought I did it wrong or the part of the driveway I was measuring it on was too uneven, so I moved the tractor around 2-3 times and kept measuring the distance from the driveway to the edge of the blades at the sharpened part when the blades were perpendicular to the tractor. I didn't measure the middle blade (as I can hardly reach it laying down on the ground), so I only have the left and right blade measurements. So, I think this is part of the problem as these were the measurements I took:


.............................................. Left: ........ Right:
Highest Setting: ................... 3 5/8" ...... 2 3/4"
Lowest Setting: .................. 1 3/4" ........ 3/4"
So, I think for some reason the right side of my deck is lower than the left side. Which is odd, beacuse I don't really see the tractor mowing that unevenly most of the time. But, if it is off by that much already without the Trac-Vac chute on the discharge of my deck, then with the added weight of that chute, it is probably even farther off, making it that much more noticeable when using the Trac-Vac.

Now, the next step is how to fix this? I know Bruce has already looked at my tractor before and said that some of the deck hangers were a bit bent up for whatever reasons and that the holes where the bent lift arm goes through are a bit hogged out now with age. So, I'm not quite sure the best way to try and level out the deck to try and fix this. Especially if it is really off by this much (roughly an inch side-to-side), even if there is a minor deck height adjustment I can tweak, not sure if I can get that much extra height out of it on the right side.


-Thanks,

-Kevin

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Bolens 1000


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Sent October 13, 2012 - 08:41 PM
I have nothing else to add
I believe Bruce covered it all.

Did you ever take apart the spindles, pulley's and bearings on the deck? If you did its possible the pulley or bearing wasnt installed correctly and a spindle is sitting lower/ higher than the rest..

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Bruce Dorsi


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Sent Yesterday, 09:54 AM
Kevin:

Be certain tire pressures are the same side-to-side, as that will affect what you do next.

Look at the mower lift linkage shown here: http://gardentractor...449-01-38inpdf/

I don't remember which model deck you have, but your linkage is the same as what is shown in this link.

There are two places adjustments can be made to try to level the deck side-to-side.

To begin, disconnect the lift L-shaped lift link rods where they attach to the rear axle. ....This will allow the back of the mower deck to drop to the floor, but the front of the deck will be still be attached to the lift mechanism. ....Raise the deck so that the lift handle is mid-range in its travel.

Look at the parts ( ref. #'s 55,56,57,60) which actually lift the mower. .....Some of the holes are slotted for adjustment. ....Loosen the bolt/nut which holds the spacer, to allow for adjustment. ......You are trying to get the low side of the mower to raise before the high side. .....Re-check your measurements with the outer blades perpendicular to the tractor.

If you are successful in getting the deck level, turn the blades so that they are parallel with the tractor. .....Block up the rear of the deck, at the center, with wood blocks (or whatever you have handy) so that the blades are now parallel to the floor, having the same distance from the floor at the front & rear of the blades.

The Lift Link Rods (ref. # 19) are adjustable in the rod ends (ref. #17).

Adjust the length of the lift link rods (loosen the jam nut first), so that the back-end of the rods line up with the holes in the rear axle. .....Once they are both done, you may have to lift the rear of the deck slightly to get the rods into the holes in the rear axle. ....Put the hairpins in to retain them. ....Re-tighten the jam nuts.

Normally, both lift link rods are adjusted to the same length, but minor deck-levelling can be done by shortening the length on the low side and/or lengthening the rod on the high side.

If you adjust the rods too much, it is possible to change the pitch of the blades to the point where the center blade will cut lower at the front than the outer blades will.

Once you think you have things adjusted as best as possible, re-check for all 3 blades having the same clearance from the floor front-to-back and side-to-side.

If the above steps do not keep the deck level throughout the height range, something is bent or worn, and those parts will need to be repaired or replaced.

Once adjusted as described above, the extra weight of the Track-Vac should have little affect on the side-to-side cutting, but too much weight may cause the opposite side to lift (as opposed to causing the low side to drop.)

Another common mistake which creates problems is getting on & off the tractor by stepping on the mower deck. ....Use the footrests to support your weight.

