Craftsman 18HP riding mower cannot remove wheels

zoulasOctober 29, 2007

I have a 10-15 year old craftsman mower. I cannot remove the rear wheels. They have a square key. The manual says simpley remove the retainer ring and remove the wheel. I tried heating them up , I tried banging with 2x4, I tried using anti rust solution. I even tried an impact hammer. Nothing. The problem is the wheel is a bit dented and they are losing air. Any thoughts? I either get the wheels off or chuck the mower. Its old but still some life left, Many thanks.

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A problem when they haven't been of for a long time. I would suggest changing the tires with them on the tractor and put tubes in when you do (if you can get them to seperate from the rims)(you may have to soak the tire where it meets the rims also).

To get the rims off You will have to spray them down several times and let the solvent soak in from both ends. They are rusted togather. You my have to use a puller putting a load on the rim and then hitting it with the big hammer and 2 x 4.

This is considered a preventive maintenance item so it don't prevent you from getting them off when you need to. I take my of every year and clean and regrease, my tractor is 19 years old. It only takes a few years getting wet for them to get stuck.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 7:44PM
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The banging with a 2 by 4 is a bad idea as I discovered. There is a retaining clip in the transaxle that holds the axle in there. Bang hard enough and the axle will come out. Then you will be taking your transaxle apart to get things back together.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 1:27AM
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(1)I would think "SLIME" may be of some help with air leakage.(2) If the tires are good,aside from air loss,I would install a inner tube on the unit.I have a Wheel Horse YT12A and I cannot get one rear wheel off the axle,and I have tried all the mentioned methods/tricks.I wanted to put anti sieze on both axles,but now I pray that I never have to remove the stuck one.tbk

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 2:01AM
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I too had the same problem....I had to use a special made up puller to get mine off...the previuos owners before me had pounded on them so badly that the transaxle housing was cracked in too many places to repair plus the rear bracket was broken in half where the large spring attaches to and the gears inside were mostly toast...When I installed the good used single speed transaxle( please note*** it seems very hard to get one of these old types that isn't cracked from people pounding on them) I made quite sure that this one stayed in perfect condition and that removing the wheels/rims/tires next time would be a non issue by buying two new 4 bolt rear rims plus 2 new tires plus two new 4 bolt pattern flanges/plus 8 new wheel studs combined with two new 3/4 " hubs... I then drilled a 1/4 " hole in the 3/4 hub but not before removing the allen set hex screws in the new hubs and with my drill press.. drilled all the way through each hub and then with my 1/4" hand drill I then drilled through the shaft to take a 1/4x 2 1/2" bolt and locknut then had the hubs stick welded to th 4 bolt flange.. all the used/new tractors I looked at had the same style single bolt setup holding on the rims/ I can change my little tires on my regular tire changer...I too... also tried changing tires with them still on the lawn tractor took me a long time with bit of cursing under my breath I finally got the new tires on only to find I couldn't get the air into into them without installing a tube in really can't pound on these very weak transaxles without doing some kind of internal damage I think it's worth the effort and cost as it's a heck of a lot cheaper than bustin' up the transaxle...just my 2 cents worth***

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 2:51PM
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smallengineguy(z5 NH)

I've tubed the existing tires right on the tractor before. Break the outer tire bead, then put the tube right in that way. Very simple.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 3:25PM
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And after you finally get wheels off, and all the rust that used to be axle and wheel is off, the wheels will be loose, looser than the originally were, and then you grease them when reinstalling so they wont rust again, thereby making a nice slippery surface for the wear to accelerate even more, honestly, once rusted tight, i would retube/retire wheels ON the axle...

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 4:42PM
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I'm going to have to take sides with the camp recommending "leave the wheels on and fix the leakage in place". I too have been down this rocky road and seldom have great success getting "seized hubs/wheels loose from keyway type axle shafts. It has been my experience that attaching a puller to the available holes (they are for attaching wheel mounted ballast weight) only results in deforming the wheel because the wheel is too willing to bend instead of applying the "pulling effort" to the hub area. I do have a "back burner" plan for a puller arrangement that includes fabricating a "2 piece, heavy puller plate that can be put around the axle (behind the wheel) and then bolted together. The heavy puller plate will be designed to make contact with the center portion of the wheel/hub where it meets the axle shaft, thus putting no pressure on the outer portion of wheel or disc. This puller plate will then be attached to a tee-bar puller on the outside of the wheel by going THROUGH the weight attachment holes in the wheels, using long Grade 8 bolts. The "pusher bolt" of the tee-bar puller will rest on a flat end adapter (where it touches the axle shaft end) instead of using the more common "cone shaped tapered end adapter. Pushing against the machined center point of the axle shaft with a tapered end is likely to "swell" or flare the axle end. Someone or some company may already have a puller arrangement like this (or similar) but I'm not aware of any. If/when I get mine made and tested, I'll post because I know all too well that the subject (of "frozen hubs") is unsavory.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 4:48PM
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Mownie, your idea sounds good! If you can make it work, it'll solve the problem easily. I've gotten some of those wheels off, but its a touchy subject in relation to pulling out the whole axle, and breaking the retainer clips!
I used some heavy application of heat with my cutting torch, and using my "Duck-bill" attachment to my Porto-power set, i finally got them off. Guess i got lucky-the inner clip didn't break, although i realised it might.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 10:25AM
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xpostech(Z9 SETX)

I've thought about removing the tire and carefully cutting off the wheel with a cutoff tool. Immediately after hurricane Rita I replaced all four tires and had to replace the right rear while on the tractor. Lots of soapy water.

All from a bit of laziness on my part. About a year before the battery holder collapsed and dropped the battery on the drive pulley, spraying acid on the right side. I rinsed the whole area with a hose when I got it home but should have pulled the wheel and cleaned it all up the right way. The brake disc is also seized to its shaft but there is still plenty of pad left.

