Fulfilling a need for hillside safety

Dixie Chopper has developed a four-wheel drive zero-turn mower to make hillside mowing safer.

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Anyone who has mowed a lawn knows even the slightest incline or hill can make the task more difficult and dangerous. To help make hillside mowing more manageable, Dixie Chopper has developed the XCALIBER 4X4, a four-wheel drive (4WD) zero-turn lawnmower.

The combination of 4WD and zero-turn enables the XCALIBER 4X4 to safely and accurately mow any slope less than 30 degrees.  

Initial Development

The idea for the lawnmower came from one of Dixie Chopper’s end users, Michael Hecht, who was concerned about the safety of his wife who tends lawns for several historical estates in Maryland. After several incidents of rolling mowers, Hecht took it upon himself to begin designing a safer lawnmower that could better handle the hilly Maryland terrain.

In 2008, Hecht began building a prototype 4WD Dixie Chopper. By March 2009 he had developed a lawnmower that could safely stay upright on a hillside, and brought his design to Dixie Chopper. The company liked what it saw and began developing the XCALIBER 4X4, with Hecht receiving credit as inventor of the mower’s hinge mechanism on the patent.

Four-wheel drive?

Beau Battin, Marketing Assistant at Dixie Chopper, says the company chose 4WD because it “offers additional traction for [hillside] safety, productivity and functionality.” When driving downhill the 4WD helps to counteract the effects of gravity which causes weight to be shifted to the front of the mower, pulling it faster down a hill than the operator would like. Since all of the braking power is in the rear wheels of the mower, when gravity is pulling the mower, it can be more difficult to slow down or stop, says Battin.

Battin also notes that normally zero-turn mowers with caster wheels in the front will turn while going down a hill, again because of gravity, causing an operator “to constantly ‘push’ the front end up the hill by giving slightly more power on the downhill side.” Doing this creates “crabbing” or moving the mower at an angle across the hill.

An engine oil accumulator on the lawnmower also helps with hillside mowing. When driving on an angle, oil pressure can drop, says Battin. However, the mower’s engine oil accumulator maintains oil pressure when necessary. If the oil pressure drops the accumulator maintains oil pressure throughout the engine as needed; once oil pressure is normal, the oil then recharges the accumulator until needed again.

For extra stability insurance, a dual wheel kit can be added to the XCALIBER 4X4 to help lower ground pressure and increase traction on soft terrain.

Zero-turn capabilities

Lawnmowers with zero-turn capabilities allow tight, zero radius turning for quick maneuvering and cutting accuracy. A caster wheel mechanism on the front end of the XCALIBER 4X4 provides its zero-turn functionality.

Battin says the caster wheels have the ability to be lowered with downward pressure, raising the front drive wheels off the ground just enough to give the mower the zero-turn capability that every customer wants. Without the caster wheel mechanism, the mower would tear up lawns while steering.

More than just a lawnmower

Another feature of the XCALIBER 4X4 is its ability to have attachments added to the front end of the mower. Attaching a snow blade, blower, brush or bucket enables users to utilize the machine year-round, giving customers more for their investment.

According to Battin, the lawnmower has uses in many applications. “We have had success with municipalities using the mower to maintain their reservoir dams, contractors who are maintaining areas that might have been too steep for other mowers, and farmers who are using it to maintain their irrigation ditches.”