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: craftsman won't crank

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10-14-2008, 05:44 PM
Last time I was here, you guys helped me fix my steering. Now I have another problem. My Craftsman will not crank. It is a 6 or 7 year old 18.5 hp craftsman. After I got done mowing the tractor would not start. It seemed like the battery was dead. It gave a slight noise like it wanted to crank. I replaced the battery with a good battery from my other tractor. Same thing happened. Then I out the battery that was from the Sears into the other tractor and it worked fine. Anyone have any ideas? Tractor was running perfect prior to this.


Bill Kapaun
10-14-2008, 06:07 PM
And the Sears 917.xxxxxx number is?

10-14-2008, 08:44 PM
sorry - forgot that part

10-14-2008, 08:54 PM
Sounds like a key switch or starter solenoid. With the new battery, is there a clicking sound?

10-14-2008, 10:58 PM
no repetetive clicking sound like a car makes, but a one time light "womp" - and that is it.

Is a solenoid hard to replace?

Bill Kapaun
10-15-2008, 03:06 AM
If you don't have the owners manual, here it is-

Engine is an old Briggs opposed twin (42E707-2631-E1) so we shouldn;t have any valve adjustment issues.

First thing I'd do is remove the spark plugs, ground the plug wires and try to crank it. (You don't want spark if gas comes shooting out)
It sounds like the cylinders may be full of gas from a leaking carb, hydro locking it. IF so, repair carb and change oil

IF that's not it, clean ALL battery/starter solenoid/starter motor cables, including grounds. Make sure engine mounting bolts are snug too.

10-15-2008, 02:56 PM
Bill is correct on that- it should turn over w/o the plugs in.

Ive also had a starter gear break on me- it lodged between the starter/ring gear and motor causing it to lock up- check that as well.

10-16-2008, 02:28 PM
ok, here is a dumb question. How do you ground the plug wires?

Bill Kapaun
10-16-2008, 03:22 PM
I've made up a pair of wires with small alligator clips on the ends.
You could probably reinsert the spark plug into the boot and then try taping them to the block/head out of the way.

OR ground the ignition kill wire-

The main thing is, you don't want spark near the spark plug hole where gas MIGHT come shooting out.

In general, it's not good practice to force an ignition coil to jump an overly wide gap. IF it can't, the HT spark tries to go to the path of least resistance and that can sometimes cause coils to break down internally.

10-17-2008, 04:56 PM
Thank you guys for all of your help. I do appreciate it.

OK - I took out the plugs, taped them to the block and still nothing. Only a small "womp". Went underneath and turned the drive gear pulley and the motor spins freely. What should I do next? Solenoid or starter?

Bill Kapaun
10-17-2008, 10:38 PM
You can try jumping the 2 large studs on the solenoid to bypass it, but I have a hunch the starting motor is bad.

10-18-2008, 09:32 AM
would you mind giving me a step by step on how to do that? Jumping the solenoid I mean.


Bill Kapaun
10-18-2008, 11:59 AM
A jumper cable for jumping car batteries is probably easiest.

Some people will use an old pair of pliers or similar to bridge the two terminals.
Expect the pliers to possibly get hot and be decisive. You;ll get some arcing. The more timid, the more arcing you'll get.

10-18-2008, 12:09 PM
Nah, just use a screwdriver with an insulated handle (like plastic). My Craftsman has a similar problem (mine's wiring related though) an that's the way I start it.

10-19-2008, 09:19 PM
Nah, just use a screwdriver with an insulated handle (like plastic). My Craftsman has a similar problem (mine's wiring related though) an that's the way I start it.

That's like saying, "Of course I have the key Officer, it's this long thingy with the Clear, Red, and Blue striped handle!". ROTFLMAO

10-19-2008, 09:46 PM
That's like saying, "Of course I have the key Officer, it's this long thingy with the Clear, Red, and Blue striped handle!". ROTFLMAO

LOL! I almost like that I have to do that, it keeps everyone else from screwing (get it? haha) with my tractor 'cuz they can't figure out how to start it!

10-19-2008, 11:00 PM
Hopefully this won't be the problem, but will the motor turn or is it seized? I helped a neighbor recently who was replacing the starter after having already replaced the battery. When I went over to help the problem was no oil. Good luck.

10-22-2008, 12:33 PM
OK guys - I am still stuck.

The motor does not seem to be seized. I can turn the pulley on the bottom and the pistons go up and down. could hear it when I ttok out the plugs. Also, we check the oil before every mow. It is my 12 year old sons tractor to mow with and I make him check every time.

Be patient with me as I am new at this small engine repair stuff. I fould the solenoid. Can not get a screw driver to it. Any other ideas? Is there a way to test it. And if I try the screw driver thing do I utrn the key on?

Also - the battery is only 375cca - it starts my wheel horse fine, but is maybe the battery to small?


