Craftsman Garden Tractor Not Charging

eksmillsJuly 10, 2010

I have a 1998 Craftsman garden tractor (917.273030) with a 20 hp B&S (407777, Type # 0122-E1). I have taken very good care of her and she runs as well today as did when she was new. However, she is not charging. I replaced the battery, but I still need to use a battery charger to charge the battery after approx. 2 hours of use. After 2 hours of using the mower deck, the mower deck stops while the motor keeps running smoothly. The ammeter displays "O" while the mower deck is not engaged. Once the mower deck is engaged, the ammeter runs negative (left of "0"). The PTO switch, seat switch and footpedal switch all are working well and doing what they are supposed to do.

Can you give me direction on what I should test next?

If so, can you also outline the diagnostics/procedures for testing said components?

It is hard for me to give up on a machine that has and continues to perform so well. Your advise is very much appreciated. MM

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The wiring diagram for this tractor indicates it uses the 16 Amp Briggs alternator with regulator.
Look at the image below showing the wire color and connector color for the 16 Amp system and confirm that the components and the colors of wires and connectors are present on your tractor.
If everything is as described, you will need an inexpensive multi-meter electrical tester that has a scale for reading AC voltage higher than 30 volts.
Disconnect the voltage regulator from the stator wires.
With the volt meter set to AC volts, connect the test meter leads to the yellow connector pins. Take great care not to short the pins or test lead probes against each other. If your test leads have "alligator clips", wrap some tape around the clips before attaching clips to the pins of the yellow connector.
If your meter has straight probe ends on the leads, wrap a piece of tape around each probe to form a sort of open ended tube. Slip the open ends of the tubes onto the pins of the yellow connector. You will need to hold these in place to assure good electrical contact.
Run the engine at maximum RPM and read the AC volts scale.
If the stator is good it will be showing around 30 volts AC or a bit higher.
If you get a voltage reading 30 VAC or higher, the alternator stator is good. Replace the voltage regulator.
If you do not get around 30 VAC, you will have to remove the flywheel and inspect the stator windings/coils for damage and the inside of the flywheel for loose or missing magnets. Sometimes magnets come loose and plow into the stator which can wreak havoc.
Use a proper flywheel puller if it comes down to that. Do not beat on the flywheel or the end of crankshaft attempting to get the flywheel off.
Test and post back what you find.

Here is a link that might be useful: 407777-0128-E1 IPL

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 12:28AM
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Yours will likely have an external regulator which will be fed AC current from the stator under the flywheel. The regulator changes the current to Dc so the battery can use it. A basic multimeter can help with the tests. Briggs look up shows the choice of several styles, sears is down now. My guess is you probably have a rectangular 2 prong pigtail on the stator to 3 wire regulator -correct?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 12:38AM
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Thanks for the great tip on taping the probes mownie.
Multi pin connectors have always been a PIA to test.
Learn something new every day.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 5:01AM
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You're welcome dynamike. Another thing I do regarding insulating the ends of straight probe tips on test leads is this.
I strip a 3/4" to 1" length of insulation from a piece of 12 or 14 gauge "Romex" wire or 12 or 14 gauge automotive wire which I slip over the probe tips.
This is actually my standard method when the need arises, but I started off using tape "a long time ago", and usually, everybody has some tape lying around.
I have a half dozen pieces of both sizes Romex insulation in my meter case (they can get lost). I also have a few pieces of "heat shrinkable tubing" that I have carefully "shrank" just 1/4" or so of one end only. I have the "heat shrink" in 3 colors (red, white, black).
Using different colors of insulation can provide a benefit if you are testing a multi-pin connector where you will be "repeat testing" the same pins at different times during the investigation. I slip a piece of the heat shrink over the pins of the connector that I will be repeat testing and leave the tubes on the pins (instead of the probes). The unshrunk end of the tubing permits you to easily locate the proper pin each time and it's easy to "hit the hole" accurately.
The heat shrinking can be "tailored" to give a very tight slip fit/grip to the connector pins.
I know this thread did not start out on this subject, but since some interest was shown in my "safety tip", I thought I would expand/expound on it a little.
If I had gone into this much "side track" in my first post Walt would have me shot! I'll be looking out the door peephole anyhow.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 8:30AM
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"If I had gone into this much "side track" in my first post Walt would have me shot! I'll be looking out the door peephole anyhow."

