My venture into Commercial Mowing with a Gravely Mower

I decided recently that I am going to use some of my free time during the day to start a small business mowing and trimming lawns commercially. I decided that if I was going to do this I should most likely pick up a commercial grade mower – something that will stand the test of time and handle the rigorous use that a commercial mowing business would place on a piece of equipment.

After quite a bit of research I decided to go with Gravely as they’re made in the U.S.A. and Gravely is owned by Ariens. I have had an Ariens snow blower for many years that has been solid and reliable. I have, fortunately, never had to reach out to Ariens for support as the machine simply works and hasn’t given me any issues.

On Friday, May 6th, 2022 I called a local Gravely dealership and inquired about a Gravely ZT HD 52. In talking to the dealership I told them that I wanted to get the roll-over protection system, or ROPS, as well as the suspension forks. The dealer informed me that the Gravely Pro-Turn Z 52 comes with those features for a little less than it would cost to add those upgrades to the HD model and that it’s a true commercial mower and is a better decision.

Admittedly this is my first ever zero-turn mower and at the time of purchase I had never driven or operated one before. I was aware that I needed to check forward movement to make sure that with the controls full forward the machine drives in a straight line. That said my inexperience resulted in me not checking reverse for the same thing – even power and range of motion in the controls in reverse.

That same day, May 6th, I mowed my yard with the new Gravely mower successfully. I took my time as I was not yet used to the controls and I was not running at full speed (I was at full throttle, just not using the full range of the controls). The next day I cut my yard again a half inch lower and this time I was more comfortable and able to go full speed. I noticed something odd this time around – the machine seemed to turn left in reverse faster than it turns right.

With the controls pulled fully to the rear the machine would turn to the left – the right control had about 3 to 4 more inches of travel than the left. This may not sound like a lot but on a zero-turn the controls are very touchy and even a small adjustment can make a huge difference.

This is what the controls looked like in full reverse – with the controls pulled back as far as they would go:

Both of these controls should come back to the same place. The right has far more travel in reverse than the left and there is no adjustment for reverse.

If it isn’t obvious – both of those controls should line up horizontally – the right one should not be able to travel further back than the left.

By the time I realized this it was late on a Saturday and the dealership was closed until Monday. I stopped by the dealership early in the morning on Monday – around 9 AM – and explained the situation. The service technician from the dealership got on the mower and immediately identified that the machine did not drive in a straight line in reverse and that the travel of the controls was not matched.

The technician pulled the mower in and then very quickly met me at the counter and informed me that there is no adjustment for reverse. They told me that they were going to get in contact with Gravely and would let me know what they said. I was told it could be a couple of days and I told them that it wasn’t an issue and asked if they wanted me to take it and bring it back or leave it with them. They said I could leave it with them so I did.

A couple of hours later I got a call from the dealership telling me that the mower was “fixed” and when I asked over the phone what was done the person on the phone told me that they didn’t know. I said I would be there shortly. I had a suspicion that rather than increasing the travel of the left side control they had limited the travel of the right side control effectively slowing the machine down in reverse.

I arrived at the dealer about 2 hours later and my suspicion that they had limited the travel of the right control was confirmed when I inspected the right control and found this newly drilled, tapped, and installed bolt:

A “fix” on a brand new $7,000 mower that required drilling and tapping a hole and installing a new bolt.

The vertical bolt where you see an allen socket is the forward stop and is OEM/stock. The horizontal flat-head screw and nut that you see were added by the dealership to limit the travel of the right control to match the left. To be honest I’m not really happy with this “fix” as it’s another point for rust and corrosion and honestly I feel that such a “fix” shouldn’t be necessary.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a top-of-the-line Gravely mower but it is actually the lowest end fully commercial zero-turn mower that Gravely offers. That isn’t to say it’s not up to the job or anything of the sort – it’s still a $7,000 mower. I would not expect this kind of ‘repair’ on a brand new commercial mower.

In the meantime I have test ridden several other zero-turn mowers from other manufacturers and none of them have had this issue in reverse. They all drive either perfectly straight or very nearly perfectly in reverse and the controls have the same range of travel from the left side to the right.

What’s worse is that the dealership said they had another brand new Pro-Turn Z that they checked and the left control has less range of motion than the right on that unit as well. Additionally when I posted in the “Gravely zero turn mower support group.” on Facebook several other users reported their units also had this same issue.

