How to clean your (Hustler) ZT-2800s inside and out - a newbie's guide step-by-step.

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454
Location
Oklahoma
If you have a zero turn mower with the Hydro-Gear ZT-2800s, this guide is for you! I am very proud to say that I did this all on my own (the only advice came from this forum prior to starting the job), and I have absolutely ZERO prior experience with small engine parts other than filters and spark plugs. Basically, if I can do this, you can too. This was done on a 2015 Hustler Raptor SD 60", but these hydros are common on countless makes and models. I didn't take the pictures as I went, as I thought of doing this guide afterward, but I'll still be thorough.

Let's start with why I wrote this guide and tackled this job. I wanted to change the oil in the hydros because I know it was the factory fill. The mower is 6 years old with 230 hours on the clock. The fluid looked dark through the clean reservoir plastic even with a light shining into it (I later learned this was misleading. DON'T assume based on appearance through the tank plastic - it WILL look darker than it really is). Within 5 minutes of starting the oil change, the job came to a complete halt when I removed the wheels and discovered this:

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I had the idea to take a small soft brush and try to get all the dirt off. 5 minutes later that turned into a firm brush. 5 minutes after that the wire brush came out. There was no end to the dirt. After doing the absolute best I could with the brushes I had and the space available between all the parts, this was what remained:

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This was still unacceptable to me, so I caught a bit of clinebarger syndrome and decided to completely remove the hydros and do the job the right way.

So let's get to the guide. First, here's what you'll need to do exactly what I did (YMowerMV):

-Some type of jack that can lift the rear wheels off the ground
-Two jack stands
-A 21mm socket and ratchet to remove the wheel lugs
-Several cans of brake cleaner (I think I used 5?)
-A 3/8" Ratchet with 7/16", 1/2", and 5/8" sockets
-7/16", 1/2", and 5/8" wrenches
-A 1/4" Allen wrench/hex key
-A pair of external snap ring pliers
-Either Hydro-Gear's official Maintenance Kit (expensive), OR 5 quarts of either 20W-50 or 15W-50 motor oil & two hydro filters (WIX WL10102 or NAPA Gold 400102).
-Something to catch about 4 quarts of used oil, preferably a large drain pan that you can set the hydro on to drain.
-A fluid pump to transfer the clean oil into the hydros (this is included with the official maintenance kit) - or do it the hard way like I did and use a funnel (messy and not recommended).
-An air compressor and blow gun are recommended, but NOT required.

First, break all of the lugs nuts loose while the wheels are on the ground. Jack the rear of the mower up and place jack stands under each side. Remove the lugs nuts and then both wheels. Next, flip the seat up and remove these two screws from the reservoir tank:

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Next remove these two nuts in red for the hydro linkage. You will also need to remove the 1 nut in pink to get enough room to angle the tank and drop it through the bottom (this part will require some wiggling and prying, but it can be done):

20210409_200651.jpg


Now go back to the hydros and decide if you want to lower one at a time or both together. I had a floor jack, so I chose both together (if you choose to go the other route, at this point simply remove the brace connecting each hydro). Place the jack underneath the brace holding both hydros together (or under the hydro itself if removing individually). Then remove these bolts (this image is the right side hydro):

20210409_201344.jpg


Now use the snap ring pliers and remove this snap ring (1 per side):

20210409_200849.jpg


Next remove the cotter pin for the neutral lockout (left) then slide the arm up over the pin and out through the rear hole. Then remove the final bolt (right). This image is the left side hydro:

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Once this is complete, you can now lower both units (together or individually) to the ground. You'll see something like this:

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*This is also a perfect opportunity to change both belts if needed. Specifically, if you have a Hustler, make sure the drive belt doesn't have "teeth." If it does, it's the superseded design, and is probably in TERRIBLE shape. Replace it with the newer "smooth" belt.

Now the fun part. If you don't have the compressor and blow gun, start blasting away the dirt with brake cleaner. If you do have those tools, use that before/during/after the brake cleaner as well. Be sure to get between and especially under the fins, as I missed several spots on the underside even after the third clean blast. Once finished and the brake cleaner is thoroughly dried, you should see a dramatic difference.
 