Boy you can say that again, think I'll have to go rest awhile now.

Walt Conner

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 11:40AM
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Thank you mownie for your direction. I will purchase a multi-tester and grab a buddie to help. I love your idea about the tape &/or romex wire cover, but I want to make sure the proper connections are being made, especially with the motor running at 3400 RPM. Also, I am respectable with the mechanical end, but when it comes to electrical I am often clueless and dangerous! When I am successful obtaining both, I will test and report back to you.
I appreciate your detail and diligence. MM

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 2:28PM
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"I appreciate your detail "

Please don't encourage him!

Walt Conner

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 5:22PM
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How about a nice, long, written "filibuster"? :^)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 6:03PM
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Wow! You two ought to be on TV! Funny!
Rusty Jones

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:05AM
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I purchased a multi-tester, but could not wait for my buddy. I went ahead and tested the output of the stator. Mownie, your idea about using the romex wire cover was excellent and worked well! The stator output tested at 27.6 V AC. I realize the stator is putting out something, but you indicated 30+ V AC. Does this mean the stator needs to be replaced or will less than 30 V AC convert to sufficient volts DC to charge the battery? Thank you for your help. MM

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 2:26PM
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27.6 is sufficient if your engine is governed at 3,400 RPM.
The 30 VAC value would be expected if the engine was turning 3,600 RPM.
Your stator is good.
Replace the regulator/rectifier. Briggs part # 797375.
The number might have superceded to something else when you go to a Briggs shop or parts counter, but that number is shown for your alternator.
By the way, you did not confirm the wire and connector colors on your tractor but I presume they are as described in the diagrams.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 3:59PM
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I apologize. Your wiring descriptions were spot on - the 2-wire connector from the stator to the regulator and two yellows out of the regulator mating with two blacks from the stator.
One thing I need to clarify before I purchase a new regulator is that I ran the motor at full throttle. I cannot tell you the RPM, just that it was at full throttle. Does that change your recommendation of replacing the regulator? MM

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 4:44PM
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At 27.6 volts, the stator is putting out enough to tell me it's a good one.
Looking at the Craftsman Owner's Manual I see where the Max governed RPM is listed as: 3,200 to 3,400. So your engine could even be turning less than 3,200.
You'll never know unless you use a tachometer.
There is just one more thing you can check before you buy a new regulator.
Check the physical mounting of the regulator. If the regulator mounting is loose, or has a bad case of the corrosion flu, that could keep it from working correctly as the mounting is the ground circuit for the regulator.
If you want to check that and then see it it has begun charging, do this.
Re-connect the regulator to the stator wires connector.
Set your multi-meter to DC Volts (use a scale that will read in the 11 to 20 volts range, if your meter has options like that).
Check the battery voltage before starting the engine and write the number down.
Run the engine at max RPM and check the battery voltage again while the engine is running. If the regulator is delivering charging current, the voltage should be at least around 13.2 and if you see that immediately after starting the engine, the voltage could climb to around 14.2 with the engine running at max RPM in just a few minutes.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 9:48PM
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I checked the regulator and no "corrosion flu." It is mounted on the metal engine cover and is very flimsy with a good amount of vibration. Would it make sense to run a ground wire from the body of the regulator to a known good ground to verify the regulator is indeed receiving an adequate ground from its mounting into the engine cover?

I checked the battery before I cut the grass and it registered 12.8 V DC. Unfortunately, I did not see your post until after I was finished. Tomorrow I will check the battery before and during max RPM.

