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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I successfully replaced my cover gasket and front PTO shaft seal. I feel like I could go farther but how far to go? This is my only experience with engines so I am definitely apprehensive. Items that I am considering:
1) Carb work - My tractor always smells like fuel. It runs hot. I have trouble starting it without Dragon'sBreath after the engine sits for a week without starting - I have never done a carb before. I would love to knock this off my bucket list but not at the expense of completely screwing it up! Can anyone steer me in the right direction?
2) Filter adapter cover gasket (circled below) - I found this leaking and was able to get a couple turns on the top cap screw. The bottom cap screw is blocked by what I think is a motor mounting ear. Has anyone ever seen this?
3) Cylinder head gasket replacement - The engine blower housing is what has got me tripped up. Looks to me like the design intent is for the engine to be removed in order to take off the blower housing. The 317 manual advises to remove the spark plugs and bend the shroud. Is this gasket job similar in complexity to the cover gasket? Is it risky for someone who has never done it?
4) Breather clean/replace/replace gasket
5) Replace other gaskets/seals - Out of the items in the gasket kit I received from Amazon (pictured below, thanks @TempletonJDguy), what other gaskets/seal replacements woudl be the best bang for my buck? All? :)
6) Points. I feel like the timing for the engine is right on? Is it worth cleaning these while I am right there?
7) Replace spark plugs - is there a special spark plug socket?
8) Replace spark plug cables - they look brittle and cracked.
9) Clean (steam?) Engine and frame - the huge amount of oil and dirt built up in the places I can't reach is driving me crazy. I want to put this back together looking great! I don't necessarily want to remove the engine for this (especially due to my limited experience). I have had little success using compressed air but this needs so muchmore.

I appreciate anyone who even took the time to read through this. I will do my own research but I would be so appreciative of anyone who would take the time to answer any of my questions. Thank you!

Best regards :)

@Mike_U @charms @mjydrafter @DEERE317 @army

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I would start with #1. Might be best to have a little help, but it's doable on your own. The difficult part is adjustment. Clean-up is pretty easy on tractor carb.

Then I would do 9 (might even do this first), and 7&8.

For #9, just get a few cans of engine cleaner, and clean it up. Stick with low pressure if possible, so you don't get water anywhere you don't want it. The other stuff will be more fun with a clean up.

I would hold on the other stuff and see how it runs with the first few things covered.

:)

Where are you located? (carb adjustment is tough over the interweb, so if someone is close by perhaps you could entice them to help a you bit)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I would start with #1. Might be best to have a little help, but it's doable on your own. The difficult part is adjustment. Clean-up is pretty easy on tractor carb.

Then I would do 9 (might even do this first), and 7&8.

For #9, just get a few cans of engine cleaner, and clean it up. Stick with low pressure if possible, so you don't get water anywhere you don't want it. The other stuff will be more fun with a clean up.

I would hold on the other stuff and see how it runs with the first few things covered.

:)

Where are you located? (carb adjustment is tough over the interweb, so if someone is close by perhaps you could entice them to help a you bit)
I am in Victor, NY, outside of Rochester. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply!
 

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As drafter said definitely get the engine clean. Stuff clean rags in or tape over open engine areas and spray with engine cleaner, let it percolate a bit and blast with compressed air. You have to get the engine clean. All that oil and dirt will insulate the motor from the cooling airflow and at some point you’ll overheat and something very bad will happen.
 