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OilMagnate

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454
Location
Oklahoma
Here are the best before & after pictures I could take:

20210406_174944.jpg


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Now for the oil change. These don't have a drain plug. They drain themselves by removing the oil filters. Take off the filters one at a time and let them drain as long as possible (the oil is THICK and drains slowly - it may help to elevate the reservoir and remove the cap. Don't bother separating the hoses from the reservoir though. They're nearly impossible to remove. I tried removing them so I could remove the sediment in the reservoir, but I actually gave up trying). You'll need that Allen wrench to loosen and remove the fill plugs on both hydros. You were warned, they are insanely tight. I thought I was going to break my Allen wrench! Here is the fill plug for reference:

20210409_201555.jpg


When the oil is done draining, oil both of the filter gaskets and install both oil filters. Then use your pump or funnel and fill them up with oil. I used Mobil 1 15W-50. Hydro-Gear states that each hydro should hold "approximately" 2 quarts, or exactly 2.2xx quarts (I forget where I found the exact amount). Warning: if you use a funnel like I did, do NOT put two full quarts in because it WILL overflow and make a mess. Mine started overflowing after about 1.5 quarts, so I'd suggest stopping about there or slowing your pour to about an oil cap worth every 5-10 seconds. Once both are full and dripping over, put the fill plugs back in. Replace the hydros on the mower and replace all of the bolts in reverse order from above. You can now also mount the reservoir. Don't forget the pink arrow bolt and the bolts for the linkage. Then fill the reservoir to the fill line (near the bottom), but add about 3/4 of an inch of extra oil. This will allow the excess to flow into the hydros once they purge the air. You may have to add more once the level drops, but don't assume the level will drop more than 3/4", because that's how much mine dropped and is now perfectly at the fill line. Once the oil is in the reservoir, replace the cap, but don't screw it on. Put the wheels back on and hand tighten the lugs. Just keep the wheels in the air. Now fire it up and gently & slowly cycle the hydros back and forth about ten times. It helps if you watch Hydro-Gear's video. Then do it 10 more times but much faster. Don't be alarmed if the wheels don't move at all, the hydros are just airlocked. Shut it off and give it a few minutes. Check the reservoir level. Make sure the oil level is always at least at the fill line. Just like Hydro-Gear says in their video, you may have to cycle them multiple times. Just don't get them hot if they're airlocked. Allow them to cool for 20 minutes (this also allows extra time for air to rise to the tank) then try again. What they don't say is you may have to give up for two hours and go run errands like I did. I came back and yes, the level did fall in the tank, but I was still airlocked. So if you have a REALLY hard time getting them to purge like I did, engage the neutral overrides on the hydros (where the cotter pins went in). Once they're in neutral, with the engine off, grab a tire and manually spin them 2 full revolutions back and forth several times. This was the magic trick for me. Then fire it up and cycle them again. Basically, keep trting until the wheels are quick to respond to your input, and rotate fast when you go full forward and backward. Once they seem good recheck the oil level and screw on the reservoir cap. Tighten the lugs the best you can and remove the jack and jack stands. Torque down the lugs, then fire it up. BE CAREFUL, even though they seemed good in the air, they probably aren't fully purged. This means with the weight on them, the controls will feel spongy and unresponsive. This also means you may not be able to stop! Take it slow, and drive around where there aren't any obstacles. Basically go forward, backward, and do several "zero-turns" until they return to normal. Once you're normal again, check the oil level one last time. Congrats! Now you're done!

For giggles, I swept up all the dirt just to see how much came off of the hydros. It was completely dry, so no water weight. I had to use two containers to hold all of it, so that's how I tared the scale. I was shocked.

