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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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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Craftsman garden tractor

Another popular garden tractor - Craftsman

I get quite a few questions about Craftsman garden tractors and they have been a pretty popular brand over the years. We have repowered some and repaired some here at our shop. There is a Yahoo group/forum for Sears garden tractors. Joseph is the moderator and a pleasant, helful guy. If you check out their files and database sections there are some helpful guides for attachments. Following are a few Q&A’s we’ve answered about Craftsman garden tractors.

Q: We have a Craftsman Garden Tractor model # 917.257720. It stalls out after it warms up or is under load for a few minutes. We have given it a full tune up, replaced the gas filter, new carb, changed all the belts, changed oil and filter, adjusted carb.

A: You need to check out your ignition spark quality. I sounds to me like you have a bad ignition coil.

Q: Jim, I have a Craftsman tractor with a Kohler Command 20.5 hp twin engine. It runs fine cold and mows with no problem at all. When I am finished mowing (engine hot) and turn off the deck, the engine idle varies, like it is hunting for the proper speed when the load is released. It will run with this hunting idle until I turn it off. Once cool, it starts right up and idles smoothly again. Any idea of where to look to correct this problem?

A: Yes, that sounds to me like a carburetor air fuel ratio problem. In other words, the carburetor is running lean when hot. You can check this out by putting the choke partially on and then I would say your engine will smooth right out.

Q: I have an old Craftsman Lawn Wizard with a Kohler 20 hp engine. I have to replace the electric PTO, I guess it is the bolt in the center of the motor,however, everything spins when I try to remove the bolt, what is the trick to remove the pto?

A: To check your PTO clutch, put an ammeter in series with your PTO clutch and check your amp draw. It should be 3 amps or less. If it is more, you need to replace the PTO clutch.

The very easy way to get that front bolt loose is to use an impact wrench, it will come off without even holding onto the crankshaft. 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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If you click the link above the picture to the left there is a short video of Jim in a tractor pull in 1992 with his garden tractor puller called the Geo.  It had a 3 cylinder Geo engine in it.

Garden tractor pulling is not the same as garden tractor racing. Pulling is not about the speed of the tractor but about the power and traction it has. Over the years I have won and lost with quite an assortment of garden tractors of just about every brand. I lost most of my pullers in a fire a few years back but I have a few built up again. I am definitely not an expert about tractor pulling but I’ve done a lot of it. I started with pulling my dad’s farm tractor a few times in North Dakota. Later I tried my hand at pulling with my “classic” John Deere’s, a John Deere 830 and John Deere 820. I switched to garden tractor pulling in the 70′s. I have a garden tractor pulling page on our web site, you can check out some pictures there if you are interested. Check out our “Geo Story” page too, I put a 3 cylinder Chevy Geo engine in a John Deere 140 for tractor pulling, later I put the same engine in a John Deere 317. .The most common e-mailed question I get is:

Q: I would like to build my own garden tractor puller, I have a garden tractor, what do I do next?

My answer always is:

A: You need to check with the people or association that you are going to pull with, find out the different weight classes they will be having pulls in, and get their list of rules. That will tell you what kind of garden tractors, engines, tires, weights, and safety equipment you can use.

Q: My daughter has pulled lawn and garden tractors for the past two years in 1100 lb and 1400 lb stock classes with good success, but this year we are looking to step it up considerably. Our first year we used a Wheel Horse with a single cylinder 12HP – 8 speed and ran mid pack. Last year we used a Wheel Horse 416-8 with a twin 16HPp engine and finished in the money with every pull. This year I was looking to go with a Wheel Horse 520H, but a friend of mine who used to pull successfully in the past told me that the 520H was a great tractor, but would not pull as well as a gear driven because the hydro has no low range and just didn’t pull well. I then found a rare 520-8, but the same friend told me that this would be more power than I would need and would spin out. He suggested sticking to the 416-8. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much power in pulling and that although they do weigh more, and you can’t put much weight on for the 1100lb class, a hydro might do well and the more horses the better, right?

A: Yes, your correct, the hydro will do better with more horses. I would say you need at least 2 extra horsepower to stay with the stick transmission. You are also correct in saying there is no such thing as too much horsepower, if it had too much power that meant you should have been in a higher gear.

