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Minimalist garden tractor wiring.....  RSS feed

 
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So I honestly feel I've given the general internet the old college try at searching for an answer to my question.

I seek to slim down a donated 23 HP garden tractor to just a vehicle for pulling wagons and buzzing about the property when needed.  The problem, as so often, is the worn out electrical components....some of which may be safety switches (mower deck, drive train) and others being the various accessories (lights, meters, etc.) that I do NOT need for this vehicle.  Yet I can't seem to find a minimal photo walk-through or electrical diagram showing the bare bones, from ignition switch through to charging system, that would allow conversion of this once proud mowin' machine to retired go-fer.  Can anyone help or provide links where such information can be found?  The one diagram posted below, if I'm reading it correctly, does not include wiring for charging of the battery,....only use of the battery for starting the vehicle, correct?

FWIW, the unit is a Snapper of unknown vintage (~15 years old?), 23 HP B&S V-twin with hydrostatic drive.

Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.
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This is definitely a great project that is well worth doing. We had garden tractors for years that served the role that ATV's play now.

A great place is to look for this sort of thing is Farm Show Magaine (a stupid name considering its content), but I will warn you, what these people do with garden tractors will shock you. Bucket loaders, graders, monster trucks...all in miniture size is scary. Where do these people have the time? But Farm Show Magazine is unique in that people build or convert something like a garden tractor, do a short write up on it (about the size of one of my posts), so it is a magizine about people who doing farm projects. But it is about people doing, and many are on garden tractors. In fact they have a 250 page book or so just on garden tractor modifications! It is well worth getting!

You are indeed correct though in that the schematic is of just the start circuit and does not really do you much good, but it is irreverent as you do not really need it. Most tractor forums will not tell people how to disable these devices because these do-gooders get all up in people's grill about safety...well I ran with sissors as a kid, and more people are killed with sissors then they are by garden tractors so I will tell you. Basically you need to find the contact switch that disables/enables the mower deck, and the reverse function, and the seat activation switch. These are typically little black boxes with spade in connectors. Since they work by making contact, all you have to do is cut and strip back a small section of wire and loop it in the spade connectors so that the circuit is constantly made.

The fact that it is a snapper is almost irrelevant. Today almost every lawn tractor is made by MTD Yard Machines, the names are almost all "brands" that the company has bought out. I have given up trying to figure out which company now owns what brand and when it was bought.

The only two modifications I would consider is obviously removing the mower decks so that it does not get hung up on stuff, and adding more traction. I suggest going to tractor supply and buying R1 tractor tires (tractor lug type tires) for your tractor, or at least getting a set of chains on it. Weight and traction are your limiting pulling factors and not power from the engine.

Very interesting thread, and I hope more people consider repurposing these old machines for use around their homesteads.
 
John Weiland
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Travis Johnson wrote:
The only two modifications I would consider is obviously removing the mower decks so that it does not get hung up on stuff, and adding more traction. I suggest going to tractor supply and buying R1 tractor tires (tractor lug type tires) for your tractor, or at least getting a set of chains on it. Weight and traction are your limiting pulling factors and not power from the engine.



Thanks for your response, Travis....I will definitely look up that magazine!  And yes the mower deck is gone and the electronic PTO engagement has been disconnected (which will probably require safety switch "jumping" as well).

In the meantime, I was able to tunnel into some of Briggs&Stratton's online manuals and finally came across more information on the engine of question.  As you noted, there are generic aspects of solving such an issue and then there are some specific aspects.  In this case, the wires coming from the stator are shunting through a voltage regulator....which in the end will make it easier to link back to the battery for charging.  Can't wait to juggle the attachment of the different wires to the blade connectors on the ignition switch!  I'm going to plow ahead with the re-wiring and hopefully post an update with photos in a week or two.

.....**IF** it starts!  :-)

Thanks again!
 
Travis Johnson
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Oh you will get it to start, direct short to the starter if you have too.

Gasoline engines are really simple. If they have compression, and they have fuel and air, and they have spark...they WILL fire.

