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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all -

This is my first posting to WFM after joining this wonderful site earlier this year. This is going to be the start of me sharing my restoration project for this winter: My $175 1982 John Deere 317 that I purchased at auction back in March. However, this wasn't just a random 317 that I picked up. My memories of this go back to when I wasn't tall enough to reach the brake pedals.

I am a lifelong John Deere fan who grew up in a farming family in Northern Illinois. My career has taken me away from farming but as they say "you can take the boy away from the farm but can't take the farm out of the boy...." My Grandpa, who was a lifelong farmer and passed away in November 2019 at the age of 89, was exclusively a John Deere loyalist after he purchased a 1951 John Deere Model A, his first brand new tractor as a young farmer. (Side note...that same Model A never left him and it is still part of the family.) My entire life his lawn cutting machines were a 1984 JD 318 and this 317. The 318 lived at the main farm and the 317 spent several stints at different rental properties over the years if Grandpa trusted the tenants.

Of course the 318 was more appealing to operate as a youngster...mainly because it seemed "fancier" with power steering and bigger seat. But, as I grew older I began to appreciate the 317. Looking back, it served as a bit of a valuable teaching tool for me. This still has the original "flawed" KT17 engine. But, my Grandpa was incredibly meticulous on preventative maintenance. Knowing the reputation of that KT17 we had strict orders to NEVER mow ditches with the 317 and the oil level had to be just a whisker above the full mark on the dipstick at all times. As a result, the hour meter currently shows 1,899 hours and the engine has never been apart. It doesn't smoke, make any strange noises, shockingly doesn't leak anything (can't say that for his 318 these days), and runs fantastic. I have come to appreciate the exhaust note of the KT17 and how it barks against the governor if you are working it.

Fast forward to this spring when we had the equipment auction for the remaining equipment that isn't staying with the farm. The 317 was on the auction bill (the 318 was purchased by another relative prior to the auction). It looks pretty rough these days and was staged near the hay wagons of parts instead of the heavy equipment.

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When I was helping set up for the auction every time I walked past the 317 I saw my 8 year old self sitting on it... Bidding on the 317 was nothing I considered but I happened to be near it when it went up and it wasn't receiving much interest. I raised my hand to advance the bid and $175 later I was the lucky new owner.

So, I loaded my "new" 317 into the back of my city-boy pickup and headed home to Northern Michigan:

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I am really glad I purchased it. I have had a lot of fun using it around my property this year and I think of my Grandpa when I use it.

Ending up with this 317 was somewhat serendipitous. The previous fall I sold my wonderful JD 445 (with a rear PTO, snowblower and front shovel/blade) to help finance the purchase of a 2011 2520 with FEL, snow blower and 62" mower deck. I love having the usefulness of the front end loader but it is simply too cumbersome of a unit to mow my lawn. I knew that when I purchased it and had yet to figure out what my mowing setup was going to be starting this spring. I also have a wonderfully original Case 220 with all the great attachments so that was my backup plan for mowing.

So, I decided the 317 is going to get put back into active duty to cut my grass (about 1 acre with no inlines or ditches). I sourced a modern replacement 48" deck for a very reasonable price as the original deck is warped. After replacing the spindle bearings I was in business! I then purchased a mulching kit through the local JD dealer and I am very impressed with the cut quality.

Back to my younger years of always admiring Grandpa's 318 because of the "fancy" power steering... Once I started researching all things 317 I learned of the short lived Brantley Power Steering kit. Through the powers of this forum I connected with "Gabby" (very active user many of you probably recognize) and he agreed to sell me one of his Brantley Power Steering kits that he did an excellent job reconditioning. Installation wasn't terribly difficult. It is a simple system that was well designed...but it sure did amplify all the wear in the original steering system! I was able to dial things in to make it very usable this summer...mostly adjusting as much slop out of the steering box as I could. I plan to address the rest of the steering system this winter. Here is a photo of the Brantley setup:

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I will end this posting with several "before" and disassembly photos. More to come...

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One last thing...even though this is an extensive project I do not plan to do anything major to the engine. It runs great and I want to keep operating it as many hours as I can just the way Grandpa taught us to.
 

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All of the green panels have been sandblasted and are awaiting paint. I don't have any photos unfortunately but I did have to do one repair on the seat pan where the metal is fatigued at the front of the seat brackets. I guess too many years of leaning back when you swing your legs over the steering wheel to dismount took its toll. After welding the cracks I think I will weld a large washer on the bottom as additional reinforcement. And, maybe I will take it a bit easier from now on when I dismount...

The next load to the sandblaster is all the yellow parts (wheels and mower deck). I initially told myself I wasn't going to touch the deck because it is much newer than the 317. But, when this is finished I knew it would bug me if I didn't cosmetically restore the deck to match the rest of the tractor.

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All the yellow parts (along with some of the smaller chassis parts) are loaded to go to the sandblaster this week. To save on time I am going to have the yellow parts powder coated versus painting them.

