Craftsman front wheel axle is bent

richard48367May 19, 2007

Have a 46" Craftsman DLT with 25 Hp Briggs and Stratton. It is 5 yrs old. Recently noticed that when I go up a small incline the front canopy hits the right wheel and the tractor pulls to the right. A closer look . . . and the wheel axle is bent. Instead of a solid bar of steel that goes from wheel to wheel (like my Gravely), this Sears tractor has a oblong tube. Guess I should have noticed when I bought it. Elcheapo piece of #%@$. Anyways, I have to fix this. Anyone have experience with straightening out an axle and reinforcing it? I was thinking of putting a pipe wrench on it to straighten it and then filling the tube with JB Weld???

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Richard

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unclecrab

Same thing happened to my Craftsman Lawn Tractor. I bought a new axle an replaced the bent one.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 9:19PM
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rcmoser

As long as it's not cracked bend it back. Best way IMO is to remove it place it in vise apply heat as you bend it. But, if you don't want to fool with that just smack it with a BMFH till you think you got it straighten. Once you cold form it it does weaken the metal each time you bend it alittle, so I would be extra cautious on that side and try not to bump anything with the wheel. I think I read some where where hollow steel is stronger than solid steel??? can any of you engineers commment on this. I do know solid steel is easier to bend that hollow steel!??

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:16AM
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castoff(Z5 Ontario)

I own two Case GT's with very robust cast-iron front axles and both of them are bent due to carelessness in striking immovable objects with the front wheel. This is quite common for many tractors, regardless of whether the axle is made from steel or cast so don't blame Craftsman or call their product a POS over this issue. It can happen to the best of them, regardless of the price paid.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:55AM
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rcmoser

IMO cast iron is more brittle and even though it's stronger it snaps off or crack easier. Mild steel more ductile and will bend much easier before it will fail.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 9:42PM
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land70

I used to work at an iron foundry that made front axles for the John Deere lawnmowers. I can't say for the other companys, but the cast iron we poured those JD axels out of was what was called pearlitic ductile iron. That's not the brittle grey iron to which rcmoser is refering. It's the best iron next to making them out of forged steel. I don't think any company that has cast iron front axles has the brittle grey iron. If you were to hit the axle just right, not hard mind you, it would snap in two.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:19PM
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mownie(7)

rcmoser, I'm no engineer by trade.....but I have welded many a component made of steel or aluminum in my time and so have seen how hollow or tubular parts compare to solid ones when subjected to heavy stresses or shock loads. Theoretically......the engineers can prove that: A tube or sleeve, with the correct wall thickness and O.D. can be stronger than a solid bar of the same O.D. The thing about this theory is that they DON'T say anything about how much strength is lost from metal fatigue in the tubular part over time from normal use. They especially don't say much about straightening these kinds of parts when bent from the original shape. These die stamped & formed pieces may be stronger in theory when they are new.......but that ain't why the manufacturers use them. The bottom line answer is "less steel used equals more profit". Nowadays manufacturers think a "Sales Engineer" is more important than a "Mechanical Engineer" or a "Structural Engineer".
My thoughts on repairing this axle: Straighten it and if you can get some steel bar stock, steel angle, or steel flat stock into the open end of the axle, the steel can be welded in place as a reinforcement. Holes can be drilled through the walls of the OEM axle at strategic points (holes need to be 3/8" to 1/2" dia.) to provide places to weld the reinforcement to the OEM metal. Alternatives to drilling would be to "blow" holes with a cutting torch, or melt holes through with an arc welder set higher than 100 amp. You should try to make holes about 2 inches apart. If you can do this the axle may never bend again. If this technique will not work on your set up, (or you don't have the resources to accomplish it) you will probably end up having to buy a new axle eventually. Once these tubular structuers are bent, they are never as strong as before unless you can do some reinforcing.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 11:23PM
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mownie(7)

Sorry, I failed to explain that these holes created in to OEM axle are to be welded and filled to bond the inserted reinforcement pieces to the OEM metal. By having the reinforcement members inside, the outside features and dimensions of the axle are not altered by adding the reinforcements. This technique is called "Plug welding".

