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Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2019

2/26/2019 6:00:00 AM


By: Aaron Abler, Email Marketing & Content Specialist,

Lawn mowers that cut the best

Zero turn vs la​​​​wn tractor

Riding lawn mowers have traditionally been the most popular lawn care products for homeowners because of strong brand name appeal, but they lack in substance. With thinner steel, thin stamped decks and little to no comfort, homeowners are switching over to a new kind of riding lawn mower.

Unlike lawn tractors, zero turn mowers can be built with thick, more durable steel frames, stronger decks that result in a better cut quality and added comfort features. Additionally, the zero turn lawn mower design offers a massive time savings over mowing with a lawn tractor.​

What is a zero turn l​awn mower?

Zero turn lawn mowers do exactly what they sound like they can do. It's a lawn mower that has a zero-degree turning radius, meaning it can turn on a dime. These mowers can literally spin 360s in one spot because of their superior technology.

Advantages of ze​​ro turn lawn mowers​

Zero turn lawn mowers are built to be comfortable. For example, most Ariens zero turn lawn mowers come with a high-back, plush and adjustable seats. Some mowers in their lineup even include plush armrests. Additionally, the controls are all positioned in ergonomic and easily accessible locations so the operator can simply enjoy the ride.

Zero turn lawn mowers save time. The wide range of deck size options in a zero turn lawn mower allow homeowners with both small yards and multi-acre yards to cut their lawns much faster than they could with a lawn tractor. In the Ariens lineup, homeowners can choose a deck as small as 34 inches or as large as 60 inches across.

The ability for a zero turn lawn mower to turn on a dime reduces the need for the extra maneuvering. Get to the end of your cutting row, make a quick 180-degree turn, align the deck edge with the row just cut and keep going. With a lawn tractor, that requires a turn, backing and another turn. This is time lost, and that time adds up fast for each row of grass that needs to be cut.

Zero turn lawn mowers are more durable. This depends on the brand, but zero turn mowers are generally built with thicker steel than lawn tractors. On Ariens zero turn lawn mowers, the frame is a fully welded tubular design and much stronger than the traditional C-channel frames of lawn tractors.

Zero turn lawn mowers have a better cut quality. With options for fully fabricated steel, deep decks, cutting decks are more durable and promote maximum airflow. Fabricated decks on Ariens zero turn models are aerodynamically designed so grass is pulled toward the blades and clippings are discharged evenly. The result is a superior cut quality without stragglers or clumps.

How to drive a zero t​urn lawn mower

No steering wheel? No problem. Driving a zero turn lawn mower is easier than most think and is a lot like driving a shopping cart.

Each control lever operates the wheel on that side of the mower. For example, pushing the steering lever forward on the right side of the unit makes the right wheel move forward. Pushing the steering lever forward on the left side of the unit makes the left wheel move forward. Same rules apply to operating the mower in reverse.

To drive a zero turn in a straight line while mowing, operators simply keep each steering lever aligned with each other while pushed forward. The farther forward the levers, the faster the mower drives. As the steering levers are moved closer to the operator and the "neutral position," the slower the mower drives. When returned to the neutral position, the mower stops moving.

How to turn a zero t​​urn lawn mower

It's important to understand that the left and right drive wheels (controlled by their left and right steering levers) each have an independent motor. So, it's possible to make the left wheel turn in reverse and the right wheel turn forward, or vice versa. Actually, that's how a zero turn mower makes its turn. One wheel moving at a different rate, or in the opposite direction, of the other wheel makes a zero turn lawn mower turn.

Making both gentle and aggressive turns with a zero turn mower is easy. To make a gentle curve, simply push one steering lever slightly farther forward than the other while driving forward. For example, to make a gentle turn to the right, keep the left steering lever farther forward than the right lever. To turn left, keep the right steering lever farther forward than the left lever. The farther apart the steering levers are from each other, the sharper the turn.

To make a 180-degree turn with a zero turn lawn mower, pull one steering lever back while pushing the other steering lever forward. So, to turn on a dime to the left, pull the left steering lever back and push the right steering lever forward. To turn on a dime to the right, pull the right steering lever back and push the left steering lever forward. The greater the distance between the two steering levers, the faster the mower will make that turn.

American made lawn​​ mowers

As zero turn lawn mowers become more popular among North American homeowners, more dealerships and national retail stores are offering a multi-brand lineup of mowers. In today's market, more homeowners value American made lawn mower brands over the other choices, which is why more consumers have put their trust in the Wisconsin-based Ariens brand.

