Kohler Courage 18 SV470-600 Electrical Issues

McPennyApril 3, 2012

I'm glad to have found this forum! I have a Toro LX-425 tractor with a Kohler Courage 18 SV470-600 engine. The tractor is now six years old and has been well cared for and runs OK.

The problem is that I have to trickle charge the battery in order to get it to start. If I don't, it turns over very grudgingly and sometimes will get enough gumption to start, but it's still a concern.

This problem actually started last fall. I first suspected the battery and took it to AutoZone to have it tested under load. They checked and said it was fine. I did some research online and found that my problem is not unique. In fact similar problems are written about on this forum - but too often the resolution is not reported!

Any way, I did the first check suggested in the Service Manual and put a VOM across the battery terminals. At rest it reads 12.65 volts. When starting it drops to fractional voltage levels, like .45 volts. When running it reads over 14 volts. When I shut down the engine, it read 13+ and steadily dropped back down to 12.5 to 12.6 volts over about a ten second period.

The manual says - "Battery Test

Test the battery voltage by connecting a DC voltmeter

across the battery terminals and cranking the engine.

If the battery drops below 9 volts while cranking, the

battery is discharged or faulty."

So now I suspect the battery again. Before I drop some significant bucks on a new battery, I thought I would ask you guys what you think. Is there something else I should be looking at?

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How old is this "suspect" battery?
You stated the tractor is 6 years old but not how old the battery is.
If this battery is also 6 years old you need not do any additional testing to it............6 years old is quite a bit longer than the norm for survival anyhow.
The test data you collected also point at a worn out battery (drops to fractional reading of .45 VDC) if in fact that reading is accurate.
That you read higher than 14 VDC when the engine is running proves that your charging circuits are working.
The fairly rapid drop of battery standing voltage from 13+ VDC to 12.65 VDC in mere seconds is also an indicator that the battery is not performing at optimum.
If you have a battery charger, disconnect the battery cables (or at least the negative cable) and charge the battery up. Then disconnect the charger and immediately read the battery voltage. Record your reading and continue to observe how quickly the voltage drops over a period of about 30 minutes time (but check the voltage every few seconds or so as you did before).
If the voltage drops as quickly with the battery DISCONNECTED from the tractor wiring your battery is certainly worn out.
If however, the battery voltage remains near 13.5 VDC or so for for a much longer time than when connected to the tractor wiring I would have to suspect a very high (and abnormal) amount of parasitic drain from something in the tractor wiring.
Parasitic drain may be caused by a number of things and conditions, but we probably don't need to go further until we determine the actual health of this battery.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 12:58PM
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Ditto what Mownie said. Sounds like the battery might be toast.

I don't read whee you had the battery charged?
IF this tractor has a 3 AMP charge system, it'll take 10-12 HOURS to fully charge a battery.
Basically, if the engine HAS to be running to have headlights, you have the 3 amp system.

Even if the battery worked last Fall, that was then!

I'd let it sit on the charger until you KNOW it's as charged as it's going to get and then get it tested again.
Maybe at a different place????

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 1:56PM
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OOPS! Did see where you trickle charged the battery.
You didn't state how long though.

Trickle chargers are only about 1 AMP, and a battery is probably about 35 amp-hours.
That means it'd take 35 hours to fully charge a discharged battery.

I'd trickle charge for a day and then have it tested.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 2:07PM
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There are mechanical issues that happen w/ the single Courage engines which make them difficult to crank also. Obviously, you need to know that you are cranking w/ a known good battery. You could for that matter use good quality jumper cables direct to the starter. With a non installed battery + bat to lug on starter Ground on the battery and ground touching the case of the starter as you want it to turn. It will spark- so be cautions of things such as fuel. If it is still difficult to crank, then you should look for a mechanical issue.If not- back to the electrical side. Post back with what you find.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:49PM
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This is so cool! It's like having several knowledgeable friends / neighbors willing to help. Thank you for your responses.

First, the battery is the original that came with the tractor; it's six years old. I have brought it inside when I tuck the tractor in for an over winter sleep all those years. I didn't realize that a battery could go south in that period of time just by getting older.

The trickle charge I mentioned was an overnight affair. I attached the charger on a Saturday morning and started the tractor on Sunday morning. So, it was about 24 hours. I'll have to look at the charger more closely to see what the charging amperage is. I know it has two settings; one for a quickie and one for longer term charging - I used the longer term setting. I will check and report back.

Given the test results with the service manual advice and the comments here, I'm going to assume that the battery is toast. I found a replacement online at Tractor Supply for $35. I thought it was going to be a lot more than than that. Actually I could spend hundreds it appears for other brands, but this one boasts 300 Cold Cranking Amps - 110 greater than the required 190. So, I'll try that.

I'm intrigued by the "parasitic drain" comment too. So, I'm going to try the test mentioned by mownie as well. I think I'll try it with the old AND the new battery so we have a comparison for the experiment. And I promise, cross my heart, I will report back my results. It seems only fair to do so - to let you guys know after taking the time to post your helpful comments.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 6:37AM
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McPenny - one last thing to do while you are into the tractor battery & circuit.... take a piece of sandpaper or emory cloth - thoroughly clean each elect contact surface/point to bright metal prior to re-assembling. Don't forget where the battery ground wire connects to the chassis frame...getting rid of any corrosion at those points will help the engine starting process..

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:01PM
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6 years on a tractor battery is MUCH longer than "normal".

We DO appreciate hearing back!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 2:04PM
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I did not bail on you guys. It's been a busy week. I'm buying the new battery later today and I will report back.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Thanks a bunch you guys. The new battery seems to have done the trick. The engine starts up with authority now. I measured the voltage while the battery was connected but the engine at rest; 14.81 volts. While the engine is cranking (this is the first start after bringing the battery home from the store) the voltage dropped to 11.51 volts. While the engine was running fast, the voltage read 14.52 volts.

Also, I did take the time to clean the battery posts and connection terminals while installing the battery.

I appreciate all the help. I will have an extra helping of Easter ham in your honor this evening.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 11:28AM
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14.81!!!!! I'm assuming you meant 14.18, since the alternator was only topping it off at 14.5.

Check it after it's sat "at rest" for a few hours and it should measure about 12.6? (fully charged)

IF you measured it immediately after charging, you can get some higher than "normal" from "surface charge".

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 4:55PM
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