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 8:19AM
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richard48367

Thanks gents for your help. I straightened it . . . but it went right back to its bent position.
I found a small Company that bought a bunch of these axles from a Craftsman warranty service outlet. (Guess which part failed most under warranty) They have been selling like hotcakes. Must be others with same problem. Seems like this tractor axle had a metal fatique problem from day 1. . . and I have small hills that I traverse . . . and I think the metal starts to bend where the hill starts and ends. Pretty much like MOWNIE said above. Its accumulative and happens over time. Really never hit anything with the tire. Tractor should have been sold for ultra flat yards. Axle and frame design on this craftsman is very flimsy compared to an old Gravely I have. Like night and day.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 12:48PM
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metal(6)

You should post a picture of the bent axle. Sounds like Craftsman has been cutting some corners.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 2:11PM
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castoff(Z5 Ontario)

And for good measure, let's drag out that photo of the cracked frame too.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 4:01PM
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machiem(Z8 WA)

Speaking of which, where is johndeere?

As far as I know, he hasn't posted in quite some time.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 11:03PM
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rcmoser

Crops in he's probably on vacation is the south seas.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 9:28AM
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richard48367

No need to post a picture. Just imagine something that should make a 90 degree angle with the ground . . . and bend it to about 65 degrees . . . and call it "the leaning tower of Craftsman". I need to cut an acre or so several times before I get the new axle and I hope the wheel doesn't fall off.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 10:55AM
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wheely_boy

I'll be happy to post the pictures as soon as I am sure everyone is ready to un-bunch their panties.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 11:09AM
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rcmoser

richard sounds like AYP is not the tractor for you. You need to dig up some of the coffee cans in the backyard and buy you one of them JD's about an X800 model to equal what you've got. Come on wheely boy you know you like peeing-down cracks! post the picture.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 12:04PM
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richard48367

I ordered a new axle, so it will probably be good for another 5 years. No problems with the Hydro or the Engine. They work well. But the metalwork is extremelllly cheap.
I had used a 38" Gravely hydro on a smaller yard. It was like a small tank. Problem was the Kawasaki valve seats failed, and they were not replacable. I am sure Kawasaki had a problem with their integral valve seats on the fb460 engine. . . and explored the issue with their engineers . . . and they were nice enough to send me a new engine that was upgraded from a 12.5HP to a 14Hp. That has been sitting in a box for about 4 years . . . and so I'm going to work up enough nerve to retrofit the Gravely

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 12:21PM
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wally2q(L40, Ontario)

Once any tubular structure is compromised, it's over. You'll neve be able to repair it effectively. Throw away and replace.

I'd weld a piece of angle iron on the bottom outside of the tube, or a square tubing on the inside - to strengthen it. Heck, just get a piece of 1/4" wall square or rectangual tubing in the right width, and re-manufacture the piece... it will outlast the tratctor.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 2:30PM
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grassmaster(5b MO)

Get a John Deere. They are much better-built than Craftsman.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 11:23PM
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lb59

Yep the box stores is where the tin tractors hang out.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 1:07AM
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steve2ski

Here is the link to and exploded view of the 2002 DLT2K front axle and steering assembly. Can you ID the part? Don't see any hollow rods - all items pretty heavy duty when comparing to a LT of all brands.

http://www3.sears.com/imaging/ImagePageJava.shtml?productTypeID=1509200&brandID=0247&modelDesc=LAWN%20TRACTOR&modelNumber=917272281&documentID=P0203383&documentTypeID=PLDM&documentClassCode=PM&titleType=STEERING%20ASSEMBLY&titleID=00004&;

Your discription of the "elcheapo item" failure is unclear as to which item failed. Just point out the item #.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 7:13AM
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tom_k_de

Ain't no way to compare an older Gravely rider to a Sears product,or most any othe L/G machine.They nearly overbuilt them selves out of business.So far ahead of everyone else in their unsurpassed quality.Sort like IHC with their Scouts. JMVHO tbk

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 8:37AM
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