Ariens ZOOM® zero tur​n mower

The Ariens ZOOM has the best-in-class speed among the other zero turn lawn mowers in its category. The ZOOM comes standard with a high-back seat, maintenance-free transmission and a washout port to help clean grass clippings from the underside of the deck. Its lever-adjusted height-of-cut system allows operators to easily change between its 7 cutting height settings. The ZOOM comes available with a 34 or 44-inch cutting width.

Ariens ZOOM® zero turn riding lawn mower

Ariens IKON X zero turn mower

The Ariens IKON X is a relatively new zero turn lawn mower platform, but it gained popularity fast. It's 4.5-inch deep, fully fabricated deck allows for premium airflow, resulting in a high cut quality. Its standard adjustable, plush, high-back seat with armrests allows operators to experience ​all-day comfort, even when mowing lawns up to three acres. The added durability in its fully welded steel tubular frame, its Ariens 3-year limited warranty and 5-year limited warranty on the deck shell and frame is part of why this machine is considered one of the highest values in residential mowing.

Ariens IKON X zero turn riding lawn mower
 

Ariens IKON XL zero turn mower

The IKON X's big brother, the Ariens IKON XL is just as valued, but is a step up for homeowners who want their neighbors to take notice. Available with a cutting deck width up to 60 inches and larger transmissions, the IKON XL quickly trims large acreage down to size. Padded armrests and larger tires contribute to an even more comfortable, smoother ride. And like its little brother, constant tension on the mower belts reduce the belt wear and provides a consistent quality of cut throughout the life of the belt.

Ariens IKON XL zero turn riding lawn mower
 

Ariens APEX® zero turn mower

The Ariens APEX is for the most serious homeowners with even the largest acreage. The APEX is so robust that Ariens confidently offers a 1-year limited warranty for commercial use with the unit. Also included in this commercial-capable machine are fully adjustable handlebars and a custom plush seat for superior comfort and better user experience, a 5.5-inch-deep cutting deck for superior airflow and a 5-gallon fuel tank capacity that allows operators to cut longer with less refueling time. And as a bonus, the attractive industrial styling of the APEX appeals to modern homeowners who appreciate how Ariens added a stylish touch to the look of mowing.​

Ariens APEX® zero turn riding lawn mower

Where to buy a zero turn lawn mower​​​

Find an Ariens dealer near you with our lawn mower dealer locator tool. If you're not sure which zero turn lawn mower is right for you, use the lawn mower selector tool to find which model matches your grass, cutting area, budget and more.


 

How to Change Snow Blower Oil

2/20/2019 6:00:00 AM


By: By Aaron Abler, Email Marketing & Content Specialist,

Do you know when to change your snow blower oil?

Why oil changes are important

One of oil's unique properties is that the degradation and contamination of engine oil is unavoidable regardless of its use light, normal or extreme conditions. Its quick degradation means it's important to change regularly, because operating with dirty or degraded oil puts an engine at risk for inefficient operation, hefty repair bills, or even a trip to the junkyard. On the other hand, performing regular engine oil changes helps ensure reliability, strong performance and a protection of your investment.

Detailed instructions for changing the oil in your snow blower are listed in the engine manual for your unit, but we condensed those steps into easy-to-understand highlights below. Changing snow blower oil is easy and inexpensive.

How to change engine oil

  1. Run the engine for a couple minutes to warm the oil.
  2. Stop the unit, remove the key and move the unit to a flat, level surface.
  3. Wait for hot parts to cool, then remove the spark plug wire from the engine.
  4. Position an oil drain pan below the oil drain plug.
  5. Remove the oil drain plug and allow oil to drain.
  6. When oil stops draining, reinstall the drain plug and tighten.
  7. Remove the cap from the oil fill port and fill your engine with the correct oil type (usually 5W-30 for snow blowers) and quantity. Click here to buy snow blower oil.
  8. Reinstall the cap / dipstick.
  9. Remove the dipstick and confirm the oil level is adequate, according to the markings on the dipstick.
  10. Reinstall the dipstick / fill port cap and reinstall the spark plug wire.
  11. Start the unit and run the engine for a few minutes to verify no oil is leaking.

 

Continue reading to learn what happens to oil throughout its lifecycle in your snow blower engine.

Small engine repair

Cars, trucks, motorcycles and outdoor power equipment – anything with an internal combustion engine needs regular maintenance. This equipment requires maintenance at different times of the year, with one of the most important items on that checklist being completing regularly scheduled oil changes.

Good news for consumers is that small engine oil changes are much less involved than that of a vehicle, meaning there’s no excuse to neglect your snow blower engine.

