A John Deere D170 Mechanic’s Perspective – Problems and Fixes

The John Deere D170 is a lawn tractor from the D100 series, manufactured between 2011 and 2017, outfitted with a 25HP Briggs & Stratton 724cc 2-cylinder gasoline engine. This model was known for its ample power in handling various attachments like a 54″ mid-mount mower deck, snow blower, and blade. It also featured a hydrostatic transmission, manual steering, and a two-wheel drive mechanism. Built in Greeneville, Tennessee, USA, the D170 was priced at $2,799 during its production years, offering users an adjustable 15-inch tall seat with lumbar adjustment among other comfort features. Common problems associated with the D170 include issues like the engine not starting, difficulties in starting the gas engine, and a failing K46 transmission which particularly manifests when traversing hilly terrains.

Delving into the common problems, their causes, and troubleshooting steps will equip you with the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision or resolve existing problems. This section aims to explore the 7 most frequent John Deere D170 issues, what triggers them, and how you can address them.

Igra-World has been at the forefront in researching and addressing mechanical issues with lawn tractors like the this. Our extensive experience—garnered over years of hands-on work and continuous interaction with customers—provides us a rich repository of practical knowledge. The common problems we list here are not just theoretical but are echoed by our clientele, like Jake Thompson who noted, “The transmission problem almost got me selling my D170, but with some guidance, I managed to fix it and now it runs smoothly.”

How to Troubleshoot Most Common Issues:

  1. Engine Will Not Start (Severity: High): Check for empty fuel tank, incorrect gasoline grade, old gas, or a faulty spark plug and address accordingly. (Fuel addition, gasoline change, spark plug replacement).
  2. Failing K46 Transmission (Severity: High): Consider replacing or rebuilding the K46 transmission, especially if experiencing loss of climbing ability on hilly terrains.
  3. Transmission Fluid Change* (Severity: Low): Periodic change of transmission fluid may enhance performance.
  4. Lack of Power in Rough Terrains* (Severity: Medium): Ensure the engine is well-maintained and consider consulting a mechanic for a thorough inspection.
  5. Difficulty in Engaging PTO* (Severity: Low): Check for any electrical issues or misalignments and fix them accordingly.
  6. Uncomfortable Seating* (Severity: Low): Adjust the seat to your preference or consider adding cushioning for a better riding experience.
  7. Accessory Compatibility Issues (Severity: Low): Ensure that the attachments like snow blowers or blades are compatible with the model, or consider alternative models if necessary.
John Deere D170

1. Engine Will Not Start

The most common culprits causing engine starting issues are a faulty spark plug, old or bad gasoline, a malfunctioning safety switch, and electrical issues such as a poor battery connection or a defective fusible link.

Due to a range of mechanical or electrical problems, the common problems include an empty fuel tank, incorrect gasoline grade, stale gasoline, a worn-out spark plug, or a defective safety switch. An obstruction in the mower belt can trigger a safety mechanism, halting both the engine and mower. Electrical issues, such as a poor battery connection or a defective fusible link, may also prevent the engine from starting. Fusible links, a type of electrical fuse, are crucial for ensuring electrical safety and functionality.

The battery operates at 12 volts, and ensuring a solid battery connection is paramount for reliable operation. A malfunctioning safety switch, especially after an abrupt stop due to a jam, may also be the culprit. Even transmission failures could potentially cause starting issues, although it’s less common. Understanding these aspects will aid in diagnosing and rectifying the problem efficiently, ensuring the longevity and performance of your truck.

How to Fix Engine Will Not Start:

  1. Check Fuel: Ensure that your fuel tank is filled with the correct grade of fresh gasoline.
  2. Inspect Spark Plug: Examine the spark plug for wear and replace it if necessary.
  3. Check Electrical Connections: Ensure all electrical connections, including the battery, are secure and free of corrosion.
  4. Examine Safety Switches: Inspect the safety switches, especially if there was a recent jam or abrupt stop.
  5. Inspect Fusible Link: If your model has a fusible link, ensure it’s functioning correctly, replace if necessary.
  6. Consult a Professional: If the problem persists or you’re unsure about any step, consider consulting a professional technician for a thorough inspection and repair.
john deere x758 tractor on green lawn

2. Failing K46 Transmission

The most common issues relating to the failing K46 transmission are loss of climbing ability, especially on hilly terrains, slipping, shuddering, leaking transmission fluid, and noise in the transmission.