I’ll be straightforward – I really hate talking on the phone so I searched for alternative ways to reach out to Gravely for support. I registered a user account on Gravely.com and signed in and clicked the “Contact Us” option in the portal which landed me on a “This site can’t be reached,” error. With my background in web hosting I investigated this and it turns out that “support.gravely.com” resolves to a cname that resolves to another cname that doesn’t resolve at all.

Gravely’s support.gravely.com broken / down.

As I could not contact Gravely via their official support channel I reached out to them on their Facebook Page by sending them a message. I sent my message at 12:53 AM ET and it is now 1:38 PM ET and the message still has not been read much less responded to. I posted my message directly to their Facebook page only for it to be removed within minutes. I do not know if anyone read it before removing it but I suspect not.

I get it – it’s their page and they can control the content. Then again I’m a customer and I can choose not to ever purchase another Gravely machine again if this is the sort of experience I am going to have with Gravely if I ever need to reach out. Who knows how long their support system has been down and I’m going to keep an eye for how quickly “ASAP” really is when it comes to getting it back online.

To be honest if this was not my first zero-turn mower and I had known to test reverse full speed as well as forward – I’d have caught this issue before signing over a check for over $7,000 and I’d never have purchased this machine. I would have gone with any of the numerous other brands I test drove after discovering this issue that do not behave this way in reverse.

At minimum I just wanted to submit my feedback that they should add adjustable reverse stops so that issues like this can be ‘fixed’ without having to modify the machine by drilling holes and adding bolts. I don’t expect Gravely to really do anything about this but apologize for my experience.

It would be great if they wanted to work with me to get me onto another mower that didn’t have this issue and traveled full speed in reverse as advertised and marketed but I honestly have no expectation that this would happen. This unit is advertised as doing 8 MPH forward and 3 MPH in reverse and I suspect that it no longer reaches 3 MPH in reverse due to both controls now no longer having the full range of travel in reverse.

I understand that most people deal with issues over the phone – I prefer text-based mediums [email, messenger, live chat, help-desk, etc]. I’ve found that when I call in for support in many places I end up having to re-explain the issue over and over as I get transferred from person to person or department to department.

I’m not going to give up on Gravely just yet – I’m going to give them some time to reach out to me / address this but how they handle this will determine if my next mower is a Gravely or not. I was already looking at a Pro-Stance 32″ so that I do not have to push-mow yards with gates that are too small for a 52″ mower to fit through and had already talked to the dealership about ordering one in.

I guess time will tell whether or not Gravely values my business and feedback and how much they stand behind their products and how well they handle defects. Very clearly this mower had this issue new out of the box. Perhaps Gravely just feels this is a non-issue in which case my next mower purchase as my small business grows will not be a Gravely.

Update 1 – 05/11/2022

Gravely did finally respond to my message on Facebook and asked for the model number, serial number, as well as the details to the dealer so they could reach out to them about it. Here is what I said:

Sure thing, give me a moment.

To be clear I am not angry with them / do not wish to get them in trouble or cause them harm.  I feel they were just doing their best to get me back onto the mower as fast as they could.  My larger concern is that this kind of ‘fix’ had to be performed at all.

I’m not really reaching out to you because I am unhappy with the dealership.  I’m reaching out because in my honest opinion this shouldn’t be necessary at all.  Realistically either these should be built so that they stop at the same place in reverse from the factory or there should be some sort of adjustment.  As I said I test drove several other makes/models over the last few days and no other model from any other manufacturer behaved this way out of the box – it’s … unexpected / strange.

I didn’t expect them to do anything for me to be honest but I wanted to at minimum reach out to them to make them aware of this apparent defect. As thanks for reaching out they offered to send me a hat. I asked for a bottle of Gravely red touch-up paint so that I can touch up the area where the modification was performed.

Hi Michael.  We appreciate your feedback.  I do apologize for the tracking issue you experienced with your new machine.  Would it be ok to send you a hat since you took time to contact us and make us aware of the issue?  Thanks again for working through this issue with us!

Gravely via Facebook Messenger

I suspect they’ll have no issues sending me some touch-up paint but they have yet to respond to that request at this time. The next time I purchase a commercial mower, which I was already planning on doing, I will definitely make sure to test reverse as well as forward before I sign a check over although if it’s not a Gravely mower I suspect it’ll be a non-issue as none of the others I tested in the last few days have had this issue.

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