It is a super-compact, 2-wheel (single axle), walk behind version of a 4-wheel farm tractor, made with the same automotive-style construction (automotive type clutch, all gear and shaft drive) and versatility (accepting many different implements) that you would find in a farm/utility tractor. An additional feature of the walk-behind tractors we offer is their ability to have the handlebars fully “reversed” to give the tractor front OR rear-PTO capability. For example: soil working implements are used in the REAR-PTO mode (with the implement behind the tractor), so tire tracks are eliminated, while mowers, snowblowers, etc. are operated in FRONT-PTO mode (with the implement in front of the tractor), which allows the implement to do it’s work (mow, blow snow, etc.) before the wheels roll over the material.
Many names are used to describe the same machine: Walk-behind tractor, 2-wheel tractor, single-axle tractor, hand tractor, walking tractor, pedestrian tractor, pedestrian controlled tractor, foot tractor. We have chosen “walk-behind tractor” simply because it seems the most accurate and descriptive.
For small farms and properties, steep terrain, or rough areas, walk-behind tractors simply make more sense from several standpoints: 1. Size; 2. Cost; 3. Safety; 4. Efficiency; 5. Versatility. Even on larger farms/properties or even in cities, Walk-behind tractors have a place due to their extremely compact nature and versatility. For example:
- Many small-scale farms have found that it is not only possible, but desirable to use a walk-behind tractor for their main motorized farm equipment. When farming at a small scale, the relatively low purchase cost of a walk-behind tractor & implements (compared to a 4-wheel tractor & implements) help the farm become profitable much more quickly, and crops can be planted much more densely / steeper areas can be used when you have a relatively small, stable machine to maneuver.
- Even on larger market farms where 4-wheel tractors perform the initial field prep, 2-wheel tractors increase the efficiency of the operation by being able to perform inter-bed work within the growing season without damaging surrounding crops, requiring lots of room for maneuvering or creating excessive soil compaction.
- Several larger farms we deal with use walk-behind tractors exclusively for maintaining the pathways between crops grown on black plastic mulch (in some cases cultivating, in others mowing).
- Many urban homeowners, frustrated by the disposable and/or single-purpose nature of lawn & garden equipment on the market today, have turned to walk-behind tractors to end the maintenance nightmare created by multiple engines powering cheaply-made seasonal machines. With a walk-behind tractor, you have a single commercial-grade power unit powering agricultural-grade implements. For an average homeowner, it will all last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Since the worst thing for an engine is to sit unused, the year-round uses of the walk-behind tractor eliminates many engine storage issues.
- Many large farms and even cities find uses for walk-behind tractors simply because 4-wheel “riding” equipment cannot go everywhere where work needs to be done. Whether it is mowing (under fences, in orchards, on lake dams, on Christmas tree farms, in woodlands or on trails, on steep slopes, on creek banks, in vineyards), soil working (vegetable and flower gardens, vineyards, landscaping, food plots), snow removal (around buildings, on sidewalks and pathways, on rooftops) or a host of other applications, these 2-wheel powerhouses find a place on an incredibly wide variety of properties either as primary equipment or complimenting larger equipment.
The tractors themselves, when outfitted with the proper wheel accessories (dual wheels, axle extensions, steel cage outriggers, etc.), could easily handle as much as 45 degree slopes. The real limiting factor, however, is the ENGINES. This is determined by the maximum angle of operation that the particular engine type will safely operate on before fuel flow and/or proper lubrication become an issue. Honda currently publishes that their GX series single-cylinder horizontal-crankshaft engines will operate on up to 20 degree angles continuously and 25 degrees non-continuously (since you are typically MOVING when doing work on a hillside with a walk-behind tractor [mowing, etc], the “non-continuous” figure applies.) HOWEVER, this figure is quite conservative, because they are calculating a worst-case scenario where the engine is only filled to the MINIMUM allowable amount of oil. What we have found is that if the oil level in a gas engine is kept at the MAXIMUM level, 30 degrees continuous or 35 degrees non-continuous is perfectly acceptable. Diesel engines will add about 5 degrees to these figures, since they have an oil pump. The twin-cylinder Briggs Vanguard engine on the new model 660 Hydro also has an oil pump, so it will match the steep-angle performance of the diesel.
