Modified John Deere 318 garden tractor - Bird

Jim's Bird - Modified John Deere 318

Jim does a lot of modifications on the garden tractors to get just what he wants out of them. Our shop tractor, The Bird was one of those many projects done. If you would like to read about all of the modifications to this John Deere 318 garden tractor we have a web site page that explains them all. Jim even put headlights in the front end loader bucket. The “Bird” has been featured in 3 different magazine articles.

Rick writes asking how to accomplish attaching a front end loader to his Cub Cadet 3165:

Q: I have a Cub Cadet Series 3000 (3165), that my dad left me. The 3000 series originally offered a front end loader as an attachment, but only on the 20 HP and above versions. This 16 HP has a rugged enough frame for the job, can be fitted with a 3 point hitch, and has a 48” mower deck. I don’t want to buy a bigger tractor, this is just the right size.

Is there any loader that will adapt to this machine? Would I have to repower up to a 23 HP Vanguard?

A: If your engine is in average condition you will not have to worry about your 16 horsepower being too small to run a front end loader, that engine will easily handle the load.

Q: OK Jim, You have my attention. The tractor is in very good shape so that’s not an issue. The questions that come to mind are: 1) Have you, or anyone ever attempted this combination before? 2) Will my axles stand the strain of the increased loads?

A: Yes, I have put loaders on the 1250, 1450, 782, and 982 Cub Cadets in the past. You said earlier that the 3000 series had offered a loader for them, therefore I think it sounds strong enough. Although I have broken axles before, and I have broken more than one. I had the big wide balloon 15″ tires on my tractor with 30 gallons of liquid in each tire. 60 gallons X 8 pounds = 480 lbs plus 14 John Deere suitcase weights hanging on the back at 42 pounds each X 14 = 588 pounds. Then I also built a roll bar that takes
2 guys to lift and mounted it on the tractor, guessing the weight on that to be about 200 lbs. Then the loader empty weighs 400 lbs. You should easily be able to haul 600 lbs. in the loader. An average garden tractor will weigh 700 lbs., all adding up to 2968 lbs. And that’s not all, I put in a 23 horsepower Vanguard engine ahead of all this weight and then wonder why I break axles once in a while.

No you do not have to do all of this to make a garden tractor and a front end loader work. I guess I just enjoyed doing the work of what a $30,000 tractor will do. If you are the type that likes to revamp and build things or know of someone like that to help you, when you get it all said and done it will be something to be very proud of and a very useful piece of equipment that will save your back and much more. 1-800-618-8738

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John Deere 318 repowered with a Vanguard engine

One of our favorite garden tractors to repower is the John Deere 318. It’s a nice feature packed model and almost always worth fixing whatever might be wrong with it. A recent question sent about repowering a 318:

Q: Do you have a bolt in replacement kit for a John Deere 318? I have a bad Onan engine and would like a price for a kit. What comes in the installation kit? Is the wiring harness the same? Engine mounts? Clutch? I am looking for a relatively easy in and out. Do you provide phone support?

A: I have the top of the line Vanguard engines. They are the only way to go. Yes, we offer telephone support and a lot of it. You can call as many times as you need to on my toll free number to get your installation completed. There is a list of the items in the installation kit on our web site on the engine page. You do not take out your original wiring harness. There are no engine mounts that you have to mess with. All you do on that part of the subject is to drill 4 holes in the frame to mount the engine. Yes, you use your same PTO clutch as we have a special machined bushing so you can save buying that $300 PTO clutch. You will think this job is fairly easy to do providing you are a little mechanically inclined. We have sold quite a few of these repower kits for John Deere 318′s over the years and I don’t think anyone who intended on doing the installation themselves couldn’t complete the job. 1-800-618-8738

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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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John Deere 420 garden tractor

John Deere 420 garden tractor

These garden tractors all have something in common, they are powered with Onan engines. The Onans are decent engines but it is getting more difficult to find parts for any needed repairs.

Q: My John Deere 318 garden tractor with an Onan 18HP engine surges or pulsates under no load. When the PTO is engaged with any attachment the surge disappears? I bought it used last year and it is a great work horse.

A: It sounds to me like you have water or dirt in the carburetor. Take the top off and check for dirt or water. Take out the front jet toward the muffler, blow air through that orifice. Put it back together and adjust that air screw by the muffler and I would like to think everything now would be O.K.

