Problem with garden tractor fuel filter

DPallas(z6, SW Mo)July 2, 2005

The directions in my (Craftsman) owners' manual say to clamp off the fuel lines, replace the filter with the arrow pointing toward the carburetor (nothing about filling it with fuel first), check the clamps and look for leaks, wipe up spilled fuel, and you're done. Not quite. The filter is full of air and so are the lines. I just wasted an hour on the phone with Sears trying to get technical assistance to no avail. The guy at the Sears store says it's a gravity feed tank so the line and filter should fill up by themselves... but they don't.

If I squeeze the bulb of the filter and wiggle and tap the line I can get the filter mostly (4/5th) full of fuel, but the filter fills with more air and runs out of fuel after 500' or so of mowing, a couple minutes. During the hour I was on the phone the filter refilled with fuel, but it filled with air again after running the mower for two minutes.

So what's the correct procedure for replacing an in-line fuel filter or purging the line of air? Should I have some sort of priming bulb? Sears plans to charge $96 for someone to come out here and fix this which is a shame because there was nothing wrong with the engine to begin with. This is just routine annual maintenence suggested in the manual, and I followed the directions.

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sounds to me like the fuel line between the tank and the filter is restricted. I would agrre with the sears guy. Maybe the filler cap vent is plugged?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 8:30PM
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Sounds as if you need to start the engine and let it run. If the carbs float valve is held closed by fuel in the bowel. No fuel will flow through the line and filter.

Another note. Your filter may not fill to 100% with fuel. Some do, Some do not.

Like I say. Start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. If it is still running normal after say 5 minutes. You did the filter change correctly.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 9:22PM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

I tried running it with the cap loosened to make sure it was vented OK and also drained fuel down through the fuel line and out the filter and the cap and hose don't seem to be the problem. The engine will only run for two minutes before the fuel filter completely fills with air and the engine stalls because no fuel is flowing. It's behaving as though it's vapor locked.

Someone at another website suggested draining the carburetor by either pushing a button under the bowl (which I couldn't find) or disconnecting the fuel line at the carburetor end. That helped; the engine ran for 15 minutes instead of two, but once again it eventually stalled from lack of fuel. I finally dug the old filter out of the trash and reinstalled it. Then I went out to the barn to mow and ran over a piece of cable a workman left in the tall grass. It wrapped itself inextricably around the hubs of the mower blades and punctured the sidewall of a tire. I guess it just wasn't my day for mowing, but I'll be getting my $96 worth out of the Sears service guy afterall. Thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 11:08PM
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machiem(Z8 WA)

If this is a Kohler engine, you need to use a Kohler branded filter. Many of the aftermarket filters have too fine a filter media and therefore don't allow the fuel to flow through fast enough.

It sounds as though you bought a non-Kohler fuel filter.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 7:21PM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

Yes, it's a Kohler engine and the original filter that I re-installed is an opaque white cylinder, I can't see inside it. The replacement is clear plastic, a completely different shape, Craftsman brand, and is the part number suggested by the Sears computer for that tractor model number. The card it came on says "fits all tractors".

Thanks for pointing this out, that's probably the problem. Now that you mentioned it, I recall having to argue with them over a Kohler oil filter last year. They tried to give me a Craftsman that was obviously the wrong size, based on what the computer was telling them. I let the clerk go get this fuel filter for me, I should have got it myself.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 10:50PM
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The problem with the clear plastic filters is the fact that
they are clear. I use them all of the time with no problems
The only time there is any problems with them at all, is
when the customer says he doesn't see any fuel in them.
But they are well made and filter well. It is the only
product I have ever seen that has "Made in Israel" on the
I think that your engine's troubles are in the carb
itself, could just be full of trash or water. Post your
engine's model numbers so we know what you have.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 3:01AM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

Craftsman LT2000, 17hp Kohler engine. Model no. 917.273130. Purchased 04/2003. Fuel filter called for in owners' manual part no. 25-050-03-S, suggested replacement for that part no. at 25-050-08-S1, part no. I have 148621.

I've been mowing for three to five hours at time every week this year with no problem. There was nothing wrong with the engine before I changed the fuel filter. I also changed the spark plug, air filter, oil and oil filter. If the carburetor suddenly got full of trash or water it's quite a coincidence that it happened the very same day as I did the routine maintenence, but anything is possible.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 8:00AM
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Is this an inline filter? Have you tried removing the line from the filter to the carburetor and letting this flow into a container to check the flow?

The engine on my tiller has a fuel shutoff at the tank, and if this is turned off, and it's been a while since it has been run, the float needle will stick, and no fuel will enter the carb. From your first post, that doesn't sound like it is the problem though. I'm guessing you have gotten a slug of water in your float bowl, and that will need to be cleaned out. Another possibility may be that you have a fine mesh filter located in the tank at the outlet. There may be a buildup of gunk at that point, or even in the line going to the filter.

