Craftsman Riding Mower Deck Too Low: Achieving an Even Cut

Craftsman riding mowers are accessible and often one of the best values for your money, but they are notorious for having cut issues. For example, Craftsman mowers can be extremely difficult to level properly or to get an even cut with, because the deck rides too low. Raising the mower deck is normally relatively simple and will fix problems with an uneven cut. 

In most cases, you can use the leveling nuts on the front and side to adjust Craftsman lawn mower height settings. However, in some cases, you’ll have to use a non-standard fix if the adjustable nut isn’t lifting the deck enough. 

How to Adjust Mower Deck Too Low on Craftsman Riding Mowers 

Craftsman mowers use a 2-point support system to raise and lower the deck. These include a stabilizer bar, usually found just in front of the back left tire. The deck pitch, or “front to back” adjustment is found in the front of the mower. Here, the back of the deck is attached to the mower and cannot be adjusted. The front adjusts with the adjustment nut found just under the front left wheel. This makes many Craftsman mowers easier to adjust than a four-bolt system. However, it also means it’s difficult to raise the height if the deck is sitting too low. 

First, we’ll cover the basic steps to raise and lower the deck on Craftsman riding mowers. If that doesn’t work, you can try a different approach. 

Important: You should always turn the engine off and remove the keys from the ignition before doing work on the blades. Some manuals recommend disconnecting the spark plugs and the battery as well. This ensures there are no chances of an accident. 

Things You’ll Need

You’ll need a set of tools to adjust the deck height on your Craftsman riding mower. 

  • Gloves to protect your hands 
  • Two wrenches, Craftsman uses 11/16ths, but adjustable wrenches work as well 
  • Ruler
  • Tire Pressure Checker
  • Air Supply 

Park the Mower

Park the mower on a firm, level surface. For best results, use a concrete slab or parking lot. This ensures you can easily access under the mower. It’s also more likely to be level. 

Raise the Deck 

Raise the deck using the lever to the left of the seat. You’ll want the highest position, usually 5, for the front-to-back measurement. You’ll want the second to highest position, usually 4, for the side-to-side measurement. 

Check the Air Pressure

Before you get started, check the tire air pressure. Improperly leveled tires can mimic a deck that isn’t level. Check the PSI on each tire and make sure all four tires are filled to the same level. If not, fill them to the level recommended in your manual. That’s normally 10 PSI for rear tires and 14 PSI for front tires. However, it can sometimes change depending on what type of tires you have, so make sure you check.

Side to Side

Side to side measurements level the blades on either side of the mower. It is crucial that you use a flat surface for this measurement. If you’re not certain you have a flat parking surface, consider using a digital level as well as a ruler. 

Adjust the Deck

Raise the deck to the highest position. Usually this is a 5. However, it changes in some mowers. 

Rotate the Blades

Turn the blades so they are perpendicular with the tractor or facing between the tires to the left and right. 

Measure Left

Measure the distance between the outside tip of the left blade to the ground.

Measure Right

From the right side of the tractor, measure the outside tip of the right tractor to the ground. 

Make Adjustments 

If the two measurements are not equal, it’s important to make adjustments to the deck height. Here, you should use an 11/16ths wrench or an adjustable wrench. 

  • Find the left deck hanger bracket – Usually a collection of 3 adjustable nuts just in front of the left wheel. Check your manual if you’re not sure.
  • Use a wrench to loosen but not remove the first nut. This is the Hex Cap Screw. 
  • Use the wrench to turn the adjustment gear, or the nut immediately behind the hex cap screw. Clockwise turns adjust the deck up. Counterclockwise turns adjust the deck down. Use your ruler and re-check the height of the blade every turn.
  • Double check that both sides of the blades are now at the same height.
  • Re-tighten the hex cap screw.
  • Check that both sides of the blades are still equal.

Front to Back 

Front to back adjustments are slightly more difficult, because the deck requires a pitch. This means that the front of the deck should always be ¼ to 3/8ths inches lower than the back

Adjust the Deck 

Raise the deck to the second to highest position. 

Adjust the Blades

Adjust the blades so that they align with the discharge channel parallel to the tractor. 

Measure the Blades

Measure the distance between the front of the blade tip to the ground. Repeat the process with the rear blade tip. 

Make Adjustments

The front blade should be ¼ to 3/8ths of an inch lower than the back blade. If it’s not, look for the flange lock nut on the front side of the stabilizer bracket. 

  • Calculate how much you have to raise or lower the deck 
  • Tighten the flange lock to raise the front of the deck. 
  • Loosen the flange lock to lower the front of the deck 

Still Not Raised Enough? 

If your Craftsman riding mower deck is still too low after leveling, you can try a quick fix or hack.

Things You’ll Need: 

  • Heavy duty hairpins, as sold by a hardware store 
  • A block of wood, at least 2” high

Raising the Deck

  • Raise the deck to the highest position
  • Insert the block of wood under the wheel bracket on the deck or under the deck, so that it lifts the deck further off the ground 
  • Follow the stabilizer rod from the adjustment nut to the top. It should be sticking out slightly above the frame. 
  • Insert the heavy-duty hairpin around the top of the rod
  • Remove the block of wood

This should give you a small amount of extra lift. However, it is important to re-level the deck after inserting this kind of “fix”. In addition, it’s crucial to use a very heavy-duty pin, otherwise it will rattle loose. 

