The term "all-wheel drive" suggests cars that drive more safely, with wheels keeping their grip on slippery roads. Husqvarna extends the concept for its self-propelled mower with all-wheel drive, the Husqvarna HU800AWD, $500. The company claims it offers, "balance and power to all four wheels in hilly, uneven terrain and other tough mowing conditions." Consumer Reports put the mower to the test in our tough mowing tests of 120 walk-behind mowers, tractors and riders.
When Tropical Storm Andrea roared up the East Coast recently dropping buckets of rain, it underscored the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's forecast that 2013 will have an extremely active hurricane season with 13 to 20 named storms. And since we still have letters B through Z to go, there's no better time to buy a new generator or make sure the one you have now is working properly.
Promising mowers that "turn on a dime and save time," Toro is touting claims that its Timecutter SS zero-turn radius mowers can reduce mowing time by 45 percent. In an online demonstration a Timecutter, which can can reach ground speeds of seven miles per hour, makes quick work of a field of grass, cutting around several obstacles along the way. But the mowing testers at Consumer Reports say, not so fast. Mowing at a slower speed typically gets better results.
When Consumer Reports' mower testers heard about the speedy Raven MPV-710 lawn tractor with a built-in generator, they were excited to put it through its mowing paces. But it's been a bumpy ride for the $3,000 hybrid tractor. Shortly after our tests Lowe's, the exclusive retailer, halted sales when the manufacturer, Denver Global Products, found a flaw that allowed the blade to spin when it wasn't engaged. More problems followed and with the Consumer Product Safety Commission possibly looking into its safety issues, the Raven's future is uncertain.
What dangers lurk in your backyard? Especially for young children, the risks range from the obvious (mowers and tractors) to the unexpected (poisonous plants). Here are the major danger zones—and how to minimize your child's risk this summer:
The best you can hope for when shopping for a riding mower is a solidly built, top-performing machine that doesn't leave you feeling clipped on the price. This year, in fact, we have two such models in our lawn tractor tests—a pair of zero-turn-radius mowers from MTD's Troy-Bilt brand that we named CR Best Buys.
Even a top-performing walk-behind mower, lawn tractor, or rider won't make your lawn the belle of the block if your mowing is too random. Here are some tips for smarter use of your mower or riding machine, along with some finishing touches to help your yard look its best before you fire up the grill this Memorial Day weekend.
At Consumer Reports, we strongly recommend that any walk-behind mower you buy have a premium engine. These engines, with their more efficient overhead-valve designs, run cleaner and quieter, and are easier to maintain. And the engines have better odds of lasting through the years. Of course, even with a good engine you need a mower that matches the size of your lawn and the type of grass you grow.
John Deere lawn tractors and riders have figured prominently in Consumer Reports' mower tests, and this year's Deere lineup—including at least one newly tested winner—shows that the company is responding well to increased competition from the likes of MTD's Cub Cadet and Troy-Bilt brands.
Six months ago Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to millions in the Northeast and the homes of Consumer Reports readers were no exception. When we spoke to 8,389 of our subscribers who live in the affected areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, 76 percent said they lost power for at least a day and the median number of days without power was seven. A fortunate few, 19 percent, used generators during the outage and, in part, because of the unavailability of fuel, those who owned portable models fared worse than those with stationary models.
Consumer Reports recently went to a Paramus, New Jersey, Home Depot to buy a chain saw for an upcoming test, using secret shoppers just as we do with everything from cars and refrigerators to detergent and toilet paper to avoid skewing our results. But when our incognito shopper opened the box of the $159 Homelite UT10589A chain saw, he found a worn, loose blade covered with sawdust and accompanied by leaking bottles of oil.
When Consumer Reports mower testers put new models through their paces in Fort Myers, Florida, each year they look not only for good mowing performance but improved cutting and bagging over models tested in previous years. This season, the newly designed line of walk-behind mowers from Ariens, which had done no better than mediocre in previous tests, impressed our engineers enough that two models were named to our list of top mower picks by our testers.
Superstorm Sandy blew down more trees in New York and New Jersey than any previous storm on record, experts say. And since then there have been several damaging storms across the nation, including one yesterday that knocked down many trees in the Southeast. So it's no wonder that chain saws are flying off the shelves of the home improvement stores. We discovered this when Consumer Reports was buying its own batch for new testing, including models from Stihl, Craftsman, Oregon and Worx, among other brands.
Almost six months after Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal communities from Cuba to the Mid-Atlantic, her name has been retired from the official list of Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone names. That's what happens when a storm is so deadly or so costly that using the name again would be confusing or insensitive. Sandy joins a list of 77 such storms that includes Katrina, Rita, Irene, Andrew and Gloria. Causing an estimated $50 billion in damage and 147 deaths, Sandy was the second costliest storm, after Katrina, to hit the U.S.
For northerners that lovely time of year between shoveling snow and mowing the lawn is about to end. And now, before the blades of grass reach an unsightly height, is the best time to make sure your mower is in working order. If you put it away in a rush last fall and didn't do it properly, you may be in for a rude awakening or a trip to the repair shop. Here's how to make sure you can fire up your mower and keep it running smoothly through the season.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: