General craftsman tiller gearbox question.

bliackbeardApril 2, 2007

Ages ago in the early 90's, I bought a Craftsman 5hp rear tine tiller. It had the B&S engine on it. For some reason, Sears modified the housing for the pull starter rope, and the rope was not a replaceable option. So I gave Sears all of the pertinent numbers and ordered the housing with pull starter.

Six months later, they notified me that the part was in, and upon pickup, found that a washing machine part, with my part number, was sent.

Once the proper part had been shipped and installed, the engine, after running a while, started spitting sparks and went south. It has sat outside since until this spring.

I bought a new Honda 6 HP engine and put it on, cleaned everything as best I could and started the tiller up. All works except the wheels don't engage. This is a model that allows Forward, Forward and Till, Reverse, or Neutral to be selected. I have searched everywhere trying to find a manual, or anything on Craftsman Tillers, but they don't seem to exist. The large wheel on the side of the gearbox is belt driven, but I have no idea what's inside.

Can anyone give me a clue as to where I might find firstly, a repair manual for the gearbox, and secondly, what might be inside and might be the problem(gear, belts, shear pins) and thirdly, how are these usually opened? I certainly don't want to return it to Sears for repair after the original parts fiasco.

I realize that without numbers, the exact procedures might not be accurate, but I was hoping to just get an idea until I can get the numbers and return.

Thanks for any help.

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If You would at least post the Model# of the tiller, we could determine who made it! That would be a good start-

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 1:30PM
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I will try and find that. I only found this forum this morning and was not prepared to provide any details.

Thank you for posting.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 2:08PM
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After inspecting the tiller I found the following numbers. The label is a little worn and there may be numbers in place of the question marks, but I don't think so.

Model Number: 917-295550?? or 917-295560??
Serial Number: 041393S 003172 or 041893S 003172

I believe the first set of each is more likely based on what these old eyes are seeing.

Again, any help you can give me is appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:29PM
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Go to Sears parts at the link below/
917.295560 seems like a good PN.
Enter that number and you can get an exploded diagram of the transmission etc.

The tiller was made by Roper, which was bought up by AYP some years back.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sears parts

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 3:26AM
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Thanks, Bill,

The part was actually the 917.295550. The other was a front tine tiller.

The exploded view shows me a much more complicated assembly than I had expected. I'm not sure if I could handle this or not. A new transmission costs $311+.

Last questions - are these usually just disassemble and re-assemble type assemblies (not needing any fancy tools, in other words)? I see an oil plug, what type of oil or axle grease do these use, as a rule. I don't really see a grease plug. Mine sounds a little dry.

Thanks for all you've provided.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 11:18AM
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"are these usually just disassemble and re-assemble type assemblies (not needing any fancy tools, in other words)?"

I really don't know, but it kind of appears that way.

What I don't understand is why it's not working IF ALL you did was swap the engine. Is there something else mis adjusted?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 3:47PM
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That was not ALL I did. The tiller had been sitting out in the weather for perhaps 8-10 years. I had to pull the wheels off to get the belt cover off to remove the engine. The wheels were frozen on the axles and the axle did not turn in Neutral, and I had to drag the tiller perhaps 10 feet to get it to my barn to work on it, and had to use a wheel puller to pull the wheels off the axle. Either of these actions could have caused damage.

The axles did not appear to turn even after the wheels were removed in any gear including Neutral. Sometime during the replacement of the engine, and after replacing the wheels, they started to turn.

I doubt that the linkage to the transmission is misaligned, as when I put it in the Forward/Till gear, the tines turn, and this is the only selection that allows for the tines to turn. The wheels do not turn in any of the three selections that provide for the wheels to rotate.

It's fairly obvious that I have probably knocked something loose inside, broke something internally, or something has failed due to age.

I have found that I can buy a new frame/transmission for about $300, or buy a very similar new model at Sears with dual rotation tines for about $680. I don't want to get into a situation where I start tearing this apart and find that it's going to become a money pit, but I guess at this point, I have nothing to lose.