Why You Should Adjust Your Mower Deck Height

If your deck mower is too low, you’ll experience problems. If it’s too high, you won’t cut the grass short enough. More importantly, deck leveling is necessary to get a good, even cut. 

Preventing an Uneven Cut

No one likes the look of an unevenly cut lawn. Here, your lawn will have bars or slanted steps running across the yard. Leveling your deck will get rid of the problem. 

Preventing Yard Damage

If your deck is too low, the blades could cut into the soil, chop up parts of the grass, and rip up chunks of turf. That can be difficult to fix. 

Preventing Lawn Mower Damage

An uneven or very low deck can damage the blades. This happens as the blades catch on grass, roots, dirt, and rocks. This can bend the blades, chip the plastic deck cover, and cause other damage to the lawn mower. 

What is Lawn Mower Deck Leveling?

Deck leveling is the process of ensuring the blades are cutting evenly on all sides. This means adjusting the side-to-side and front-to-back blade height. In most cases, this should even the blades so that you get an even cut. 

A level deck is important for a smooth or even cut on the grass. If you see lines or visible height differences in the grass between mower passes, the deck isn’t level. That can be unsightly. Plus, usually it’s an easy fix. An even cutting height looks better on your yard. 

5 Things to Do Before Leveling the Mower Deck

Mower blades can be dangerous to adjust if you don’t take the right safety precautions. Use these 5 preparatory tips before putting your hands near the mower blades. 

Set the Parking Brake 

Depress the brake and engage the parking brake. This ensures the mower does not start to roll while you are lying under the wheels. 

Disengage Clutch 

Move the attachment clutch to the “Disengages” position. 

Stop the Ignition and Remove the Key 

Turn the ignition key to the “Stop” position and remove the key from the ignition. If you can’t remove the key, the engine isn’t fully off. 

Make Sure Blades Have Stopped 

Always wait at least a full minute after stopping the blades before adjusting them. 

Disconnect the Spark Plug Wire 

Disconnect the wire from the top of the spark plug and place it where it cannot come into contact with the plug. For safety, consider wrapping the end in tape while doing this. 

2 Benefits of Adjusting Mower Deck Height

Adjusting your mower’s deck height is fast, relatively easy, and resolves a lot of problems for your mower. 

A Beautiful Lawn 

A level deck results in an even cut. That means you get a beautiful lawn, every time you mow. That’s important whether you’re mowing your own lawn or doing it for someone else. 

Avoiding Damage

Preventing your deck or blades from scraping or hitting the ground helps you to avoid damaging the blades or the deck. That ensures your mower stays in the best condition possible for the longest possible time. 

3 Good Lawn Mowing Practices

Leveling your deck is likely about getting a better lawn. If you do, you can also try these three lawn mowing practices. 

Choosing the Right Mowing Pattern

It’s important to pick a mowing pattern and change it up each time you mow. Why? When you mow grass in any given direction, it falls over in that direction. Often, it continues growing in that direction. Plus, mower wheels compact dirt, which can restrict healthy grass growth if you continuously drive over the same areas. Eventually, you’ll get lighter or even brown rows where the wheels go. Keeping your mower to the same pattern will increase the damage you do to the yard. Switching up mowing patterns so that you always crisscross the previous pattern will help to keep your yard healthy. 

Cutting Grass Too Short

If you cut grass too short, it could cause problems in your lawn. For example, the grass could die back. In addition, your grass could spend so much energy re-growing the grass on top that it doesn’t grow roots. It will wash out or dry out the second you have a large rainfall or not enough rainfall. It’s always better to avoid cutting grass down by more than 1/3rd each time you mow. 

Slowing Down Your Mow 

Mowing too fast can cause staggering, clumping, and uneven cuts. That’s especially true if your mower hasn’t yet dislodged old grass from the blade when you hit new grass. That will leave stragglers and clumps. Drive at a slow, even pace, for a beautiful, evenly cut yard. 

Related Questions 

If you still have questions, this FAQ should help. 

How often should I level my mower deck? 

In most cases it’s a good idea to level your mower deck one or two times per season. If you go over a large bump or hit a curb, you could also check the blade heights. Plus, you should level the deck any time you notice lines or height discrepancies in your yard. 

How often should mower blades be sharpened? 

Most experts recommend sharpening blades every 25 hours of mowing time. For most laws, that means you’ll only have to sharpen once or twice a year. However, this depends on growing seasons in your area. If grass doesn’t go dormant in the winter, you’ll have to mow more often, so you’ll have to sharpen more often. 

How many times a week should I mow my lawn? 

Most lawns benefit from being mown every 3-7 days. However, this depends on how much rain you get, the type of grass, and how tall your municipality allows you to grow your grass. In addition, you should try not to cut down more than 1/3of the grass at once. This might mean you need several mows over a week to get to the desired length. 

Summing It Up

Leveling the deck on a Craftsman riding mower is relatively easy. It’s also essential for achieving even cut grass. Hopefully you can use this guide to resolve your leveling issues and get a beautiful lawn.