Q: I have a Simplicity 9020 garden tractor with a tired Onan engine. I’m wondering about replacing the engine, or rebuilding it. Are parts still available for Onan?

A: Onan is slowly going out of business as they did not build an engine to pass our pollution standards. Our 23 horsepower Vanguard engine is by far the best way to go and is the best air cooled engine that money can buy.

Q: I have a 1987 John Deere 420 garden tractor with an Onan 20 HP engine and it surges. When I remove the air cleaner I can see the fuel being squirted into the carburetor when a surge comes. I have rebuilt most of the motor and installed a new carburetor and it is still doing it. Do you have any advice? Do you have a repower in a Vanguard?

A: It sounds to me like you have a leaking intake manifold. The way they have built the intake manifold is a bad design. Yes we have a Vanguard V-Twin overhead valve engine and made to order installation kit for your application.

Q: I have an Onan P218G with electronic ignition in my John Deere 317 garden tractor. It Runs great. I replaced the rings about 2 years ago and so the engine is clean inside.

When I start it, it often kicks back. Sometimes it locks up the starter. When it does this I have to take off the side cover and pry on the cooling fins to turn over the engine a small amount to get the starter to work again.

I took the engine out and checked to make sure the flywheel key was not broken off, it wasn’t. I replaced the spark plugs and this seemed to help some but now it is kicking back and locking up the starter again. It even unscrewed the nut on the starter twice and I had to take the engine out to put the nut back on.

Do I need a new electronic ignition?

A: When you had the engine out did you check the 2 holes in the block where the 2 starter bolts go through? You need to make sure one of those holes or both are not cracked or broken. You should replace that electronic module inside the flywheel. Also there is an electric ring slid on the crankshaft, that should be inspected and or replaced.

Q: I am the owner of a John Deere 420 garden tractor. I have been very happy with it since purchasing it used 6 years ago. Recently I have been having a problem with it losing power and shutting down after running for about 20 minutes. After checking it I discovered the spark is not there. What could be causing this situation? I think it is the Ignition coil or stator, can you confirm this for me? It is a P220G with an electronic ignition.

A: It would not be the stator because that has nothing to do with the ignition system, and yes it can be the ignition coil and or the ignition module located inside the flywheel. 1-800-618-8738

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John Deere 445 garden tractor

John Deere 445 garden tractor

I think everyone knows I really like John Deere lawn and garden equipment. If you have a good quality machine it’s worth fixing her up! Yes, I know there are other brands that are good quality, but these questions are just about John Deere’s.

Q: I was wondering how I would know if I have a bad cam or bad intake valves on a John Deere 445 garden with a 22HP Kawasaki engine.

A: We do not get bad camshafts on the 425-445 garden tractors but what happens on the camshafts is that the cam gear is made from nylon and typically at about 800 hours the gear teeth will break of. When that happens the engine will shut down and will not start again until a new camshaft is installed as the gear is casted to the camshaft. The replacement camshaft is all iron, therefore no more problems.

Q: I have a John Deere 111 Lawn Tractor which won’t start. I suspect a fuel problem. When I take the hose off the fuel pump (Autopulse) and crank the engine, I don’t get any fuel but if I take the feedline off and lower it towards the ground it drips gas.

My questions are:

Does this suggest the fuel pump (or does the hose have to be connected to the carb to

If so, are there any other options for a replacement given that we don’t have a John Deere dealer at the moment?

A: It does sound like you have a bad fuel pump. When you lowered the hose coming from the tank, the gas should have been coming out at a slow flo. If it was just dripping you might have a partly plugged gas line or gas tank problem. If you want to buy a fuel pump I have them in stock.

Q: I have a John Deere 318 garden tractor and I believe the starter went out of it. How do I remove the Starter, as it appears that there is no room or easy access to do it. I enjoy your site as you explain it in layman terms.

A: You have to remove the engine before you can take the starter out. On some of those Onan engines you will also have to remove the engine fan shroud to get at one of the starter bolts. It gets to be a fair sized job to get it all done. Glad you like our site, thanks. 1-800-618-8738

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Simplicity Garden Tractor

Simplicity Garden Tractor

We offer free “technical support” about most outdoor power equipment. Jim doesn’t know all the answers but helps when he can. Disclaimer: He isn’t always right! We have quite a few of the questions asked on our web site and according to the calls and e-mails we get, you like reading them! Here’s more:

Q: I have a Yard Machine (Gold Series) 17.5 hp engine. Because of work I do not get to cut the grass until late evening, so I install a couple spot lights to allow cutting at night.
Unfortunately the lights are draining the battery. What are my options? I am thinking of installing an alternator. is it very difficult?