I wanted to share this with you: I recently replaced the PTO switch because the mower deck would not engage (I bypassed the PTO by jumping the electric clutch directly to the battery and the electric clutch engaged). As I go to engage the mower deck this evening, she would not engage. I jumped it again and the mower deck engaged. However, she would not engage when I pulled the PTO switch. I ended up pulling the ignition switch and the electric clutch connection apart and made sure they were making good contact. The mower deck fired right up! Gremlins or perhaps bad connections elsewhere??? MM

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 11:33PM
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has anyone been using a garden hose or pressure washer to clean that tractor? All those faulty/intermittent grounds with corrosion, etc. makes one wonder...

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 7:46AM
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The problem with the PTO clutch not engaging might caused by "electrical fatigue" in the circuit that serves PTO power.
But, it might just indicate the need to check and adjust the air gap of the PTO clutch. Air gap increases as the lining material of the clutch wears. Increased air gap makes it harder for the clutch coil to achieve engagement with the available power through the fatigued wiring.
"Bypassing" or jumpering as you did raises the available power to a higher potential which is high enough to engage even with excess air gap. E-mail me for a PDF manual on checking and adjusting these clutches.
Please note in the image below that Sears shows the stator voltage value as 28 volts at 3,600 RPM (regulator disconnected) in their wiring diagram.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 10:57AM
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I just checked the voltage of the battery and it tested at 12.71 V DC prior to starting and 12.59 V DC when running at full throttle.
It appears to be a sound conclusion if the stator is putting out 27.6 V AC (full throttle) and the battery tests at 12.59 V DC (full throttle), then the regulator is not operating properly and needs to be replaced. Assuming no "corrosion flu," would you agree with this conclusion?

Also, please send me the PDF manual on checking and adjusting the PTO clutch ( Thank you. MM

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 6:15PM
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I have ordered a new voltage regulator and, after I install it, I will post my results. Thanks for all of your help. MM

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 3:31PM
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I have a 1987 Sears Craftsman GT18 (917.255913) that is having the exact same problem.. not charging, then after a while the mower deck quits. I have to charge the battery to get a few hours of "mow time". I have a real dumb question... where is the regulator on my engine and how do I get to it? I have an idea but I would appreciate some advice before I go tearing things down.
(Briggs and Stratton model 422437-0749-01)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 4:05PM
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Mownie: I received and installed my new regulator today. This is what I found in the following sequence:
* 12.86 V DC prior to starting
* 13.86 V DC after starting at full throttle
* 14.13 V DC at full throttle and with the mower deck engaged and after running the mower deck for 15 minutes
* 13.97 V DC at full throttle with the mower deck NOT engaged, but after running the mower deck for 15 minutes

It appears as if you have guided me in the right direction and allowed me to fix my charging problem. I wish to thank you again for all of your help and diligence.

I will continue to monitor my tractor so that I can confirm my gremlins have checked out. MM

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 5:48PM
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And everybody was happy! Except the guy in the lawn mower shop. :^)
Always good to have positive feedback.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 6:53PM
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I have a 20 year old Craftsman 917.254860 briggs and stranton model 422707. It will only start if I jumb it and eventually kills new batteries. I have changed the stator. I didn't know much about checking the stator with votage meter until reading the previous post. Still having the problem. I don't see a regulator on the engine. What else could I be missing?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 8:53PM
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You don't have a regulator, so this thread really doesn't apply to your tractor.

Best to start a new thread so the OP doesn't get bombarded with emails.

Your owners manual is here, with the schematic on page 29/56.
Be prepared to have it-

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:43PM
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Thanks. Will do.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 11:18AM
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Thanks. Will do.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 12:00AM
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Hi read your post about stator putting out 30 amps a.c My tractor isnt charging teh battery so after all i went to the stator and changed it .. before i was getting .7 volts now im getting 1.5 max volts at one terminal of stator . gas ed it max .The Magnets had come off so i used some j.d weld and put them back on solid stator but still 1.5 V max . lost ?????

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 7:45PM
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Did you glue the magnets on in the proper polarity?

See thread near the end-

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 10:58PM
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