One of the questions we get asked all the time is: “why would I choose a Diesel Engine?” Well, here are some reasons to mull over:
First, we’ll do diesel PROS:
- Properly maintained, a diesel engine can last 2 to 3 times as long as a gasoline engine. (This is why the diesels cost more … you are buying the extra “potential lifespan” up front.)
- In these small air-cooled engines, diesels use ½ to 1/3 the amount of fuel a gas engine consumes doing the same work. (This is where diesels can “pay off” … IF you’re using the tractor enough hours per year.)
- Diesel engines give the option of running lower-cost and/or environmentally friendlier BioDiesel fuel.
- Better low-speed torque on a diesel engine (Note that the diesel engine options on most of the tractors have a lower horsepower rating than the gas option … but from a working standpoint, the “working torque” averages close to the same as the gas. [The diesel has more torque at low engine speeds, but the gas has more torque at full engine speed.])
And, to be fair, here are some ‘CONS’ to the diesel engines:
- More noise than a gas engine
- More vibration than a gas engine
- More initial cost than a gas engine
- Harder starting in cold weather
- Pretty much requires the electric start option, while the gas engines start easily with manual start
- Heavier than Gas engines (may require extra counter-balancing weights or PTO extensions for implements)
- Typically harder to find local parts & service for the diesel engines (service centers for the gas engine options are very common)
- Diesels are fussier about moisture in the fuel…in a Gas engine, water in the fuel will cause the engine to run poorly; when you get the water out, the engine will typically be OK. If you get water in a diesel fuel system, however, you will quickly spend several hundred dollars for a new fuel injection system, because a few drops of water can RUIN it!
Most of the time, the choice comes down to Economics: how long will it take for the cost savings of running a diesel to pay for the higher initial investment? Typically, folks who are putting a lot of hours on the tractor (200 to 250 plus hours per year) would be well advised to consider the diesel, because the extra investment will pay off in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the higher the price of fuel is, the quicker it pays off! (even if diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline, the fuel cost savings still add up—more slowly, of course–but keep in mind that the diesel uses ½ to 1/3 the fuel of the gas engines.)
If the tractor is only used 50 - 100 hours or so per year, diesel is really not an economically desirable option…it would take a lifetime (or more) to pay for itself. (Unless, of course, you would choose the diesel solely based on other reasons, like being able to use a biofuel, etc.)
One way to answer this question is: “How much time do you have?” Since you are not likely to wear out a walk-behind tractor quickly, no matter how much land you are using it on! But in practical terms, you wouldn’t want to use a walk-behind tractor to mow 30 acres or till 10 acres; those scales are better suited to 4-wheel tractors, perhaps in combination with walk-behinds. In terms of using a walk-behind tractor as your Primary Tractor, most of our customers are soilworking an average of 1-3 acres, or mowing/haymaking an average of 5-15 acres.
Now, there are exceptions, of course: We do have customers using primarily walk-behinds for tillage on larger acreages, but usually with multiple walk-behinds. And we have some users making hay on 20 acres plus, on terrain too steep/rough/wet to use 4-wheel tractors effectively. (One customer of ours was relying on a neighbor and his 4-wheel tractor to bale his hay, and the neighbor was only able to make hay on 10-12 acres because of the 4-wheel tractors’ limitations on the terrain. Now, with walk-behind hay harvesting equipment, he hays over 20 acres of his land and has much better quality hay because it gets harvested at its prime, not when the neighbor has all his own hay done!)