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Two 400s, MTD 990, Sears 10XL
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My suggestion to you would be to clean everything first, this way you can start from a clean slate and will know where any leaks are after running it for awhile. When i clean my 400s and MTD 990 i remove the seat pans to access the transaxle. I park them somewhere i'm not worried about slinging grime and oil, then pressure wash everything. Next i spray engine degreaser where it looks like it's needed. Then pressure wash again. The degreaser doesnt need to be done every wash but if that old girl hasn't been cleaned in a few decades then a few bucks of degreaser will pay dividends.
Next, start watching Mustie1 videos on Youtube, he has plenty of videos focused on mowers, tractors, and small engines in general. His videos and funny narration helped me get started in understanding how our machines work.
Best of luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My suggestion to you would be to clean everything first, this way you can start from a clean slate and will know where any leaks are after running it for awhile. When i clean my 400s and MTD 990 i remove the seat pans to access the transaxle. I park them somewhere i'm not worried about slinging grime and oil, then pressure wash everything. Next i spray engine degreaser where it looks like it's needed. Then pressure wash again. The degreaser doesnt need to be done every wash but if that old girl hasn't been cleaned in a few decades then a few bucks of degreaser will pay dividends.
Next, start watching Mustie1 videos on Youtube, he has plenty of videos focused on mowers, tractors, and small engines in general. His videos and funny narration helped me get started in understanding how our machines work.
Best of luck!
Thank you for your reply!! I will def check out Mustie1 :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My suggestion to you would be to clean everything first, this way you can start from a clean slate and will know where any leaks are after running it for awhile. When i clean my 400s and MTD 990 i remove the seat pans to access the transaxle. I park them somewhere i'm not worried about slinging grime and oil, then pressure wash everything. Next i spray engine degreaser where it looks like it's needed. Then pressure wash again. The degreaser doesnt need to be done every wash but if that old girl hasn't been cleaned in a few decades then a few bucks of degreaser will pay dividends.
Next, start watching Mustie1 videos on Youtube, he has plenty of videos focused on mowers, tractors, and small engines in general. His videos and funny narration helped me get started in understanding how our machines work.
Best of luck!
My suggestion to you would be to clean everything first, this way you can start from a clean slate and will know where any leaks are after running it for awhile. When i clean my 400s and MTD 990 i remove the seat pans to access the transaxle. I park them somewhere i'm not worried about slinging grime and oil, then pressure wash everything. Next i spray engine degreaser where it looks like it's needed. Then pressure wash again. The degreaser doesnt need to be done every wash but if that old girl hasn't been cleaned in a few decades then a few bucks of degreaser will pay dividends.
Next, start watching Mustie1 videos on Youtube, he has plenty of videos focused on mowers, tractors, and small engines in general. His videos and funny narration helped me get started in understanding how our machines work.
Best of luck!
Thank you very much!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
WELP... Here I am. I finished that front seal and cover gasket replacement, cleaned where I could, the best I could, and got it back together enough to start up and watch for leaks. Alas, that cover plate for the bolt-on filter was leaking like a sieve. Tiny gasket, no big deal. Only thing is, as you can see the engine mount is covering the bottom cap screw! I decided to pull the engine once I realized I was gonna have to get the engine up high enough to unbolt the engine from the motor mount. It's going to be better in the end. I will be able to clean so much more now.

What is everyone's favorite degreaser?

I might as well replace more gaskets now that my cylinder heads are available. Anyone see any danger in me removing these heads just to replace the gasket and then putting the covers back on?

Also got new plugs and wires. I'm definitely going to do the carburetor and I thought I may as well replace the fuel pump and the solenoid while everything is this accessible.

I would appreciate any advice. Especially regarding my initial question: HOW FAR SHOULD I GO?

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The question of how far to go has many answers. It all depends on how much interest you have and how reliable/restored you want the machine to be. It looks like the tractor has been well maintained and has run well for many years as is but there is always room to do maintenance to ensure any machine continues to operate well.

I would not use starting fluid to start your engine. That is going to make things worse in my opinion. I assume you have a mechanical fuel pump that is activated by engine vacuum. It's possible your fuel pump is worn or maybe the vacuum hose going to your mechanical pump is loose or worn and it takes a long time to crank the engine to get enough vacuum to operate your fuel pump. Consider replacing the pump and fuel filter and while you are at it, replace the vacuum hose going to the fuel pump and all the fuel lines because they are probably old and brittle.

If the tractor runs well once it is running, you may not need to rebuild the carburetor. Does it idle well and rev up smooth? If so, the carb may be fine as is. If it leaks fuel, definitely address that issue. If it is not leaking fuel, that fuel smell could be years of oil that leaked onto the block getting hot and producing a petroleum odor.

As for cylinder head gaskets, are they leaking or does the engine have poor compression? In my opinion, no use removing the heads and replacing the gaskets if they are not leaking - unless maybe the engine has poor compression and oil consumption and you want to inspect the cylinders for wear - but if you do remove the heads and find big scratches on the cylinder walls, you might want to rebuild the engine. See what I mean about being hard to determine How Far To Go? If you do decide to remove the heads and do not find any internal problems, you might as well de-carbon the top of the pistons and underside of the heads being careful not to use sharp tools that will scratch or gouge the piston and heads. Lay the heads on a piece of flat glass and make sure they lay completely flat and are not warped. If they are warped, there are previous posts that explain how to get them back to flat. Follow the manual procedure explaining how to re-attach the head and torque the bolts properly in the correct pattern and always use a torque wrench. Ask for help if you do not know how to do this or do not have a manual. In summary, don't remove the heads just to replace the gaskets if there are no problems.

While the engine is out, check the driveshaft U Joints for wear. Grease the joints or replace as necessary. Grease all other grease fittings.

Check the hydro system for any leaks around the valves, lines and fittings.

Check out the mechanical hydrostatic linkage for any sloppiness. Does the tractor stay parked or does it creep forward or backwards when the lever is in the neutral position? If it creeps, the linkage may need adjusting or possibly one of the linkage pieces or pins are worn.

