Craftsman Lawn Tractor MYSTERY Issue

Cathy316July 2, 2014

Hello, I have a Craftsman Lawn Tractor, 18.0 HP, 42" Mower, Electric Start, 6 Speed Transaxle, Model No. 917.287053

The mower ended last season and started this season with stalling out or shutting off and back firing loudly. I had it serviced in early May and the normal stuff was done...spark plugs, filter, changed the oil, and replaced bent blades. He left, issues continued with backfiring, etc. He returned, and "tightened the valves" and told my son to use his hand to turn the black screen cover thing that's round above the engine next to the air filter --to crank the engine back to crank the pistons to have a longer crank time -- to give the engine the best possible chance to start. Another month went by with only about 2, possibly 3 mows. The mower would mow our front lawn, but when turned off, and then turned back on it will run when left in neutral, but when put into gear and releasing the clutch, it would stall and backfire. When in gear and clutch in, the mower will run but when you turn on the blades, it stalls and wants to backfire. Those were it's ongoing behaviors. I had the mower man come back the 3rd time. He did suspect the gas we got from a local station had water in it (said it happened to other locals as well), and that is was "old". We put all new gas in, he replaced the fuel filter with a "better one" that he just took off another tractor and the part was used for only 3 months (I had put one in before I ever called him the 1st time), cleaned that rubber fuel line out which he thought was clogged, replaced the carbureter, replaced some other little plug on the front lower left of the engine, and ordered a "switch" that is the sensor ($15) under the seat which I will insert when I receive it. He drove the mower around the yard, it was working...backfired...he adjusted something...ran it again. Turned it off for 5 minutes, started up. He left. I waited 2 hours and went to put it away and it will NOT start!!! (Turning the round thingamajig didn't help it to start.) Before he came this last time it would start up! (The see-through fuel filter he put in is only filling up with about 1/4 inch of gas in the bottom of the little thing...should it fill up all the way?) ....I've spent $400 already and can't consistently mow. He said if I call him back again, if it would be stalling out, he would think he would replace the whole string of wires that connects to the seat sensor piece he is sending me (a $15 part), and 2 other items in the engine related to it. He also said it might be the catalytic converter going bad. ANY ADVICE on what it may be and what I can do? I would greatly appreciate some sound advice. I don't know much about repairing engines as a single Mom. Thank you!!!

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I feel your mechanic is not a very god diagnostician. All he needs to do is disconnect the magneto grounding wire at the engine to see if the problem is in the safety switches. If it still runs bad then it is a carb or ignition problem. I personally think he's stumbling around in the dark.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:43PM
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Thank you, Mike, for that information. Yes, I also feel his diagnostic skills are lacking. He did replace the carbureter. Since he did that, now the mower won't start at all. He was trying to put the new one in and the plastic piece was not allowing the metal insert to stay in place right. I went in the house for a few minutes, and when I returned he told me he "found another carbureter to use instead since that piece seemed faulty". Now I'm wondering if he might have used it anyway, and maybe that's why the mower won't start now. The manual says the carbureter may be one reason a mower won't start. I have never heard of a "magneto grounding wire" before. Can you direct me to where that is located?
Does anyone know if the fuel filter is supposed to fill up all the way with gas, or just be partially filled, when turning on the engine? See pic.
Thank you again!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 12:34AM
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The fuel filter is fine, most do not fill all the way. Not sure about yours, but most engines have 2 or 3 wires coming out from under the flywheel. Disconnect all of them and start the engine. If it runs fine then the trouble is in the safety switch circuits. To stop the engine turn the ign switch to the "off" position and start reconnecting the wires. When the engine stops that wire is the kill wire.
From your description I'm leaning toward carb problems, but not being there can't say for sure.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:19AM
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***" He also said it might be the catalytic converter going bad"***
If he actually uttered words to that effect, your "mechanic" is Goober and Gomer combined into one person.
There is no catalytic convertor on your tractor.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 12:13PM
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You're right, Mownie ! I think the OP shelled out good money for virtually nothing.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 4:30PM
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Mownie, why did you insult both Goober and Gomer?

Cathy, it's not unusual for a fuel filter to have only a small amount of fuel showing. Your repairman is incompetent - don't spend another penny with him.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:24PM
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***"Mownie, why did you insult both Goober and Gomer?"***
Ha ha!
Because I was afraid that if I said "Pa Kettle", nobody would have recognized that one. :^)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Mownie, you know how Red Green "fixes" everything with duct tape? Well, Pa Kettle fixed stuff with dynamite, and I think dynamite would have worked better than Cathy's repairman.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 2:12PM
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Yeah, Red Green is another good one. Well I remember the episode where he created the car with 2 "front ends".

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 4:59PM
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This thread reminds me of the troll who wanted the warranty work on his bent John Deer deck.........

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:08AM
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You all are too funny! I appreciate the advice each of you shared with me. I am going to try the suggestions to evaluate the possible problems. You all have been very helpful!

Thank you very much! Wish me luck!!!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 10:41PM
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