John Deere 317 garden tractor

John Deere 317 garden tractor

This is a recent dialog we had with a John Deere 317 garden tractor owner about starting problems he was having. We like working on the 317′s here at our shop, they are a nice sturdy older ” vintage” tractor.

Q: I have a question about my John Deere 317.

I replaced the ignition switch as it was getting harder to turn to the “start” position. I used an authentic JD part, so I know the new switch is fine, but now I don’t get any click (or start) when I turn the new ignition switch to start. The battery is fully charged and the PTO switch relay clicks when I turn it on. I have looked and can’t find that I pulled a wire loose when I traded ignition switches. There is also no draw on the battery when I turn the ignition.

Is there any troubleshooting steps I could take to figure this out?

A: When you go to start mode the electricity has to go through your neutral safety switch, check that switch and wiring. Then from there it goes to your PTO switch where the problem could be loose connections, corrosion at the connectors, or a bad PTO switch and yes, I realize you said it goes click when you move the PTO switch up and down. The PTO switch is actually two switches in one so, in other words, the PTO switch can still be bad.

Q: Jim, when you say Neutral safety switch, you mean the one for the hydrostatic transmission?

A: Yes, that neutral safety switch is located below the neutral groove in the dash.

Q: Jim, that did the trick. I took the plugs off each switch, wire brushed them and I’m back in business.

One more question about the starter on the JD 317. With more and more frequency, my starter sounds like it doesn’t engage. When I turn to the start position on the ignition, I get what sounds like a low growl (and it sucks the battery juice down). After several tries, it will usually kick in. Would you guess the starter needs rebuilt, or just lubricated? I have an old enginefrom this tractor. I looked at the starter and see that the gear slides out on the starter motor shaft to lock into the flywheel. It was rusty of course, but thought I might try just lubricating the shaft on the tractor before replacing it. I am considering getting the other starter rebuilt and switching them.

A: Yes, it sounds like the Bendix drive is sticking on the spiral spline on the shaft of your starter. Spray carburetor cleaner and rinse it out. You can do this without pulling the engine.

Q: Jim,I think I told you that following your directions, everything worked out well. What I did notice though, is that it looks like I need to pull the engine if I were to replace the starter. Is that correct? I looked all around and under the tractor, but doesn’t look like there’s any way to get the starter out without at least loosening the motor mounts on the one side and tilting the engine. Is that so? I just want to prepare myself for that day.

A: You are correct, you have to pull the engine in order to get to the starter. You can just lift the engine up a ways, not remove it, but it is nice to take it out and pressure wash everything. 1-800-618-8738

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10 Responses to “John Deere 317 Garden Tractor”

  1. Not sure how to post a new question hope this works.

    I have a 317 that will not start, NO SPARK. It has the ignotion control under the fly wheel. Is there a way to test this without pulling the engine. The other proplem parts could be the coil itself and I am not sure if the condensor could cause this too. I am not even sure why it has a condensor. Any halp on troubleshootingf would be apprerciated.

  2. Try a new ignition coil first. Actually you should install the new igntition coil and a new ignition module as a pair so a weak part doesn’t take out a good one.

  3. I have a very strange problem with my john deere 317. I only get spark on 1 cylinder. I’ve replaced the points, plugs, wires, condenser, coil, and I still only get spark on the left side cylinder.

    I’m at a complete loss as to what could possibly cause this.

  4. The only thing I can think of is to try another ignition coil.


  5. I have a JD 317 that has been sitting outside of my garage for the past couple of years here in MN. The engine was turning over very slow and would not fire at all. I replaced the battery and the engine turns over great, but does not fire. I purchased a 317 service manual as I am desirous to get this tractor going before the snow flies…have the snowblower attachment for it. In the ignition circuit section of the manual it shows a meter that checks the coil, condenser, etc. I have not been able to find any information on the meter that was spelled out (I do not have the specific make/model right now at my disposal). What test device do you recommend that I utilize to check out the ignition system?

  6. Just check if you are getting spark from the spark plug wires and also what the spark quality is. It should jump at least 1/4 inch and should be a lightening blue in color.


  7. I have an issue with my JD 317… I just finished attaching my snowblower and found that when I started my tractor and hit the PTO switch it would kill my tractor like I had turned the key off… I assume it would not be the electronic clutch as it engages/disengages just fine when I toggle the switch and the snowblower was turning until the engine quit.

    However, I am also having trouble, like a previous blogger had stated, in regards to the neutral safety switch sometimes working and sometimes not, thus not allowing me start the tractor unless I wiggle it or push the hydro stick hard towards the left… My question is do you think it’s the PTO toggle switch or the neutral safety switch or both, or possibly something else… I am going to have to replace the neutral safety switch anyways, so I guess I will start there… any advice?

  8. Yes, the switches involved are the seat switch, the PTO switch, and or the wiring.


    • Thanks for the reply… unfortunately the seat switch has been probably jimmy rigged under the fender somewhere from previous owner, and if the neutral safety switch I purchased doesn’t cure the issue I will have to trace the wires and see what’s going on… you would think that the tractor would not start at all if the seat switch wires were grounding out somewhere though…

      Speaking of the wiring… would you by any chance have a copy of the wiring diagrams for the 317 you could fax/email me? would really help me troubleshoot this issue if you did, thanks…

      Also the old neutral safety switch I removed was rivitted on to the bracket… did it come that way from factory? How careful do you have to be to re-rivit that baby back on so as not to break the switch??