Jim's Garage

Replacing a Dodge Diesel Oil Pan


Repairing a Dodge Ram
Air Conditioning and TIPM

Repairing a Jeep
JK AC Compressor Clutch

Repairing a Dodge
with the Death Wobble

Repairing a Dodge
Sliding Rear Window

Repairing a Deere 317
48" Mower Deck

Repairing a
Deere 301 Tractor

Rebuilding a
Deere 33 Tiller

power steering to a Deere 317

Adding a sleeve hitch, hitch rod and plow

Hummer rims for a Ram

Email Jim

John Deere 317

I was about ready for the next step, which was figuring out where to mount the oil cooler.  The return line of the steering controller had been run into a "T" fitting which connected with the return line of the lift control valve.  The third leg of the "T" would go, via Deere rubber hydraulic hose, to the cooler.  The other side of the cooler would run back to the hydro transmission.  I initially assumed that the cooler would be mounted behind the tractor's grill.  However, when I tried fitting the cooler in this position, I saw that there was no way to accomplish this without some major body work to the grill support.

I went back to the Deere parts catalog online and looked at the 318 cooler picture again.  This time I realized that the cooler was mounted to the firewall between the engine and battery compartment.  I did some measuring and found that this might be possible on the 317.  A little more measuring and a little tinkering and I had a plan for fitting the cooler.

under dash
Ignition switch rewired and ammeter hooked up
Test fitting the cooler.  Need to cut battery pan.
It's a tight fit, but it does fit.
I hope it gets enough air flow.  I'll know in summer.

I had wanted to repaint the operator's station and to get rid of the rust and chips in the front of the hood, so I sanded the parts and tried using a new (to me) siphon type spray gun.  The last time I had attempted to paint with one of these was decades ago and I had the help of a pro painter.  This time I was on my own. 

I can do decent filler work and even bang out dents with a hammer and dolly, but my painting has always been less than stellar.  I learned a little more on this attempt, but I still haven't mastered it.  I think I am probably using too much air pressure.  I could probably use a better pressure regulator than the one on my little compressor.  Trying different pressures and techniques helped some, but I still wasn't impressed at all with the finish I got.  It certainly made the inside of the operator's station sheet metal look better, but I'm not happy with the job.  I think I need to spend some time reading and working on some practice panels before I attempt to make it look better.  I talked to a friend who suggested practicing by shooting primer.  I think I will wait for the weather to warm up before I give this a try.

At this point, my goal was to get enough sheet metal mounted that I could work on trying to mount and plumb the oil cooler.  The cooler I had purchased used was pretty oil soaked when it arrived.  It was also completely packed with dirt and crud.  It was so dirty that I didn't want it in my solvent tank.  I washed it in an oil drain pan first to get the major gunk out, then into the solvent tank to finish the job.  Once cleaned, I used my radiator fin straightening tool to fix all the bent fins.  I then blocked off one port and shot about 50 pounds of air pressure into the cooler to check for leaks.  It appeared to be OK, but I won't know for sure until I can run hydraulic fluid in it.

Mounting the cooler wasn't as bad as I had imagined it might be.  The only real modification I needed to do was to cut and move the battery tray about an inch closer to the seat.  This would allow the tubing on the two legs of the cooler to extend below the tray so that the top of the cooler was lower than the hood.  Once I had the cooler clamped in place, I installed the hood and made sure that there was some clearance between the top of the cooler and the bottom of the hood.  I drilled one hole at the top of the firewall for the cooler clamp and two more toward the bottom for some plastic zip type cooler mounts.  Fortunately, I had a dozen  or so of these in the parts drawer from a Hayden oil cooler I had purchased for another project.  These zip mounts had a coin-shaped plastic disc at one end with a single serrated cord rising from the center of the coin-shaped end.  The zip mount was threaded through the firewall, then through the fins of the cooler.  Another coin-shaped disk with a hole in it is threaded on the cord, then locked against the fins of the cooler.  Strong, light weight and easy to mount.

I had to cut a couple rectangular 2" X 3" sections from the battery tray to clear the fins.  I left the center of the cut side of the battery tray intact so I could retain the mounting hole for the battery hold down clamp.  I wired up the switches and starter solenoid, installed the battery, battery tray and clamps.  I added the 3/8" ID rubber lines to the cooler and made sure that the hood would shut.  All good.

In looking at the way the cooler is mounted, it appears that there will be some air flow generated by the flywheel fan that will pass through the lower portion of the cooler.  Since the hood extends out further than the sheet metal of the operator's station, the heat will have somewhere to go, but I don't know whether I will need to cut some holes in the firewall behind the area of the cooler that is flush with the firewall.  I will have to see how warm it runs in the present configuration before I start cutting cooling holes in the firewall.  I have a couple electronic thermometers that I can rig to check this.

