Zero turn mowers have become increasingly popular over the years for their ability to efficiently maneuver around obstacles and cut grass quickly. However, not all zero turn mowers live up to their claims. There are several models on the market known for their poor performance, flimsy construction, and frustrating usability issues. As a lawn care technician, I always caution homeowners looking to purchase zero turn mowers to avoid certain brands and models that consistently underdeliver.
After testing and reviewing countless zero turn mowers, I’ve compiled a list of the worst offenders that homeowners should stay away from. Models like the Poulan Pro P46ZX, Swisher ZTR2454BS, and Husqvarna Z254 are notorious for breaking down frequently, requiring constant repairs, and delivering inadequate cutting power. Other mowers, such as the Troy-Bilt TB225 and Poulan Pro P54ZX, have critical design flaws that impact maneuverability and ease of use.
In this article, I will highlight the top zero turn mowers that consistently disappoint homeowners. I’ll explain the specific issues with each model, from flimsy construction to underpowered engines. My goal is to prevent buyers from wasting their hard-earned money on a zero turn mower that will only lead to headaches and hassles down the road. There are quality zero turn mowers on the market, but the models discussed here do not make the cut.
Poulan Pro P46ZX
The Poulan Pro P46ZX sits at the top of my list of zero turn mowers to steer clear of. Here’s an overview of the most common pain points owners encounter with this model:
The P46ZX is plagued by plastic parts that easily crack and break under normal use. For example, the plastic fuel tank lid and control arms snap off frequently, requiring expensive replacements. The thin metal used for the mower deck also dents easily when hitting obstacles.
Uneven Cut Quality
Owners report that the P46ZX’s cutting deck produces an uneven, ragged cut, especially when the blades start to wear. The deck is difficult to properly level, resulting in distinct high and low patches of grass. You’ll end up doing multiple passes to get an acceptable cut.
This mower lacks the power to handle thick, dense grass. The engine notoriously bogs down and stalls when cutting high grass. It also struggles on hills, limiting the terrain you can mow.
Frequent Transmission Repairs
The transmission is prone to leaks and slippage, requiring repair or replacement – which can cost over $400 in parts alone. Owners report needing transmission work yearly, even with proper maintenance.
Low Customer Satisfaction
The P46ZX earns only 2 out of 5 stars in customer ratings. Reviews cite the constant need for repairs, lack of power, and flimsy durability as reasons for dissatisfaction. It does not deliver the quality or reliability expected of a zero turn mower.
In summary, the Poulan Pro P46ZX has several design flaws that lead to a frustrating ownership experience. Frequent breakdowns, uneven cutting, underpowered performance, and costly repairs make this a zero turn mower to avoid.
The Swisher ZTR2454BS zero turn mower also makes the list of models to stay away from. Here are its notable drawbacks:
Terrible Fuel Efficiency
This mower only manages 10 miles per gallon, far below average for zero turn mowers. Be prepared to spend a lot on gas. The large 24 HP Briggs & Stratton engine lacks fuel efficiency technology to optimize gas usage.
Speaking of the engine, it’s prone to overheating and seizing up entirely. The expected engine life is only 500 hours – half of the 1000+ hours a residential zero turn engine should reliably last. Replacing the engine costs upwards of $800.
Flimsy Drive Belts
The drive belts are infamous for slipping, breaking, and needing replacement every year or two. A new belt will run you $350 plus labor. The belts can’t handle the engine’s power and give out quickly, leaving you stranded mid-mow.
At 500 lbs, the Swisher ZTR2454BS is a beast to maneuver. Combined with stiff steering and a wide 60″ deck, it feels unwieldy. Forget making precise turns – expect to frequently run over plants and hit obstacles.
Between the engine, belts, and poor gas mileage, owners spend $600 or more yearly to maintain and repair this mower. It doesn’t offer the reliability expected of a zero turn machine.
The Swisher ZTR2454BS seems like a powerful, heavy duty mower on paper. But in reality, it will cost a fortune in fuel and repairs. There are far better options for the price.
The Husqvarna brand is known for high-quality outdoor power equipment. But the Husqvarna Z254 zero turn driving mower falls short of expectations with the following weaknesses:
Loses Power on Hills
Owners are frustrated by the Z254’s lack of power when mowing up slopes. It slows to a crawl on inclines as minor as 10 degrees. For hilly property, this zero turn will significantly limit your productivity.
Frequent Drive Belt Issues
The rubber drive belts are prone to stretching and slipping, especially when worn. Replacement belts can pop off pulleys or break, leaving you stranded. Expect to replace belts yearly, a headache for owners.
Drive System Disengaging
A common problem is the drive system intermittently disengaging during mowing. The mower will not move forward or back with no warning. You’re left with an expensive paperweight.
With the blades engaged, the mower deck vibrates excessively, creating an annoying rattling sound. Vibration takes a toll on deck components and leads to cracking over time.
