By Donna Dolinar, Wyandotte County Extension Master Gardener since 2006
It is always nice to work smarter, not harder. It is also nice to get full value out of your investments. This includes putting your riding mower to do more than just cut the grass. With a hitch on your lawn tractor, you can attach a utility cart, a spreader, or other tools like dethatchers.
Before you get too excited, you need to determine the towing capacity of your mower. Most rider mowers that are purchased from big box or hardware stores are not designed for heavy work. Lawn tractors purchased from dealers are sturdier, but still have limits. If you are unsure, call the manufacturer and speak with someone who has the technical expertise you need. Be sure to have the model of your mower so you can get accurate information. Tell them what you anticipate towing and for what distances. While you have them on the phone, find out if they have any recommendations for the best hitch to use with your machine.
Knowing the limits is critical. If you exceed your machine’s capabilities, it will probably cause serious damage. Repairing or replacing a transmission is not cheap, nor is having to buy an entire new mower.
There are different manufacturers of ball hitches. Some are easier to install than others. These are some general guidelines and you should realize that some of the steps may differ from type to type.
After you order or buy the hitch, open the package and make sure you have all the components listed on the instructions. Read the instructions and see if there is anything not included in the package that you will need. Before you begin, be sure you have all the right tools to assemble and attach the ball hitch.
Pre-Assemble the Hitch – Attach a set of brace arms to the body of the hitch using bolts, flat washers and lock nut. Tighten but not too much. If the brace arms pivot well, you are okay.
Connect the Hitch to the Mower – Bolt the hitch to the trailer mounting hole, including flat washers and lock nut. Tighten to the point that it is snug but can still pivot side to side.
Drill – Line up the brace arms to the rear of the mower. Mark the place you will drill. Measure more than once and mark the place clearly. Once you put the hole in, there is no going back. Be sure to use the correct size drill bit so that the holes will be the correct size. Be sure you have enough room when you are drilling to avoid errors or accidents.
Install – Align the brace arms with the holes you just drilled. Secure the hitch with bolts, washers and nuts.
Check – Be sure everything is tight.
- Always work in a well lighted and ventilated space.
- It is best to assemble and attach the mechanism working with a responsible adult. That gives you a second set of eyes to be sure you are not making mistakes. It also gives you someone who can tote and fetch tools as you need them. Most importantly, it is someone to call for assistance if things go awry.
- Always wear protective gear during the installation. That includes gloves and eye protection.
- If you become tired, frustrated, or distracted, leave the project. That is exactly the time when accidents happen or mistakes are made. Return to it when you are in the right mindset.
- If you are not particularly handy, have to spend significant money on tools you don’t have on hand, or are concerned about anything, hire it done. Call your local mower repair shop and see if they have any recommendations.
- Always look at all the parts before starting out. If anything is bent or rusty, replace it before use.
- Use care when driving the tractor and towing anything, especially a lawn cart or trailer. Inclines, downgrades, and sharp turns can turn ugly with little notice. Turning may take a little practice because it is all too easy to tip over your load, or, worse, tipping the entire mower over.