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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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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John Deere 140 garden tractor

John Deere 140 garden tractor

The John Deere 140, In 1968, was the first hydrostatic garden tractor born to John Deere. It had a 12HP Kohler engine. In 1969 John Deere changed the engine to a 14 HP Kohler. The John Deere 140′s were manufactured with the Sundstrand high gear hydrostatic transmissions up through the serial number 30,000 or 1970. The garden tractors with the serial number 30,001 and above and built in 1971 and newer had the new style Sundstrand transmission. This transmission was used up through all of the John Deere 140′s, ending in 1974. That style hydrostatic transmission was used in all of the John Deere garden tractors including the 120, 140, 300, 312, 314, 316, and 317 ending in 1982.

The John Deere 140 came standard with one hydraulic lever and 2 hydraulic couplers up front. On the 140 H1 John Deere you could special order individual brakes, headlights, and oversize 23×10.50×12 rear tires. Another special order option was the John Deere 140 H3. The H3 came standard with the whole works; triple hydraulics, headlights, individual brakes, and a cigarette lighter. Individual brakes came as a standard option on the 318, 322, 332, 420, and 430 garden tractors and ended as an option in 1992.

I bought my new John Deere 140 H3 garden tractor in November of 1972, making it a 1973 model from J&W Boat and Motor. We bought a JDX8 snowmobile at the same time. We made good use of the “H3” triple hydraulics, as I had the front 54″ blade mounted on the front and bought the optional hydraulic angling kit for it. At the same time I had a John Deere model 33 roto-tiller mounted on the rear, making use of all 3 hydraulic levers simultaneously if I wanted to. One lever is used to raise and lower the blade and has hydraulic down pressure on that same lever, it is built similar to the John Deere farm tractor design. The second lever was used to hydraulically angle the front 54″ push blade from left to right and right to left. The 3rd lever is used to raise and lower the John Deere model 33 roto-tiller. This was a good combination to have together for tearing up and leveling ground. Two hydraulic couplers mounted on the rear of the tractor could be ordered as an option to run a 3 point hitch to use even more attachments.

I personally had a roto-tiller, 49 snowblower, the 48″ mower deck, and a Johnson Workhorse front end loader. Other attachments I’ve had are a sickle bar mower, thatcher with engine mounted vacuum system and trailer, 54 inch front push blade, 54C center blade, 3 point hitch, and integral hitch.

I wish they had come out with an hour meter, it would be interesting to know the great amount of hours on this machine. We use this tractor commercially to run our business. It has gone through three of the 1 cylinder, 14 HP Kohler engines and then in 1988 the Briggs Vanguards came into being. We installed a 14 HP, V Twin, overhead valve, Vanguard engine with an oil filter and oil pump. The repower ended all the engine headaches and this engine is running steady today with many many hours on it. I’m afraid this engine and tractor is going to outlive me! This tractor has been used in tractor pulling since 1973 and basically knew nothing but 1st place for years. I’m proud to let friends and customers try out my 140 to get a feel for the great sturdy tractors and the power of the Vanguard engines. Once in a while I even show off and do some wheelies with it. The price of my 1973 John Deere 140 H3 was $1745. $10,000 today wouldn’t buy you those kinds of options in a new John Deere garden tractor.

I once installed a 3 cylinder Geo engine in a John Deere 140 for garden tractor pulling, if you would like to read about it check out this page: 1-800-618-8738

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I came across a listing of the new model John Deere Lawn and Garden Tractors. This list was posted by Stan in the JohnDeereGardenTracto Yahoo group. Stan is the group owner, one of the moderators, and a John Deere mechanic. There is some good natured bantering going on about which garden tractor model is, or was, the best. My (Bonnie’s) personal favorite was the John Deere 322, I loved the sound of that engine. Not too many of them were made. I’m pretty sure Jim would say the John Deere 140 because of all the features it had for such an early model.

All “L” series are now “100″ series
LT & LX series are now “X300″ series
GT & GX series are now the “X500 Multiterrain tractor” series
X400 & X500 series are the “X700 Ultimate tractor” series

102 – 17hp, 5spd, 42 inch deck
115 – 19hp, hydro, 42 inch deck
125 – 20hp, hydro, 42 inch deck
135 – 22hp, hydro, 42 inch deck
145 – 22hp, hydro, 48 inch deck
155C – 25hp, hydro, 48 inch deck
190C – 25hp, hydro, 54 inch deck

X300 – 17hp, hydro, 38 or 42 inch deck
X304 – 17hp, hydro, 42 inch deck, 4ws
X320 – 22hp, hydro, 48 inch deck
X324 – 22hp, hydro, 48 inch deck, 4ws
X340 – 25hp, hydro, 54 inch deck

X500 – 25hp, hydro, 48 inch deck
X520 – 26hp, hydro, 54 inch deck
X534 – 25hp, hydro, no deck, 4ws, PS
X540 – 26hp, hydro, 54 inch deck, PS

X700 – 23hp carb gas, hydro, PS – Comparable to the 425 then X475
X700 series have 48,54,or 62 in.decks
X720 – 27hp EFI gas, hydro, PS – Comparable to the 445 then the 485
X724 – 27hp EFI gas, hydro, PS, 4ws – Comparable to the 445 AWS then the X485 AWS
X728 – 27hp EFI gas, hydro, PS, 4wd – Comparable to the X585
X740 – 24hp diesel, hydro, PS – Comparable to the 455 then the X495
X744 – 24hp diesel, hydro, PS, 4ws – Comparable to the 455 AWS then the X495 AWS
X748 – 24hp diesel, hydro, PS, 4wd – Comparable to the X595
(comparables added by Jim)

The engines in the new X series are all Kawasaki or Yanmar and are exclusive to the John Deeres.

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As the recall says, owners of the affected model John Deere’s will be notified. The recall is for the X300 series:

Deere & Company Recall Lawn Tractors. Blade Could Operate While Mower Unattended

The following product safety recall was voluntarily conducted by the firm in cooperation with the CPSC. Consumers should stop using the product immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product: John Deere X300 Select Series Lawn Tractors

Units: About 16,000

Manufacturer: Deere & Company of Moline, Ill.

Hazard: A problem in the manufacturing process could cause damage to the circuit in the interlock module. If the interlock module fails, the mower blades will be able to run with no operator on the tractor seat. Consumers could suffer injuries from contact with operating blades.

Incidents/Injuries: No incidents or injuries have been reported.

Description: These John Deere X300 Select Series lawn tractors are green with yellow seats and wheels. The following model and serial numbers can be found on the serial number plate on the tractor’s frame, which is located just above the front wheel axle on the right side of the tractor.

Model Serial Number Ranges
X300 M0X300A012380 – 012875
X300 M0X300C020339 – 024949
X300 M0X300D011842 – 012375
X304 M0X304A013047 – 013964
X320 M0X320A017344 – 020858
X324 M0X324A012658 – 013220
X340 M0X340A012667 – 013498

Sold at: Authorized John Deere dealers nationwide from April 2006 through May 2006 for between $2,800 and $5,000.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: The company is directly notifying those consumers who purchased an affected tractor. Consumers should contact a John Deere dealer for a free repair.

Consumer Contact: For more information, contact John Deere’s Customer Contact Center at (800) 537-8233 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday, or at the John Deere Web site at

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