So. If you take the trouble to remove and grease the axle/wheel at PM time do the same with the brake disc. I'll never get to the inner pad without a teardown.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 11:32AM
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Rita? Now you are lazy, and you have a Craftsman.

Have a great one!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 7:00PM
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xpostech(Z9 SETX)

Rita? Now you are lazy, and you have a Craftsman.

Have a great one!.



    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 7:15PM
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"About a year before the battery holder collapsed and dropped the battery on the drive pulley, spraying acid on the right side. I rinsed the whole area with a hose when I got it home..."

Where were you on your lawnmower that you had to wait till you got home to clean off the battery acid?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 8:18PM
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xpostech(Z9 SETX)

The mower died at a site I cut gratis. I'm not in the cutting business. It's about 5 minutes from home. It acted like a dead battery. Turned over real slow but wouldn't start.

When I got home I found the rightmost cell dry. Added water but I just kept adding. Pulled the battery and there was a groove in the bottom of the battery holder. Checked the battery and a groove in the bottom of it. I rinsed the area very well. I thought. My bad. All this took maybe an hour.

Three years later there is no visible corrosion anywhere I can see.


Two years ago I replaced all 4 tires during Rita cleanup. Took a month to get everything cleared. You realize that includes two weeks running a generator. We only lost the garage and everything in it. 16 trees down. Oaks, hickory, pecans, pines and an ash. The house came out ok.

That little Murray worked its tail off. Three acres waist deep in limbs and brush from the ones that didn't come down.

First time I had to live for a while on MREs. They're better than the C rats back in the sixties. I swear the K rats we had were from Korea.

Insurance doesn't come close to replacing everything. Try putting a value on an heirloom. I'm still remembering stuff that was never submitted.


Yea I admit it. Once I found out that the battery had dropped acid on the pulley I should have torn down the rear end and cleaned it properly. I didn't. I posted what happened to me so it might stick in somebody's mind if they ever find a groove in the bottom of their battery.

And no, bushleague, it wasn't a Craftsman. Or a Walker. ;^)

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 11:18PM
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Had same problem w/17 yr old Lowes mower,I enlarged the 2 existing holes in the rear wheel to 3/4", borrowed a 2/3 Jaw Puller 2 ton from Autozone (set up to pull w/2 arms)Remove bolt and washer from wheel, drill a hole approx. 1/16" deep (same size as tit on end of puller) in the center of bolt head.Replace bolt without washer, screw all the way in to axel, turning head of bolt so that it will pass through wheel,spray WD40 generously, hook up puller,screw in forcing screw til it bottoms out,reverse puller (shorten arms) do same, wheel should be off or very close, hope this works for you. Bought new tire on rim at Lowes $53.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 10:53AM
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texas2008, your description sounds like the axle uses a "hex bolt" threaded into the axle shaft end with a flat washer to keep the wheel in place. Your instructions to "turn the head of bolt so it will pass through wheel" implies that the axle shaft is also "hexagonal". Is your axle in fact, hex shaped where the wheel fits to it? If so, that configuration is not your typical arrangement (unless it is something relatively new on the scene). I am more familiar with the old school round shaft with square key configuration. All of this type use a cotter pin, C-clip, or a snap ring, in conjunction with a flat washer, to retain the wheels. The hex shaped axles may be less troublesome to "un-seize" than the round type. Most often when I have tried the puller technique you described (using the existing "wheel weight" holes) it just threatens to bend or warp the wheels. I'll bet the hex axle does not seize up as tight as the round ones.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 12:50PM
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Not that its necessarily why this guys are frozen, but in general, another reason NOT to wash, and to store out of the rain if possible. or atleast shoot the insides of the wheel hubs with spray lube each time you service it!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 11:51PM
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Thats a constant issue with all my mowers( all 20 of them)- previous owners decided NOT to maintain them (why they were cheep/free) and literally all the axles and wheels were frozen on with rust. The Murrays end up comming off eventually with a large punch and a large hammer ( ive never had a axle come out yet from pounding on them)- then i use a piece of sandpaper to clean the axle off and a bottle brush to clean the rims- then liberally apply neversieze to both axle and rim. The MTD wheels are nearly impossible to remove- specially since theres a bolt hole on the end and it had a flat edge on the axle- you cant go pounding on it and expect the bolts to thread back in. I just leave the MTD ones alone- i pull the transaxle out to do any work on them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Modifed Lawntractors

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 9:28PM
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Sorry to teh poster above (john in MD?) who thinks sanding and greasing make s problem after you get a rusty wheel off...
But unless you got 5 weeks vacation per year I got more time doing this to sears stuff than you do. I live and work in a county with lots of rocky areas and have NEVER seen an axle or keyway ruined as you are describing.

Now OTOH some abusive less than smart and people have ruined square keys and keyways with severe commercial use or because they were tweekers. But even most of those were on chipper shreders made by troybuilt.

EVen hubs bad enough to be recalled seldom fail at teh keyway. Almost all the GT hubs on recall a few years ago had not failed when I replaced them. LT a dozen out of hundreds changed.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 1:25AM
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Ive owned and tweeked lawntractors for 14 years- ive NEVER had a engine pulley keyway or transmission axle keyway break from cleaning the rust off and never seizing it. Ive never had a flywheel come off either by never seizing it.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 1:42PM
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OK, here is what you need. This site has a tool just right for this problem. The video shows it removing a tiller wheel but it will work just as well on a Mower wheel.
Go to You will be impressed how easy it is. Once you have removed the wheels from both sides you can resell the tool for most of your money back this way the total price is cheep.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:36AM
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