Check the wiring now that you can clearly see it and clean up any poor splices or poor connections.

I believe your engine mounts might have rubber isolators. If they are worn or soft and spongy, consider replacing them.

As for degreasers, anything from an auto parts store should work. Buy a can or two of various types or brands and see which works best for you. Sometimes the foamy degreasers stick to vertical surfaces a little better than regular sprays but they all seem to work well. Scrape or brush off any heavy deposits before you spray and it will save time and spray.

Ignition switches and their internal connections tend to degrade over time and need periodic replacement. If you do buy one, there are many kinds that look alike. Be sure to buy the correct one for your tractor with the same terminal arrangement.

There are probably 15 other items you could do but I think this is enough scope creep for now. Have fun working on and learning about your machine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The question of how far to go has many answers. It all depends on how much interest you have and how reliable/restored you want the machine to be. It looks like the tractor has been well maintained and has run well for many years as is but there is always room to do maintenance to ensure any machine continues to operate well.

I would not use starting fluid to start your engine. That is going to make things worse in my opinion. I assume you have a mechanical fuel pump that is activated by engine vacuum. It's possible your fuel pump is worn or maybe the vacuum hose going to your mechanical pump is loose or worn and it takes a long time to crank the engine to get enough vacuum to operate your fuel pump. Consider replacing the pump and fuel filter and while you are at it, replace the vacuum hose going to the fuel pump and all the fuel lines because they are probably old and brittle.

If the tractor runs well once it is running, you may not need to rebuild the carburetor. Does it idle well and rev up smooth? If so, the carb may be fine as it. If it leaks fuel, definitely address that issue. If it is not leaking fuel, that fuel smell could be years of oil that leaked onto the block getting hot and producing a petroleum odor.

As for cylinder head gaskets, are they leaking or does the engine have poor compression? In my opinion, no use removing the heads and replacing the gaskets if they are not leaking - unless maybe the engine has poor compression and oil consumption and you want to inspect the cylinders for wear - but if you do remove the heads and find big scratches on the cylinder walls, you might want to rebuild the engine. See what I mean about being hard to determine How Far To Go? If you do decide to remove the heads and do not find any internal problems, you might as well de-carbon the top of the pistons and underside of the heads being careful not to use sharp tools that will scratch or gouge the piston and heads. Lay the heads on a piece of flat glass and make sure they lay completely flat and are not warped. If they are warped, there are previous posts that explain how to get them back to flat. Follow the manual procedure explaining how to re-attach the head and torque the bolts properly in the correct pattern and always use a torque wrench. Ask for help if you do not know how to do this or do not have a manual. In summary, don't remove the heads just to replace the gaskets if there are no problems.

While the engine is out, check the driveshaft U Joints for wear. Grease the joints or replace as necessary. Grease all other grease fittings.

Check the hydro system for any leaks around the valves, lines and fittings.

Check out the mechanical hydrostatic linkage for any sloppiness. Does the tractor stay parked or does it creep forward or backwards when the lever is in the neutral position? If it creeps, the linkage may need adjusting or possibly one of the linkage pieces or pins are worn.

Check the wiring now that you can clearly see it and clean up any poor splices or poor connections.

I believe your engine mounts might have rubber isolators. If they are worn or soft and spongy, consider replacing them.

As for degreasers, anything from an auto parts store should work. Buy a can or two of various types or brands and see which works best for you. Sometimes the foamy degreasers stick to vertical surfaces a little better than regular sprays but they all seem to work well. Scrape or brush off any heavy deposits before you spray and it will save time and spray.

Ignition switches and their internal connections tend to degrade over time and need periodic replacement. If you do buy one, there are many kinds that look alike. Be sure to buy the correct one for your tractor with the same terminal arrangement.

There are probably 15 other items you could do but I think this is enough scope creep for now. Have fun working on and learning about your machine.
This is such a thoughtful response. Thank you so much! I am having fun. I'm trying to be sure not to rush since this tractor is not needed for snow maintenance, yet!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Okay. Got into cleaning the engine. This thing is packed with decades of thick dirt and grease. I thought I could get away with leaving the blower housing on over the flywheel. Not a chance. Straight degreaser and foam with compressed air couldn't touch what was built up in there. I do not yet have the engine completely clean and I keep finding more crap. My garage is a mess :)

I can't decide if my cylinder head gaskets are leaking or not. I keep fast forwarding to this summer when I am running this thing and how angry I would be if I discovered the head gaskets leaking after being this close to being able to change them. I AM GOING TO CHANGE THE GASKETS. @Mike_U , I will take your advise and put the heads on glass to check for warping. I'll work on getting the buildup off the pistons and heads as well.

