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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have been casually looking at these tractors for the last couple of years, I had narrowed my search to the 318, 332, 420 and 430 leaning more toward the 420 and 430. My buddy Adam has a 430 and his dad has a 332 and they were searching for me too. I was patient, but the right deal at the right time never seemed to come along. Then about a month ago this 1990 John Deere 420 popped up for sale local to me, about 15 miles away. It was in decent condition but definitely needs some love and attention. It also had a 60 inch mower deck which I was wanting, and it appeared to be in pretty good shape. I probably paid a little more than I should have, but it was close to home and fixable.

My original intent was to fix the mechanical issues and do the paint work later. But as I started tearing into it I decided while I have it apart I should go ahead and do a complete makeover on it. So I thought I would document my journey as I fix all the mechanical issues and do the paint the bodywork. I always enjoy following build/restoration threads because I always seem to learn something, which is why I decided to start this thread. Maybe this will help someone else. Feel free to offer up any suggestions, comments, help, etc. along the way. I hope you all enjoy following along!

This is what she looked like when I brought her home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Congrats!

Besides the obvious, the rear axle can come loose and wallow out/crack the mounting holes in the frame. A good upgrade is running the 430 drive shaft.
My rear axle is solid, but I know to keep an eye on it now. I wasn't aware that could be an issue. I will keep my eye out for a 430 drive shaft, if I can pick one up fairly cheap I would upgrade. Thanks for the tip!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
When I bought this 420 it had several issues and hadn't been cared for very well. The guy I bought it from wasn't exactly honest about everything, but I won't get into that. There was oil and hydraulic leaks so the thing was filthy. So I pulled the side covers and started washing. I was a bit concerned because of all the crud in the flywheel shroud and engine covers. Here are some of the things I found. The steering cylinder is leaking pretty bad, the engine was also leaking pretty bad around the oil filler tube. The wiring was hacked up, lights didn't work, and all the safety switches had been by passed. The fuel was old, the fuel cap/gauge was broken, the paint was pealing everywhere, back tires are dry rotted, and the mower deck was missing the front center roller. Overall the engine ran well and the mower deck is in pretty good shape. I took these pictures after the first bath.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Next I pulled the plastic belly pan and the rear fenders and seat off and washed it again. I am glad I pulled the tank up because the top of my hydraulic pump was packed full of crud. No way the cooling fins were doing any good. By this point it was beginning to look a little better, at least I could see what I was dealing with and better evaluate what I needed to fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I had a bad spark plug wire, so I decided to build some replacements out of some yellow Taylor plug wire I had on hand. I also replaced the spark plugs with some new Champions'. I usually prefer NGK but the Champions were free from a friend.

Next I decided to tackle the wiring mess. I found all the manuals for my 420 thanks to DEERE317, chuckv and bloodrunsgreen, so I printed out the wiring schematics and went to work. The picture below was taken about half way through the wiring repairs. Who ever did this really hacked everything up. It took a lot of time to fix. I have everything wired back correctly through the safety switches with the exception of the seat switch. I'm going to leave it bypassed for now mainly because the seat doesn't always push the switch down far enough. If I get that fixed I will probably hook it back up too.

I also decided to replace the fuel tank grommets and discovered the reserve line had disintegrated. Needless to say the fuel tank needed to be cleaned out too. So I drained it and flushed it out with water and let it dry out for a few days. Then I had to reinstall the pickup tubes, what a pain in the @ss. I finally got them in after an hour or so struggle. I will be replacing the rest of the fuel lines as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It was at this point I decided since I had it torn down as much as I did, I might as well and do the paint now instead of having to take it all back apart again. So I pulled the remaining pieces, the grill and steering pedestal. I also realized my firewall was broken on both sides so I took it out as well. I'm going to weld it back together, repaint it and install the insulation on the engine side. I will have to pull the driveshaft to reinstall it.

After doing some more reading and watching a few video's on the Onan engines, I have decided to pull the flywheel cover and flywheel and probably replace the crank seal and check the flyball spacer to see if mine has the notch that fits into the cam. I'm also going to replace the oil filter housing gasket as they are known to leak. This will also give me a chance to really clean that part of the engine.

I also decided to pull the heads and de-carbon the combustion chamber and adjust the valves. The left head also had a stripped hole where the lift hook and negative battery cable attach, so I found a good used head on ebay for $12 shipped and bought it. The cylinders and valve seats all look good and it's STD bore. While I have the intake and carb off, I'm going to clean the carb and reseal the intake, as I have read they are prone to air leaks. Now I have to get the gaskets ordered from Cummins.
 

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Hope you follow with a well cared for 430, you'll be surprised how little it requires compared to your 420...nice work by the way, keep posting.
420's dont require alot of maintenance. His was clapped out, just like a bunch of 430s Ive seen. I use my 420 almost daily, been greasing it, changing the oil, etc.
 