Perhaps the recommendation to clamp off the fuel lines may have been the begininning of your problem. By crushing the fuel line, it may have loosened any scale in the line and caused the line to plug. I like to add a fuel shutoff just after the tank to make filter changes easier if one isn't installed already.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 11:09AM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

Yes, it's an inline filter. Yes, I've removed and drained gas through the fuel line and into a container both before and after the filter and also just before the carbutetor. I've also checked the venting on the cap and even run it with the cap off. The only thing that impedes the flow of gasoline at any point is the filter itself. I'm sure I had it pointed in the right direction. There's no screen in the tank that I can see, or in the schematic. The hose connects directly to the bottom of the tank. A shutoff sounds like a good idea so long as it wasn't narrow enough to reduce the flow of fuel. Or maybe just forgetting the clamps and letting the fuel drain out into a bucket and refilling the tank afterward.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 12:56PM
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If that's the case, the only other thing I could think of would be a vent passage in the carb being plugged. When fuel flows from the fuel tank into the carb, there must be some way to vent the fuel bowl. You can't have fuel flowing in unless air can escape. By running the outlet of the filter into a container with fuel flowing, you have proved that everything is clear up to that point. You could take a length of fuel line, attach it to the carb inlet, and try to blow into it. If it is plugged up anywhere, you'll know it.

The inline fuel filter must be installed with the arrow to the flow, since any water would need to settle out in the body of the filter. If it is reversed, any water entering the filter would have only a small area to collect in, and would quickly plug.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 2:26PM
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Well if it runs fine with the old filter, and not the new
one, then it is obviously your problem. I have not had
any trouble with them, but a bad batch of filters could be
out there. Put the old filter back on, forget Sears, and
go to any mower shop and have them order the kohler filter.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 5:43PM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

The Sears service guy came out yesterday and showed me how to remove the backfire arrestor in order to remove the carburetor bowl; that's the only way to drain it. You just disconnect an electrical connection and a wrench fits right at the top of it to unscrew it. The bowl rests on top of it and drops off right in your hand. It's simple enough to do, it's just not obvious that that's how you get the arrestor off. The bowl had water, dirt, and gunk in it which he sprayed clean with carburetor cleaner. He said in the future the first thing to try when it starts running rough or stalling is to add up to an ounce of fuel injector cleaner to the gas and run it.

He also said not to use the 'fits all tractors' fuel filter that Sears sells (on Kohler engines), and to get the Kohler brand if it ever needs one. He also said to ignore the manual in terms of replacing it every year as a matter of routine. I'd already removed the 'fits all tractor' one and replaced it with the original. (I was surprised that Sears actually gave me a refund when I returned it in a ziplock bag filled with gasoline. I thought they'd say "Hey lady, you own it, now get it outta here!")

He disconnected the fuel line from the carburetor, let gas drain down through it, and said unless the flow slows down from 'that', don't replace the fuel filter, ever. He stopped the flow without clamps by pulling it way up in the air and tucking it into some electrical wires.

He also said to ignore the manual in terms of replacing the spark plug every year and he put the old one back in. He said that as long as the ceramic tip is still clean and white, it's gapped correctly and functioning normally.

