The Infamous White LT-200 Tractor
Almost everyone has heard of a vehicle that is considered a “lemon.” This is a vehicle or piece of equipment that has been purchased, and almost every single component of the vehicle breaks down, or malfunctions at some point.
About 8 years ago I purchased a White LT-200 lawn tractor. This was a small compact tractor made in Canada which I had planned on using to cut my 3 acres of grass on my property.
That was the plan anyway.
Pretty much each time I used that tractor something would break. As silly as it sounds, it was literally every time.
When I brought the tractor home, the transmission went the very first time it was used. It was returned to the dealer, and promptly replaced for me.
Not too long after that, one of the main wheels on the mowing deck seized up, and had to be replaced. Then the starter stopped working.
This kind of constant breaking went on for over almost a decade, each and every year. The most common thing which I had to replace were belts and batteries. Things I chalked up to “normal wear and tear”
One year, the tractor engine started sounding strange. I turned it off, and it would not re-start. When the repair shop got the machine, they stated that some pins inside the engine had worked loose and one of the pistons had come apart inside the engine block. They were able to repair it somehow and the engine ran again.
Then, there was the headlights. Each time I turned them on in the evening, it would blow a fuse, and the tractor would not start the next time.
Added to this something called a solenoid would constantly break, also causing the tractor to malfunction, and not be able to start until it was replaced.
One summer the tractor’s mowing deck started grinding badly, and had somehow bent and contorted to the point where the blades were actually hitting the deck, so it needed straightening. It was at that point they found that the reason it had bent was a supporting part of the mowing deck had rotted away and needed replacing.
Not too long after that the engine started revving really fast. Something called a “governor” had broken and the engine would rev out of control.
From sitting all winter, the tyres now began to leak and had to be refilled each time the tractor was used. (Much cheaper than replacing the 4, $200.00 tyres!)
At some point, something malfunctioned in the mowing deck switch and if you didn’t drive around holding the switch in the “on” position or hold it in place with duct tape, the mowing deck would automatically shut itself off.
The second last summer of my ownership saw the usual battery (over $100.00) and double belt replacement ($125.00 and $175.00 plus four hours labour).
One day the tractor was started and cutting fine. I was a little suspicious at this. Out of nowhere the mowing deck stopped working. I removed the duct tape holding the switch in the “on” position and tried again. No luck. I stopped the tractor and looked around, and just behind the mowing deck was a large, coiled spring.
Not being mechanically inclined, I did figure this spring was important, and picked it up and returned to the house for further investigation.
Apparently the spring was pulling the tensioning wheel on the mowing deck keeping the belt working. I heated the spring, and hooked the end where it had broken, and replaced it.
The tractor worked well, and I finished my grass.
Never ceasing to wanting to destroy itself, the next time I started the tractor the spring broke again – on the other side.
A quick heating of the steel, and replacement and I was back in business. At least this time.
Soon enough the spring broke once again, and I had to repair it. This time it only lasted a few minutes and then broke again.
I figured it was time to do something else. In a moment of red-neck style brilliance I decided to attach a ratchet strap to the part of the mowing deck and wheel and ratchet the tensioning wheel into place. It worked like a charm!
The final summer that I had the tractor, getting it up and running reminded me of the preparations for a space shuttle launch.
I would have to gather together a set of tools, my air compressor, and now – believe it or not my Jeep in order to get the tractor to operate. I literally needed a check list to get the tractor to start.
Tighten loosened bolts
Check tensioning wheel ratchet strap
Check petrol level
Check oil level
Use air compressor to inflate leaky tyres
Turn key to on
Use jumper cables directly on tractor starter to circumvent damaged solenoid
Use duct tape to hold mowing deck switch into “ON” position
Prepare to cut grass until next component malfunctioned
After this was completed, I was able to cut the grass for a short time before something worked loose, broke, or the tractor simply ran out of petrol in the field. This meant of course I had to go through the entire check list again – including using another vehicle to jump start the tractor.
The Authors best friend – Tractor Manual
In the end, I had taken a job away from home for the summer, and it fell to my wife to have to cut the grass. She promptly called the repair company (who were very familiar with us after all these years) and had the tractor hauled away with the simple instructions “make it work like my Jeep. If I cant’ start it up and cut the grass, it’s not repaired properly”.
I suppose all the years of constant repairing, fixing, jerry-rigging, and general abuse had caught up with the machine. The repair bill to “just make it work” would have been more than the price of another tractor.
We ended up purchasing a much more reliable, commercial tractor which was significantly stronger, faster, and better than the old White LT-200 I had suffered with for almost a decade.
The company took the old tractor in “Trade” as the deposit for the new tractor. I somehow had always fantasized a much more dramatic end to the White LT-200. Perhaps donating it to a television show like Myth Busters or Never-Ever-Ever Do This At Home. Simply letting the tractor fade into obscurity had no real closure for me.
None the less, A new tractor now glides over my grass. Repeatedly. With no constant repairs or pre-start checklist. It’s a beautiful thing.
The author with his new MTD tractor