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That's a good point Jeeks. They're basically industrial quality models and if they're maintained properly they'll work for a long time.
420's dont require alot of maintenance. His was clapped out, just like a bunch of 430s Ive seen. I use my 420 almost daily, been greasing it, changing the oil, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the responses guys. I fully agree that the 430 is a great machine and I really wanted one, but where I'm located they tend to sell for 3-4 times more than what I paid for this 420. I don't really have a need for more than one. This tractor is actually in pretty good condition mechanically. I haven't found anything worn out, just some much needed maintenance. The cosmetics are from it sitting outside for part of it's life. It will get new paint, decals and seat during this restoration.

I would like to find a new front bumper, mine is bent pretty good. Looks like someone ran into something solid at some point. I maybe able to fix this one, but it will require some work. I plan to cut it out and try to fix it if I can't find another one. If I could find someone that has parted out a 420, maybe I could buy the bumper and weld it in.

I'm also referbishing the hydraulic quick connects.
 

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It was at this point I decided since I had it torn down as much as I did, I might as well and do the paint now instead of having to take it all back apart again. So I pulled the remaining pieces, the grill and steering pedestal. I also realized my firewall was broken on both sides so I took it out as well. I'm going to weld it back together, repaint it and install the insulation on the engine side. I will have to pull the driveshaft to reinstall it.

After doing some more reading and watching a few video's on the Onan engines, I have decided to pull the flywheel cover and flywheel and probably replace the crank seal and check the flyball spacer to see if mine has the notch that fits into the cam. I'm also going to replace the oil filter housing gasket as they are known to leak. This will also give me a chance to really clean that part of the engine.

I also decided to pull the heads and de-carbon the combustion chamber and adjust the valves. The left head also had a stripped hole where the lift hook and negative battery cable attach, so I found a good used head on ebay for $12 shipped and bought it. The cylinders and valve seats all look good and it's STD bore. While I have the intake and carb off, I'm going to clean the carb and reseal the intake, as I have read they are prone to air leaks. Now I have to get the gaskets ordered from Cummins.
Question, how did you clean the head gasket residue? I’m currently taking apart a 4.5 Briggs engine, and have a bunch of head gasket residue on it, and would like another look into cleaning it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It always starts like that...only need one, but then another pops up...and so on, and so on...don't fight the force, they've found you...the next is inevitable. :p
I hope not, I already collect and restore pinball machines, I started two and now I have 15. If the tractors start multiplying my wife will kill me!

Question, how did you clean the head gasket residue? I’m currently taking apart a 4.5 Briggs engine, and have a bunch of head gasket residue on it, and would like another look into cleaning it.
I started very gently with my gasket scraper, then used my small 3” rotatry air sander running slow with a scotch Brite pad. Very gently because the aluminum is soft. Then I finish it off with a scotch brite pad by hand. Around the valves I used my drivel with a soft wire wheel to clean away the carbon. Probably not the correct way, but that’s how I did it.
 

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I hope not, I already collect and restore pinball machines, I started two and now I have 15. If the tractors start multiplying my wife will kill me!



I started very gently with my gasket scraper, then used my small 3” rotatry air sander running slow with a scotch Brite pad. Very gently because the aluminum is soft. Then I finish it off with a scotch brite pad by hand. Around the valves I used my drivel with a soft wire wheel to clean away the carbon. Probably not the correct way, but that’s how I did it.
Thanks for the info!
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Sorry I haven't updated in a while, I'm a shop teacher and have been busy with the start of the school year. I did manage to remove the exhaust and intake/carb and adjusted the valves. I also ordered gaskets from Cummins, those should be here next week. I am debating if I should pull the flywheel housing to clean inside and check the crank seal (not sure where all the bolts are because its hard to see still mounted in the frame, I'm also not sure if it can be removed while in the frame). The other option is to pull the engine, which might be easier at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I had some time today so I decided to pull the engine. I'm glad I did because it was nasty inside the flywheel housing and under the flywheel. I'm not sure how the previous owner didn't burn up this engine, but everything I have opened up on it looks good. I did find an open end wrench inside the blower housing behind the flywheel. I guess someone dropped it at some point and never got it out, that could have caused some serious damage if it had caught on the flywheel. I will be replacing the crank seal and cam cover gasket as well as the oil filter housing gasket. I also have a lot of cleaning to do. I think the flyball spacer looks ok, but I'm not sure what it looks like if its bad either. I made the mistake on my last Cummins order and didn't get the crank seal or cam cover gasket, so now I have to make another order. I'm going to try to get everything cleaned up so when the gaskets get here I can put it back together and get it back in the frame. I also washed the frame again today while the engine was out. It's nice to have everything clean, it makes reassembly much easier.
 

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