With certain implements, yes. There is a “mowing sulky” which attaches to the engine end of the tractor (which is the rear when mowing) and allows the operator to sit and ride while mowing, raking hay, etc. (The geometry of a walk-behind tractor does not lend itself to a “vulky”, [stand-up sulky/platform] – we have tried this, and it doesn’t work!)
IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS THOUGH:
- Maneuverability is greatly reduced when using a sulky. As a walk-behind unit, the tractor is capable of making essentially 180° turns – but the sulky is a trailer – which means that now you have to deal with a limited turning radius, or else it will “jack-knife”. Backing up is tricky with a sulky too, for the same reason.
- You cannot go any faster just because you are riding! The working speeds of the tractors are designed around a human walking pace (around 3 mph tops) and there simply is no higher working speed to shift into when you’re riding. (There is the transport speed, but that is ONLY FOR TRANSPORT – 8-9 mph!)
The mowing sulky does have a place, however, on larger, flatter areas with a minimum of obstacles to maneuver around. It detaches and re-attaches quickly (within a minute), so you can “drop it off” when the going gets tough. As much as we mow with a walk-behind tractor on our own farm here in Kentucky, though, we never use a sulky – the hills are too steep, and besides we prefer walking – agreed by doctors worldwide as the best exercise for humans.
Now, there is another way to ride a walk-behind: With a utility trailer. This attaches with the tractor in the “rear-PTO” (soilworking) mode. The utility trailers we offer have a built-in seat and footrest to allow the operator to safely ride while hauling goods. The trailers are practical (and fun, since now you can more effectively and safely use the “transport” gear of the tractor to zip around your property hauling stuff), although you cannot have any other implement attached to the tractor while using the trailer. (Well, I guess you could toss 2 or 3 implements into the trailer and head out to the back 40!)
P.T.O. stands for Power Take Off. This is the part or flange on the tractor where the tractor powers the implement (tiller, mower, etc.) via a rotating shaft. The P.T.O. on walk-behind tractors is engaged by a control independent of the wheel drive controls, so the PTO (and therefore the implement) may be operated whether the wheel drive is engaged or not, and conversely the wheel drive may be operated with or without the PTO (and therefore the implement) operating.
No. There is only one PTO on the tractor, and it is located on the end of the tractor opposite the engine. The thing to remember is that the entire handlebar assembly on the tractor reverses (swings around) 180° so that the handlebars are either opposite the engine (rear PTO, or “soilworking” mode) or on the same side as the engine (front PTO or “mowing” mode). The PTO does not change locations, except in relative terms; only the handlebars change.
Not the Brands we offer at Earth Tools! Worldwide, several walk-behind tractors use either belt and/or chain drives, but these systems are not reliable and, in the case of belts, rob 10-20% of available horsepower through friction. A few of the implements we offer have belts, but in all cases, they are on fixed-pulley systems (no spring-loaded idlers, which can allow belts to slip), for maximum life and reliability.
In the case where shafts, gearboxes, etc. in the power train are of inferior quality, YES. However, in the case of the tractors WE offer, the entire power train is constructed of through-hardened precision-machined gears and shafts supported by ball bearings, all in full oil bath: SUPERIOR QUALITY. Amidst the pressed-powdered-steel or cast iron gears and cold-rolled shafts supported by brass bushings that the lawn & garden industry’s disposable”gearboxes” (transaxles) are full of, it’s virtually impossible to find components of this quality any more. With a gear-train as sturdy as what our tractors offer, the automotive-type clutch provides what slippage/shock protection is needed. Some implements do have belt-drives for extra shock-protection (Flail mower, chipper/shredder, hayrake/tedder) and the rotary mowers have swinging “breakaway” style blades, just like a full-sized tractor “bush-hog”. A few implements also use a shear bolt in the PTO input shaft for extra protection….again, just like a full-sized tractor.
It depends on the size of your property/application, but more importantly it depends on your desired implements.
A larger walk-behind tractor is not necessarily more durable than a smaller one; in fact many of the components are the same … the main difference is the number of features (wheel speeds, horsepower, etc.) the tractor has.