So if there are any other small engine newbies out there, hope this resolution helps on how to get at the bowl. Thanks for all your input.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 9:21AM
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It is actually a fuel shutoff solenoid, to minimize the
bang after turning the key off in newer mufflers.
The reason I prefer the clear filters is that you can see
all of the crud they collect.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 4:45AM
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Hi DPD, it sounds like you had a good tech. I basically agree with what he said about the filter and plugs but it NEEDS 2 caveats added: At the 1st sign of trouble change the plugs and filter, AND use the specified filter. It almost never is the filter and plugs but it is really sad to get a call after a guy spent lots of $$ changing other parts when it was just the plugs or fuel filter. HTH Dave ps tecumseh 34279b is a fine filter and we use it in all apps in my district including Kohler....unless there is a running problem with 34279b and then we try the Kohler to make sure 34279b aint the source of the is the problem less than once per year per tech. to clamp or not? I dont, my 2 best partners do.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 9:23AM
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I know this post is almost a year old but I am having almost the exact same problem. My tractor runs great on level ground or down hill but within 100ft of mowingh uphill it dies. I have been mowing for 2 years and this issue has just come up. I replaced the filter but that made no difference. I can see the gas filling the filter on level ground but "ANY" uphill incline stops the flow completely and it runs dry. The gas drains fine between the filter and the carb as well as from the tank to throug the filter so the line/filter appear to be OK. Its as if there is no vacuum or suction to keep the flow of gas going. I have feeling it may be an issue where I need to clean the carb but dont know how to remove the carb bowl. Can anyone offer any insight on this? It is a 17.5hp Kohler Command engine.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 11:40PM
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I have a 19hp Kohler-Courage in a Craftsman LT2000 and am having the same problem with the engine cutting out after about 1 or two hours of mowing. This all started after replacing the fuel filter with a 'fits all' filter, but I got this one from Lowes. I also noticed that the Troy-Built tractors sold at Lowes also have the 19 hp Kohler-Courage engine, but the fuel system looks a little heftier than the one in the LT2000.
I'm thinking that Lowes' fuel filter is a 'fits all' the the tractors they sell, type. I did buy a 'fits all' version fuel filter from Sears, but am using it on the other tractor (an older one that runs...thank God.) The filter from Sears is smaller in size than the one from Lowes. I have already replaced the fuel line between the filter and the tank as well as installed a fuel cut-off switch. I had thought that the carburater might be the problem, but since the fuel in the filter is going out of it faster than it is coming in, it looks like the carburater is running just fine. Maybe the physical size of the filter is the problem. I could actually order the fuel filter from Sears, but that's too well as slow. Is it normal for air to get in the fuel filter? If so, how does it get in there?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 11:21PM
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If you can mow for an hour or two before the engine quits, I don't think the filter is your problem. I would suspect a filter problem would cause the engine to quit in a matter of minutes. Check your fuel tank venting and the cooling fins for blockage. Does the engine slow down and behave "badly" prior to stopping or does it just stop suddenly? How long befor the engine will start up again?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 10:44PM
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It slows down and behaves badly, on a slight uphill incline, but when I get it on level ground it perks back up. While it is running, I can watch the gas in the filter drain down until the tractor quits. I don't think there is a vent in the cap, or a least I haven't noticed one, so I'll check it. The tractor will start right up after the fuel filter fills up again. The engine is using the gas out of the filter faster than the tank can keep it filled. The fuel filter may not be the right one for this design. The filter I replaced and that came with the tractor when it was new, was smaller and you couldn't see through it.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 11:26PM
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I once encoutered a fuel line that had been
'pinched off' and the laminations inside the
line had separated and after 'unpinching', it
appeared fine from the outside, but was
stuck together on the inside. Seems that
someone had replaced the gas line with one
that was not gasoline compatable.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 8:37AM
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Today, I checked the fins, they're clear. The vent hole in the gas cap is clear. I took the bowl off the bottom of the carburater and cleared out the jet (the tiny hole under the float) and it is clear. Everything seems to be in A-1 condition. My next action is to order the fuel filter and lines straight from Sears according to the Owner's Repair Manual and try that.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 7:32PM
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I had the very same problem you describe. I, like you, checked out the gas cap (actually replaced it), removed the bowl from the carb to check for water/trash, etc. In the final analysis, it IS the filter that is the problem. While I fail to understand the physics, the Kohler engine REQUIRES a Kohler filter! I replaced my aftermarket filter with the correct Kohler part number and it runs beautifully. Just order the direct replacement gas filter for your mower and your problem will be solved.

Good luck...

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 9:28AM
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Here we go !!! Same problem and it's driving my nuts... Kohler 17 / OHV Sears LT2000 #917-273-140. Fuel starvation it seems like. Fuel runs faster that I can catch it after disconnection at the carb. Took the carb off and cleaned it out with carb cleaner, bowl removed... no trash very clean, sprayed cleaner through the openings that were obvious to see. I do have a filter for all tractors, but here is the good stuff... The fuel starvation began prior to changing the filter. As long as there is fuel in the filter, Lil' Kohler will run hard, but begins to sputter and make other kinds of bodily noises... at a quick glance during the sputtering, there is no fuel in the filter. After reconnecting the fuel line to the carb, fuel gushed through the filter to fill up the bowl. This whole situation began like over night. This is making me crazy... what gives!!!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 11:28PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