The unbelievable amount of oil and dirt built up behind my flywheel suggests that my crankshaft seal has been leaking for years. I have the seal so I guess I'll go after that too while I'm at this. I'm either too stupid to be nervous about taking off the flywheel and stator, or I'm starting to gain some confidence. QUESTION: IS IT POSSIBLE TO CHANGE THE CRANKSHAFT SEAL WITHOUT SPLITTING THE CASE?

I looks like my carb has been leaking so I ordered that kit as well as a fuel pump, breather valves, and a condenser. All to go with new plugs and wires.

This will be my first carburetor service as I was saying before. It looks pretty straight forward based on the assembly drawing below.

QUESTION: WHAT IS EVERONE'S FAVORITE WAY TO REMOVE THESE FUSED-ON GASKETS AND PREPPING MACHINED SURFACES FOR NEW GASKETS?

I do hope this is helpful for anyone else that comes along to try all this in the future. It IS fun but so messy 🤔

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I use a razor blade to remove gaskets, i have a gasket scraper as well but for small gaskets the razor blade works very well. You have to be careful as the razor blade is very hard and with too much force can mar the mating surface.
I cannot comment on the seal, to split the case or not, but usually small engines are not like car engines where a bearing cap has to be removed to replace the seal. Usually a seal puller can pry the old seal out over the crank snout. Make sure to debur and clean the snout before the new seal is oiled and slid on.
Keep it up, looking good!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I use a razor blade to remove gaskets, i have a gasket scraper as well but for small gaskets the razor blade works very well. You have to be careful as the razor blade is very hard and with too much force can mar the mating surface.
I cannot comment on the seal, to split the case or not, but usually small engines are not like car engines where a bearing cap has to be removed to replace the seal. Usually a seal puller can pry the old seal out over the crank snout. Make sure to debur and clean the snout before the new seal is oiled and slid on.
Keep it up, looking good!
I appreciate the words of encouragement. Razor blade is the best way I have found as well. Keeping a really shallow angle and going slow helps. I know I will eventually have to fight the urge to take off all the green and have it professionally painted! Thank you for taking the time to respond!
 

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Okay. Got into cleaning the engine. This thing is packed with decades of thick dirt and grease. I thought I could get away with leaving the blower housing on over the flywheel. Not a chance. Straight degreaser and foam with compressed air couldn't touch what was built up in there. I do not yet have the engine completely clean and I keep finding more crap. My garage is a mess :)

I can't decide if my cylinder head gaskets are leaking or not. I keep fast forwarding to this summer when I am running this thing and how angry I would be if I discovered the head gaskets leaking after being this close to being able to change them. I AM GOING TO CHANGE THE GASKETS. @Mike_U , I will take your advise and put the heads on glass to check for warping. I'll work on getting the buildup off the pistons and heads as well.

The unbelievable amount of oil and dirt built up behind my flywheel suggests that my crankshaft seal has been leaking for years. I have the seal so I guess I'll go after that too while I'm at this. I'm either too stupid to be nervous about taking off the flywheel and stator, or I'm starting to gain some confidence. QUESTION: IS IT POSSIBLE TO CHANGE THE CRANKSHAFT SEAL WITHOUT SPLITTING THE CASE?

I looks like my carb has been leaking so I ordered that kit as well as a fuel pump, breather valves, and a condenser. All to go with new plugs and wires.

This will be my first carburetor service as I was saying before. It looks pretty straight forward based on the assembly drawing below.

QUESTION: WHAT IS EVERONE'S FAVORITE WAY TO REMOVE THESE FUSED-ON GASKETS AND PREPPING MACHINED SURFACES FOR NEW GASKETS?

I do hope this is helpful for anyone else that comes along to try all this in the future. It IS fun but so messy 🤔

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Great thread you have going here! Don’t worry about the carburetor job, these old carbs are pretty simple to work on. You don’t even have to touch the jets, if it ran smoothly before (though I would check them out, sometimes they can get gunked up). Just take the bowl off, and spray it like crazy with carb cleaner. Through every hole that you can find. As for gasket scrapers, like TooManyTractors said, a razor blade works good. Gasket scrapers help as well. They’re pretty cheap to get. As for the crankshaft seal, I would bet you could get it out without cracking open the block, but you run the risk of damaging the crankshaft while trying to get it out. Good luck, and keep us posted!
 
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Andrew - I originally thought your 317 had the replacement Onan engine but after looking closely at the pictures and engine mount, I realized it was not an Onan and wondered which Kohler model you had. As you probably know, early 317 tractors had Kohler engines that were susceptible to failure if they were run with low oil level and on slopes. Under warranty Deere replaced failed engines with improved Kohler engines or Onan P218's. Tractordata.com has model number details.
I have not worked on that model Kohler so I will let someone with experience provide input on valve adjustment etc.
 
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