There are two basic classes in our spread of walk-behind tractors: two-working-speed (2ws) models, and three-working-speed (3ws) models. Additionally, the 2ws models are divided into ‘non-differential’ and ‘differential’ types.
The BCS 710, 718, 722 and the Grillo G85 series are all 2ws tractors with two speeds forward and reverse in both front and rear PTO modes. (Hey—wait a minute, you may say … the specifications for these tractors say they have 3 speeds forward!! … well, 3rd gear on these tractors, which only functions with the tractor in the rear-PTO mode, is a transport speed [up to 7-8 mph] and is not considered a ‘working’ speed. Hence, our classification of “two-working-speed” tractors).
2ws tractors are good for soilworking applications, and also for snow removal, chipping/shredding, wood splitting (any ‘stationary’ application), but are good for only limited mowing applications because of their limited speed … top mowing speed (2nd gear) is anywhere from 1.4 to 2 mph, depending on the particular model. That’s fairly slow, and most folks wouldn’t want to mow 5 or 10 acres (much less 2 acres) at that speed.
The 3ws tractors are the Grillo G107, G110 and the BCS 739, 749, 852 & 853 and 750 (the Grillo G131 is sort of in a class by itself, and we’ll get to that later). Here, the versatility is greatly expanded by the addition of a faster ‘working speed’ of around 3 mph (the slower gears in the 3ws tractors are essentially the same as 1st and 2nd gears in the 2ws units), which allows larger mowing applications and haymaking to be accomplished much more efficiently, as well as having the slower speeds for soilworking. The third ‘working speed’ also gives the option of a slower (more sane!) transport speed. (4th gear in the 3ws tractors, if so equipped, is the same fast transport speed as the 2ws tractors have in their 3rd gear). The greater horsepower of the 3ws tractors is also more conducive to operating rotary mowers, which tend to consume lots of power. Also, the 3ws tractors all come standard with differential and steering brakes, which greatly assist when mowing (particularly on hillsides). (EXCEPTION: the BCS 739 does NOT have steering brakes, so it is questionable for mowing applications on hilly terrain)
The Grillo Model G131 is geared primarily for soilworking applications, and has 4 working speeds forward for tilling/plowing (plus a 5th ‘transport’ gear) and only 2 forward speeds for mowing/front PTO applications. Also, reversing the handlebars on this machine takes more time because the gearshift levers must be changed (so reversing the handles takes 10 minutes instead of 1 minute), so while mowing is certainly possible with the G131, it is less convenient. The main application of the G131 is its ability to run a reciprocating spader and also handle other heavy soliworking implements, because it is the heaviest-duty walk-behind tractor we offer.
So when you’re trying to figure out what is the best size walk-behind tractor for you, the REAL question is: What implements do you want to be able to run with your walk-behind tractor? (Note: Make sure to think into the future about this: an investment in this tractor as a power source is going to last you many, many years, so think about what you may want to add in the future.) The larger the tractor, the more implements it will effectively run – up to the BCS 853/Grillo G110 tractor size. (While the largest units in both brands may seem like they would be “the best for everything”, they are really more specifically suited for commercial-scale soil-working applications… they are actually not as well suited to as wide a variety of implements as the second-to-the-largest tractors are). So, to sum up, your implement choices / sizes will be mostly what dictate the size of the tractor you need to operate them.
It depends on many things … and in some cases, it may boil down to personal preference! (for a detailed comparison, please see this page) Here is a brief synopsis:
- Both manufactured in Italy
- Same automotive-type construction: All hardened steel gear and shaft drive supported by ball bearings in oil bath; automotive-type clutch
- Same reversible-handlebar design to accept front or rear PTO implements
- Choice of gas or diesel engine on most models
- Overall quality of construction the same
- BCS machines tend to be more refined and stylized (“Americanized”, if you will), in terms of appearance, markings on controls, ergonomics of controls.