The only other choices I have found for similar tillers around here are Troy-Bilt. I have no problem with them at all, and have not looked for used ones yet.

Thanks for all the concern and help.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 7:51PM
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Could it be that the axle keys are not installed? That is the drive axle is turning, but isn't engaging the wheel?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 5:01AM
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If axle keys are the pins through the wheel rim and axle, then yes, they are installed.

If that is not what they are, I'm not sure what you are referring to then.

The wheels turn freely now in any gear selection.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 6:24AM
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"If axle keys are the pins through the wheel rim and axle, then yes, they are installed."

That's what I mean. Just checking for one of those things that make one slap their forehead. :-)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 2:29PM
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I have a 5hp craftsman, rear tine like yours and it has a chain drive which the chain has slipped off the gear, I don't know if is worth fixing it looks so cheaply made inside. maybe i will scrape it.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 11:21AM
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OK guys. I am a novice in this. My 5.0 HP 17" Rear Tine w/counter rotating tines, Model No. 917.293202 quit!! Tines still rotate but it will not shift into any of the gears - Forward (tilling); neutral; forward or reverse. It just stopped. I have the exploded drawing of the transmission. What might be the problem? What is involved in getting into that transmission?
Appreciate any help. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 8:58PM
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I have the same problem, and found the inside gears were rusted to the splines. Nasty inside trans. working to clean and free it up.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 9:01AM
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I have a 917 series 17 inch 6 hp commecial I/C tiller and would like to share the following with you: The "gearbox" is a flimsy joke! The wheels are drivenby a horribly undersized #35 chain that belongs on a bicycle and is so small it doesn't even show up on the parts diagram. The tiller blades are driven by a larger (#60-I think) chain in the opposite direction. Because of the design (counter rotating tines) the tiller fights the wheels when operating. Bcause of the flimsy wheel drive chain, this is the part that breaks. Now the fun begins. Because the machine was so poorly engineered there is no gearbox" or over to remove. The entire machine including every cover panel and nut and bolt must be removed in order to split the case, which is the frame. If your unit was ever used before it exploded ( mine broke on its 3rd time out while tilling previously broken ground) the bolts will be impossible to remove as the exposed threads will be hammered from the rocks and dirt underneath. The self-stripping sheet metal screws-!! which secure the two halves of the stamped tin box will also chew themselves new holes if at all rusty or muddy. (more non-engineering) You will probably need a new gasket for the box to hold the red grease inside plus the tiny chain which costs 14.95 + 6.95 shipping. All in all it is a POC never designed to be repaired. I'm going to put it back together and look for a used old troybilt with a cast iron gearbox. I came on the web looking for a re-call for it - that's how horribly it is designed! I'm digusted beyond belief. It's still scattered around the basement as I'm sure it will break on a regular basis and I hate to do a stupid job more than once.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 8:43PM
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My tiller is a 917.299250. Anybody familiar with this one ? After looking at the pictoral diagram, I think there is a problem with the tine drive. Any comments ?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 11:03PM
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I have a 917.299250. I need the handle for mine. The tubes cracked at the bottom just before the plates. Does anyone want to sell their handle? Maybe someone has given up on their machine and wants to part it out.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 6:13AM
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My FRIENDS Craftsman rototiller (model 917 293650) 17",6hp. is NOT working. When I put it in gear, the wheels don't turn, but the tines will. My bad, I borrowed a friend's equipment. Anyone know what I can do to fix? Or what the heck the prob is?