A: You should be able to order out a bigger amperage output alternator and rectifier and come up with enough power to stay ahead of your added lights.

Q: I have an early 1970′s Jacobsen Super Chief, Hydro 1200 tractor, with a Rand
Hydro-Transmissions unit in it, number 90-4029. I would like to know which transmission oil to use. I have been told by one dealer to use Dextron automatic transmission oil and be another dealer to use regular hydraulic fluid. I would certainly appreciate knowing for sure which type of oil to use.

A: I would use the red Dextron III transmission oil.

Q: Is there a way for me to test the alternator on my Toro Wheel Horse 520-H garden tractor? To be honest, I can’t even locate an alternator. According to owners manual the alternator is 12 Volt, 20 amp. Regulated. When the battery is fully charged the voltmeter reads 12 volts. As it discharges there is no voltage reading. The 30-amp fuse tests good. If you can help me locate the alternator I can check electrical connections. Apparently this is some kind of pulse alternator since I can’t locate it. The engine is an Onan P-220-G I/10955D.

A: I think if you would install a new rectifier you would be working fine again. First make sure you have power to the center wire on the regulator with the ignition key on.

Q: I have a Scotts 2554 and the electric clutch makes a squealing sound when the mower is not engaged. When the mower is engaged the sound goes away. I understand that the clutch has a brake adjustment. How do I adjust it? The mower has a Kohler 25 hp motor with serial number 3034903061. If the bearing in the clutch is bad how much trouble is it to take it off and where is the best place to get a replacement part?

A: You adjust those self locking nuts until you have about .010 clearance in the brake. It sounds to me like you have a bad bearing and on that clutch I do not think the bearing can be replaced. That would make you have to replace the complete clutch.

Q: Help… mowing season is here and after servicing my Simplicity mower I now find that the mower starts and runs fine. However…when I engage the PTO the engine stalls. I replaced the PTO dash switch and unfortunately this did not help. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts that might assist me with my troubleshooting?

A: Yes, check out the wiring or the seat switch for an open circuit. Check out the hydrostatic switch and the switch on the brakes. 1-800-618-8738

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Gravely garden tractor

We mow with this Gravely

It’s summer and time to mow the grass. This old Gravely is what our neighbors use to mow all 3 of our country lawns.   It just got repowered with a Vanguard engine.  It’s ready to mow for another lifetime.  It has a 72 inch mower deck.  Yes, the neighbors mow our yard for us too.

Starting up the mower decks sometimes uncovers needed repairs.

Q: I just bought a used John Deere LX176 mower, The blades will not engage. When I brought it home today everything was working fine, however, when I turned off the blades to move to another area to mow, NOTHING. I called the mower shop where I purchased it and was told to replace all fuses, so I did, still NOTHING. I even replaced the PTO switch with a new one, still NOTHING, all wires are still connected.

A: Check your safety switch in the seat. Check your safety switch on the brake pedal (if it has one there). Check the wiring into the ignition switch for corrosion. If all of that is not a problem hot wire to the PTO clutch itself and see if that works O.K.

Q: Mowing season is here and after servicing my mower I now find that the mower on my Simplicity garden tractor starts and runs fine. However when I engage the PTO the engine stalls. I replaced the PTO dash switch and unfortunately this did not help. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts that might assist me with my troubleshooting?

A: Yes, check out the wiring or the seat switch for an open circuit. Check out the hydrostatic switch and the switch on the brakes.

Q: Is there an in line fuse for the PTO Switch in my John Deere LX176 lawn tractor? I have replaced the seat switch, the PTO switch, and the two fuses from behind the panel (steering)and the blades still will not engage. No wires were found disconnected. Does this leave the clutch to be replaced next?

A: The first thing to do is temporarily hot wire your PTO clutch and if your clutch works O.K., then start checking into your tractor circuits and wiring.