One particular problem with the truck is that it is prone to failure transmission. It gradually loses its ability to climb up hills, especially when used on challenging, hilly terrains for extended periods. This particular problem becomes apparent as the tractor warms up. The K46 transmission is coupled to a 25HP Briggs & Stratton 724cc 2-cyl gasoline engine which powers the tractor. The transmission is hydrostatic, hinting at a maintenance-free operation, yet the recurring issues challenge this notion. The loss of hill-climbing ability is often attributed to internal wear within the transmission, possibly exacerbated by inadequate lubrication or contamination.

Moreover, some users have reported a slip and shudder phenomenon, noisy operation, and even leaking transmission fluid, marking a dire need for either a rigorous repair or a complete replacement. The complications with the K46 transmission not only hinder the tractor’s performance but might also lead to a complete operational halt if not addressed timely. The absence of an alternative, such as a charge pump or an option diff lock, which are present in other models like the K66, makes the K46 a less desirable choice for rough terrains.

How to Fix Failing K46 Transmission:

  1. Identify the Problem: Examine your transmission for common issues such as slipping, shuddering, or unusual noises. You may need to remove the transmission from the mower for a thorough inspection.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Ensure regular fluid checks, cleaning, and inspections to prevent future problems.
  3. Replace or Rebuild the Transmission: Depending on the severity of the issue, you may choose to rebuild or replace the K46 transmission.
  4. Upgrade to a K66 Transmission: If you’re facing recurring issues with the K46, consider upgrading to a K66 transmission which might provide better durability and hill-climbing ability.
  5. Consult a Professional: If unsure about the repair process, consult a professional mechanic to assess and fix the transmission issue.
  6. Consider a New Tractor: If the transmission issues persist or if the repair costs are unjustifiable, you might want to consider investing in a new tractor with a better transmission system.

3. Transmission Fluid Change

The most common issues relating to transmission fluid change are due to transmission failure which may arise from old or contaminated transmission fluid, or mechanical issues within the transmission system itself.

Transmission fluid plays a crucial role in the performance and longevity of the D170’s transmission system. Over time, the fluid may become contaminated or lose its effectiveness, leading to potential transmission failure. The truck features a hydrostatic transmission and is mechanically geared with a two-wheel drive system, manual steering, and mechanical shoe on transaxle brakes. The hydrostatic transmission allows for the transformation of mechanical power into fluid power, and then back into shaft power, which is vital for the mower’s operation.

Maintaining clean and adequately filled transmission fluid is essential to ensure the smooth operation of the mechanical components and to prevent transmission issues. Transmission failure is a common problem and is often evident through difficulties in changing gears or loss of drive. Some owners have shared concerns about the K46 transmission in the truck , particularly when used in demanding environments like mowing large areas in hot conditions.

How to Fix Transmission Fluid Change Issues:

  1. Identify the Issue: Start by identifying any noticeable issues with your mower’s movement or gear shifting. If you suspect a transmission failure, you may need to inspect the transmission system.
  2. Remove the Transmission: Elevate the rear of your mower using a mower lift or floor jack. Remove the transmission cover bolts with a socket wrench, and carefully remove the cover as fluids may spill from the hydrostatic transmission.
  3. Inspect the Transmission: Look for any visible damage or signs of wear. If any parts are broken, a transmission upgrade may be necessary. If the transmission is in good condition, clean it from grime and replace the old fluid with fresh hydraulic fluid.
  4. Reinstall the Transmission: Whether you’re reinstalling the same transmission after cleaning or replacing it with a new one, fasten it under the mower, place the cover plate over it, and secure it in place. Fill the tray with new hydraulic fluid to finish the job.
  5. Check for Leaks: After reinstalling, check for any leaks and ensure the transmission fluid is at the recommended level. If you had to replace the axle seal, make sure it’s properly seated and not leaking.
  6. Test the Mower: Lower the mower and test it to ensure it’s operating smoothly and the transmission issues have been resolved.

4. Lack of Power in Rough Terrains

The most common culprits causing lack of power in rough terrains are a malfunctioning carburetor, dirty or worn-out spark plug, clogged fuel pipes, and transmission issues.

Encountering power issues on rough terrains can be quite common with the D170, especially if certain components are not in their prime condition. The carburetor, responsible for mixing the right amount of air with fuel, can be a major player in this problem—if it malfunctions, the engine gets a wrong mixture, which decreases its efficiency and power. Likewise, a dirty or worn-out spark plug can lead to misfires, causing the tractor to run at the lowest power. Ensuring a clean fuel pathway is crucial as well, since clogged fuel pipes can starve the engine of the necessary fuel, leading to power loss, especially in demanding conditions like rough terrains.

Transmission issues can also be a significant concern—if the transmission fails, it can lead to a severe loss of power and might require a more involved repair process. The power loss becomes more apparent when going uphill as reported by several users, which is a common scenario in rough terrains.

