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Lawn tractor problem #5195996 08/25/19 07:57 AM
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supton Offline OP
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Toro Wheel Horse 12-38 XL, mid-90's I think. Plastic engine cover and all (apparently Wheel Horses from the 80's were all metal and something pretty decent?). Anyhow. It was given to me years ago and I have been using it more recently, but, it's developed a problem where it will just stop moving. As in, I'll be driving forward and it will just stop. Won't go into reverse or go forward, something sound like it might be dragging/disengaged, but no clunks or bad noises. Fiddle around, bang on things, and eventually it will decide to move (usually after a good length of time).

At first I thought it was pulley that applies tension to the belt that goes from motor to transaxle. I have not been able to verify that though, and it seems kinda weird that it'd just suddenly pop out and get stuck while in actual use--first time it happened I was changing direction and thought it had to be that, but now it's doing it at random times and while moving. Maybe it is this and just needs some lube or something? It seems free to move and apply tension.

It does seem to only do it when I am moving my utility trailer. It is empty and I don't think overloaded in any way, but more load than usual.

One other thing. The pulley on top of the transaxle has like a quarter turn of play in 1st gear. Is that normal? Seems like a lot of gear lash.


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 189k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 153k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 211k, his
Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196048 08/25/19 09:14 AM
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NormanBuntz Offline
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Dead man switch underneath the seat?


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Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196068 08/25/19 09:37 AM
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bubbatime Offline
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Probably the drive belt


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Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196070 08/25/19 09:38 AM
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MParr Offline
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The transaxle is probably shot.


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Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196106 08/25/19 10:32 AM
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Rand Offline
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hard to say but if it does it equally in all gears I'd start with the transmission and drive belt.

Probably not that hard to replace the transmission.


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Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196171 08/25/19 11:54 AM
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A_Spruce Offline
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The inability to shift/change direction would indicate binding. Go through all your linkages, check that they are in good working order with no excessive wear or play, adjust them if you can. If the externals seem fine, then it's time to open up the transaxle and have a look in there. Odds are you've got a worn out bushing/bearing OR the lube in the transaxle is so old that it's gummed up and everything is now sticking.

With any luck, you can make a few adjustments, clean, and lubricate things to make it happy again.


'03 Suburban
Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196180 08/25/19 12:30 PM
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mk378 Offline
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See if you can see if the input pulley on the transaxle is turning when the machine won't move. Also check both rear wheel shafts to see if one is turning but the wheel is not.

Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196189 08/25/19 12:42 PM
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spk2000 Offline
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Is it hydrostatic or gears? Hydrostatic could need new fluid or be low on fluid.


96 Grand Marquis 203,000 mi
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Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196196 08/25/19 12:49 PM
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bchannell Offline
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Well, it sounds like a belt/idler drive problem. You could remove the belt and turn the transmission pulley by hand and if the wheels turn, then you know it's not the transmission. The 1/4" play is probably normal, as these gear trannies need some slop to operate correctly. If it's not the trans, then look for an idler not making contact, or a worn belt. If the pulleys are bent, or mis aligned, even slightly, it won't work right. It might be an old belt that's stretched, but it's not likely it would stretch that much, but who knows. I would put a new belt on since it's having drive problems. If you still have problems then it's time to look at linkages and adjustments to the drive tensioner. I looked at the exploded drawings and it's not a complicated system, so you should be able to see the problem with some inspection and methodical troubleshooting.

Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196340 08/25/19 04:09 PM
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SOHCman Offline
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Originally Posted by supton
Toro Wheel Horse 12-38 XL, mid-90's I think. Plastic engine cover and all (apparently Wheel Horses from the 80's were all metal and something pretty decent?). Anyhow. It was given to me years ago and I have been using it more recently, but, it's developed a problem where it will just stop moving. As in, I'll be driving forward and it will just stop. Won't go into reverse or go forward, something sound like it might be dragging/disengaged, but no clunks or bad noises. Fiddle around, bang on things, and eventually it will decide to move (usually after a good length of time).