Q: I have a 455 John Deere Power shift which had a snow blade on front. I intend to cut grass with it and have removed the blade and hydraulics. The mowing deck was not with the tractor so I planned to fit one to a 3 point hitch and operate it off the PTO. Problem is, I cannot get the pto to engage. I pulled out the button on the dash and the dash lights up, but the shaft doesn’t spin. Do I need the mower fitted to the shaft before it will work? There is a handle at tbe rear beside the lift arms that has 3 settings, I am unsure as to its function. There is also a front driven PTO shaft, how does this engage?

A: At one of the settings, it runs the front PTO only, at the next setting it runs the rear PTO only, at the 3rd setting it runs both PTO’s at the same time. Because the light comes on it sounds like there is an electrical magnetic switch problem in the rear end.

Q: I have a John Deere 185 hydro. When I engage the blades they do not work. No noise, no nothing. What can the trouble be? Sounds like a switch to me. Any suggestions?

A: First clean the wires that plug into the backside of your PTO switch, then check out the PTO switch itself. You can also run a hot wire to your PTO clutch and see if the clutch clicks in and out.

Q: I have a John Deere F525 front mount mower and the blades suddenly decided not to work. The mower starts and runs fine, belts are ok, mower moves forward and reverse. Problem is when I pull the mower on switch, nothing. The belts don’t move, the blades no longer want to play. Everything works when moved by hand. I checked the fuses, and all are ok. Any suggestions as to where I might start to identify the problem?

A: You need to check out your PTO switch, brake switch, and other safety switches. Also check for corroded or dirty wiring and connections. Check to see if electricity is getting down to the electric clutch.

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Repower a Case Ingersoll garden tractor

Repowering a Case Ingersall garden tractor - Case 446

The Case and Ingersoll garden tractors are good quality, solidly built, vintage tractors. At our shop they are one of the most popular selling repowers we do. Many have had their tractors since they were new, some have inherited them from family or with some property they’ve purchased. There is a Case Garden Tractor Yahoo group where owners share their tips and ideas. We have a Case – Ingersoll Repower web page on our web site with questions and answers about repowering (replacing the engine) the Case-Ingersoll garden tractors. Here are some of the questions and answers about the
Case – Ingersoll models we’ve gotten in our e-mails:

Q: I need to replace the fuel pump on my Case 446 garden tractor. The pump is defective – the tractor will not fire when cranked unless I pour a little gas in the carburetor. Then it will run fine until the gas is gone. Do you have the parts to replace / or rebuild the unit? If not would you recommend using another 12 dc pump on the gas line that would be activated when the key is turned on?

A: Yes, just install an electric fuel pump in series with the current fuel pump and carburetor.

Q: I have a case 446 garden tractor built in 1974. The starters drive gear will spin but will not go forward to engage the flywheel. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is the front shield. My brothers solution is to cut the shield to gain access the area to remove the starter. I would like to avoid this at all costs.

A: You need to remove the engine, and remove the fan shroud, and then unbolt the starter.

Q: I just bought a Case 444 garden tractor and I am having problems getting it to run. When I bypass the solenoid it will just go clunck, clunk. It acts as if it is not getting any fire. I changed the coil, sparkplug, and wire. I just bought a new solenoid. It’s getting gas b/c it is running out of the air filter. What do you suggest?

A: By going clunk, clunk, are you telling me the starter and engine are not turning over? If that is so, it sounds like you have a shorted starter, or a starter with an open circuit.

Q: I have an Ingersoll 448 garden tractor. I was reading about the repowering you’ve done and am quite impressed. I think I will do it later during winter season. I think the price is great and it sounds very easy.

I do have a question for you. I’ve tinkered with this mower for years now and it’s been very reliable. Recently the battery light has been staying on, lights are dim and the battery eventually runs down and needs to be charged to start it. I just replaced the rectifier/regulator and it still stays on. There’s a little metal capacitor looking device with 3 wires (1 going to the starter relay, 1 going to the battery light and 1 going to the negative battery terminal). Do you think this part is bad? I guess the key switch may be involved too as I look at the wiring diagram. What do you suggest?

Also, this mower surges when running. It’s a steady constant rev and decline. when I mow, I don’t notice it at full throttle but when i slow the engine it begins again… hot or cold. I noticed that when it pulls itself under a slight load, it quits too. The only other remedy is to pull the choke half way out and it idles smooth. I changed the fuel and air filter and it still does it.