This is a lot of thinking and typing. .....It really should be posted in the forum to help others.

~~~~Bruce

#5 goodnews OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 03:27 PM

kevin looks like you've got the extra space on the shoot at the bottom that is creating alot of drag and could be pulling th e deck down i always put the bottom of the shoot up againist the bottom of the deck , also i keep looking at the pics. and wondering if all the blades good and sharp if a blade is a little bit dull it will slide right over tall wet grass hope this helps . in Christ phlip' 4
;13

Edited by goodnews, October 15, 2012 - 03:28 PM.


#6 Newpaws493 OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 05:15 PM

Nothing to add on trac vac, hoping you get that worked out, but I'm not sure I've ever seen your 850 with a hood on.?.?

#7 Guest_gravely-power_*

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 05:33 PM

Seems like a lot of work, time and expense when you could just mulch it. You would get the same results. I and my son have had a landscaping/property maintenance business for 15+ years and never had a complaint. Run over it twice with mulching blades . Most people are afraid to try it. I have NEVER seen the need for a bagging system.

#8 MailmAn OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 05:34 PM

I'm not sure I've ever seen your 850 with a hood on.?.?


Haha, very good observation, Newpaws493! That is because I have been trying to get the hood and fenders painted all summer, but haven't quite finished them yet! Everytime I think I'm going to get some time to sand them down and shoot a coat of paint on them, something else goes wrong with my poor tractor and I'm scrambling to get it back working again so I can get my lawns mowed! (Well, that and I was also working a lot from June-September, so it was hard to find time to work on the tractor. I was also working every weekend, so that cut into my free time as well. However, I was laid off from my last job towards the end of September, so I have more time [but less money] to work on the tractor. I'm HOPING in the next week or two to finish painting the 850 and get it all put back together, but that also depends a lot on the weather. If it gets too cold, it is hard to paint outside. It has also been raining a lot here and although I paint inside the garage, the extra humidity in the air isn't good for painting either. Wish me luck!

#9 MailmAn OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 05:51 PM

Seems like a lot of work, time and expense when you could just mulch it. Run over it twice with mulching blades.


I'm pretty sure they do not make mulching blades for my tractor. It was hard enough to just find the original blades for my tractor. Plus, I have a mulching push mower and I don't really like it since it seems to bog down easily while trying to mulch the grass. Granted, most people have me come to mow once their lawn has gotten noticeably longer and it is usually too long to mow with a mulching mower to get good results. I bought the Trac-Vac because this one old guy whose lawn I mow complained that he wanted it bagged, but I didn't have a bagger. I mowed it a few times with the mulching push mower, but he still wasn't happy with it and honestly it was way too much work for me. But mowing it with just the Bolens 850 left a lot of grass clippings and he was even less happy about that. This seemed like the best solution to make him happy and I can use it to suck up leaves in the fall as well.

#10 MailmAn OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 06:00 PM

Here are the Replies from Bruce and I...


Thanks for that, Brian... I was kinda hoping that Bruce would just copy over his posts separately and then I could copy over my responses afterwards to make it look original, but that works too. As long as the info is all there I guess, right?

#11 johndeereelfman OFFLINE  

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Posted October 15, 2012 - 07:10 PM

Kevin,

This is just a thought, and may even come across a little stupid, but what if you lengthened the left side of your deck, and raised the right side of your deck to compensate the difference in getting your deck to cut even? There is advice on how to level your deck without the discharge chute, and getting it leveled close would be a good start. After the deck is leveled, attach the discharge chute, and adjust your deck by raising the right side and lowering the left at the same time. I'm not sure how these Bolens are set up, but does you lift assembly float with the deck, or do they give some type of down pressure? Keeping the right hand deck adjustment set at a point of not being able to go lower, and having the left side adjustment set that the deck can't raise while in the lowered position. Just a thought, and I'm probably speaking out of line since this is out of my knowledge, but just trying to help out anyway I can.

God luck to you buddy!

#12 bolex OFFLINE  

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Posted October 17, 2012 - 05:36 PM

use a set of springs and adjustment turnbuckles and adjust the right spring a little tighter so it acts like an overload spring to keep the deck level. just my redneck 2 cents :thumbs:

#13 MailmAn OFFLINE  

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Posted October 27, 2012 - 10:13 AM

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Alright, so I know I'm probably known at this point for posting stuff well after the fact. But I've had a lot going on lately (including a death in my family that I attended the calling hours and funeral for this week). But in any event, I did want to share this at some point even though I actually did this adjustment about 2 weeks ago now. This was how I went about trying to level off the mower deck on the Bolens 850:

I started off by parking the tractor on a (fairly) level surface on my back patio. I know it's not the flattest surface ever, but it was the best I could do since everything around here seems to be crooked, lol...

Posted Image