- BCS now sends their machines with an owners manual that is all in English; Grillo’s is still in 5 languages (English included, but some of the translations are a bit rocky.) But at least the Grillo manuals come with a parts list for the machine! (BCS’s manuals don’t)
- Because of their slightly simpler design, the Grillo machines are typically easier for the owner to service themselves, compared to the BCS machines: particularly, the clutch and the PTO coupling areas, which are areas that will be serviced eventually on any tractor.
- BCS has a better “consumer” warranty, but you pay more for the product. (BCS and Grillo “commercial/income-producing use” warranties are essentially the same.)
- Grillo has a lesser “consumer” warranty but you pay less for the product (to us, warranty is hardly a factor: the number of warranty failures in the field on both brands is minuscule, and since most failures occur in the first year if the components are defective, the number of warranty dwindles further in the 2nd and 3rd years).
- BCS presently has more registered dealers in the USA than Grillo, because BCS has been operating in this country longer.
- The color is different!
It should also be mentioned that BCS originally started it’s company building motorized mowing equipment, while Grillo started theirs producing motorized tillage equipment. While both companies have adapted/refined/evolved their tractors over the years (some of which was a joint effort between BCS and Grillo) to handle a multitude of implements and applications, it is interesting to note that some of the early design “paradigms”, if you will, are still in place. For example: in our opinion, Grillo builds better tiller implements than BCS, but BCS builds better cutter (sickle) bar mower implements than Grillo. Also, the BCS tractors are designed for good operator comfort with ALL implements (front- or rear-PTO) while in the Grillo line, some tractors are a bit more awkward for front-PTO implements (such as the Grillo G131).
PowerSafe™ is BCS’s brand name for a new “hydro-mechanical” clutch system introduced by BCS in Europe in 2011, and in North America in 2012. It appears in North America on the BCS models 739, 749, 750, and the new 660 Hydro. It is a clutch that uses hydraulic pressure to press the clutch plates together (rather than spring-tension, like in any “standard” clutch) to transfer power. Therefore, tractors with the PowerSafe clutch have a built-in hydraulic micro-pump, which circulates oil through an oil filter and to the clutch. This type of clutch is also in an oil bath, so it is cooled by the circulating oil (rather than just by air) and is therefore less prone to overheating.
This type of clutching system has never been used before in a walk-behind tractor, and frankly, we at Earth Tools do not know what the durability will be over time. As I can see it now (Joel, Earth Tools owner, writing 5-27-2017), here are lists of the advantages/disadvantages:
- Relative ease of using the clutch control, because the control is only moving a valve…not compressing a large clutch spring.
- Very safe…the “operator presence” safety handle on the handlebars (the one you have to hold down to make the machine go) is hooked into the clutching system as well, so if you let go of the safety handle, it is just like you squeezed the clutch handle: the machine stops instantly, but the engine does NOT quit (There is a separate control for turning off the engine). The clutch also has a built-in “drive-train braking” system, that brings the machine to an immediate halt when clutched, and it will “hold” position as long as the tractor is in gear (this is a nice feature when mowing on steep hills…however, there is also a potential hill-side “negative” to the PowerSafe units: see #6 under “disadvantages”).
- For someone who has no experience with a clutch at all (i.e. someone who has never driven a stick-shift), there is less risk of “abusing” the clutch through overheating, because of the fact that this wet-clutch system runs cooler.
- Potentially longer clutch life due to the oil-immersed design of this clutch system. (This remains to be proven, but it is a feature touted by BCS. We’ll know for sure in a few years…)
- BCS offers an extended warranty of 5 years total on this clutching system (3 years on standard clutch). (Interestingly, BCS only started offering this “extended” warranty after sales were bad on the PowerSafe models for the first 2 years…they needed an extra “hook”.)