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Does anyone have any experience with sourcing reproduction serial number decals for John Deere equipment? I took several photos if I need to design some decals myself but it would be nice to know if others have any solutions...

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I'm watching.
 

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Nice machine and congrats on getting it. I would recommend finding a new driveshaft to keep on the shelf and the last line of my signature should explain the rest...
So have fun!


Some facts on that KT17, if your interested. They were never recalled, Deere just offered a repower for failed engines. And you have in my opinion the Holy grail of twin cylinder air cooled engines, the KT17 Series II which launched in 1982. Keep it in good shape and it will last long. (Just saying that due to many not knowing much other than the reputation)
 
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Dash restoration

I quickly learned that a new dash panel is no longer available through Deere. Mine isn't terrible but it is definitely worn. Any used ones I could find weren't any better and most didn't have the hole drilled for the hour meter. So...I dove into restoring mine this weekend.

Here is what I started with:

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I started with scrubbing it with heavy degreaser, followed by dawn dishwashing soap and then ending with solvent. I briefly played with using the buffing wheel to "polish" the smooth surround, but quickly decided that wasn't the best route. It did shine up nicely but you could still tell the difference between the area that had been exposed to sun over the years.

I ultimately decided I needed to get it all one consistent black before attempting the silver graphics. I visited my local automotive paint store and left with two cans of flexible paint that is compatible with plastic: a flat black base and a satin gloss clear. I also picked up a silver paint pen to attempt the letters.

Here is what it looked like with three coats of black base and two light coats of satin clear:

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Now comes the tedious part. This requires patience, good light and a steady hand. Also, I am 39 years old and officially in the pre-denial stage of eventually needing reading glasses. By the end of this I had removed my contacts (for distance) and was wearing my better-half's reading glasses. That was a first that I am sure she won't let me soon forget...

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The paint marker worked just fine for the larger graphics (such as the John Deere letters at the top). But, it was much too fat for the smaller graphics. The best thing I could find without making a special trip to the craft store for some fine point artists brushes was a plastic cocktail skewer with a sharp point. I deposited a small puddle of paint from the marker onto some foil and dipped the tip of the plastic skewer to then paint the smaller graphics.

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You can see where I still managed to get sloppy with the silver in a couple places. After the "throttle" part didn't go well I decided to walk away and go out to the barn and do some work that required far less detail (see previous post with the bare mower deck now ready for the sandblaster...)

Going back attempting to touch up my screwups with the base black (not spraying but rather spray some liquid into a small bowl to dip with a brush) is tricky. Spray paint in liquid form is much thinner than the paint marker... This is the stuff that will drive me nuts as my OCD is in full motion at this point!

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Here is where I finished tonight. You notice where I went back and touched up with the black base to correct my sloppiness with the silver. Tomorrow I will finish with two final coats of clear to hopefully protect the silver graphics and blend all the black together. Wish me luck as I am making this up as I go!

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Nice machine and congrats on getting it. I would recommend finding a new driveshaft to keep on the shelf and the last line of my signature should explain the rest...
So have fun!


Some facts on that KT17, if your interested. They were never recalled, Deere just offered a repower for failed engines. And you have in my opinion the Holy grail of twin cylinder air cooled engines, the KT17 Series II which launched in 1982. Keep it in good shape and it will last long. (Just saying that due to many not knowing much other than the reputation)
Thanks! Fortunately the driveshaft is good. I replaced it for my Grandpa close to 15 years ago. The original was SHOT when I replaced it. What I left out of my lengthy post is it has been many years since this 317 has seen active duty until this summer. The driveshaft has less than 200 hours on it and it has been kept up on greasing.

How do I confirm if mine is a series II? The ID tag on the engine doesn't mention anything obvious from what I remember but I will look closer this week...
 

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Nice job on that dash panel.
 
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Spec code is 24301 and up I believe, and on the passenger side towards the front they usually have a block off plate held in with 2 screws/bolts. You should be able to see it through the grill.
Funny driveshaft story, when the U-joint blows it is capable of stalling the engine. Don’t ask why I know.
 

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autorat81 - I love your story. Thanks for the good-cheer pickup, we all could use some good news. Keep up the good work!
 

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Great memories you have and doing that 317 justice. Can't wait to see it finished.
 