The Briggs engines typically have cast iron sleeves so most times fouled carburetors by that !@#$%^&*( ethanol type fuel is what causes them not to start, not because of lack of compression. To a lesser extent, a fouled plug might make it fail to fire from a lack of spark. I would start by replacing the plugs (cheap and easy to do  at less than $10), and then move to working on determining if the carburetor is fouled. To check that, use starting fluid. If it runs on starting fluid, but not by itself, it has compression and spark, but not fuel. It most likely is a gummed up carburetor.

Some small engines carbs can be fixed by teraing them apart and cleaning them, and some can not. I found it is easier to buy a $50 carb and just replace it. You can find them online cheap and easy, just match numbers precisely.

BTW: You can build the tractor itself from replacement parts from Supply Center, an online parts place that has every small lawn mower part there is (and more) for cheap! They are worth looking up and getting a catalog from.

Note: some guys look up things on the internet they shouldn't, me...I look up tractor type stuff!! :-)
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:
Note: some guys look up things on the internet they shouldn't, me...I look up tractor type stuff!! :-)




Mmmm, tractor porn...

 
John Weiland
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Peter VanDerWal wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:
Note: some guys look up things on the internet they shouldn't, me...I look up tractor type stuff!! :-)




Mmmm, tractor porn...



Geez, Peter, that hottie is so stripped down it leaves little to the imagination!.... ;-)

Although I'll post a more full description of the re-working/re-wiring soon, a little "teaser" below illustrating the 'problem statement'.   The spaghetti of wires between the engine and the steering column serve to deliver power mostly to things like lights, safety on/off switches (positioned in places that the average geezer like me must cuss to reach!.... ;-/ ... ), and accessories like the PTO (electronic clutch).  (I can imagine if I wanted to, I could get it with a Peltier-circuit beverage cooler and 48" flat screen TV...)

In the second picture, the starter solenoid is shown located below the gas tank....not the best location for the tank and many mowers have the battery in that location which makes more sense to me.  The solenoid was deemed DOA because a new (yet unused) one sitting on the shelf corrected the problem of not being able to turn the engine over.  At this point, I can get it running for a short bit if I put a bit of gas in the carburetor, but when that runs out it dies.....so I'm going over the fuel delivery system this week.....hopefully before the mosquito and stable-fly hatches burst out in their spring splendor!  But just to add that as of this writing, there are now only the main five wires coming from the ignition key....one to the starter solenoid pole, one to a ground, one to the starter solenoid tab, and one each to the magneto (as part of the grounding needed to kill the engine when done) and a final one to the carburetor solenoid....something that did not exist on earlier models....and serves to shut off fuel to the carb when the engine stops.  So over half of that spaghetti is now gone.

More to come....
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Travis Johnson
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I did not want to say it, but yes I am addicted to Tractor Porn.

In fact, I am kind of obsessed in making what I think will be the perfect tractor, only because the tractors that we can get today are so lackluster. That has been sort of a bucket list item for me, building a homemade tractor.

As for the wiring John, try working on a Kubota. For whatever reason, Kubota has not figured out that plug in connectors are cheap, nor do they mark their wires, and the ones that are marked, do not always correspond with the wire number it really belongs too. More than once I have wanted to fly to Japan and throat-punch a Kubota Engineer. Now you can see why I want to build my own tractor; It is pretty hard to follow through with throat-punching yourself.

Incidentally I did find some "Tractor Porn", though the model is my wife Katie and not Stormy Daniels, and the tractor is mine as well. The saw is as well, but Katie looks more photogenic then I do holding it.

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John Weiland
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Travis Johnson wrote:    ... but Katie looks more photogenic then I do holding it.



Will you hold it against me if I agree? :-)   Of course my own characteristic of being "photogenically challenged" will not have me posting my mug here soon I suspect!  ;-)

Also... if she's holding a Stihl, would that make her shoes "Stihl-ettos"!??  Har-har.....  

okay.....i'll stop.

