Saturday, November 17, 2012

Swisher Trailcutter Tow-Behind Mower

I've often talked about my tow-behind mower, or the "big mower", as I most often refer to it. Since i had purchased the mower well before starting the blog I've not gotten around to doing a post about  it. I thought that it was well past due, however.

The mower is a Swisher 44" 12.5 HP Rough Cut Tow-Behind Trailcutter. I've had the mower for approximately 8 months. If I had known I was going to buy a tractor, I most likely would not have purchased the mower, and would have just bought a PTO-driven mower instead. In fact, the reason I started considering the purchase of a tractor was because a mower for it would have been cheaper than a mower with its own engine. At the time, however, I couldn't justify buying a tractor just to save a few hundred dollars on a mower. Now that I have both, I plan to keep the mower, as the tractor is a bit too big to use for mowing the yard anyway.

Swisher makes several different mowers, with several different options available. Initially I was looking at the TrailMower, which is the lowest price option. After looking at them in person, and reading reviews, however, I quickly realized it was not built for what I need. I needed a sturdy built roughcut mower, that would stand up to a bit of abuse. If money had been no object, I likely would have gone with one of the AcrEase mowers that are made by Kunz Engineering. One of the comparisons I read between the two mowers stated that the AcrEase is three times the mower for twice the price of a Swisher. The cost, however, was something that I had to consider, and so far I'm pleased with my decision.

The Trailcutter that I purchased has a 12.5 HP Briggs & Stratton engine and 44" deck. More expensive models have larger engines, larger decks, and some have electric start, although starting the mower with the rope is so easy I don't see where that is needed. The mower can be offset from the tow vehicle, although I always leave it in one position. For some reason neither the website nor the manual for the mower list the cutting height, but instead just indicate that there is a 4" range. I find that I most often use the mower set to its lowest position, for mowing the yard, or highest position, for mowing around the garden, across the road, or when clearing a new area.

The thing that I like best about the Swisher Trailcutter is that I am able to mow the yard with it, in addition to mowing the other areas that I've mentioned. However, I want to make it clear that this isn't going to be the case for most other people. The reason this works in my situation is that we have, what I like to call, a natural lawn. We make no attempt at keeping the yard nicely manicured, like many people do. If the lawn is a bit uneven when I finish mowing, that's perfectly acceptable to us. I realize that for most people, however, this may not be the case. Also, I prefer not mowing the grass very short, so the lowest setting on the mower, which seems to leave the grass approximately 3" tall, woks well. For the sake of comparison, I looked up the specifications of a random push mower, and found that the cutting height range was 1.25" to 3.75", which seems to support my theory that most people mow their lawn shorter than the 3" that the Trailcutter provides.

There are several other things, in addition to being able to mow the yard, that I like about the Trailcutter. It is a rear discharge mower, which means that in most situations the clippings get spread out evenly, instead of leaving rows of clippings like a side discharge mower would. There are cases where this still happens, however, but that is generally only in really tall or wet grass or weeds. The fact that the mower has a stump jumper with break away blades is also a big benefit, although, luckily, I've yet to test that feature. I've hit a few obstacles, but so far nothing that really required use of the stump jumper.

There are also a few things about the mower that I'm not a fan of. First is that the cable for the remote console, which controls the blade engagement and allows the engine to be shut off, is too short. It is made to be mounted on the rear rack of an ATV, but the cable is shorter than the tongue of the mower, making that impossible. I've had to just leave it sitting on the body of the mower, with a piece of wire to keep it from sliding off on uneven terrain. Also, the mower is very long. I realize that having the long tongue provides some advantages, but when hooked behind the RTV the whole rig is approximately 20' long, which can make it difficult to maneuver in some areas. I tend to use the four-wheeler instead of the RTV when mowing the yard, since it is shorter, but the length of the mower itself, still makes for some tight turns.

I have had a couple of issues with the mower since purchasing it. The first was a bent height adjustment rod, which I should have noticed before buying, as it was already bent. Since I hadn't noticed it, though, I replaced it with a new one. Unfortunately the diagram wasn't clear, at least to me, and I installed it incorrectly. I was lucky that I had no problems while mowing, because as I was adjusting the height one day, the nut holding the adjustment rod in place came off and the mower dropped to the ground. Had I been mowing, especially with any speed, that could have caused some damage. I finally took some pictures of another mower in the store to use as a reference to reassemble the adjustment mechanism, and haven't had any problems since. The other issue I had was with the belt that drives the blades. As I was mowing one day I suddenly saw smoke coming from the mower. I quickly shut it off, and just parked for the day. I thought that the belt had probably come loose, but later found that wasn't the case. In fact, the next time I started the mower, there was no smoke, and I've had no issues since. My guess is that the belt was rubbing on something, which caused the smoke, and that when I disengaged the blades, the loosening of the tension on the belt allowed it to move back into its normal position. I plan to pick up an extra belt, though, just to have on hand, as I expect I will have to eventually replace it.

After using the mower more times than I can count during the past 8 months I can confidently say that it was a good purchase. Yes, I've had a few problems, and yes there are things that I do not like, but my overall experience has been a positive one. The cost of the mower was comparable to a riding mower, but is much more capable than a riding mower would be, at least for what I need. I anticipate that I will be using the Swisher Trailcutter for many years to come.


  1. Have you ever tried to store that mower vertically. perhaps hung from a wall? Curious if you have what your experience was.

  2. No, I have never attempted to store this way. The fluids would need to be drained first, I'm sure. But i see no reason it wouldn't work once that was done. It was save a lot of space.