Repower a John Deere 317 garden tractorWe receive quite a few questions about repowering the older John Deere garden tractors. One of the most common models asked about is the John Deere 317. These 1979 to 1982 era garden tractors are well built and worth repowering. They were originally powered with the Kohler KT17 engine that had some serious design flaws. This engine gave a good tractor a bad reputation.

The KT17 Series I engine had a poorly designed main bearing on the crankshaft. It had an oil pump, but the oil pump did not pump the oil to the most important place, the connecting rods. It used a splash system on the connecting rods and you were instructed not to drive the tractor on hills. This engine breaks a connecting rod and the piston stops up against the head. It will sit there and run with no knocks with one piston standing still.

A question from our e-mails:

Q: I have a John Deere 317 garden tractor with the original Kohler KT17 engine. This past mowing season I noticed oil draining from the blow by vent.

Is there much entailed to installing the Vanguard engine in the JD 317?

The tractor is in very good condition but I use it for tilling our small garden and mowing my 1 acre.

Does your repower kit require any sheet metal alterations to the side guards? Is the 18HP engine your recommendation or a larger HP engine? I run the power flow collection system when I mow and use the tiller. I was wondering if a larger engine would be less stress on the engine.

A: The 18 horsepower Vanguard engine would easily have more than enough power. The Vanguard 18 horsepower puts out a short 20 horsepower as this engine is a little under rated. You do not have to cut any sheet metal. When you get done it will be a nice neat job and you will almost think you have power steering.

We have installed many Vanguards engines in dozens of John Deere 317 garden tractors. That is the only way to go. 1-800-618-8738

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2 Responses to “John Deere 317 Repower”

  1. I have a JD 317 with a completely destroyed Kohler KT17 (Connecting Rod broke). I have found a 10 HP Diesel that is quite inexpensive and was wondering if this would be underpowered to run the 317. The only reason I am contemplating this is because the diesel more than likely generates as much if not more torque than the KT17. I have also read in other blogs that there are driveshaft issues with 317 as well? I would like to remedy these issues if I swap in a new engine.

  2. You could get by with a 10 horsepower diesel but I would say the original engine would have more power than the 10 hp diesel. Yes there is a driveshaft problem with the John Deere 317′s. Deere has that engine mounted up too high and the driveshaft is at such an angle that it shortens the life of the driveshaft. I repower the John Deere 317′s with my 18 hp vanguard engine and installation kit and it turns out nice and neat. I dropped the engine down and the driveshaft is nice and straight with no angles, the driveshaft lasts forever and makes for a smoother running engine. If you would like to check out the repower options visit