Why isn't my John Deere tractor bagging grass any more?
September 4, 2013 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I bought a new house recently, and with it came a John Deere L110 tractor that the previous owner had kept in great condition even though it's 8 years old. I bumped the tube that transports the grass into the catcher-bags last week, and now it doesn't bag any more. I've googled and googled, and read the manual, and been completely and embarassingly unable to get the grass into the bag again. Is this common? What causes it? Any help would be wildly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by um_maverick to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you clarify how you bumped the tube? Are all of the catches to secure the tube intact? Were you mowing at the time?

I have worked with a similar grass-catcher (not your grass-catcher, so YMMV), and have found several no-fill culprits:

1. Wet grass.
2. Wet grass clogging the blades under the deck (nothing for it but to jack up the machine and de-clot the blades by hand).
3. Wet/overabundant grass clogging the tube (I take the tube off and reach in and clear it out with my arm until I can see daylight when looking through it).
4. Forgetting to drop the damn deck. This may have happened more than once.

tl; dr: Are you sure that you're not suffering from a clog?

My husband, OTOH, is suggesting a potential problem with the impeller.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

All of the above and also make sure it completely encloses the discharge opening on the deck. And "air" leak at that seal kills the "push up the tube power" which isn't much to start with.
posted by mss at 7:53 PM on September 4, 2013

Can you clarify what it's doing instead of bagging?
posted by hattifattener at 9:58 PM on September 4, 2013

You might also need to wash the collection bags, if they're made of the typical mesh fabric that so many grass catcher bags are. You can do that fairly effectively with just a garden hose sprayer, but every now and then, a pressure washer set for fairly low pressure, or a trip to the car wash with the mesh bags, really pays off in getting out stubborn buildup of clippings and dirt in the bag mesh. The mesh gets clogged with dust and fine clippings fairly easily, and this creates back pressure against the flow of air created by the mower blades. It doesn't take much restriction anywhere in the system, from mower blade to bag, to rapidly cut down on the effectiveness of bagging.

The mower blades (and the deck housing within which they operate) only create a couple pounds per square inch of head pressure, but they do so with hundreds of cubic feet of air flow per minute, when everything is working right. And it is flow, more than pressure, that moves grass clippings to the collection bags. Anything that even slightly restricts air flow greatly reduces the effectiveness of bagging.

But that really brings up the obvious question of "Should I bag or mulch the clippings?" Down here in Florida, I bag in early spring and late fall, when there isn't enough direct sun energy to rapidly break down the clippings between weekly or bi-weekly mowing. In the heat of June, July, and August, mulching saves thousands of gallons of water, and a ton of fertilizer, as well as waste collection. But in the off season, when I don't mow as frequently due to slower grass growth, mulching tends to clog mowers, and leave unsightly clumps of dead clippings laying on top of the cut grass which are very slow to decompose, creating yellow or dead spots in the lawn due to spot shading, so bagging is preferable.
posted by paulsc at 10:25 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmmmm.... A light dawns.

My wife doesn't like all the dust blowing out of the grass catcher on our riding mower, so she spread out an old towel behind the seat that reaches over the top of the buckets. Now the cut grass doesn't go up the tube to the buckets, instead just falling down onto the lawn as soon as it's cut.

I have hosed out the tube, but not yet cleaned the underside of the deck. I would be delighted if the fix is as simple as pulling off the towel.

Thank you, MetaFilter!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:27 AM on September 5, 2013

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