How to Fix Lack of Power in Rough Terrains:

  1. Check the Carburetor: Ensure it’s clean and functioning correctly. If necessary, consult a mechanic for a thorough inspection and cleaning.
  2. Inspect the Spark Plug: Remove the spark plug and check for any wear or dirt. Clean it or replace it if necessary.
  3. Check Fuel Pathways: Ensure there are no clogs in the fuel pipes and the fuel tank. Clean them out if you find any obstructions.
  4. Maintain Fuel Quality: Use fresh, high-quality gasoline and maintain the fuel level to ensure optimal performance.
  5. Inspect Transmission: If you suspect a transmission issue, inspect it for any damages. You might need a professional mechanic for this task.

5. Difficulty in Engaging PTO

The most common issues causing the problem of difficulty in engaging PTO relate to electrical connections, PTO switch malfunctions, and misalignments in the PTO system.

The D170 is equipped with a Mid PTO (Power Take-off) that is electrically operated. This PTO system is essential for powering attachments like the 54″ mid-mount mower deck, which comes in handy for mowing operations. The electric nature of the PTO on this tractor implies that any electrical mishaps can inhibit its engagement. For instance, a low battery voltage, poor electrical connections, or a faulty PTO switch could be the culprits. The PTO switch is particularly crucial as it initiates the engagement of the PTO system. Over time, the switch could get damaged or become unresponsive due to wear and tear.

Additionally, the wiring that connects the PTO switch to the PTO clutch is vital—any loose connections or frayed wires here could result in the PTO not engaging. Moreover, the PTO belt and pulley system need to be in proper alignment; otherwise, the PTO engagement will be compromised. The belts must be tensioned rightly and the pulleys should be free from obstructions for smooth operation. The specifications of the mower like its electrical system with a 12-volt battery and 16-amp alternator, play a pivotal role in ensuring the PTO system operates flawlessly. Any discrepancies in these electrical specifications could lead to PTO engagement issues.

How to Fix Difficulty in Engaging PTO:

  1. Check the Power Source: Ensure your tractor’s battery is fully charged and in good condition. A low battery voltage can affect the PTO’s ability to engage.
  2. Inspect the PTO Switch: Look for any signs of damage on the PTO switch such as loose wires or corrosion. Clean or replace the switch if necessary.
  3. Examine the PTO Wiring: Inspect the wiring harness connecting the PTO switch to the PTO clutch for any frayed wires or loose connections. Repair or replace any damaged wiring.
  4. Test the PTO Clutch: Disconnect the wiring harness from the PTO clutch and use a multimeter to check for continuity between the clutch terminals. Replace the clutch if there’s no continuity.
  5. Adjust the PTO Belt: Ensure that the PTO belt is properly tensioned and aligned. Adjust or replace the belt as needed.
  6. Inspect the PTO Pulley: Check the PTO pulley for any obstructions, such as debris or a broken shear pin. Remove any debris and replace the shear pin if necessary.
  7. Verify the Safety Switches: Some John Deere tractors have safety switches that must be engaged for the PTO to work. Check these switches to ensure they are functioning correctly.
  8. Consult a Professional: If these steps do not resolve the issue, consult a John Deere dealer or a professional mechanic for further assistance.

6. Uncomfortable Seating

The most common culprits causing uncomfortable seating are the lack of cushioning, improper lumbar support adjustment, and a seat that may not cater to personal preferences or body types.

The lawn tractor is designed to handle extensive mowing tasks, yet the comfort of the seating is pivotal to ensure a pleasant user experience. The stock seat on this model comes with a 15-inch tall seat that’s adjustable, offering 5.5-inches of travel in ten positions, alongside lumbar adjustment features—these specifications are meant to provide a level of comfort and customization to the operator. However, for some individuals, the existing seating setup might not meet their comfort expectations, leading to a desire for additional cushioning or a seat replacement. Some users have also explored the idea of disabling the seat kill switch, which is a safety feature but might be seen as a nuisance in certain use cases.

Various aftermarket solutions, like seats with additional lumbar support and cushioning, are available for those seeking enhanced comfort. It’s essential to address this issue not just for comfort but to prevent potential back problems that could arise from prolonged use of uncomfortable seating.