I reassembled the operator's station with the ammeter, key switch, choke and throttle.  I reinstalled the micro switch for the neutral interlock and left the 3/8" nut loose.  The operator's station fit nicely with the small notch I had filed for a hydraulic line.  Once the operator's station was back in place, I adjusted the neutral switch to engage when the hydro lever was in the horizontal section of the guide then tightened down the nut I had left loose.

I installed the fuel tank with a new fuel line and a new old stock Nissan fuel filter and routed the hose and wiring to where they should go.  It was time to fire it up and test the steering for leaks.  With a new filter on the hydro, it took about a gallon of low viscosity Hy Gard fluid before I showed fluid in the sight tube.  I had drained more than this out of the trans, so I knew it would take more after I started the engine and started circulating fluid.  Even with a large floor fan blowing the exhaust out the open basement door, I still set off the smoke detector by giving full choke to the engine while I started it.  It's always a good thing to test the smoke alarm. Just ask my wife.

After running the engine for a few minutes and working the steering back and forth, I operated the two hydraulic levers a few times in both directions and shut down the engine.  With some new latex gloves on, I went over all the hydraulic lines.  2 leaks.  One was the high pressure output line from the trans.  I had neglected to tighten it fully.  The other was where I had used a 90° coupling to attach to the right steering line.  Unfortunately this one was in a position that required 3 other lines to be removed to get to it.  When I finally got to the coupling, it wasn't tight enough.  The lines under the steering control valve are so close together and there's so little room to work that I hadn't gotten the line completely tightened.  This time, I triple checked every fitting using an 11/16" align (flare) wrench and another 11/16" open end wrench.  As I am often reminded, I was glad for my having purchased quality wrenches when I was an auto mechanic.  I've found over the years that the quality wrenches have thinner flanks and allow you to get into places where a wider flanked tool wouldn't fit.

I was pretty impressed that none of my flared tubing connections had leaked.  As I had said, it wasn't the greatest flaring tool, but it seems to have done a decent job.  I rechecked the trans fluid and added another half gallon or so.  I restarted the engine with less choke and with the floor fan on high.  No smoke alarm this time.  I worked the power steering and both hydraulic circuits constantly for about 15 minutes.  I also ran the hydro transmission in both forward and reverse, then shut the engine off.  I rechecked the lines again.  This time there was no evidence of any leaks. Good deal.

At this point, it's hard to make a determination as to how the power steering works, but it does work.  With the steering ram from the 345, the throw seems to be perfect.  The steering goes from lock to lock without putting pressure on the steering stops.  My adjustment of the ball joint on the steering ram seems to be dead on.  I have the same amount of travel in both directions.  At this point, I have done as much testing as I can without driving the tractor.  Now it's time to finish painting the hood and assorted pieces and put her back together.

deere 130
deere 130
I hope it remains as trouble free for my son.
Loaded, tied down and ready to move.

When our son, Michael, came up from North Carolina over Thanksgiving, we loaded the Deere 130 on to his truck.  He needed a ramp to off-load it when he got back home, so we took a drive over to the local Harbor Freight and picked up a ramp that would work for both his motorcycle and the tractor.  Not the greatest ramp, but for the amount of use it will get (very little) it works well enough.  While there, I looked at HVLP paint sprayers.  They had a little detail gun that looked similar to the guns I'd seen at a number of places for twice the cost.  I now owned one.

This gun has its own pressure regulator.  This makes it a little easier for me to try different pressures to get a decent pattern.  On one of the following Saturdays, I mixed up some Deere green paint with a double quantity of naphtha and a little hardener and gave it a try.  I had much better luck this time.  I was able to get better adjustment out of this gun and produced a decent looking coat of paint.  Not perfect, but much better than my previous attempts.  I painted the hood in the basement, but won't do the fenders in there.  Our cats like to follow me down there and while I can wear a respirator, the cats don't seem that interested in wearing theirs.  This paint with the hardener is some nasty stuff to breathe.

After giving the paint a few days to cure, I resembled the sheet metal.  I purchased a couple of the rear deck rubber isolators and installed them between the fender and the uprights that hold the gas tank in place.  Using the proper parts here has to be better than using a bunch of washers like the previous owner had used.  I had purchased some clip-on nuts from McMaster to replace the tired old original clip nuts.  These ought to stop the sheet metal rattling that plagued the 317 when I first rode it.  I then set about to figure out how I needed to cut the bottom screen that keeps grass clippings and trash out of the engine.  Since I had two rubber hydraulic lines that extended through where the screen fits, I needed to cut some access holes.  The screen that came with the 317 wasn't in great shape, but it would work.  Once I had the access holes cut, the screen was reattached.  If I choose to get another screen, I will be able to use this one as a template.

dismount rear V61 tire
Dismounting the front tire with a few clamps.
Getting ready to seat the bead on the V61 front tire.

difficult dismount
Breaking a rear tire bead. It may look like a mess, but it worked.  Not a fun job.

