Low-Cost 4-Wheeler Made From Old Riding Mower

Want a cheap ATV? You can make one out of an old riding lawn mower, says Lyndal Hatton, DeBerry, Texas.

He converted a 1970's era Sears riding mower equipped with a 12 1/2 hp Briggs & Stratton engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. He equipped the machine with two large expanded metal baskets -- one on front that replaces the hood and tilts forward for access to the engine; and one on back that bolts to the rear fenders. It rides on four 22-in. high, 8-in. wide balloon-type knobby tires.

"I came up with the idea because I didn't want to spend the money for a new 4-wheeler. It isn't as fancy as commercial ATV's, but it does everything they do. I can shift it on-the-go at speeds up to 45 mph," says Hatton. "I wasn't using the mower any more so I figured why not convert it into an ATV? It was a relatively simple thing to do. I geared the transmission up and modified the steering system."

He removed the hood as well as the deck and its mounting hardware. The original Briggs & Stratton engine was worn out, so he replaced it with a 12 1/2 hp Tecumseh engine. He removed the Tecumseh coil and capacitor from under the flywheel and mounted them on the engine externally where they're easier to service.

To gear up the transmission, he cut the drive pulley off the engine and replaced it with the larger pulley off the mower deck. The tractor had a transaxle that originally used a large pulley to belt-drive the mower blades. He downsized the transaxle pulley to boost rpm's. It's the same size as the engine pulley. He added a pair of idler pulleys to keep the transmission from interfering with the belts.

The 22-in. knobby tires fit perfectly on the original rear wheels but he had to modify the front wheels to accept the bigger tires.

He also modified the rig's steering shaft, which has a bushing on top and a gear on bottom that turns a rack and pinion gear. He installed a support bar and clamp around the shaft, about half way between the steering wheel and the steering gear, in order to hold the shaft under the increased strain of all-terrain use.

"It looks good, rides good, and handles good," says Hatton. "When people first see it they ask how much money I spent on it. I paid for new tires, which I bought at Wal-Mart. The rest was for 1-in. sq. tubing that I used to make the baskets and braces. And replacement parts for it won't be a problem, because there are a lot of old riding mowers around.

"I use it to haul four square bales at a time or up to 400 lbs. of feed in sacks. The tires have only 7 lbs. of air in them so the ride is fairly smooth. I placed a strip of tin on the floor of the front basket to keep rain off the engine.

"The machine still has its original foot-operated clutch and hand-operated gear shifter so I can shift gears on-the-go. I have to stop to put the transmission in reverse. I can either leave the throttle with the governor hooked up to it, or mount a hand lever throttle up on the steering wheel. I generally keep the throttle hooked up to the governor so when working around my cows I can leave the throttle at a set speed and downshift to adjust my speed. That way I'm keeping the engine running at a constant speed so if I get in mud the governor will kick in and pull me through it."