- Requires more frequent transmission oil changes, with oil filter changes: 30 hours for the initial break-in oil, then every 100 working hours (or once a year, whichever comes first)…an extra expense, especially since the oil filter is ONLY available through BCS dealers, with a retail price around \$14. (And…if you do not perform oil/filter changes as per BCS’s schedule, the warranty on the clutch is VOID)
- Tractors with this clutching system are NOT equipped with the higher “transport” gear that the “standard clutch” tractors have. If you plan on using a utility trailer with your walk-behind tractor, the lack of the faster “transport” speed can be a bummer.
- The MUCH higher complexity of the PowerSafe hydraulic clutch system means that if anything goes wrong with the clutch “internals” over time, you pretty much HAVE to bring it to a dealer for service, as there are special techniques / tools required. By comparison, the standard clutch systems are simple enough that many of our customers (farmers, homeowners) have serviced their own clutches for years…if fact, we have complete step-by-step instructions for removal & installation of the standard-type clutches on our website. (I would not even attempt posting instructions like this for the PowerSafe…way too complicated!!) If the need arises, the owner can mail an ailing “standard” clutch to us, and we offer a 1-or-2-day-turnaround time for rebuilding it at a nominal cost (under \$100). So, the PowerSafe clutch is not a good choice for “Do-It-Yourself” folks who want to be able to rely on their own skills/common tools in maintaining their equipment.
- The transmission oil filter is a bit exposed, right under/behind the engine. At present, we have had 2 of our customers accidentally break the filter off while brush mowing in rough terrain. The repairs were not expensive (about \$30), but of course their tractor was stuck in the field until they got a new part…since with the filter broken off, the hydraulic system just pumps the oil out onto the ground. (We have recommended to BCS that they install a skid-plate at the factory under the filter…no changes yet, though.)
- Due to the automatic “braking” feature mentioned above in the “Advantages”, engaging gears (particularly the PTO engagement) can be more challenging on the PowerSafe units. (strangely, BCS claims “smoother shifting” on PowerSafe units, but we have NOT found this to be the case at all!) This is something you can get used to, so it is not a big problem (as long as you don’t try to force it and “grind gears!”).
- Due to the re-positioning of the steering-brake linkage on the PowerSafe models 749 and 750 to accommodate a one-lever parking-brake system, the steering brakes are actually about 20% less effective than on the 852 / 853 models. This can be an issue when mowing in steep areas, when you want the steering brakes to be as effective as possible.
Note regarding the “safety” system on the tractors with “standard” clutches: If you operated any power equipment at all over the last 30 years, then you are familiar with this system: When you let go of the “safety” handle on the handlebars, the engine quits. This system passes all North American safety standards for walk-behind power equipment. AND: If the operator needs to walk away from the machine while it is running, there is a provision to do so: Simply squeeze the clutch handle (which disengages power to the tractor), and engage a small latch, which keeps the clutch handle in the “squeezed” position…and this automatically keeps the “safety” lever down and allows the engine to continue running. (EXCEPTION: Grillo now offers what they call an “Active” clutch, which is a standard type clutch, but has enhanced safety and usability features. See this page for details)
The bottom line is this: As stated above, we don’t know how the PowerSafe clutches will hold up in the long run. They may be the best thing ever, or they may be a bomb…but without several more years of work-in-the-field data to look at, we just don’t know… and we refuse to recommend the PowerSafe to everyone as “the best option” just because BCS invested a bunch of money in it and pushes it hard. What we DO know is that the standard clutches have been around for many years, and when used properly, they can easily last up to 2000 hours of service….and that they can be replaced pretty easily by anyone who has basic mechanical skill.
So, much of what dictates “the better clutching system” is based on what YOUR values are. We stock all models (and parts for all models)!!
Not necessarily. One of the benefits of this type of equipment is the availability of a simple and straightforward design (no hydro/hydraulic systems [unless you choose one of the new BCS models with the PowerSafe hydraulic clutch], no belt-drives, no complicated electrical systems) which allows for easy servicing by the owner. Even with rudimentary mechanical skills, owners of these machines are typically able to replace what parts are needed themselves. And if you have trouble: We’re a phone call away! (We have even walked our customers through transmission teardowns [extremely rare, but it happens] over the phone). We keep over \$200,000 worth of spare parts on hand, and since walk-behind tractors and implements are all we do, we know these machines inside and out.