The tractor was now pretty much back together.  The only thing I was waiting on to try it out were some tubes for the rear turf tires.  Someone had plugged the sidewall of one of the tires and the plug didn't hold air.  Another schlock repair.  Any first year service station tire changer will tell you that you can't successfully plug a sidewall.  There's too much flex in the sidewall for the plug to hold.  Speaking of plugs, I hate them in principle, but have used them if the situation warrants.  I have always preferred to patch a tire with a vulcanizing patch on the inside of the tire, but lately I am having trouble even finding the vulcanizing patches.  All I see in the auto parts stores are Slime brand patches.  These are hardly suitable for patching a kid's vinyl pool inner tube, much less a vehicle tire.  Don't people repair stuff anymore?  Anyway, two new tubes were coming.

The front tires were mismatched.  One was new and a bit smaller than the original weather-checked one.  After some research, I replaced both fronts with some Vredestein V61 terra ribs.  Six plys and well made.  Such a deal!  Not cheap, but they look cool and are supposed to work a lot better in snow and dirt while not chewing up the turf too much.

The rear tire tubes finally arrived and I decided I would try to install them myself.  I had already mounted the front tires was a bit of a chore, but not too bad.  I hoped that the rear would be similar.  Well, hoping didn't make it so.  Breaking the beads on these larger tires was really tough.  I finally made up a tool that consisted of a 24" piece of 2" x 2" cast iron set on two 4" rounds of steel and using the hydraulic press to push the tire bead off of the rim.  Not pretty, but it worked.  I cleaned up the inside of the rims and remounted the tires with the new tubes.  I think that the tires had never been off the rims and someone had used some tire goo to slow down the leaks.  The tire goo had, in turn, glued the tires to the rims.  I hate that stuff.  It is nasty to remove.  Whatever the reason, this was a tough job.  I wouldn't want to do it again.  I'm now looking for another pair of rear rims so I can mount some agricultural tires, but I'm in no hurry.

Next, I started on the mower deck. It had been crashed pretty hard at some point in its life.  There was also a fair amount of pitting from rust.  This original deck is pretty well made, with the
deck body being about an eighth inch (3 mm) thick.  There was a crumpled area on the end of the left side which left the left side of the deck lower than the right.  No wonder I was having trouble trying to get the deck leveled so that the blades would cut evenly. 

I stripped the deck of all its parts and laid it on a couple of my 3 foot machinist straight edges and did some measuring.  The left side was about .75 inch low.  To get the deck back to flat again, I would need to lift up (bend) the left end.  I gave this some thought and came to the conclusion that I could do this using my engine hoist.  I used some heavy chain to secure the deck to the legs of the engine hoist, then made a sling out of a 1 foot piece of 2" X 2" X 1/4" angle steel.  I drilled holes in each end of the angle steel and hooked chain into each end.  I joined the chain on to the hoist's hook and put the angle steel under the area of the deck I wanted to raise (bend).  A few pumps of the hydraulic ram and the deck was pretty close to straight.  I messed around for another half hour to get the last 1/4" of height I needed to allow the deck to sit level on my straight edges.  Now I had a straight deck with a wrinkle in the end of the left side.

If the deck steel was thinner, I would have used a hammer and dolly and treated it just like straightening an old car fender, but at 1/8" thick, the deck was a little stouter than even my old 1952 Cadillac fenders.  I needed a better plan.  I ended up suspending the deck vertically from the hoist and setting the corner I needed to straighten down on a small anvil.  I then proceeded to beat the crap out of it with a large ball pein hammer.  Some time later, I had a somewhat bumpy, but much better looking left corner on my mower deck.  I did a little hammer and dolly work (more crap beating, this thing is thick) to lessen the bumps and then used a file, then some body filler to get the section smooth.  I decided that because of the amount of pitting on the deck  it would benefit from a little thicker coat of paint than the spray gun would provide.  I mixed up some hardener to the Deere yellow paint and gave it three brush coats both top and bottom.  After a couple days, I wet sanded the majority of brush marks from the paint and shot a finish coat with the paint gun. It isn't the best looking paint job, but it should protect the metal from more rusting as long as I remember to clean the deck after use.