But just to apologize for not getting the wiring diagrams and final photos in a form that I had wished.   Nevertheless, I was able to find a square-tubular aluminum ATV rack to go on the back of the resurrected Snapper shown in the previous photos.  In the end, there was a single wire that I needed to add to the wiring diagram above that goes from the alternator ring to the battery in order to get charge to it....otherwise I would need to periodically charge he battery from a plug-in charger.  As seen below, I still need to add some struts from the rear of the rack down to the holes near the trailer hitch in order to stabilize and strengthen the rack capacity.  Other than that, my wife loves running pig food around in the thing......I get to use it for hauling tools when she's not looking! :-)
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Great looking farm transportation there, John!  It was fun to follow your mods on this!
 
Travis Johnson
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John Weiland wrote:But just to apologize for not getting the wiring diagrams and final photos in a form that I had wished.   Nevertheless, I was able to find a square-tubular aluminum ATV rack to go on the back of the resurrected Snapper shown in the previous photos.  In the end, there was a single wire that I needed to add to the wiring diagram above that goes from the alternator ring to the battery in order to get charge to it....otherwise I would need to periodically charge he battery from a plug-in charger.  As seen below, I still need to add some struts from the rear of the rack down to the holes near the trailer hitch in order to stabilize and strengthen the rack capacity.  Other than that, my wife loves running pig food around in the thing......I get to use it for hauling tools when she's not looking! :-)



That is a great tool to have around, and I am surprised with many lawn mowers about, more people do not repurpose them like you have. I suppose today people have ATV's, but after looking at their prices, they are prohibitive. Growing up we had garden tractors with their mowing decks removed and would often drive around to distant fields and such might like you are doing with yours. Ours had a cart, and snowplow blade making it even more useful, but there is no reason why you could not do the same if you had a need for it.

About the only suggestion I have is, maybe if you find traction is a problem, is to go to Tractor Supply when you have a little money to spend, and buy ag lugged tires for it. My local store has them in stock for garden tractors, but you can also mount ATV tires on them too which will net you more traction...if you need it.

John Weiland wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:... but Katie looks more photogenic then I do holding it.



Will you hold it against me if I agree? :-)   Of course my own characteristic of being "photogenically challenged" will not have me posting my mug here soon I suspect!  ;-)

Also... if she's holding a Stihl, would that make her shoes "Stihl-ettos"!??  Har-har..... okay.....i'll stop.




"Shihlettos"...I love it!

The sad thing is I wish she was holding a Stihl, that 562 Husqvarna was THE worst chainsaw purchase I ever made. I do not want to derail your thread regarding that hunk of crap, but it is not even worth talking about, much less paying $750 for.

I do have Katie modeling my old Stihl MS 461, and that was a really great saw, at least before I accidentally drove over it with my skidder. But you will have to forgive me, as Katie was wearing Keds and not "Stihlettos" in the photo.





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John Weiland
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Travis Johnson wrote:
But you will have to forgive me, as Katie was wearing Keds and not "Stihlettos" in the photo.



On the other hand, how often do those sitting on a large Deere earth-mover color-coordinate their shoes and top?  :-)

And yeah, I've seen those deeper lug tires at the local Farm/Fleet store and have considered them not only for this rig but to get some higher clearance on the bargain-basement Craftsman mower.  Phil G, if interested, I'll try to get those additional photos taken of the more stripped down wiring and post them when possible.  Thanks for the interest.....

 
Travis Johnson
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John Weiland wrote:[On the other hand, how often do those sitting on a large Deere earth-mover color-coordinate their shoes and top?  :-)



What? I thought every heavy equipment operator had to color coordinate their clothing before operating. Check oil...nahhh! But be darn sure your shoes match your top! Katie does pretty good at that though, as witnessed here on the larger bulldozer with white sandals matching her white dress. :-)

Back to topic at hand though...

Something you may want to get, or at least look up, is Surplus Supply. They have cheap parts and can rebuild, repower, almost anything.