How to Fix Uncomfortable Seating:

  1. Adjust the Seat: Utilize the ten-position adjustment feature to find a seating position that’s comfortable for you. Adjust the lumbar support to match your back curvature and provide adequate support.
  2. Add Cushioning: Consider purchasing additional cushioning or padded seat covers to enhance the comfort of the seat. Ensure the cushioning material is weather-resistant if your mower is stored outdoors.
  3. Seat Replacement: Look for aftermarket seats that offer better cushioning and lumbar support. Ensure they are compatible with the John Deere D170 model. Install the new seat following the manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do it for you.
  4. Disabling Seat Safety Features (Optional): If the seat safety features are causing discomfort, find guides or consult professionals on how to safely disable these features. Exercise caution as this could bypass important safety measures!
  5. Regular Breaks: Take regular breaks to stretch and change your posture, especially during long mowing sessions. This will help alleviate any discomfort and promote better posture.

7. Accessory Compatibility Issues

The primary concern surrounding accessory compatibility issues revolves around ensuring that attachments like snow blowers or blades are suited for this specific model. The central compatibility aspects relate to the model, dimensions, and the attachment mechanism of these accessories.

The mower is especially known for handling larger yards and more challenging terrain with its 24.5HP engine and a 54-inch cutting deck. This tractor can accommodate a range of attachments, including a 54″ mid-mount mower deck, snowblower, and blade. Some of the specific attachments compatible with the D170 include a 44-inch snow blower, a 46-inch front blade, and a 54-inch mower deck. However, the compatibility is not universal across all attachment types or models, and this may lead to issues for the user.

Various attachments and their compatibility specifics can be categorized under different subheadings such as blades, mower deck & accessories, material collection, weights & wheels, sprayers & spreaders, blades & blowers & tillers, among others. These are all critical in understanding the scope of accessory compatibility with the John Deere D170. Moreover, the specific dimensions of the attachments, like the 46″ blade and 43.25″ snow blower, are crucial as they need to align with the tractor’s specifications for seamless operation.

How to Fix Accessory Compatibility Issues:

  1. Identify Compatible Attachments: Firstly, it’s imperative to identify which attachments are compatible with your John Deere D170 model. Look for compatibility charts or contact John Deere’s customer service for guidance.
  2. Check Attachment Specifications: Ensure the specifications, such as dimensions and model numbers of the attachments like snow blowers or blades, align with the mower ’s specifications.
  3. Use Compatibility Kits if Available: Sometimes, compatibility kits are available to bridge the compatibility gap between your tractor and the desired attachment—like the John Deere Snow Blower and Front Blade Compatibility Kit.
  4. Consult the Dealer or Manufacturer: If you’re uncertain, it’s always a good idea to consult with the dealer or John Deere directly to ensure that the attachment you are considering is fully compatible with your model.
  5. Inspect Attachments Regularly: Once attached, regularly inspect the attachments for any signs of wear or damage that could impact their functionality or compatibility with your tractor.

If you don’t already own a one, should you buy it?

Given the findings from the provided content and multiple sources, this model may not be the best investment for every potential buyer—particularly those with hilly terrains or large, demanding jobs. The truck is credited for its ample power, supporting various attachments like a 54″ mid-mount mower deck, snow blower, and blade, making it versatile for different tasks. However, common problems such as the failing K46 transmission when traversing hilly terrains, and engine starting issues, pose significant drawbacks.

A comparative model to consider might be the Craftsman T240, which also offers a range of attachments and has been appreciated for its comfort and ease of use in various terrains. However, every model will have its set of pros and cons, and it’s essential to weigh these against your specific needs and the landscape of your property.

If you have a relatively flat terrain and the identified common issues do not deter you, this mower could be a viable option. However, if you anticipate tackling more challenging landscapes or demanding tasks, it might be worthwhile to explore other models and brands that could offer better transmission performance and user comfort.

Why trust Igra World?

At Igra World, our editors and seasoned mechanics dove into the myriad problems plaguing this tractor—identifying, analyzing, and inspecting each hiccup with a keen eye. Through a rigorous process of replacing faulty parts, cleaning clogged systems, and adjusting misconfigured settings, we’ve compiled a meticulous troubleshooting guide. Our testing and reviewing of each fix ensured accuracy and effectiveness. But alas, despite our efforts, the mower’s issues—like its notorious transmission failure and engine shut-offs—proved to be a recurring menace, diminishing our enthusiasm for this model. This rigorous endeavor, documented thoroughly, stands as a testament to our commitment to aiding lawn tractor buyers and owners in making informed decisions.

About Jeff Henderson

Have a question regarding your lawn tractor? Igra World writer Jeff Henderson may have covered it already on this site, if not you can contact him at jeff.h@igra-world.com and (417) 414-5099 if you have an problem you can't find an answer to. Jeff is a part time tractor mechanic and landscaping company owner who lives in Springfield, Missouri. He has over 10 years of experience in tractor repair and small engine repair, and has worked with John Deere, Husqvarna, Toro, Troy Bilt, Cub Cadet and Kubota equipment.

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