Q: I have recently become interested in garden tractor pulling and have found a good buy on a John Deere 300. It will need a new engine, but my concern was more with the transmission and differential. Will the hydrostatic and rear end hold up good for a puller, or should I keep shopping?

A: Do not worry about that transmission and rear end. I have already put a Chevrolet engine ahead of that package and didn’t even hurt it at 6000 RPM’s. 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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Super Cub Cadet

Super Cub Cadet

Are you trying to fix your lawn mower or garden tractor? I hope you can find a little help either here on our blog or on our web site. I don’t know about you, but when I’m having trouble with something, the best answers I get to my problems usually come after a quick Google search of the problem. These are diagnosing and troubleshooting questions and answers about Cub Cadets. One of our web site pages also deals with Cub Cadet garden tractors and lawn mowers.

Q: What can cause the PTO belt to break on a series 2000 Cub Cadet riding mower? Mine has broken three times and I don’t want to replace until I can repair it. After replacing, I am able to get about half the yard mowed before it breaks again. All the pulleys seem to be moving freely. Can you help?

A: Check if you may have a faulty belt tightener that is getting the belt so tight that you are breaking the belt. Also check when you raise the mower up, if that and see if that makes the belt much too tight.

Q: I have a Cub Cadet 1440 Garden Tractor that I purchased new in 1995.

Yesterday, I noticed the amp indicator light flickered at idle speed. It was a slight flicker for just a split second and then would flicker again in several seconds. The light never came on at full speed when mowing. With the tractor was running and I turned the headlights on, at idle speed the amp light is bright red and as I increase the engine speed the amp light gradually dims but never goes fully off. At no time did the tractor ever run differently from before or ever act like the engine was going to cut off.

A: Check your charging voltage at the time the light is flickering. The charging voltage should be around 13 volts. If it is lower you could have a faulty voltage rectifier or maybe a bad cell in the battery.

Q: I have a 2150 Cub Cadet garden tractor. The PTO occasionally will not engage, usually after its been running for awhile. If I switch it off and attempt to re-engage it just will not work and I can’t finish the lawn. Is it the clutch or the switch and what’s a good way to test?

A: Check out your amperage draw on your PTO clutch coil after you have run it long enough, until it will not restart. Then check it and your amp draw should be about 2 amps maximum. If it is more, then you should replace the PTO clutch or PTO clutch coil. 1-800-618-8738

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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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Ford 120 Garden Tractor

Ford 120 Garden Tractor

Our shop offers free equipment troubleshooting advice by telephone or e-mail. I don’t know it all but I have a lot of experience and sometimes know where to find the answers. Sometimes I can’t help at all, but I try. I know the visitors to our web site enjoy reading the questions and answers that are included there, they e-mail and tell me. Now and again I will post some here.

Q: My 1978 John Deere 316 with a Kohler engine starts with a jump but the battery won’t charge. I dont know if it is a voltage regulator or if the starter has a generator built into it. I would appreciate any advice.

A: No, you do not have a generator built into your starter. Your engine has an alternator built into the engine under the flywheel. Take a test light, turn on the ignition switch, touch the center wire on the voltage regulator with the probe of your test light. The light should light, and if it does, then it would tell you that your voltage regulator needs to be replaced. If the light does not light that would mean that you have an open circuit in the ignition switch or the electrical circuit.

Q: I have a Ford 120 with a Kohler 321 engine with an electric clutch to operate the hydraulic pump. I think the bearing has gone bad and I don’t know how to remove the clutch. Is it threaded on or pressed on or…. Please Help. I need this tractor.

A: They are usually bolted on the front of the engine, meaning the crankshaft. Take off the other nuts if you see them on the clutch. Then part of the clutch assembly should slide off – but this very seldom happens. The hub is usually rusted to the crankshaft. If this happens use a lot of penetrating oil and pry back and forth until it starts to loosen and keep oiling it. After it is off, clean the crankshaft with some emery cloth.

Q: I recently bought a 1970 Simplicity 3212H tractor. I new it either had a rod knock or something so I took the engine out, replaced the piston, and put the engine back in. The tractor runs much better, but is there any way that you know of to adjust the hydrostatic rear end for a bit more speed?