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Here is a photo of the finished dash. I am pleased overall with the result with a couple minor exceptions that likely only I will know. It was definitely a labor of love. From a high level, here is a recap of my steps:

  1. Thoroughly scrub with heavy degreaser followed by washing in warm water with dish detergent
  2. Cleaned with rubbing alcohol (I was out of my preferred paint-prep solvent)
  3. Three light coats of flat black clear (about ten minutes in between)
  4. Two light coats of clear (about ten minutes in between)
  5. After allowing it to cure overnight I started in on the silver graphics the next morning. I worked at it for a little more than an hour until my hand became unsteady with the "throttle" graphics.
  6. Later that day I finished the rest of the silver graphics. The larger graphics I could use the pen directly. The smaller graphics required something with a much finer point otherwise the silver paint would bleed way beyond where you want it to. If I were to do this again I would visit a crafts store and pick out a couple very fine point, high quality artists brushes.
  7. I had to go back and touch up a few sloppy areas were the silver paint bled beyond where I wanted it. For this, I sprayed some of the flat black into a small cup and dipped a small brush in the paint to cover up the unwanted silver. Paint out of the can is much thinner than the paint from the marker so this was a bit more challenging. Again, the right brushes might work better.
  8. After allowing the silver paint to cure for 24 hours I gave the entire panel a final clear. This was two very light coats followed by two wet coats to seal everything in. The purpose for this was two-fold: most importantly seal in the silver graphics so they hopefully last a long time, and secondly this blends in the areas I had to touch up with black paint.
Now...time will tell how well this process worked. Most of this I made up as I went along so I would be happy to hear if others have attempted this.




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Here are the paint supplies I used:

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man checking this out on my desktop with internet other than my phone is great! Ha Ha I thought it looked good before.
 

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I like to make my own fine brushes by flattening and shredding the end of a round toothpick...always got some of those. They're also good unaltered for fine point work with paint, just don't get absentmindedly pop it in your mouth. Nice work on the 317...your memories of it are worth your cost to date.
 

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Nice work. It's always good to see another 317 given a new life. I've had many models of JD tractors and the 317 has always been my favorite. I've redone several the dash panels and have had very good results with paint similar to what you used. I use a silver permanent marker with fine point which works very well. It's much easier than dabbing with a brush and very accurate and durable. The photos also shows how I copied the 318 tower by drilling vent holes in the same area. It is my belief the original KT engines suffered more from overheating than oil issues. Keep up the good work.
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It is my belief the original KT engines suffered more from overheating than oil issues.
Yet, Deere, Kohler, and many a mechanic have placed the blame onto the oil system...
And that (oil system) is the only difference between Series I and II. (And the tractors are identical)
Just going to leave that at that and not start a debate on what made Series I’s have some issues since this isn’t the thread for that.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Nice work. It's always good to see another 317 given a new life. I've had many models of JD tractors and the 317 has always been my favorite. I've redone several the dash panels and have had very good results with paint similar to what you used. I use a silver permanent marker with fine point which works very well. It's much easier than dabbing with a brush and very accurate and durable. The photos also shows how I copied the 318 tower by drilling vent holes in the same area. It is my belief the original KT engines suffered more from overheating than oil issues. Keep up the good work.
Thank you for the tips on the dash. I fine point marker certainly would have been easier than the way I did it!

I agree with you on the vent holes from the 318. Clearly Deere learned something between the 317 and 318. My entire childhood my Grandpa's 318 and this 317 never had the side panels installed. Grandpa always said it was better to help them run cooler. (The first photo I posted of my 317 sitting at the auction was the first time its side panels were bolted on it in probably 30 years. We were surprised we found the side panels for it and the 318 actually...)

I owned a well cared for early 318 for a few years prior to a 445 and I opted to keep the side panels on it. But, I live in Northern Michigan and I can count on one hand how many times I've experienced a summer temp that has exceeded 90 degrees. Knowing the importance of these engines running cool I blow off the tractor inside and out (especially the cooling fins and screens) after every mow. Hopefully this is sufficient and allows me to keep the side panels on...because it looks so much better in my opinion! (That said...if I were to cut the grass on a rare hot day I would have no problem taking the few minutes to remove the side panels out of sympathy for the engine...)
 

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Yet, Deere, Kohler, and many a mechanic have placed the blame onto the oil system...
And that (oil system) is the only difference between Series I and II. (And the tractors are identical)
Just going to leave that at that and not start a debate on what made Series I’s have some issues since this isn’t the thread for that.
It would seem to me that this thread is as appropriate as any to offer advice about these issues. After all, the thread is about restoration. My comment was no different than advising the poster to check the driveshaft.

And I agree with you about most folks agreeing the oiling system on the series one engines is less than ideal. All I have to offer on that is that so many, perhaps the majority of them are still running just fine. And I would add that over the years both the series two and the Onan's have had their fair share of rods failures.

All I'm saying is that Deere put all those holes in the 318 tower for a reason.

Like the poster I have always tried to keep my rebuilds as original as possible. I even had issues in my mind about installing Magnum engines. In my mind the best possible engine for this tractor. This last project was a totally different approach with a different goal in mind. But even when installing the Kohler Command 20 engine, the 400 power steering the H3 hydraulics, an modern PTO clutch and a totally different, much stronger drive shaft I wanted to keep it looking as close as possible to original. And I think I accomplished that. Is it still a 317? Likely not in most folks mind. But I think I accomplished what I intended making this 317 as good as anything Deere or any other manufacturer puts out. Yet still retains the original look.

My intention was to point out the opportunity to update the machine to what Deere did with the 318 if he chooses. Not start an argument or discussion about the series one. That subject has been beat to death.

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