Please excuse the length of this thread entry, but I wanted to tell this story right.
As some of you know, I bought a 2002 X585 in 2016 with a 54C deck. I have often read how owners are impressed with the cutting performance of the 54C. Before my first cut, as a good JD owner should do, I attempted to level the deck. I use the JD yellow leveling gauge and per spec try to adjust the side level and the front 1/8 to1/4 of an inch lower than the back. I noticed right off that getting the leveling right was a challenge. If I got the side to side about right, as soon as I tried to fix the front to rear height, the side to side would go out of whack. I finally got it close enough that I said that should work.
Well, my first season cutting (2016) I was underwhelmed. The cut wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. Part way through the season I added the mulch kit. Again, my feeling was, “Meh.” While cutting, if the grass was over an inch above the cutting height when cut, I could expect to see windrows and logically, the deeper the grass, the larger the windrows. I was also getting a fair amount of blowout from under the front left corner of the deck which was annoying to say the least. Finally, after a cutting, if you looked out over my lawn, you could see numerous missed individual blades of grass rising up above the cut grass all over the lawn. I thought, “Well, this just must be how the 54C cuts.” I would learn that I was very wrong.
Last season (2018) while servicing the deck late in the season, I decide to relevel it and of course ran into the usual challenges I had been experiencing. This time I noticed something unusual. When I thought I had the deck about level, the front draft arms yoke was only making contact on the right front draft arm deck hook. See the photos.
I thought, “Well I need to adjust the left side adjustment nuts on the yoke to pull the left side into contact.” Doing that, you probably guessed, threw the level all out of whack again. I tried several times and even tried switching which holes were used for the adjustment links off the rear draft arms in various combinations. Nope that did not correct the problem. So, I went back to the original set up and finished the season that way.
When winter arrived, I took the deck off in preparation for mounting the snow blower. Here is where I noticed something else. When I set the front draft yoke down, looking at from above something didn’t look right. It took me a moment to notice that it appeared that the U shape of the yoke was slightly out of sorts so that the U appeared to be slightly narrower at the opening where the adjustment nuts are than at the bottom where it connected to the deck hooks. I confirmed this with a tape measure and found it was off about 5/8ths of an inch. Laying the yoke down along some straight lines on the floor and a square showed me the it was the right side that was bent inward. I decided that at the start of this season I would correct that.
So, when this cutting season arrived, I took a bottle jack and slowly widened out the top of the yoke until it was square. After completing reattaching the deck, I went about attempting to level the deck fresh for the season. With the freshly squared up draft yoke, the deck was suddenly fairly easy to level AND the yoke made contact with both hooks on the deck. Of course, the real test would be in the cutting.
Holy Lawn Groomer, Batman! That small fix was transformational. My lawn cut went from “Meh” to a carpet perfect finish. After few weeks of cutting, I am still blown away at how beautiful the cut is now. No straggler missed blades of grass. No windrows except in only the deepest grass and even then, so light to be almost not noticeable. And no more blow out from under the front of the deck. Now I can understand why some other owners are so impressed with how well the 54C deck cuts. When it is all set up right, it is wonderful – far better than the 42” deck on my old L118.
Again, apologies for the long-winded message, but I wanted to share this experience about how a small issue and correction can have such a dramatic impact on the performance of mower deck.