A: I think you need to check if the center wire on your rectifier is hot with the ignition on. If it is not hot, that is your problem. The second test you need to have an AC voltmeter and check the two stator wires with the engine running and they should be putting out 24 to 36 AC volts. If it is not the stator is junk and I would not fix that as it also sounds like you are having Onan governor problems.

Q: I am getting ready to purchase a gently used (290 hours!) Ingersoll 3014 with a Vanguard V-Twin 14hp engine. Does this tractor still have the mechanical PTO clutch like the old Case 22x / 44x series?

A: No it will already have the new electric clutch on it.

Q: I have a 446 Case garden tractor with a B43M Onan Engine. I have replaced the coil, but I am still not getting any spark across the points. Is there a kit or a way to wire up two coils ?

A: No, there is no reason to hook up 2 coils, you should check out your primary side bracket first.


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John Deere 317 with a new Vanguard engine

John Deere 317

Some quick answers to small questions about small engines and garden tractors.

Q: Can you help me with balancer timing on a Kohler K341 engine? There must be a better way than counting crank and balance teeth clock or counter clockwise rotation. Any help would be great.

A: Kohler makes a tool for timing those 2 balance gears. Check with a Kohler dealer and they should be able to help you out in getting one.

Q: How fast is a 18 horsepower engine?

A: This engine runs at 3600 RPM’s at full no load high idle.

Q: What size battery will my John Deere 317 garden tractor need in order to try to get it working again?

A: The correct battery size is a MT 26.

Q: My John Deere tractor has an 18 horsepower Onan engine and it will not recharge the battery. What part do I need? Is it a starter/alternator combination?

A: No, it is not a starter alternator combination. Sounds like you might have a bad rectifier.

Q: I have a Cub Cadet 1440 with a 14 hp V-Tech Vanguard engine.  Yesterday I noticed an oil leak at the front crankshaft seal and a noise I assume is from the front bearing.  From the diagrams, it looks like the bearing is in the front cover directly behind the seal.  Can this bearing be replaced with the engine in place without breaking it down and or pulling the front cover?

A: Yes, you can put the seal in without removing the cover, but it is a hard job. 1-800-618-8738

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John Deere 425 garden tractor

John Deere 425

If you are contemplating which garden tractor to buy, there are quite a few options to consider. You not only need to plan on what you want the tractor to do now but have some insight into what you might want to do with later. Will you ever want to use a front end loader or a 2 stage snowblower? Then you might want to consider a heavier duty machine. You will also want to know if the attachments you want now or in the future will be available. That is when it is helpful to have a better known brand of garden tractor, later when you want to buy accessories and parts. With so much information on the internet it’s pretty easy to find information on all the new machines and what they have to offer, it’s a little harder to find information on the “good” older machines. Some want a new shiny machine but you might want to consider something you may already have, getting attachments for it, or repowering and getting it running again. We hear from quite a few of you that have had someone give them their old tractor, or they have inherited one. My knowledge is best in the John Deere line of used garden tractors but we have been repowering all the brands since 1988 and have repaired and repowered some great older Cub Cadets, Simplicitys, Cases, Grasshoppers,Craftsmans, Alles Chalmers, Kubotas, Snappers, Great Danes, Toro Groundsmaster, Ransomes, and Ariens. A few e-mails asking – Which model?:

Q: I’m looking for a used John Deere riding mower but I am unsure of the model size that would work best for me. For physical size/storage I’m looking to stay between 100-300 series with turf tires and 38″ mower deck.

I have a little less than 1 1/2 acre of lawn to mow, but I am also looking to use it during the winter to plow snow from sidewalks/driveways.

The features I’m looking for are automatic transmission, power steering, hydraulics up front for a snow plow/snow thrower (preferably 2 stage), rear hydraulics for tiller, a snow cab, and a model that came with good front lights for night visibility. Can you tell me what year and model you would suggest so I can begin my search?

A: Your 100-30 series will not cover your demands. It sounds to me like you should check into the X700 models if you are wanting something new. Otherwise, a John Deere 318 will do everything you asked for and so would a lot of the other older John Deere garden tractors.

Q: I’d like your opinion. Which is better, the John Deere 318 or a newer John Deere 425? It seems they are both comparable in features and price. The JD 425 may be a couple hundred more for a machine with like hours. I know they have some different features, but it seems to me they are similar with both being 20 H.P. and having the hydraulic quick connects. The biggest difference I see is the differential lock and elimination of the two separate brake pedals on the JD 425, and the engine. Which would YOU rather have for the same money?