i have had this issue when the fuel line is too close to the engine/exhaust. the filter heats up and causes vapor lock.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 12:18PM
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How about this?? That fuel shut-off, anti-backfire switch, on the bottom of the carburetor--burnt the wire off, for reasons unknown to me.
So, off i went to my parts supplier. Got the price of it! WOWEE!! Big money! Owner almost choked when i told him how much!
So, it was off into the "Ingenuity section!"!
I took a very fine wire, got it in there to hold the valve open enough to let gas run into the bowl, put it all back together, taped the end of the wire back to a safe place, and started it, ran it, shut it off--no BANG!!Still running--no bang! I used the very fine wire from a B&S 12 hp throttle rod, the one around the rod. Still working!
To get that valve off, i ground the flats off of an old open end wrench. Makes it go in there much better, don't have to use pliers on it! To keep from having backfires, just slow down the engine speed to idle, let it run 15 seconds, then turn off the key--saves over $80 for a new valve!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 3:06PM
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sounds like the common theme is to use the right filter to begin with. but i did also notice a few comments regarding lack of performance when going 'uphill'. I am having this exact problem. tractor runs great most of the time but as soon as i go up a hill, she quits. when i back down to level ground all is fine. new filter, old filter, kohler filter - same result. should the filter be vertical or horizontal?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 12:26PM
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I know this sounds crazy, but I have seen it happen. Look inside the tank, and see if anything is in there that isnt supposed to be. I had an old pushmower that did this very thing, and it turned out a piece of the fuel cap had come off, gotten inside the tank, and when you started mowing up a hill, it would block the outlet inside the tank, starving it for fuel. Drove me insane trying to figure out what was wrong...but boy did I feel stoopid when I found that piece of cap!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 9:01PM
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If yoiu suspect the fuel filter, take it out, and insert a 3 inch piece of 1/4 in. copper tubing, and try that. If it works good, simply stick the filter in a box and forget it. I'll bet the machine will run great without it. But, make sure your gas can doesn't have any dirt in it!
As for the see-through filter looking like it is empty--thats the nature of those things. they all do that. I don't worry about them not having fuel in them. As long as the engine strts and runs, don't worry, be happy, go mow!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 10:14PM
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I reported above, back in Sept. '07, that the correct filter fixed my problem. Well, that was last mowing season. This year the tractor began stalling again for no apparent reason. Also, the carburetor began leaking fuel into the air filter assembly after it sat overnight. Soooo, I REPLACED the entire carburetor assembly and everything is wonderful again. BTW, great service and prices on Kohler parts from: (ask to speak to Phil if you call; he's the owner and a certified Kohler technician)

The new carb came with new gaskets, shut off solenoid, etc.

Hope this helps some of you guys out there...

Here is a link that might be useful: Kohler Parts

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 4:25PM
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I had a hard time starting my GT 5000 and when it finally did start it would only run with the chock all the way out.
Every time I pushed in the choke it died.
The gas tank was full as I keep it full at all times when I'm done using it.
Anyway, I siphoned the gas out of the tank and then ran the engine until it stopped.
I then put in about a cup of gas and ran that out. I did this about three time and the engine began to run normal without the choke pulled out.
I then put in a gallon of gas and drove it until it ran out.
I then refilled the tank and it is running fine.
My question is: Did I have a bad batch of gas?
It was a couple of months old.
Or do I need to change the fuel filter?
I have a total of 22 hours running time on the engine since new with the original filter.
its a 2005 model.
Is it better to run the gas tank dry before storing the tractor for lets say 2 or three months or maybe longer?
Thanks for any advice.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 11:00PM
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Last question first: I put 3 machines away last year with gas in them. Went out last month on a warmer day, and they all started and ran--on last summers gas.!
I think none of them had Stabil in them, since i had forgot to use it when i put them away for winter! (PA. winter)
And, i never run the gas tank dry, nor the carburetor, if i use Sta-bil or not. Just lucky, i guess!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 12:21PM
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The problem can be that the 'fits all' clear filter that sears sells is much longer than the original Briggs filter. When the new filter is installed, the length of the line is now long enough so that the body of the new filter can sometimes sit BELOW the inlet to the carb with a little puddle of useless fuel in it. This is a gravity feed system, and the longer filter puts a sort of 'drain trap' into it. The carb cannot suck on the line. Sometimes the problem is cured by topping up the fuel tank - the extra head overcomes the trap - until the tank gets down to about 1/2 - 2/3 full.

So: a) use the shorter Briggs filter (buy on the web by part number in the manual); b) keep the tank topped up; or c) shorten the fuel line so there is NO part of the line / filter below the carb inlet.

This won't cure all the above complaints, but will serve as a heads up for some....

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 4:06PM
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If the engine has no fuel pump (gravity fed carb) then using a fuel filter with a fine fiber screen will impede the flow of gas and starve the engine. Try running the engine with a filter with a larger micron rating, or connect the tank directly to the carb and remove the filter from the system. If the engine runs well without a filter, then that is the problem. I have a LTS2000 Craftsman and the original 75 micron filter 33940 was discontinued by Sears, the "Universal" replacement filter 33392 caused my engine to die every 15 minutes. I found a small cache of original filters on the web and the engine runs like a top again. Even though the replacement filter was a "better" unit, in this case that caused the flow problem and the stalling.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 8:59AM
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