Our beloved lawn tractors have a variety of uses. One of the most common is towing trailers, attachments, etc for getting stuff done on the farm or around the yard. But how much is too much for your lawn mower to pull?
In general, a typical riding lawn mower’s towing capacity is between 290lbs and 580lbs. This is determined by applying a general rule of thumb that a lawn mowers towing capacity is about 50-100% the weight of mower + operator.
Here are examples with some of the most popular riding mowers:
|Tractor||Weight||Average Human||50% Total||100% Total|
|Cub Cadet – XT1||410||137||273.5||547|
|John Deere – E120||420||137||278.5||557|
|Troy-Bilt – Bronco||495||137||316||632|
|Husqvarna – YTH18542||490||137||313.5||627|
|Poulan Pro – PP19A42||402||137||269.5||539|
|Craftsman – T210||510||137||323.5||647|
Obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into determining what is the exact capacity for your specific tractor and towing setup. I’ll go over some of the main factors in the rest of this article.
Tow Capacity Factors
Towing capacity can be difficult to calculate if you’re looking to be exact. Not only are there a number of factors like your engine specs, transmission specs, and trailer specs, but also the terrain you’re towing on. Cub Cadet’s support team summed it up pretty well:
This is a more complicated issue than it might appear, because “towing capacity” is more of a sales specification than a technical specification.
If you picture yourself pushing a 300 lb. wheelbarrow full of dirt, you may think that your “pushing capacity” was at least 300 lbs, but I doubt you would be able to push 300 pounds if it were on a flat sled with no wheels on rough ground. That is a simple analogy explaining why we don’t use towing capacity as a technical specification.Cub Cadet Support Team
That being said, let’s dive into some of the towing capacity determining factors to give you a better idea of what your mower can pull in your specific application.
The first thing I recommend doing is opening up your owner’s manual and flipping to the page that talks about towing. The owner’s manual for your machine should generally be the first place you check as it will be advice specifically tailored to your machines make and model.
Each tractor and trailer are different. For example, some mowers will recommend not towing anything at all with them. Other more heavy-duty or commercial options will tow just about anything you throw at them. That being said, let’s look into some of the more general factors that relate to all mower setups.
The terrain you are towing on can greatly impact your tractor’s performance. Here are some examples:
- Hills/Inclines – Towing up a hill will effectively increase the load on your tractor and ultimately lead to it being able to tow less than the max you would be able to on level ground. Try to avoid inclines with a slope greater than 10% all together to help avoid damaging your mower. Most owner manuals should contain a slope guide that can be referred to for your specific model of tractor.
- Downhill/Declines – Towing downhill will effectively lessen the pulling required for the load, yes, but it can get dangerous if you don’t have the appropriate braking power and give yourself enough distance to come to a complete stop when needed. Always take extra levels of caution when towing downhill.
- Wet/muddy – The ground being wet and muddy while towing can cause you to lose traction while towing. Towing through mud (and the resistance on your wheels that comes with it) can effectively decreasing your towing capacity as well.
- Rugged/Uneven – Towing on rugged and uneven terrain will mostly have an impact on the quality and smoothness of the ride. But at the same time, your tractor having to pull the load over and through obstacles on uneven terrain can lead to stress on your mower and result in you ultimately being able to tow less.
Horsepower or Torque?
There is definitely a debate for what is more important when towing – horsepower or torque? At the end of the day, both are important when towing with a lawn mower (and trucks!) but they both have separate purposes.
In this case, torque is more important. When searching for riding lawn mowers to use for towing applications, make sure to go for one with a higher torque rating when possible.
Transmissions play a large role when it comes to pulling with a tractor. You will want to make sure when towing larger loads (350+ lbs) you will not want to depress the forward travel pedal no more than halfway to avoid transmission damage. Always run a tractor at full throttle when PTO is engaged and you are towing loads.
Classic farmer logic is “if you can get it moving, you’re fine”. While I appreciate the commitment to getting the job done, that’s only half of what the saying should be. Making sure you can brake and come to a complete stop when necessary (ESPECIALLY when towing downhill) is extremely important.
Residential lawn and garden tractors most commonly have a transaxle disc-brake stem designed for only the weight of the tractor on slight grades. Add in a heavy load and a downward slope, you could be in trouble. Make sure your brakes are up to par and test accordingly before giving them a heavy workload.
Safety should always be the top priority when operating equipment and towing with your lawn mower is no different. Here are 10 of the most important aspects to look out for to make sure you are towing with a tractor safely.
- Stopping – Yes, we just covered braking ability, but it’s so important I’m kicking this list off with it. Your stopping distance will be increased with the weight of and speed of what you’re towing. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to stop.
- Neutral – Be very cautious not to put your tractor in neutral when on a decline. And try to not coast at all when towing.
- Turning Sharply – Turning can be very different when towing a heavy load. Make sure you keep your head on a swivel and are paying attention when turning on adverse terrain.
- Do not allow children (or other people) on or in your equipment when operating.
- Hitches and accessories – Make sure you are only using hitches that are approved for use with your specific tractor. It is not recommended you attach towing equipment anywhere except for the approved hitching point.
- Manufacturers Recommendations – Always make sure to read your owners manual and follow any specific manufacturers safety recommendations for your specific machine.
At the end of the day, you should always be referring to your machine’s owners manual for specific recommendations when it comes to towing. Each lawn mower can be different and unique in their own ways. Nobody knows them better than the people who built them.