What engine oil does

Oil is sensitive, and it has a very important purpose. For starters, oil’s viscosity, or slippery properties, allow the tight-fitting, precision engineered parts of an engine to slide past each other at thousands of revolutions per minute. By reducing the amount of friction between those fast-moving, intricate parts, your engine uses less effort and operates more efficiently.

Oil also acts as a heat transfer. After cycling through the engine, it carries damaging heat away from those fast-moving parts and into the oil sump where it cools before recycling through the oil system.

Snow blower break in

Oil becomes extremely contaminated during an engine’s first two hours of use, or the “break-in” period. Certain engine components, though engineered and manufactured to precise tolerances, aren’t a perfect fit. By design, the wall of a new engine cylinder has peaks; it’s not perfectly smooth at a microscopic level.

As the piston moves rapidly up and down that new cylinder, the piston’s rings file the peaks and deposit metallic contaminants into the oil system.

How does engine oil get dirty?

As shown in our video, oil going in looks a lot different than oil coming out. Fresh oil has a warm, unsullied, golden appearance, whereas oil coming out is blackened. So what happened to it?

Intake, compression, power, exhaust. Those are the four cycles of most gasoline engines produced today. As an engine piston moves down, it intakes air and gasoline in to the engine cylinder. The piston then moves up to compress the fuel / air mixture, which combusts and then powers the piston down the engine cylinder and then back up again where it expels exhaust produced from combustion. During the combustion phase, small amounts of soot are created and circulated throughout your oil system, darkening the color of the oil.

While oil discoloration and soot is normal and not a cause for concern, soot particles cluster and become larger after multiple uses of your snow blower. If these contaminates grow large enough, they can cause engine wear.

Do snow blowers have oil filters?

Generally, snow blower engines, including Ariens snow blowers, do not have engine oil filters. Not an issue for a machine that is used less frequently than a lawn mower engine or a car, but that’s all the more reason to make sure the contaminates in your oil system are flushed regularly with an oil change.

How does water get in oil?

While a snow blower is running, it's oil heats to temperatures greater than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. After the engine stops, the temperature cools to temperature of the area where you store your snow blower. That may be an area kept at room temperature, or it could be an outdoor shed exposed to subzero temperatures. In any case, the warming and cooling across a broad range of temperatures allows water condensation to form inside the engine.

If your snow blower is used for long enough periods, its engine will heat to a temperature capable of burning the moisture that collects in the oil system. However, if your snow blower is only used for short periods of time, your engine may not become hot enough to boil away the moisture, leaving water in your oil system.

Water left in the oil system not only corrodes the steel components in your engine, but it also dilutes the rating and the effectiveness of the oil.

How engine oil degrades

Of the many factors that contribute to the deterioration of engine oil, mere contact with the air can break it down, or “oxidize” it over time. When heat is added to the equation, the process is accelerated.

As oxidation occurs, oil becomes more viscous and eventually turns into a sludge. Oil viscosity, or rating of slipperiness, may start at 5W-30 (as an example) but the oxidation renders its viscosity below the engine manufacturer's specification. Oil change intervals defined by the manufacturer in the engine manual are based on calculations of when the oil is expected to deteriorate below its original condition. If the same oil is used beyond that interval, it becomes less effective at protecting your critical snow blower engine parts.

Changing snow blower oil

The best solution for protecting your engine is by changing the oil at the frequencies defined in your engine manual. First, immediately after the two-hour break in period, then at the regular intervals after engine break-in is complete. For added assurance, you can change your oil more often than recommended if used in an area of higher contamination or extreme conditions.

If you prefer performing oil changes on your own, you can complete the procedure in as little as twenty minutes in your own garage at the bare minimum expense of a few dollars in fresh oil. Just remember to follow the instruction provided in your engine manual and dispose of or recycle old oil appropriately. Oil changes shouldn’t be approached with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Engines of different sizes and manufacturers require different oil quantities, types, ratings and filters and should be performed at the intervals outlined by the manufacturer, which is why it’s important to reference the engine manual beforehand.

Above all, make sure this critical maintenance procedure isn't forgotten.

If you prefer assistance changing your oil, you can find your nearest Ariens dealer and have them do it for you. If you would like to purchase Ariens snow blower engine oil, you can find it at your nearest Ariens dealer or at our online parts store.

Remember to Wear Your Safety Glasses

1/31/2019 6:00:00 AM


By: Aaron Abler, Email Marketing & Content Specialist,

using a snow blower safey with proper clothing 

How to use lawn mowers and snow blowers safely in 2019​​

As a family-owned brand, Ariens values the importance of our family members, which is why we understand your importance to your family members. We value each other, and that's why we believe you can never be too safe when operating a lawn mower or snow blower.