I would like to do some landscape type grading for leveling up people’s yards and renewing lawns ( stripping off the root mat, grading, spreading blended topsoil, and reseeding, as well as providing mowing service). Do these tractors do a good job loosening up sod with a small disk harrow, or would it be better to get one of the John Deere rear mount roto tillers? I know I need a three point hitch and rear PTO for the tiller, but I also feel pretty sure you will have all the parts I need to make that work. If the answer is the roto tiller, then a front blade would be in order. If the disc harrow would work, a back blade wouldn’t be too hard to switch with the harrow, and I have experience with back blades and box scrapers. I have a gut feeling that the John Deere 425 would be a better machine for this type of work mostly because of the newer water cooled Kawasaki V-twin engine and the longevity and reliability it would provide. But, I also know the JD 318 is one of your favorite models. What’s your opinion on this?

A: You are correct, I would much rather have a John Deere 425 with a water cooled engine. A tractor rototiller works much better than a walk behind rototiller.

Q: I have a chance to buy a John Deere 425 garden tractor with a little over 700 hours on it. I tested it and all looks and sounds good. A friend knows the back ground of the tractor and all sounds good. It is a one owner and cut about three acres. Is this as good a tractor as the 318? Are there any short comings about the  JD 425 that you know of or things I should look for?

A: This tractor is rated with the John Deere 318 and John Deere 332 tractors. The only problem we have the 425, 445 is that the plastic camshaft teeth would break off from heat and then a new camshaft needs to be put in. It is not that big of a deal.

The John Deere 318 garden tractors were built from 1983 to 1992. The John Deere 425 was built from 1993 to 2001. I am not necessarily saying newer is better. The 318 has a flat head, air cooled engine in it. The 425 has a V-Twin overhead valve, water cooled engine, 20 horsepower. All of this is much better than an air cooled engine and of course has 2 more horsepower than the 318. The 425 is smoother and quieter than the 318. The 425 has a posi lock rear end and no individual brakes. The 318 has individual brakes but no posi lock rear end. The 318 travels at 7.2 MPH and the 425 travels at 8.4 MPH. 1-800-618-8738

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Sundstrand hydrostatic transmission

Sundstrand hydrostatic transmission

Cub Cadet, Simplicity, Alles Chalmers, Ariens, and John Deere have garden tractor models that have hydrostatic transmissions. If you have problems with a hydrostatic transmission normally you have to make a decision to:

a: Rebuild it. (somewhat expensive and can be done only if the parts can be found)
b: Replace it. (very expensive and only if the same or compatible transmission can be found) or
c: Get a different garden tractor.

Obviously it’s best if you prevent problems with the hydro transmission before they happen. One of the most common and preventable causes of the hydrostatic transmission failing is pulling/towing the garden tractor. Just don’t do it, not even a short distance. If we need to move a non-running garden tractor around the shop we will even skid the wheels rather than take the chance of ruining a good transmission. We specifically overhaul Sundstrand hydrostatic transmissions, there are other brands. These are a couple of e-mailed questions we have answered about Sundstrand hydrostatic transmissions. It will give you an idea of the symptoms of the hydrostatic transmission failing and a few things to check out before you overhaul or replace it.

Q: I have a question concerning a larger piece of equipment. I have an older Ford front loader with the Sundstrand hydrostatic drive. About a month ago while moving a load of horse manure the unit decided to not move anymore. I called a friend and he guessed that it could be the neutral switch just out of adjustment. Ring any bells for you guys? I don’t know anything about hydrostatic transmissions and am lost!

A: A few recommendations:

1. Check if the driveshaft isn’t stripped and slipping on the transmission.

2. Check the linkage going from your hand or foot control down to the transmission and make sure it did not unhook or fall off.

3. Also check on the arm that hooks on the shaft going into the transmission and make sure it is not slipping.

4. If you have a gear transmission behind your hydro transmission, make sure that it did not jump into neutral.

5. Then, did you check and see if you have a broken axle?

Q: I have a John Deere LX 176 lawn tractor, 38 inch mower deck, with a hydrostatic transmission. It has a few hours on it but is in good condition, with one small exception. It has slowly refused to climb the slope in my front yard. About half way up it simply gives up and makes a shuddering sound. This seems to also be aggravated by temperature. The colder it is the better it works and then as the tractor gets hotter it won’t back up even on a slight incline. I fear the hydro needs rebuilding, do you agree?