Again, I do not want to derail your thread regarding repurposing an old lawn tractor because I think that is a lofty endeavor that more people should do. However just as an example of what Supply Center has for parts, I am thinking about building my own homemade zero-turn lawnmower, and you can buy every part to make one.

But in thinking about your traction problem, you might be better off (spend less money that is) by making your own homemade chains for your tractor. My recommendation is to just look up "Homemade Tire Chains" on Youtube and then pick a chain that best works for you. That might in and of itself, be actually better then lug tires that ultimately wear down. Of course if we get all maned out here, your poor wife will be pulling wheelies as she slops the hogs.


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John Weiland
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You didn't even mention the matching white welding helmet!   :-)

Yeah, I've used the Surplus Center [ https://www.surpluscenter.com/ ] before for repair/rebuild parts and now am glad you mentioned the Surplus Supply which seems to deal in similar items. I find these handy as well for the purchase of replacement engines and either gear-shift or hydraulic transmissions as well as a host of other parts.   On another note, the good thing about clay soil in which it's actually hard to find rocks is that lug treads take a long time to wear down on a tire (unless doing some heavy cultivating like the big tractors do).  I've gotten my wife more attuned to backing the Snapper over ridges or muddy spots that might cause the smaller front tires to bog down ..... with the weight on the rear tires along with their larger circumference, it's much easier to get through these trouble spots.

By the by, it wasn't cheap, but the rear rack on that Snapper was found here:  https://www.discountramps.com/atv-rear-basket/p/MLRR60/

 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I did not want to say it, but yes I am addicted to Tractor Porn.

In fact, I am kind of obsessed in making what I think will be the perfect tractor, only because the tractors that we can get today are so lackluster. That has been sort of a bucket list item for me, building a homemade tractor.

As for the wiring John, try working on a Kubota. For whatever reason, Kubota has not figured out that plug in connectors are cheap, nor do they mark their wires, and the ones that are marked, do not always correspond with the wire number it really belongs too. More than once I have wanted to fly to Japan and throat-punch a Kubota Engineer. Now you can see why I want to build my own tractor; It is pretty hard to follow through with throat-punching yourself.

Incidentally I did find some "Tractor Porn", though the model is my wife Katie and not Stormy Daniels, and the tractor is mine as well. The saw is as well, but Katie looks more photogenic then I do holding it.



That tractor is outstanding.  It looks like it came straight from Road Warrior.
 
Travis Johnson
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Trace Oswald wrote:That tractor is outstanding.  It looks like it came straight from Road Warrior.



Whoops I confused everyone. No that tractor is just an old purchased 1979 Clark Skidder from back in the day. I don't have a lot of money so I run junk, but it gets the wood out.

In tune with this post though it has be repowered. Orginally it came through with a 353 Detroit Diesel, but a 453 drops right in, and that is what it has. The 3 and 4 just designate the number of cylinders with the 53 designating the cubic inches. Full time four wheel drive, locked differentials, and articulated steering, it can pull a lot of wood (1-2 cords)

The little dozer and the log trailer is actually my preferred method of logging though. The wood stays clean, there is no where I cannot go, I only burn 10 gallons of fuel instead of 40, and while I only get out 5 cords of wood per day instead of the 10 I can with the skidder, I have just always been a person that liked tracks.

The big bulldozer, that is not for logging, that is for pushing the stumps out of the ground after the forest has been cleared.



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Travis Johnson wrote:
Whoops I confused everyone. No that tractor is just an old purchased 1979 Clark Skidder from back in the day.



Whatever it is, I want it.  I would drive that thing to work.
 
Travis Johnson
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Trace Oswald wrote:Whatever it is, I want it.  I would drive that thing to work.



I drive it to work myself; about a quarter of a mile one way. It is one heck of a commute, though if the wind is blowing it can get kind of cold as the heater sucks.

However traffic jams are not much a problem. It can climb over boulders, fallen trees, wade through mud, and easily pushes those pesky Prius's out of the way with ease. It just drives over Smart Cars. :-)
 
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