At first I thought it was pulley that applies tension to the belt that goes from motor to transaxle. I have not been able to verify that though, and it seems kinda weird that it'd just suddenly pop out and get stuck while in actual use--first time it happened I was changing direction and thought it had to be that, but now it's doing it at random times and while moving. Maybe it is this and just needs some lube or something? It seems free to move and apply tension.

It does seem to only do it when I am moving my utility trailer. It is empty and I don't think overloaded in any way, but more load than usual.

One other thing. The pulley on top of the transaxle has like a quarter turn of play in 1st gear. Is that normal? Seems like a lot of gear lash.


I have one of the "good ones" from the 80s, and it still is good except for the leaky axle seals I need to replace.

I would start with checking the gear oil.

There is a square pipe plug on the side a couple inches from the top, when the gear oil runs out you are full. If its like mine, you can remove the handlebars that attach to the top and add the oil through that threaded hole, much easier and you can stop when it runs out the side port. I recommend finding some 140wt GL-4 since there is some brass in the gearbox and the straight 140 is less prone to leak out of the old seals.

Assuming you don't have internal damage from use or low oil, I believe you may simply be slipping the belt when you hit a tough spot of earth? If a new belt and adjustment of the tensioning lever doesn't keep it moving you make have broke a gear tooth or something internally, or it's simply so worn it pops out of gear. Do you just have high/low for gear choices?



Last edited by SOHCman; 08/25/19 04:09 PM.

I urge people not to wait 100K to change out the fluid in their transfer case units. -Kestas
Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5196550 08/25/19 08:22 PM
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supton Offline OP
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Thanks all--things got busy today and I plum ran out of time to look into it. It'll be a few days before I'm back on it.

I need to defeat the kill switch on the seat (just gotta figure out the polarity, I bet if I short it out it'll be defeated) but the battery is under the seat so it's pretty tough to get to the transaxle. I need to replace one battery cable as one is stupid short and won't let me pull the battery out with it connected. Then I could dig in.

Err, I've never checked the transaxle oil... naughty me. It was a hand-me-down and I just never got around to it. I guess that is next.

FWIW, when it acts up I can shift to reverse, 1st, etc, and it just won't move. Lever moves freely. It's like it's slipped into neutral. When I last looked at it I could turn the pulley and it moved; with spark plug in I couldn't tell if it was driving or not (leave in gear, spin engine by hand, but have to work against compression--it's doable but engine was too warm at the time). It's not that I hit anything it just plain decides to be ornery. I mean if I was on a hill and it stopped I should be able to hit reverse and go back--but it just quits.


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 189k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 153k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 211k, his
Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5197385 08/26/19 06:12 PM
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Lubener Offline
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I would not defeat the kill switch. If the switch is bad, in addition to the engine stopping, you will not be able to crank the engine. The starter will be dead. You never mentioned anything like that. I looked up your Toro Wheel Horse 12-38 XL and it appears the rear wheels do not have lug nuts but held on with c clips. I had a rider that did the same thing and turned out that the key for one of the rear wheels was sheered. The rider would not move even with one wheel key on the other side still intact. Do also check the belt for slippage and I would not be concerned with the 1/4 inch play in the gearbox.

Last edited by Lubener; 08/26/19 06:16 PM.

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Re: Lawn tractor problem [Re: supton] #5197727 08/27/19 07:26 AM
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supton Offline OP
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Yeah the problem is, it's all hidden, with the transaxle under the battery.

Not quarter-inch, quarter turn.

Boosted the battery and drove it into the garage last night. Popped the rear wheels off, the keys look fine. Looked all over but don't see any drain or fill ports on the transaxle. The tension pulley seems to be fine. shrug I guess I'm stuck running it again until it quits then seeing where it is or isn't. Maybe get the wife to sit on it so it can be in gear and see if I can see if all is turning (or not).


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 189k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 153k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 211k, his
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