In the rare case that this well-made equipment should have a warranty failure in the field, we will send you replacement parts at no charge and pay the shipping to get the defective parts back to us, if needed. For complete info, please see our warranty section.
The walk-behind tractor market in Europe is very much like the 4-wheel tractor market here: Usually, companies that produce tractors DO NOT produce the implements that are sold under the tractor brand; most of the implements available are made by independent implement manufacturers. Some implements are purchased and private-labeled by the tractor manufacturer to make it appear that the tractor companies have “their own implements”.
Sometimes, if the popularity of an implement makes it cost-effective to do so, a tractor manufacturer will actually produce certain types of implements themselves. For example, BCS and Grillo both produce their own tillers and cutter (sickle) bar mowers. BCS also produces their own lawn mowers, flail mowers and single-stage snowblowers, and recently started producing their own power sweeper after buying it for many years. In order to increase their product offering, independent BCS importers (like BCS America, the North American importer of BCS) will choose to private-label some other manufacturers’ goods. For example: The power harrows, rotary plows, chipper/shredder, 21”, 26” and 32” brush mowers, moldboard plows, utility trailers, pressure washers, hayrake, plastic mulch layer and water pump that are offered by BCS America are all produced by companies other than BCS. (BCS America’s implement offering today is roughly TWICE of what it was 10 years ago. This increase is largely because they have been following OUR lead on offering a more full line of implements!!)
Now, to answer the question!: Once we at Earth Tools became aware of the dozens of companies in Europe (primarily Italy) producing implements for walk-behind tractors, we began importing these items directly in order to increase the versatility and usefulness of the walk-behind tractors we sell. We now deal with about 20 different implement or accessory manufacturers in order to offer the selection shown on this website, and we stock parts for everything we sell. For some implements we couldn’t find being produced in Italy but enough of our customers had a need for, we utilized local fabrication shops to build them here in the USA.
Boy, wouldn’t that be nice! Unfortunately, NO. Every single brand is different. Grillo and BCS used to share the same PTO when the companies were working together, but BCS has now changed theirs. However: All the independent European implement manufacturers deal with this issue by simply offering an implement with an interchangeable PTO flange and shaft. That way an implement dealer doesn’t have to stock, say, 15 different rotary plows to fit all the Italian tractor brands; he just stocks one or two plows and 15 different PTO flange/shafts. In the case of the few implements that are manufactured by the tractor company; the PTO flanges are typically not removable, but cast into the gearbox housings … so they will only fit “their” tractors. In some cases, an adapter can be used (if available) to adapt implements if the PTO shaft turns the proper direction!
Believe it or not, not even PTO direction (or speed, for that matter) are standard on walk-behind tractors, although most of them are the same. In the case of the BCS and Grillo implement compatibility, it goes like this: Rear-PTO implements (soilworking tools, wood splitter, pressure washer and sprayer, etc.) can usually be interchanged with an adapter. Most front-PTO implements cannot, however – because when the forward direction is reversed on the Grillo G85 through 107, the PTO turns the opposite direction as well. (The BCS PTO does not reverse when the wheel direction is changed). Therefore, the only mowers that can be interchanged are the cutter (sickle) bar mowers, which have reciprocating blades, so they don’t care which way the PTO turns.
They already thought of that … and the fact that a walk-behind tractor does not have a “Live PTO”, like most modern 4-wheel tractors do. This is how they deal with these issues: On all rotary type mowers (lawn, brush, disk and flail mowers), there is a “ratcheting” mechanism built into the mower gearbox, which allows the PTO shaft to only turn the blade one way. This also serves to let the blade “freewheel” as soon as you pull the clutch on the tractor so the blade momentum will not drive the tractor forward. Therefore, the Grillo G85 / G107 / G110 tractors will not mow while in reverse, because the PTO is turning the wrong way to drive the blades while in reverse. Compared with the BCS tractors, which will mow while in reverse, this could be seen as a nuisance OR as an extra safety feature … take your pick!