Thanks for feedback

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 1:16PM
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I just took a 14" craftsman apart for a friend. If yours is similar the chain probably broke that runs from the countergear to the wheel axle. My friend's tiller had the needle brgs in the tine drive sprocket go dry and all the needles fell out making the end of the sprocket rub against the case and almost rubbing a hole thru it. The sprocket got a lot of wear on the thrust face from rubbing the case and it's no longer available. My friend decided he didn't want to put any $ in it so I'm hauling everything but the good engine to the scrap yard.
The owners manual says the chain case ONLY needs 8 oz of plastilube grease, whatever that is. It doesn't look like near enough to me after seeing the inside of the case. I think they designed these to self destruct. I'll stick with my old TB Horse and my small(14") Wizard front tine tillers. After seeing the inside of this one I wouldn't buy a chain drive tiller on a bet unless it had some way to check and add grease to it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 5:30PM
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I had one of those given to me for my scrap collection. I had seen that type before, so off came some parts, and the rest went to China for scrap.Once i saw there was no way to get it apart, it got tossed out. I did save some engine parts, but not much else.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 10:03AM
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My problem is that the input shift shaft froze up and will not move so I can shift gears. I took it apart and like the others said I removed every nut and bolt on it. Finally I could see what my trouble was. Now I need gasket or I may just buy a piece of gasket paper and make my own. I agree with everything said about this fillet design. It was poor from the onset.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:17AM
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Wow, what a bunch of whiners here.....what's the big deal?...anyone with the mechanical know-how of a chimp can fix one of these Sears Rear tines....Mine is over 15 years old and the crappy drive chain broke, just like a couple folks on this thread.....yes, it's a pain in the A**, but just grab your tools and get 'er done.....the sears website has the manuals for ALL of their tillers online....and like I said, it's a pain....remove the wheels/tires, handle, engine, tines, tine guard, counter weight, front guard and then the 24(?) bolts that bolt the two halves of the case/frame together (air tools are a real blessing here.....the gears use the plastilube grease for lubrication....I had to lightly sand my tine shafts due to rust/corrosion to remove the case half.....WD-40 is a blessing....once it's apart you'll see the broken drive chain and one of the people posting here said it correctly; the drive chain is just a cheapo bicycle chain...the tiller tine drive chain is like a motorcycle chain....nice and beefy.....weird....anyway, just order whatever parts are broke off the sears parts website and reassemble with plenty of plastilube grease and a new gasket....pretty easy and ALOT cheaper than buying a new rear tine tiller these days....I ended up buying the #35 drive chain, drive sprocket and gear, and the ground shaft assembly....$112 bucks total.....Yea, it's gonna take some time, but grab a six pack and go for it.....If I can do it....anybody can!!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 4:16PM
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I hate to "whine" some more but tell me where to get replacement parts to replace worn out, non rebuildable ones that sears no longer carries??

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 8:53PM
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I have a poulan pro, I think is made by the same company, Its not a good idea to let these tillers sit out in the weather because sometimes rain will leek into the clam shell. Mine is to have 1oz of no.1 grease added each year.
I cant find no 1 grease so I install something heaver and then add some motor oil or gear oil. It has been serving me well for 8 years, I did replace 4 bent tines this year.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 2:01AM
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Gear want shift and wheel are lock .Big drive pulley, belt spends freely when motor starts.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 7:53PM
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Well, wayne,from my single experience w/ one. I'd say there's a chain case disassembly in your future and hope you can get the needed parts..

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 10:23PM
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I just bought one of these second hand from older couple, in great shape, not used much. After 15 mins using it my drive chain seems to have broke, maybe from sitting for a couple of years, eventhough indoors. It worked great while it did!

Does the case come apart rather easily? I don't have to disassemble much inside the case to change out the chain do I?

Thanks for any help, much appreciated!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 9:48PM
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The one I junked out was not just chains. There's gears w/ needle brgs also.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 11:07PM
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Well I have it apart. Went pretty smooth. Left side lifts off and gives easy access to quickly swap out that broken chain. 1.5 hours to disassemble. Just have to wait for new chain to come in. Gasket was in good shape.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 1:01PM
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1.5 hour reassembly and works like a charm.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 4:55PM
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That Craftsman tiller i got free, had a transmission case that didn't have bolts holding it together! It was spot-welded all around the flanges!
Also, a friend had one just like it. I really looked at both of them, but couldn't see any way to take the tranny apart! Strictly un-fixable! RJ

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 3:32PM
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cboneill(So. LA)