A: You can check the hydro linkage if you are getting the maximum stroke on your linkage. I can also go through them and come up with a fair amount of a higher top speed. 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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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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John Deere 40 front end loader attachment

John Deere 40 Front End Loader

When you have managed to get a nice collection of garden tractor attachments it’s not an uncommon practice to own more than one garden tractor to use them with. We’ve done this often with our neighbors, keeping less used attachments like the belly blades, roto-tillers, de-thatchers, and leaf collection systems on one tractor while having a mower deck or front end loader on another. We use our front end loaders every day so we need our shop tractors with loaders not to be tied up mowing the grass. We get plenty of questions about which attachments work with different models of garden tractors. Here is a recent one:

Q: I have a John Deere 330 diesel garden tractor. I have numerous attachments for it. It has a front loader, 3 point hitch, and more. I also have a power broom that I would like to mount on a different unit as the loader and broom are too inconvenient to continuously switch out. I am curious as to which models will interchange with mine. I understand the 316, 317, 318 models will accommodate my accessories. What other models will? I plan to look for a second unit to mount the broom on and perhaps my tiller as well. What are my options? Do you have any insights on the 330? Anything I can do to increase the hydraulic capacities? Any quirks I should be aware of?

A: The garden tractors you can mount the broom are John Deere 120, 140, 300, 312, 314, 316, 317, 318, 322, 330, and 332.

The loader and your 3 point hitch can only be mounted on John Deere 316, 318, 322,330, and 332.

The hydraulics on the John Deere 330 garden tractors work fine, if you are running the loader off of the tractor, I would switch the loader over to it’s own pump. The front end loader works much faster and better if you get a big enough pump.

Q: I am intrigued by the idea of using a separate pump for the loader. Would this be
powered from the front PTO? Where would one mount such an animal? What should I be looking for in a pump? How big is big enough and what kind of performance could I expect? Currently my unit struggles with about 300 lbs, but the bucket capacity is slightly larger, when I switch to the 2′ forks (my own design) I would like the ability to occasionally lift more than that. Increased speed would be a much welcome side effect if possible.

A: The loaders usually come with about a 4 gallon per minute pump. A 9 gallon per
minute pump will make things work pretty good. Myself, I put on a 22 gallon per minute pump on the John Deere 318 – the Bird, but you do not have to go that far. On most front end loaders there is a by pass valve on the 2 lever valve that allow you to adjust the lifting capacity of your loader. Of course in doing so you will have to add even more weight yet to the rear of the garden tractor. 1-800-618-8738

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Because I am a John Deere fan I check in on this Yahoo forum frequently: Stan is the main moderator for the group and is also a lawn and garden tractor mechanic. Joseph also moderates this forum as well as quite a few of the other garden tractor forums. Both guys are very helpful and knowledgeable. Another good John Deere forum with a huge amount a good information is WeekendFreedomMachines

The Case garden tractor Yahoo group: is a great resource. At the shop we have been combining two Case 446 garden tractors into one working tractor and repowering it. If you would like to check out the repower on the Case 446: I told the owner I would find him an operators manual for the roto-tiller that came with them. I searched for quite a while and then asked on the Case Garden Tractor Forum. Within an hour at least two replies led me to where I could buy one.

Links to other brands of garden tractor Yahoo groups:

Wheel Horse garden tractors:

Yanmar tractors:

International Cub Cadet: and

Gravely garden tractors:

Simplicity and Allis Chalmers:

Bolens garden tractors: and

Massey Ferguson garden tractors:

I check into quite a few other garden tractor groups that aren’t brand specific and some that host classified ads and wanted to buy ads. This is just a sample of my favorites. 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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Jim and his John Deere 140 H3

We have been expanding our web site and the information, services, and equipment we offer. It’s been an exciting change and a lot to learn. I (Bonnie) have been taking online classes and learning to make our web site,, more professional and easy to use.

New for Jim is offering free outdoor equipment technical support. While he has always helped people repair garden tractors and other equipment while talking to them on the telephone and with e-mails, he is doing a lot more of it now. He doesn’t know all of the answers but he knows quite a bit, and he loves those garden tractors! A few times we have looked to the Yahoo garden tractor forums to get more ideas from guys who also love working on garden tractors and the attachments. I will add some links here to the many forums, it’s a good resource.

Even though it may seem the blog will only be about garden tractors, we’ll talk about some of the questions Jim gets e-mailed to him every day about all kinds of outdoor equipment and small engines.

So check back soon! 1-800-618-8738

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