Though the safety practices outlined ahead apply to both lawn mowers and snow blowers, we'll use this opportunity to focus more on snow blower safety since we're still caught in the middle of winter. Just know that the content in this post isn't a substitute for the details listed in the operator's manual for your unit. We strongly recommend reading the safety instructions located in the front pages of your operator's manual in their entirety before operating your outdoor power equipment. For sake of brevity, we'll quickly skim some of the safety highlights here.

Clear the driveway

That's the objective, but before you clear the sidewalk and driveway, you first need to clear the driveway from any ice skates, hockey sticks, rocks, frozen newspapers and other obstructions that could get caught in the auger and impeller. Survey the entire clearing area and think about what could be hidden under that fresh blanket of snow. It's especially helpful if you marked the perimeter of your driveway before the season—think about that for next year.

Not only could an obstruction damage your unit, but they could get tossed from the impeller and projected toward another person or property and cause injury or damage.

Keep the kids inside

It's extremely dangerous for kids to be outside during snow clearing. As an operator, your attention is devoted to the task at hand and less on anyone who wanders into the clearing area, making it possible for pets and small children who enter the clearing area to be unseen and unheard. This risk is even greater with blowing snow and during nighttime operation.

If you're a parent who likes taking their children for rides when cutting the grass, we know it's because you like spending time with your kids and giving them fun experiences, but we strongly urge you to keep them far away from outdoor power equipment while in use. The only surefire way to prevent tragic accidents involving kids, pets and outdoor power equipment is by keeping them inside under and the watchful eye of a responsible adult.

using a snow blower safey with proper clothing 

Clothes

When considering your attire for clearing snow, it's most important to make sure loose clothing and hair is neatly tucked close to your body to help prevent it from getting caught in moving parts. Additionally, make sure you’re wearing clothing that's adequate for the season. There’s no sense risking hypothermia over a clean driveway.

Quality winter boots with good traction, goggles and hearing protection are highly recommended. Ariens makes quiet snow blowers, but no outdoor power equipment with an internal combustion engine is quiet enough for you to skip the earplugs or earmuffs. Prolonged exposure to noise that may seem quiet enough can actually be loud enough to damage your hearing over time. Don't think that it couldn't happen to you.

You'll also want to use protective eyewear. Simple protective goggles may help prevent a rogue ice chunk or piece of asphalt from flying into your eyes and injuring them, but a quality pair of ski goggles are best for superior coverage, comfort and visibility.

Practice situational awareness

Take pauses every now and again to scan your clearing area, and, if you see a cause for concern, stop the engine, remove the key and wait for all moving parts to stop before leaving the operator’s position, and correcting the situation.

Being alert is especially important when operating near a roadway, whether it's busy or not. We've all seen the news stories of the police officer or tow truck driver struck by a distracted or impaired driver when stopped on roads with busy traffic. If some drivers can’t see flashing emergency lights during a dry summer day, there’s no way they'll see you walking into the roadway in the middle of a blizzard at dark, even if you have a bright orange snow blower with a headlight. Always operate with caution.

Operating while intoxicated

This goes for your snow blower, too. Just don't. Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is never acceptable, regardless of the machinery you're operating because it can put yourself and others in harms way. Remember the alertness bit? There's no way you can remain alert to everything happening in your work area when operating under the influence.

using a snow blower safey with cleanout tool 

Snow Clogs

We saved the most important highlight for last. If you cleared snow in the past, you'll know that in certain conditions, mainly wet and heavy snow, your discharge chute may become clogged. If this happens, stop the engine immediately. You may think it to be harmless to simply clear it with your hand, but this could be the worst mistake of your life.

If your chute becomes clogged, follow these steps, and nothing but these steps in the following order before attempting to clear a clogged discharge chute:

      Stop the engine.
      Remove the key from the ignition.
      Wait for all moving parts to stop.

After those three items are complete, and ONLY after those items are complete, you may then remove the clean-out tool from the top of the auger housing and use it to clear the clog. If a clean-out tool isn't included with your unit, use a different suitable device such as a broomstick. Never use your hand to clear the clog, even after the engine has been stopped. When finished, return your clean-out tool to its appropriate location, restart the engine and resume your work.

Ariens owner manual

For a detailed list of safety practices, we strongly suggest reviewing the safety section of your Sno-Thro operator’s manual. A paper copy is included with every unit and digital copies are available for free download at ariens.com.

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