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Nothing runs like a Deere, when it runs.
March 23, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I inherited a 1988 John Deere 160LT Lawn Tractor. It has been difficult to start. I was advised that my battery did not have enough cold cranking amps, sp I bought a more powerful twelve-volt battery today and I still cannot start the mower. I can, however, hear a click inside the engine compartment each time I turn the key.

Any advice on what to do next would be greatly appreciated. Also, a year ago, I replaced the wire to the starter, so I know that is in good shape.

Thanks, as always.
posted by 4ster to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
 
oops, to clarify, my old battery was also 12 volts. I just bought one with more cold cranking amps.
posted by 4ster at 9:26 AM on March 23, 2012


I Am Not Remotely A Mechanic, but when I have encountered this problem before with cars (turn the key and get only a click) the starter or starter solenoid has been the problem.
posted by usonian at 9:31 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I concur. Hearing the click means the power is getting the solenoid. It's likely that the starter is stuck. Tapping the starter with a hammer might free it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:36 AM on March 23, 2012


If the tractor has been sitting for a while, the starter motor itself is probably gummed up. If you can locate it, give it a couple raps with a hammer or a bar if the hammer can't reach it. If that doesn't work, grab a flat bladed screw driver and connect with two poles on the starter. Should fire right up!
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2012


It's probably something related to the starter, but I would double check all the connections. You're probably hearing the solenoid click over, but the starter is not spinning. That could be a seezed starter, bad solenoid, or simply not enough current getting to either. The latter I have encountered more often in old engines rather than the former. A little corrosion in between the connections that you can't see can cause this.

By the way this is what your starter looks like . The cylinder on top is the solenoid. Tapping with a hammer is a good old school fix for a sticking solenoid/starter.
posted by Big_B at 9:46 AM on March 23, 2012


It is very unlikely that the cold cranking amps is not at all the problem. If the engine was turning over but not firing, then yes. If it is just clicking then it is nothing at all to do with it.

It sounds to me like the starter solenoid (means of supplying power to teh starter) is activating (is it a solid click, or a light sounding one) but the starter is not turning. Tap (kind of hard, but not enough to dent it) the starter while holding the key and see if it moves. If not, you'll ned to remove the starter and bench test it.

If you don't know how to do that, use a lot of caution and clamp the thing in a vice. They have a serious kick to them. If the starter bench tests fine but won't turn the engine then you need to look into whether the engine turns by hand. As long as the engine turns freely, then the starter is toast.
posted by Brockles at 9:50 AM on March 23, 2012


You say both "difficult to start" and "cannot start". Does it start at all? Has it ever started? Does it even turn over?
posted by hattifattener at 10:59 AM on March 23, 2012


Is the Check Engine light on?

Make sure the transmission is in neutral and you have your foot on the brake. I had a lawn tractor that would not start unless the brake was pressed.
posted by banshee at 11:15 AM on March 23, 2012


The mower is in neutral and my foot is on the brake. It just takes about a hundred turns of the key to get this mower to turn over.
posted by 4ster at 11:30 AM on March 23, 2012


IANAJDM, but if it's hard to start, but eventually turns over, I'd be looking at freshness of fuel, carburetor adjustment, oil, spark plugs, ignition coils if any, wires. In short, a tune-up. I'm assuming it either sat up without any running for a while or was used very lightly. Sitting around lets all those fluids get gummy, contacts get tarnished/rusty, etc.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:19 PM on March 23, 2012


Is the new battery charged? Clicking solenoids, which is what I suspect you can hear, generally means not enough power to turn the engine over. If the battery is charged, it could be the solenoid sticking - I've seen this fixes by hitting them with a hammer or similar, whilst trying to turn the engine over. Good luck!
posted by prentiz at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2012


Agree with randomkeystrike; Change the oil & filter, replace sparkplug, change air filter, dump the old gas and add fresh, change fuel filter. Maybe also spray out the carb with carb cleaner.
posted by banshee at 1:30 PM on March 23, 2012


If you don't want to do all this yourself, f your are not the handy mechanical type, send it to a mower repair and sales shop for a complete checkup and tuneup. We send our riding mower
every year and find it worthwhile to keep it running smoothly.
posted by mermayd at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2012


If it's laboring to even turn over you better check the oil pronto. Not just that there is some, but what does it look like.

Have you tried using some kind of starting spray? Not a fix, but can help figure out if this is a fuel/spark issue.
posted by Big_B at 4:02 PM on March 23, 2012


I figured it out.

In the highly unlikely case that anyone else has this problem. You need this part, which is super-easy to install on Kawasaki engines. The trick, apparently, is to affix the ground wire just so, because that made the whole setup not work for awhile.
posted by 4ster at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2012


Only because I like to know why a symptom gets resolved, not trying to beat a dead horse:

From the Service Bulletin:
COMPLAINT OR SYMPTOM:
- NOTHING HAPPENS WHEN YOU TURN KEY TO START POSITION.
- SOLENOID CLICKS WHEN YOU TURN KEY TO START POSITION.
- SOLENOID MOVES BUT STARTER DRIVE GEAR DOES NOT ENGAGE FLYWHEEL.
- BATTERY AND STARTER PASS TECHNICAL MANUAL TESTS.
PROBLEM:
VOLTAGE DROPS BETWEEN BATTERY AND STARTER SOLENOID.
SOLUTION:
1. INSTALL RELAY KIT (AM107421). INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS +(M77862)+ ARE PROVIDED WITH
KIT. GREASE TERMINALS WITH MPG2 GREASE (M79292).
+(2. IF RELAY KIT DOES NOT RESOLVE, CLEANING AND INSPECTION OF BATTERY POSTS, CABLES, AND
ELECTRICAL CONNECTION IS REQUIRED TO ELIMIANTE VOLTAGE DROP. GREASE CONNECTIONS WITH
MPG-2 TO PREVENT CORROSION.)+


So the relay fixes a current drop that is inherent in the design? Or was this a replacement relay?
posted by Big_B at 11:54 AM on March 27, 2012


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