The 749 is essentially the “European” version of the 853. The 749 has the PowerSafe clutch system (see FAQ #12), NO transport speed, and a parking brake that can be set with one hand. (The 853 has parking brakes as well, but it takes two hands to set the brakes) The rest of the features are the same: 3 working speeds in each direction, independent steering brakes, lockable differential, etc., and the tractors share identical internal gearing, same length handlebars, etc.
For the most part: NO, since MOST of the components are the same:
- The 750 and 749/852/853 share the same main transmission housing and internal gears/shafts;
- The standard gas engines are the same;
- The handlebars are the same;
- The clutches on the 749 and 750 are the same.
The differences of the 750 from the 749/852/853 are as follows:
750 has a heavier PTO mounting: An oversized, integral quick-coupling system, which accepts high-vertical-thrust soilworking attachments (namely, the reciprocating spader and the 33” tiller).
750 has larger standard wheels, when comparing to 749/852/853 gas-engine models (of course, wheels can be upgraded on the 749/852/853 for a nominal charge).
750 has external gear-reduction units on axles to reduce ground speeds. Comparing the 749/852/853 with its standard wheels vs. the 750 with its standard wheels, the 750 is about 20% slower. The slower speeds are desirable for some soilworking implements, particularly the spader…however, the slower speeds are NOT an advantage for mowing/haying operations of any size!
750 is designed to accept factory-made cast-iron front-end weights (mounted directly behind engine) to counter-balance heavy soilworking implements such as the spader and power harrows. (The weight shown for the 750 on the BCS America website INCLUDES these optional weights, which is why it seems so much heavier than the 749/852/853!! It is NOT because the transmission is heavier….in fact, the transmission housings and all internal gears are IDENTICAL SIZE on the BCS 749 and 750)
These differences result in the following advantages/disadvantages on the 750:
Advantage: The 750 will run the reciprocating spader and the 33” tillers (standard-duty or heavy-duty). The 749/852/853 will not run a spader and will accept a maximum of the 30” tiller.
Disadvantage: The integrated quick-coupling system on the 750 is unique to only this tractor model. What this means is that implements configured to fit any other BCS machine will not fit it without an adapter, or possibly two adapters. Also, while we offer implements from several manufacturers with an “integrated quick-coupling” to fit BCS 749/852/853, NO implement manufacturer produces implements with an “integrated quick-coupling” for 750. (Because worldwide sales on the 750 are so low, it is not cost-effective for implement manufacturers to produce a PTO coupling specific for it.) Therefore, even if you are buying new implements from us, it can cost more to make them fit a BCS 750, because there may be an adapter (or two) needed. HOWEVER, if the implements being purchased with a 750 are BCS-brand implements, there is a promotion for “Free” quick coupling components for implements on this model, like many other BCS models (see specials page)
Disadvantage: The 750 is rather slow for mowing applications of any size. The gearing that the 750 is equipped with is with soilworking in mind (particularly spading, which requires very slow ground speed).
Disadvantage: The two 38lb. optional front-weights, if installed, need to be removed for virtually all front-PTO implements (mowers, snow blowers, etc.) because they make the engine end of the machine too heavy for proper balance with those implements. The factory-made weights are also pretty costly: About \$125 for the pair. (By contrast, we offer our own low-cost front-weight systems for the other tractor models we sell, which can also fit the 750, and accomplish the same goal…see our Accessories page)
In short, there is a reason why our 749/852/853 to 750 sales ratio is around 100 to 1. For the correct application (running a spader, and potentially other implements), the 750 is the right machine. But the vast majority of the time, in the BCS line, the 749/852/853 is the better all-around choice.