A mower deck is the main ‘body’ of a mower. It protects the engine and the user from the blades and the debris that follow. So, if it gets damaged, you need to replace it right away.
There’s just one problem: what if your mower manufacturer doesn’t sell mower deck replacements? Can you use another deck for your mower? Are mower decks interchangeable?
Are Lawn Mower Decks Interchangeable?
While not necessarily universal, lawn mower decks are mostly interchangeable. Mower parts are usually built by the same company but sold under a different name, so lawn mower components, like the engine and the decks, can be replaced with a similar-sized model of a different brand with little to no problem.
Unlike engines, which come in different HP and power, mower decks are nothing but protective covers. In addition, they’re not powered by electricity, so they rarely cause issues when it comes to replacements. Just pay attention to the deck’s size and material; if it matches your current mower deck, there’s a high chance that it fits.
Before you go buying a random part from Amazon, it’s worth browsing through the available replacement parts your mower’s manufacturer has to avoid complications.
You don’t necessarily need to search for your lawn mower’s model. Usually, manufacturers use the same decks for multiple models. For instance, John Deere uses the same mower deck for over 50 different models, including those that belong to the Z3, Z5, Z7, E1, and X3 series.
With that said, keep in mind that mower decks sometimes come in slightly different deck forms. For example, some are square, while others are round or oblong-shaped. But as long as the replacement deck matches the size and shape of your old mower deck, it’ll work as a decent replacement.
If push comes to shove, you may need to get creative and drill additional bolt holes into the mower for the replacement deck. You might also have to replace the mower blade to match the dimensions of the new deck.
How Do You Measure a Mower Deck?
Mower deck measurements are usually written in the manufacturer’s guidebook. If you’ve misplaced the guide or no longer have it, you’ll have to measure the mower deck with a measuring tape manually.
Using a measuring tape, extend the tape from the broadest point on one side to the other, from right to left or left to right. Secure the end of the measuring tape and note the size.
Then, run the tape again along with the topmost point of the deck from front to back or vice versa. If you multiply both numbers, you’ll get the area of the mower deck.
What Size Mower Deck Should You Get?
Ideally, the replacement mower deck should match the size and shape of the old mower deck.
However, the width of the deck is sometimes dependent on how much grass you plan to mow. Usually, the larger the lawn, the wider the required mower deck size. Since larger decks allow you to make lesser passes across the lawn, the time needed for mowing is decreased.
Some manufacturers estimate that a 42-inch deck mounted on a standard garden mower mows around 1 acre of lawn in about an hour. If you replace the 42-inch deck with a 46-inch deck, the time spent mowing the lawn reduces by around 10%. A 50-inch deck reduces the cutting time by 17%.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should buy the biggest available mower deck to replace your old mower deck.
A larger deck doesn’t automatically mean faster mowing time. If your lawn has a lot of obstructions, trees, and flowerbeds, you’ll have a hard time navigating a large mower deck. The same is said if your lawn has several landscape features to mow around, like ponds, archways, pools, and the like.
In such cases, it’s better to buy a smaller deck as it’ll be easier to maneuver. Just make sure the replacement deck isn’t smaller than your original deck.
As a general rule of thumb, a 40-inch mower deck is suited for a small, 1/2-acre lawn. On the other hand, a 42 to a 48-inch deck works well with lawns over the 1/2-acre mark. If your lawn is 3 acres or larger, a 50-inch deck is appropriate.
Can You Put a Bigger Deck On Your Mower?
As long as it’s of the same style, you can put a bigger deck on your mower.
Be warned, though: using an incorrect deck size risks premature wear and engine failure. Because of this, don’t exceed the largest deck size available in the original manufacturing line.
For example, if your mower model comes in 40, 42, and 46-inch deck sizes and you own the 40-inch model, the maximum replacement deck is 46-inches.
What’s the Best Material for a Mower Deck?
When browsing for mower deck replacements, you’ll come across three different material types: plastic (PVC, polythene, polypropylene, etc.), aluminum alloy, and steel.
Plastic decks are affordable, entry-level decks with decent durability. They’re not as tough as steel or aluminum alloy, but they last a proper amount of time.
Higher quality plastic decks, like those made with high-density polyethylene, are impact and abrasion-resistant, making them tougher than regular plastic decks.
Aside from the cost, plastic decks are popular because they’re corrosion and weather-resistant. Plus, they’re relatively lightweight, so they don’t add to the total weight of your mower.
Before plastic polymers were popularized, most lawn mowers were equipped with steel decks. Today, steel decks are usually only found in petrol-powered mowers and high-end models used for commercial purposes.
Steel is valued for its strength. Because it’s so tough, it’s well-suited for the more rigorous demands of tougher mowing tasks and larger lawns.
While most are pretty thick, you’ll occasionally come across thinner stamped steel decks. Thin steel decks are popular among homeowners because they’re light and work well with regular mowing jobs.
Steel decks are electroplated, galvanized, or treated with powder paint to avoid corrosion and other environmental damage. It is also the most impact-resistant of all three materials. It absorbs impact damage with little to no issues.
Aluminum alloy is the most expensive and premium choice of all three options. However, it’s the best of both worlds, featuring high strength, durability, and corrosion resistance. Furthermore, it’s about a third of the weight of steel, so it’s about as light as poly plastic.
Although not as impact resistant as steel, aluminum alloy decks are made from premium components. This makes them hard-wearing and long-lasting. Of course, the fact that they’re recyclable doesn’t hurt, either.
Mower Deck vs. Cutting Deck: What’s the Difference?
Cutting decks and mower decks are the exact same thing. There’s no difference between the two; they’re just two phrases that describe the chassis of a mower.
Note that when manufacturers list the cutting deck size of the product, they’re referring to the cutting width of the deck. It’s the actual width of grass that’s cut from the outside blade of one side of the deck to the other.
The majority of mower decks are interchangeable. However, before you buy the first replacement deck you get your hands on, make sure the replacement deck and your original deck are the same size and shape.
Measure the actual width of the replacement deck before you purchase it for your mower to make sure it’ll fit your original one. And as much as possible, purchase a replacement mower deck from the same manufacturer as your current mower.