I decided that I would replace the remainder of the deck spindle bearings.  The previous owner said that he'd done two spindles, but neither of the two were as smooth as the one spindle assembly I had replaced earlier in the season. Once I disassembled to two spindle towers, I found some cheap import bearings in one and some unbranded bearings in the other.  I replaced these with bearings picked up from my local Deere dealer.  They're Koyo brand and seem to be of a pretty high quality. I added some grease in the cavity between the top and bottom bearings, reinstalled the bearing spacer and clips, then pressed the spindles in using the hydraulic press. Now all the deck bearings are nice and smooth.

Reassembly of the deck was uneventful and soon I had all the spindle towers mounted with the freshly balanced mower blades.  I made bushings for the cylindrical anti-scalp rollers where years of no lubrication had worn the center hole in the rollers to make for a very sloppy fit.  The bushings we made of some thick-walled tubing and measured about 5/8" inside and 3/4" outside.  To keep future wear to a minimum, I lubed everywhere necessary with grease. 

bearing spindles
deck parts
New bearings and carriage bolts.
Brushed on some JD yellow, then a spray coat.
balance blade under deck
Balancing the blades with a prop balancer.
It certainly looks a lot better than it did.

finished deck
The deck is finished and just waiting for the grass to grow again.

All that was left to do was to test drive the 317.  Since it was necessary to remove both sliding glass doors off of their tracks to get the tractor out of the basement, I put this off until our son made it home for Christmas. Since I was going to help him do the brakes on his truck, he could help me man-handle the sliding glass doors.

In the last week of 2010, I finally got a chance to test drive the 317 with power steering.  I wasn't disappointed.  The steering works great.  There is very little input pressure required to turn the tractor now.  I drove the 317 around the yard and up and down the street, then took it into the garage and made another check of the lines.  I had worked out a bit of air from the hydraulic system and topped off the hydro fluid.  I put on a new pair of latex gloves and ran my hand over all the lines and fittings.  The glove came back dry.  No leaks from any of the hydraulic lines or connections.

I took a few pictures of my progress and thought about the next purchase, a hydraulic blade, so I could plow some snow.

deere 317
deere 317
The power steering looks pretty stock.
I really like the look of the V61 tires.
deere 317
deere 317
Next step is to find a front blade.
A 3-point hitch and a tiller would be nice, too.

I'd been searching for a 54" hydraulic front blade for a while now.  They don't seem to come up for sale very often in my area and when they do, they're often pricey and showing their age. One Saturday in early January, I saw one listed up near Baltimore.  It was priced a bit on the high side, but looked pretty good. Supposedly it had been used for one job, to spread some gravel, and then put back in the garage.  I took a ride up to see it. 
It looked as good as the pictures. The wear strip on the bottom of the blade had a little paint missing, but didn't show any signs of wear.  The skids also had no wear.  The hydraulics cylinders had no pitting on the chrome shafts and the hoses were still flexible and showed no cracking.  We struck a deal and the two of us loaded it into my truck.

When I got it home, I mounted it up and put it through some testing.  Everything worked as it should.  About the only things it needed were some caps for the hydraulic fittings and a rubber strip or squeegee for when I use it as a snow blade.  I had been reading about adding a rubber strip to prevent damage to the blade and the driveway. I came across a couple folks who had made their own from a horse stall mat purchased from Tractor Supply.  This sounded like the way to go.  The mats are under $50 and are about 1" thick by 4 by 6 feet.  The mat is about 1/2 the price of the Deere branded squeegee and after I cut a 5" section off the mat, I still had a large mat to put in front of the one of my machine tools.  I could also cut some more strips at a later date if that proved necessary.

front blade and squeegee
A 5" wide strip was cut from the mat with a jig saw.
Holes were drilled so that strip can be reversed

I drilled the ten 3/8" holes centered on the 5" strip. Once the rubber scraping edge wears down, I can remove the strip, flip it over and use the fresh edge.  I thought about giving the blade a new coat of paint and decided against it.  The paint would look good for too short a time to make the work worth while.  As it is, there are only a few scratches on the blade itself and the wear strip is only a bit worse.

To help the 317 to get some traction, I looked around for some tire chains and ended up with some new 2 link chains from a seller on Ebay.  With the optimistic pricing for
used rusty 4 link chains, this seemed like the better deal. I've been looking for some wheel weights, but will probably build a holder to mount a hundred pounds or so off the rear hitch. All I am waiting for now is a decent snow storm to give it a try.

So, this part of the story is history.  I've got a garden tractor that is much better suited to the larger piece of land that we hope is in our immediate future.  Funny thing, the last two properties we've looked at have been on private roads with no county maintenance.  I may well need something a bit larger than a garden tractor if we end up with one of these. I'd be up for that, too.

© Fager 1-16-11