Costly Annual Repairs
Despite supposedly being a commercial-grade mower, the Z254 has durability issues requiring over $600 in repairs yearly – well above average maintenance costs.
The Husqvarna Z254 simply lacks the power, reliability, and quality expected from this leading brand. There are much better Husqvarna models to consider.
The Troy-Bilt TB225 zero turn mower rounds out my list of models to avoid due to the following persistent issues:
This mower frequently suffers from starting problems. The starter rope can require up to 10 forceful pulls to get the engine running. And restarting a warm engine is notoriously difficult, taking multiple tries.
Flimsy Fuel Tank
The plastic fuel tank has thin walls that crack under pressure. Cracks lead to costly fuel leaks and fire hazards. Owners report the tank had to be patched or replaced after 2-3 years.
Frequent Trimmer Head Breakage
The bump head trimmer is made of low-quality plastic that easily cracks when loading new line. Replacement heads cost over $50 and take time to swap out when they unexpectedly break.
Tight Turning Radius
With a 18″ turning radius, the TB225 lacks maneuverability for navigating landscaping obstacles and tight spaces. Other zero turns in this class can turn nearly zero degrees.
Without suspension, this mower provides a rough, bouncy ride across yards. You’ll feel every bump and dip as vibration is transferred directly to the operator. Comfort takes a backseat.
Parts Availability Issues
Troy-Bilt parts can be hard to find at local shops. Special orders take time and run up costs. Limited aftermarket parts also force reliance on expensive OEM components.
While it’s priced affordably, the Troy-Bilt TB225 has too many compromises to recommend. Flimsy construction, difficult operation, limited maneuverability, and lack of comfort make it less than ideal for residential use.
Pros and cons of the zero turn mowers
|Poulan Pro P46ZX||– Affordable price point|
– Tight 18” turning radius
|– Low durability plastic parts|
– Uneven cut quality
– Underpowered engine
– Frequent transmission repairs
|Swisher ZTR2454BS||– Large 60” mowing deck|
– Powerful 24 HP engine
|– Terrible 10 mpg fuel efficiency|
– Unreliable 500 hour engine life
– Flimsy drive belts need frequent replacement
– Difficult handling over 500 lbs
|Husqvarna Z254||– Commercial grade build|
– High backseat for comfort
– 3-year warranty
|– Loses power on hills|
– Drive belt issues
– Intermittent drive disengaging
– Excessive vibration
– Costly annual repairs
|Troy-Bilt TB225||– Affordable price|
– 3-blade cutting system
– Electric power takeoff
|– Very difficult to start|
– Low durability plastic fuel tank
– Frequent bump head breakage
– Tight 18” turning radius
– Rough, uncomfortable ride
– Limited parts availability
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all zero turn mowers prone to problems?
No, there are many high-quality and reliable zero turn mower models on the market. But the ones profiled here consistently underperform based on extensive research and customer reviews.
What engine problems typically occur with the Poulan Pro P46ZX?
Common P46ZX engine issues include lack of power to handle thick grass, bogging down on hills, overheating, and surging at full throttle. The engine lacks torque and durability.
How long should a residential zero turn mower engine last?
On average, the engine of a quality zero turn mower should reliably run for 1,000-1,500 hours over its lifespan. Models like the Swisher ZTR2454BS fall far short of that expectation.
Why does the Husqvarna Z254 lose power on slopes?
This model lacks sufficient horsepower and torque to maintain speed on inclines over 10 degrees. The engine and hydrostatic transmission can’t handle the increased load.
What causes the excessive vibration with the Husqvarna Z254?
Factors like an unbalanced or warped mower deck, broken or bent blades, and loose components create excessive vibration and rattling from the deck.
How difficult is it to service and find parts for Troy-Bilt mowers?
Troy-Bilt parts availability is hit or miss at local shops. Special orders take time and drive up costs. Limited aftermarket parts also force reliance on pricey OEM components.
When it’s time to purchase a zero turn mower, it pays to avoid the models with a reputation for poor performance, like the Poulan Pro P46ZX, Swisher ZTR2454BS, Husqvarna Z254, and Troy-Bilt TB225. After extensively testing these mowers and gathering customer feedback, one thing is clear – they fail to deliver the power, maneuverability, reliability, and durability that homeowners expect. Their flaws range from underpowered engines to flimsy construction to frustrating steering and handling issues. While they may seem affordable upfront, they will cost you in the long run through constant repairs, spotty cutting quality, and limited lifespan. Investing in a higher-quality zero turn mower from trusted brands like John Deere, Scag, and Exmark is worth the added cost for years of uninterrupted service. Do your research to determine which models consistently satisfy customers and fit your needs. Avoid buying the lemons, and you’ll be rewarded with a zero turn mower that makes lawn maintenance an enjoyable task, not a headache.