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And this is the terrible belt with "teeth" I was talking about:

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It's amazing how much smoother and quieter these hydros are. It was definitely worth the effort. Hopefully I won't have to go to this extreme again thanks to my compressor and blow gun, but if I do, I'd do it again. It really isn't as difficult as it looks, just time consuming. All in all, it cost me $13 for the oil (thanks to their current rebate), $22 for the filters because I got them really cheap, and about $14 for the brake cleaner, plus about 5 hours of my time. But I really took my time on this. It could probably be done in 2-3 hours. If I were to pay full retail for all of these, it would be about $25 for the oil, $50 for the filters, and about $17 for 5 cans of brake cleaner. The kits go for about $100 at the dealer depending on your area. Still not terrible considering the amazing difference it made.
 
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OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
454
Location
Oklahoma
Now go back to the hydros and decide if you want to lower one at a time or both together. I had a floor jack, so I chose both together (if you choose to go the other route, at this point simply remove the brace connecting each hydro). Place the jack underneath the brace holding both hydros together (or under the hydro itself if removing individually). Then remove these bolts (this image is the right side hydro):
View attachment 54267
Apologies for the error that I caught too late to edit. That image is actually the LEFT side hydro, not the right side.
 
Messages
2,844
Location
Americus, GA
Good job. I probably wouldn’t have gone that route unless absolutely necessary. I would have sprayed it down good with Gunk engine cleaner or 100% Simple Green and hosed it off. You now know the how everything works and goes together back there.
My Toro is pretty much the same. It has the ZT 3100s. It doesn’t have a oil reservoir, it has two long vent hoses that cross over each other and are secured to the frame behind the seat. Those top hoses and fittings are used as the vents.
I did my first change at around 80 hours.
I left the hydros on and removed those two top fittings with the hoses. I pulled the fill plugs on the side. I put the funnel in where the top hoses and fittings are located and filled from there. When the oil started running out the fill holes, I was done.
You are correct, it is slow going so, take your time.
I used Super Tech 20W50 and the NAPA filters. I will do another service at 300 hours + or -.
Rotary corporation has a filter that fits. Rotary part #12374. Rotary is big in OPE aftermarket parts. Many dealers carry their parts and their replacement blades are really good.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
454
Location
Oklahoma
Good job. I probably wouldn’t have gone that route unless absolutely necessary. I would have sprayed it down good with Gunk engine cleaner or 100% Simple Green and hosed it off. You now know the how everything works and goes together back there.
My Toro is pretty much the same. It has the ZT 3100s. It doesn’t have a oil reservoir, it has two long vent hoses that cross over each other and are secured to the frame behind the seat. Those top hoses and fittings are used as the vents.
I did my first change at around 80 hours.
I left the hydros on and removed those two top fittings with the hoses. I pulled the fill plugs on the side. I put the funnel in where the top hoses and fittings are located and filled from there. When the oil started running out the fill holes, I was done.
You are correct, it is slow going so, take your time.
I used Super Tech 20W50 and the NAPA filters. I will do another service at 300 hours + or -.
Rotary corporation has a filter that fits. Rotary part #12374. Rotary is big in OPE aftermarket parts. Many dealers carry their parts and their replacement blades are really good.
I was going to get the NAPA filters during their filter sale, but I wasn't willing to pay $16 for freight shipping that was apparently unavoidable. So I ended up using my O'Reilly connection to match NAPA's filter sale price of $10.61 each and got the WIX filters same day.
 

JTK

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13,643
Location
Buffalo, NY
Nice work! Glad you got it done. I was following your other thread w/ the oil choice..

I had a 2010 model year Cub Cadet Z-Force 44 zero turn with ZT-2800 drives on them. I only owned that mower a few years and sold it with the house, but I was at the point I was going to change oil/filters on them. I did crack the fill plugs free on the drives and they were in TIGHT. They broke free with a SNAP that scared me given the relative lightness of the transaxle cases.

Sorry if I missed it, but did you pull the whole transaxle assembly for cleaning/inspection? I was under the impression the oil drained fully from ZT2800s when you remove the filters. Then you use a fluid pump or bottle/hose to refill through the fill plugs.

I'm sure you realize this, but you never want to let the drives build-up with that much debris. That will overheat and destroy them. I blow my equipment off after every use with my leaf blower.
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
454
Location
Oklahoma
Sorry if I missed it, but did you pull the whole transaxle assembly for cleaning/inspection? I was under the impression the oil drained fully from ZT2800s when you remove the filters. Then you use a fluid pump or bottle/hose to refill through the fill plugs.
Yes I did, and yes, you're correct.