Like Dntuwannano says, "Wow, what a bunch of whiners here . ." I disassembled my transmission, cleaned out the old grease, inspected the individual parts, made a list of defective parts, added up the cost ($156.09), compared it with an overhauled unit, p/n 181098, ($203.48) and ordered the overhauled unit. It's worth the difference to avoid the task of reassembly and much cheaper than buying another tiller at $800.00.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 7:01PM
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cboneill, who did you order your transmission from? It looks like the same gear box my tiller uses. Mine has worked great for about 8 years. I have a bad back and use mine a lot dragging things around. I have sheared one wheel pin, but no other problem. I can see where I may need a gear box in the future but the ones I am finding are around $400.00.

Thanks, Larry

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 11:42AM
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I had an experience with a Craftsman tiller gear-box that was welded but we ground the weld to open it. We saw the bad gear that was not stock/available vs another gear-box. IMO the welded case and no replaceable parts were not reasonable. With parts we c/h repaired it even if we needed to vent it with a grease plug and re-weld. loger

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 7:26PM
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cboneill(So. LA)

Larry - The overhauled transmission is listed as item #1 at I just finished re-attaching the other major components and everything works just like brand new. Total cost was just under $250.00.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 11:48PM
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cbonewll, thanks very much. Mine is sill working great, but with the use and abuse it has had that could change any day, thanks again, Larry.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 4:31PM
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I have a craftsman 5hp 17" rear tine tiller #917.299651. I cant get the tire (gear side) off. I believe it was repaired in the past and the tire was put on incorrectly. The tire is shot and needs to be replaced. Anybody know how to get that tire off?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 5:39PM
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I ended up working on mine and if the rear wheel had come off easily it would have been much easier. To get the rear wheel off, I had to drill a couple holes in the hub and use a puller and I had to heat the hub up with a torch. There was no way it would move till then, and even then it was very difficult to move. Once I got that apart I separated the case - left looking from the back is the one you pull from the right.side. The chain was broke as expected. There were a couple of washers on the inside on the shafts and bolts - don't lose those in the grease. Reverse everything to get it back together.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:29PM
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Craftsman tiller will not change gears.Starts and runs.
Guess I need to see if it is chain or belt drive. And it the gear box is welded?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2014 at 4:31PM
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I have one of the variations of this tiller.

I got it (80's ish model) from my neighbor because it would not shift gears. I found that the lubricant - and i use this phrase loosely, is hard as a rock.
Just to get it to shift though open the case and clean the parts where the shaft that u turn to shift it turns a fork which moves a spline gear moving to fwd, rev, etc.
This is your problem.
Upon cleaning this(and everything else) it shifts fine.
Also while i was at it i put a grease fitting on the case to just shoot it up later.

btw, for those of u who always rip sears (of which u might have a point on their current products) It is built "good" - not industrial but good in that it has(had)steel gears and all. The chain snapped likely for neglect\no lube(or crappy lube in this case). Looking up this chain size, it is rated to handle 419lbs. I actually used a pipe wrench to hold the wheel and hit the gas to knock the wheels loose to remove them being the tiller was about 30yrs old when i got it.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2014 at 12:17AM
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John Obeidin

I have a 4 horsepower model number 917-299641 that I got last year with counter rotating tines. It had no major issues and tilled up my garden with it last year after I bought it for $75.

I got it fired up this year and when I put it in tilling mode, it kicks out of gear into drive mode and makes really loud grinding noises that doesn't sound like its supposed to. I tried holding it in gear, but that doesn't stop the grinding noises.

I am not sure what is causing this, but I did add a quart of gear oil and that didn't change anything. I think it may be leaking around the axle, but I haven't taken it apart yet which I assume is the next step. I was unable to get the wheel off to look at the drive belt area.

This seemed different from the chain breaking issues above, but it seems like it a gearing issue. I can take it apart and see whats wrong, but I won't have time for a couple of weeks, just wondering what I need to look for and what will need to be done to fix it. I have a sears outlet right by my house, so ordering parts shouldn't be much of an issue.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2015 at 12:05AM
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