A: First check to see if your traction drive belt is not slipping or you have a locked up idler pulley.

Q: I checked both conditions as you suggested and both are to specification. It has a new John Deere belt. The condition as I described it before also gets worse as the temperature of the transmission rises. After an hour of use the speed in both forward and reverse slows with any change in grade. I have had several John Deere riding lawn mowers before and used them on the terrain with no similar results.

A: Yes, I agree, you are correct that your problem is a bad hydrostatic transmission. It looks as though there might be 3 different transmissions, so we need to start with getting the serial number from your lawn tractor. 1-800-618-8738

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Agco Allis garden Tractor

Agco Allis garden tractor

Around here we call all the annoying things that go wrong with your machine when you try to use it first time out the “Wintertime Blues”. Why does it not work when it worked fine when we put it away? We don’t know, sorry. But we fix all kinds of machinery here at our shop and answer lots of questions about it. Here are a few:

Q: Jim, I have not used my tractor in about 6 months. I tried starting it but the tractor backfires during a higher speed and eventually will stop. I already replaced the gas filter, cleaned the air filter, and replaced the spark plug. What could it be?

A: Make sure your valves are not sticking in the valve quires from sitting too long.

Q: I have a question regarding my John Deere 316 garden tractor and a problem with the hydraulic blade sticking in position. The blade functionally is not the problem. we have switched the hoses around to verify that it is not the blade, also the handle linkage is not stuck. One of the four hookups does not allow the blade to return. We can make the blade go up, but cannot return it back down (also we can do the same with left to right if we switch our hook ups around). We have been putting the blade down and lifting the tractor off the ground and having the stuck hookup be the return that would lift the blade. We leave the handle in the down position and over about a 3 hour period, it will slowly release and set the tractor back on the ground. Any thoughts on how to release this sticking? The fluid used is the transmission fluid of the tractor, would a transmission cleaner additive work?

A: It sounds to me like you will need to replace the double hydraulic control valve and see if that takes care of your problem.

Q: Jim my problem with my John Deere 425 garden tractor is driving me nuts, The dealer says the switch is good, but seat switch was bad. Now it dies when you take the brake off, The PTO still does not work. Got any good ideas on this problem?

A: Check your fuses, make sure the seat switch is okay, then remove the rear fenders and check out the wiring going from the seat up to under the dash. 1-800-618-8738

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Replacement Vanguard Engine Repower

Vanguard Replacement Engine Repower

The colder weather has gotten us busy getting our garden tractors “running good”. If you treasure your garden tractor, treat it to a new engine.

Q: I have a Cub Cadet 1650 garden tractor and am interested in putting in your Vanguard 18 horsepower engine or larger. Your kit, will the original drive shaft bolt up to the kit and the motor mounts, will the engine utilize the same ISO mounts as the original or will a new mounting system be supplied?

A: We usually take out the mounts and go solid to the frame. The Vanguard engines are so smooth they do not need the rubber mounts. There is more than one correct way to do the job and some of my customers mount on a rubber plate. Part of your original driveshaft will get reused. Also when you get this job done the tractor will almost feel like you have power steering after dropping 40 to 60 pounds off the front axle.

Q: Jim, I have a Bolens Model H14XL garden tractor (1458). I believe it is a 1979 or 1980 model with a Techumseh OH140 14horsepower engine that I would like to repower. Would you know of an engine that would fit?

A: Yes the 18 horsepower V-Twin Vanguard engine will take the place of that Tecumseh engine. The Vanguard engine also has an oil filter and oil pump and will fit right in that tractor. The Vanguard 18 horsepower actually puts out a short 20 horsepower. We also have the installation kits to get the job done.

Q: My Onan P218 engine cratered the other day and I do not want to trash my John Deere 318 garden tractor. I would like a replacement engine that drops in with little modifications to the tractor. Please let me know what you recommend. I would like to do the repower in January while the weather is bad.

A: We can set you right up and in my opinion this is the only way to go. The Vanguard V-Twin, overhead valve, 18 horsepower engine will fit right in and your side panels can go back on. It looks neater than factory when you get done. I also offer a very handy set up for you to do your installation. If you run into a problem just give me a call on my toll free number and I can talk you through any problem you might run into. 1-800-618-8738

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