Archive for Lawn & Garden Tractors

Changing Oil in Your John DeereThere seems to be more and more first time owners of sub-compact and compact tractor owners. I too joined this ever growing group back in 2008 when I first purchased my 2520 John Deere with a 72 inch mower deck and 60 inch brush. And then, not to long after the front end loader, a must have if you own one of these machines. A lot of learning now faced me as I started to use my machine. You know, 4wd, differential lock, power steering, 3 point hitch, and not to mention all the cool hydraulics. It does seem like a daunting task but, just take one step at a time, master it, and then move on to the next. And before you know it you’ll know what every lever and foot pedal does.

If you again are like me, then you will be doing your own maintenance on your pride and joy. There is no better way to really know your tractor than to do your own maintenance. And as I already stated, there are some completely new systems on these machines. For example, all new to me is the hydraulics, not so much the hydrostatic drive, but the increased complexity and all the auxiliary options. Then there is the added fact these machines are diesel, which again, is all new to me, and lest we forget, a cooling system and 4wd to learn and take care of. This is just the maintenance to deal with just the tractor alone. Along with it come all the attachments that require their own understanding and maintenance. But, that is completely another topic.

Once you thoroughly learn all about your tractor you are ready to test your knowledge and put it to use. Suddenly you are finding tasks using your new powerful machine to do things you never dreamed of before. And the ones you did know of have become so easy and pleasant they are not enough to feed your desire to spend more time in its seat. Moving mulch, mowing the lawn, grading the lane, and re-contouring the landscape is actually become tasks that you are looking forward to doing. And now suddenly you have noticed that the hour meter is hitting that precious 50 hour mark. Why is the 50 hour mark so important? It is where John Deere recommends that the oils and filters be changed.

As big a company as John Deere is I must give them credit in that they really do a pretty good job with their owner’s manuals. Now mind you, the still make a few mistakes here and there, but on the overall they are pretty good. I know that from tractor to tractor some of the maintenance intervals very. But, my point being that the owner manual won’t let you down. So just follow it step for step and you will make for some happy tractor time. And if that still isn’t good enough, just come and join us at

John Deere Mower BladeThere is more to a mower blade than most people realize. At first glance they seem overly simple, yet there is a lot going on here with that single blade of steel. I will not get into the engineering details of material selection, hardness, or other specifications here. But, what I will cover is some important basic details that one should know about in order to properly care for their blades. I am not going cover all the blade types, high lift, mulching, and such. If properly maintained you will have a smooth running and cutting blade. The blades and the deck need to act as one to lift the grass, cut it, and then discharge it.

Let’s first discuss a brand new blade and its cutting edge and length. Have you ever noticed when looking at a new blade the cutting edge is what would appear to most of us not sharp? This cutting edge and angle is actually at the perfect configuration for a clean and smooth cutting blade. Contrary to what most of us think, the cutting edge does not need to be razor sharp. In fact, a slight 1/32 blunt face will cut just fine and actually maintain its sharpness longer. The angle of the cutting edge is also important. If it is too steep the blade will not cut the grass, but tear it instead. If it is too shallow, it will dull quickly and not push the grass around to the deck discharge chute efficiently. This is why it is important to maintain the cutting angle when you sharpen your blades. Also, blades are measured diagonally from cutting tip through the mounting hole center to opposite cutting tip.

Now, let’s talk blade sharpening. The first thing I do after removal is to thoroughly clean the blade of all old dirt, grass, and grime. I then inspect the blade for wear and straightness. If bent, I straighten it if I can. If not, it is time for a new blade. I then clamp the blade in a vice and use a 4 inch angle grinder with a flap wheel. I have found this to be the easiest and fastest way to sharpen blades. As mentioned earlier, you must maintain the cutting angle and it does not need to be a razor sharp edge. Once both cutting edges are sharpened you need to check balance. This can be done with a very inexpensive balancer or something as simple as a nail in a vice. You of course will need to remove material from the heavier side to get good balance. If you ignore balancing, you’ll find you will have a very rough running deck. Not to mention you may experience prematurely replacing spindle bearings. Make note that each time you sharpen your blade you are also making it shorter.

One other thing you should be aware of when inspecting the blade. Make sure that the turned up wing behind the cutting edge is in good condition. If the undercut is excessive, you’ll have a very dangerous situation where the wing could become a flying projectile.

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John Deere Lawn & GardenHere are the charts showing John Deere Lawn & Garden Tractor models by year and serial number.  The charts are broken up by decades, i.e. one chart for the 1960s, one chart for the 1970s, etc.  If you are searching for parts, this can be very helpful.


1960-1969 Equipment

1970-1979 Equipment

1980-1989 Equipment

1990-1999 Equipment

2000-2011 Equipment

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What is “Regen” or the “Regenerative” function of a FEL Valve? Read it here…

Regen is a “feature” of most modern FEL (Front End Loader) valves, it’s on the Dump (joystick far right) circuit, and is also referred to as “Fast Dump”. The reason it is nice to have is that without it, the weight of a filled bucket can actually “pull” the bucket down faster than the fluid can enter the other side of the cylinder, this will create a air pocket and give the bucket a “floppy” feeling until the joystick is held in the dump mode a few seconds to refill the cylinder pushing the air past the seals. So we add “regen” or “regenerative” function to the valve.

Regen solves this problem by actually filling both sides of the cylinder at the same time with hydraulic fluid. But how will that work you might ask? Well, because there is more volume on the side of the cylinder that extends it since the rod is taking up space in the other side, it “overpowers” the rod side and lets the cylinder extend-thereby dumping the bucket. So since now both sides of the cylinder are “pressurized”, the air pocket cannot develop, eliminating the “floppy” bucket syndrome. One other added bonus is that the bucket actually dumps faster due to the higher flow rate required to do all this, that’s why it’s referred to as “fast dump” sometimes.

So, now you may be asking “This is cool and all that, but why do I need to know about it?” The answer to that is simple, if you ever try to run a snow plow with two SA (single acting) cylinders, or a cylinder that drives a chute rotator on a snowblower you will soon find out that they won’t work if you push the joystick to far right into the regen mode. The plow won’t work because since both lines are pressurized-both cylinders will be trying to extend at the same time binding everything up. The rotator won’t work because there is no weight pushing the cylinder closed like there is on the loader.

On most, if not all John Deere tractors there is a “lockout” the limits how far the joystick travels to the right to keep it out of the regen mode.