I'm sure you realize this, but you never want to let the drives build-up with that much debris. That will overheat and destroy them. I blow my equipment off after every use with my leaf blower.
That is exactly why I made this guide. I just bought this mower in this condition. I'm reversing the original owner's neglect. I refused to mow for the first time until these things were done, that's how OCD I am.

Leaf blower works in a pinch, but my new favorite toy is a blow gun attached to an air compressor. Add brake cleaner in the mix and I think there is nothing that can't be cleaned!
 
Messages
2,844
Location
Americus, GA
@OilMagnate
I’m glad that you made this post. It’s very informative. The hydro pumps on mine are relatively clean. I can’t see much buildup.
This post has made me want to check my hydro pump belt. I’m going to jack mine up today and have a look at the belt. I don’t want to be caught mowing and have the drive belt break.
 
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2,844
Location
Americus, GA
Well, the hydro belt looks good on mine. It’s at 185 hours. I will change the hydro oil, filters and belt at 300 hours. That’s the plan. I hope the belt holds out. I think that I’ll pick one up to have on hand.
 
Messages
1,104
Location
MO
Nice write-up! Did you have a leak somewhere for that much dirt to accumulate on the hydros? I have the same ones in my Ferris FW35 but only have 85 hours or so on it and they don’t look anything like that. Makes me wonder if there’s more than 260 hours on that unit if no leaks. Either way, getting fresh oil and removing that “insulation” from the hydros is going to pay dividends. Did you say there was some sediment in the reservoirs too?
 

OilMagnate

Thread starter
Messages
454
Location
Oklahoma
Nice write-up! Did you have a leak somewhere for that much dirt to accumulate on the hydros? I have the same ones in my Ferris FW35 but only have 85 hours or so on it and they don’t look anything like that. Makes me wonder if there’s more than 260 hours on that unit if no leaks. Either way, getting fresh oil and removing that “insulation” from the hydros is going to pay dividends. Did you say there was some sediment in the reservoirs too?
No, definitely no leaks. This is also confirmed after cleaning it and mowing for the first time. Both units are completely dry. Yes, I did check very carefully (I even took the wheels off again to see better and retorque everything. I'm glad I did, because I forgot to tighten one of the four bolts that holds the right hydro on the mower!). The previous owner was quite well off and had a very large & luxurious lawn, so I think it was just good wet/rich soil that got built up.

As for the hour meter, it definitely is not understated at it's current 233.1 hours. If anything, it may be overstated because the ignition switch was quite loose when I bought it and it easily slipped to the on postion. If it was forgotten or bumped, it will count even with the engine off. It's tight now, and is in the hands of a competent owner, so no worries.

Yes, there was a VERY small amount of extra fine sediment in the reservoir tank. Best description is like a tiny amount of clutch material in a transmission pan. Not enough to be concerned with in the slightest. Just enough to set my OCD tendencies off though. I ended up removing the hoses from the hydro ends once they were off the mower, then turned the empty reservoir upside down and sprayed a small amount of brake cleaner to wash it out.
 
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692
Location
North Florida
Well, the hydro belt looks good on mine. It’s at 185 hours. I will change the hydro oil, filters and belt at 300 hours. That’s the plan. I hope the belt holds out. I think that I’ll pick one up to have on hand.
I have 122 hours on my ZT2800 drives and have changed the oil and filters twice already even though the recommended interval on my mower is 200 hours. Fresh oil makes a noticeable difference in responsiveness of the transmission.
 
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1,506
Location
WV
You do realize that the hour meter counts time when the blades are running, not the engine or transmission drives?
 

OilMagnate

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Messages
454
Location
Oklahoma
You do realize that the hour meter counts time when the blades are running, not the engine or transmission drives?
That may be the case for yours, but I can assure you that on my Hustler when the key is in the "on" position (regardless of whether or not the engine is started and regardless of blade engagement) the hour meter is counting.
 
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