Well, I just got off the horn with MTD tech support and it really depends on who ya talk to, because this time, the parts guy gave me all kinds of info. He spec'd the oil as 85W-140, but couldn't tell me what base it uses or brand. He did give me an MTD part number for it (more on that below).
He also sent me the engineering exploded view PDF which has part numbers for all the guts of the tranny! Finally, I'm in! I thought...
So, I call back, talk to a parts lady and, you guessed it.. I discover the axle shaft seal/bearing bobbins are NLA, the little pivot arm AND oil show as invalid numbers. FFS!!! This is a BRAND NEW mower and parts are already NLA and other numbers aren't even on their system at all anymore!
If the tech guy was correct, at least maybe I'll be able to fill it with the correct oil. I still expect conventional oil will damage the plastic(s), so here we go with expensive synthetic; the ONLY synthetic 85W I can find is: Royal Purple
The engineering drawing is dated 2012, which isn't really that old. That proves where their mindset is — buy the ENTIRE $90 tranny or fuck off.
I asserted that I shouldn't have to buy a $90 transmission to replace a brand new one that wasn't even built properly at the damn factory.
Their factory workers are apes or show up for work high or are straight out of kindergarten. You should see all the damage to the paint on this thing, which could not possibly have happened during transit because of the locations. It looks like a monkey went apeshit on it with a wood rasp. Big gouges and scrapes all over the place. When I called them and said it looks like a rebuilt, they swore it isn't. Oh no.. not if you ordered directly from Troy-Bilt (which I did). Therefore, it was damaged during production.
This thing was supposedly assembled in America. Well, Trump, this is what everyone is going to get when you virtually force consumers to buy American.. BUY AMERICAN! It'll be like the 70's auto industry, and I remember quite well how cars were absolute JUNK before the Japanese scared the shit out of Detroit and forced them to start building better vehicles. We had a Plymouth Valiant which was a death trap (along with a leaking trunk like every other Chrysler we ever had). Its steering gearbox wasn't properly welded. My Dad was driving, the thing started shimmering and shaking violently (as it had done before a few times) and we went flying into a ditch on the other side of a BRIDGE we just crossed! Lucky we weren't all killed. His buddy at work discovered the fault and welded it for us, after which it worked just fine.
Anyway, moral of the mower story: FUCK MTD!