Then I was playing around with the deck hanger on the right side to try and figure out why it was hitting the tractor lift arm so it wouldn't go up all the way. I found out that for some reason the deck hanger bracket (called a "bail" in the parts manual... ???) on the right side was bent in, so I used a hammer and pry bar to try and bend it back to give it more clearance, which it looks like I achieved:

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Of course, the other thing that bothered my was how crooked the deck hanger adjusting arms on the tractor were, most likely from the holes being worn out and enlarged over the years:

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Well, the first thing I did was to lower the deck down all the way to see how it looked. I could instantly see the problem just by the look of where the deck runners were positioned on the right and left sides in relation to the patio blocks. On the right side, the back runner was practically hitting the ground while the front runner was way off of the ground. Yet somehow, on the left side, the runners were about equidistant from the ground.

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Well, that might be why it was cutting unevenly then! So, I attempted to try and adjust the deck according to the directions Bruce Dorsi gave me. I started out by unhooking the rear deck hangers by removing the clevis pins:

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I then set the back of the deck down onto a piece of wood to keep it elevated off the ground:

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I then moved the height adjustment lever on the tractor so that it lowered the front of the deck to a position about even with the back of the deck. I losened the adjustment toggle bolts on the deck adjusting arms on both sides and then tried to position the front of the deck so that the whole deck was level. I used a small magnetic level to help me figure out whether the deck was level or not. Once the deck was level, I tightened up the adjustment bolts. I did move them a bit on each side in order to level it off.

Then I took the rear deck hangers off and disassembled them since I had to turn the link rod ends (as the manual calls them) in order to lengthen or shorten them to make the back of the mower deck raise or lower. They were a PAIN to come apart though! I soaked them in PB Blaster overnight and they still came apart very hard with a 1" box end wrench. While I had them apart, I coated the threads with never-seize lubricant so hopefully they wouldn't freeze up like that again.

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Then, I screwed on the rod ends and hooked up the link rods to the back of the tractor where they mount on the rear axle. Next, I screwed the rod ends in or out so that the holes lined up with the mounting holes in the back of the deck hanger ("bail"). This of course was while the back of the deck was elevated by the wood blocks and the deck was level.

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Then, I removed the blocks to see if the deck still remained level. I had to put the blocks back under the deck and make some minor adjustments to the rod ends to keep the deck level as it does drop a small amount (but enough to make a difference) after I removed the blocks. Then I checked everything with the level and by measuring the distance from the blades to the ground. They seemed much better, but for some reason (at least on the patio) the blades still didn't seem 100% level across all three blades. I took pictures of the level on the blades to show how they were different. The first is the right blade:

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But here is the middle blade. It is a bit off compared with the right one:

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But when I put the level on top of the deck, it seems more level...

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I know it still looks like the deck is a bit off and I thought that it was myself, but I think part of the level reading a tad off still was that the patio wasn't perfectly flat. I don't have pictures of it, since it started to rain shortly after this, but I drove the tractor onto the grass after adjusting it and it seemed like the blades were more level both front to back and side to side when I put the level on the blades when it was in the grass. I have been using it as it is and it does seem to be mowing more evenly. I took a photo of the same yard that I just mowed this past week (with the Trac-Vac of course) and it does look better this time:

Posted Image


Edited by MailmAn, October 27, 2012 - 01:26 PM.

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#14 Bolens 1000 OFFLINE  

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Posted October 27, 2012 - 10:50 AM

Hard to tell from the pics but it appears you may have the wrong lift bracket.

Since you have an older deck you should have brackets pictured below.

deck bracket 001.JPG deck bracket 004.JPG

The "newer" style decks 1966 and up used this style bracket which as you can see dosent have as sharp of a bend in the metal.

deck bracket 005.JPG deck bracket 006.JPG

I learned this the hard way when I was trying to get my 38'' deck normally mounted on my 800 on my 1050 and it just seemed tight and un-even. After studying the two tractors I noticed the differences in the brackets and swapped them out and that solved the problem.
  • MailmAn said thank you

#15 framesteer ONLINE  

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Posted October 27, 2012 - 08:35 PM

If the mower blades are not on the same plane (can be checked by measuring from a flat surface up to all three blade tips in both the side-to-side position and the fore-aft position, the mower deck could be deformed in the areas where the blade spindle housings mount to the deck. I have seen this happen. To correct, you would need to dismantle the deck and pound the spindle housing mounting surfaces flat to one another. Fortunately, all the spindle housing assemblies are the same, so the mower deck needs to be flat on the same plane for all three mounting surfaces. It doesn't take much deflection in the mower deck to result in quite a difference at the blade tip.





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