Bill Kapaun
10-22-2008, 03:11 PM
OK guys - I am still stuck.

...... I fould the solenoid. Can not get a screw driver to it. Any other ideas? Is there a way to test it. And if I try the screw driver thing do I utrn the key on?


You can re-read post #13 or post #14!
Since #14 doesn't work....

10-22-2008, 06:59 PM
Thanks Bill.

OK - so I had my daughter sit on the tractor, turn ignition on, push in clutch and turn key and got the "womp"

Then I reached in with needle nose pliers and tried to jump the solenoid and...nothing - not even the womp.

Should I be getting the "womp"? Did I do something wrong.

Stick with me guys. I know you can help me figure it out.


Bill Kapaun
10-22-2008, 08:38 PM
You need a much "stouter" pliers. Look at the size of your battery cables, and they're copper. A much better conductor.

Try just jumping 12V to the SMALL solenoid terminal first and see what happens.

10-22-2008, 08:51 PM
Pliers are one of the very worst testing tools available. I don't care if farmers HAVE used them for decades to test batteries. They have a joint that's usually loose, dirty or rusty or all the above. Do as Bill suggested. Make a jumper wire with clips for low amp small wire testing and use jumper cables for high amp big wire testing.

10-22-2008, 11:01 PM
1. Check the fuse that goes to the small terminal on the solenoid.

2. Is the PTO off?

3. pull out a volt meter. hook the black lead the Negative batt. terminal, and take the read lead and touch it to the positve batt. terminal. Should get 12-13 volts. Touch it to the sode of the solenoid that goes to the battery, shouls get the same or similar reading. Touch it to the small terminal on the solenoid, turn the key, should get the same or similar reading, Touch it to the side of the solenoid that leads to the starter, turn the key, should get the same or similar reading. Touch it to the starter post, should get the same or similar reading...and the motor should spin over.

If you arent getting power at the battery, replace it.

If you arent getting power at the batt. side of the solenoid, check that wire.

If you arent getting power to the small wire on the solenoid, check the fuse, if good, go to the key switch. Chould be getting power to the RED wire at al times, and power should flow through the wire that goes to the solenoid when the key is turned to START. If it doesnt, likely bad switch. If it does, look for a bad safety switch (PTO, seat, clutch, neutral). If they are all good, power should flow to the solenoid.

If power is at the small wire on the solenoid, and it clicks when the key is turned, You should be getting 12-13 volts at the starter side of the solenoid. if you arent, replace the solenoid. If you are, and power is going to the starter, and the starter shaft (not the gear, but the actual metal shaft) turns, likely a bad starter.

Also check your ground to the frame from the negative batt. terminal.

10-23-2008, 12:14 AM
take a pair of jumper cables, jump from the positive (+) battery terminal to the terminal on the starter. If the engine turns over the starter is OK. OH, only use one of the jumper cables, e.g. the "red" or "black". If the engine turns over you can then concentrate on the solenoid, bad cable from the battery to solenoid or solenoid to starter. If that's OK, Then it's in the "interlocks" (seat switch, brake pedal, pto switch, etc.) and the wires that connect them. Yes, there's a fuse in there, also the key switch can also go bad. Just go about this in a sequential method. The jumper cable will tell you if the starter is OK. I think we're all assuming that you've got a good battery??????

Fundamentally, the solenoid is a set of contacts that puts the + from the battery to the terminal on the starter and it spins the motor. That's the same thing you did with the jumper cable. For that to work, the cabling from battery, the "contacts" and the cabling from the solenoid to the starter have to be OK. Having determined that the "high amperage" portion of the circuit is OK you then look into the interlocks and cabling which cause the "contacts" in the solenoid to close.

Good luck,


10-23-2008, 11:00 AM
Thanks guys - I will get to work on it after work. And yes, I assume the battery is fine. I thought the problem was the battery in the craftsman so I replaced it with the battery from my wheel horse. It started my wheel horse before I took it out and put it in the craftsman. Also the battery that was in the craftsman starts the wheel horse. In summary both batterys work.

I need a little more clarification though. I do not think it is the safety switches. If no weight on the seat, the PTO engaged, or the clutch not pushed in, then I do not even get the "womp" when I turn the key.

Do I need a child on the seat and the clutch pushed in to jump the solenoid? Does the key need to be on?

Bill Kapaun
10-23-2008, 03:09 PM
Weight in the seat won't make any difference to crank. Only for the engine to run.
PTO must be OFF and clutch pushed IN for "normal" cranking since BOTH have switches that are part of the crank circuit, in addition to the key switch.

Jumping the solenoid direct BYPASSES those switches! That's the whole point in trouble shooting, is to isolate the problem.

The key doesn't need to be on when jumping the solenoid, but the engine won't run. That's not important now, since we're just trying to get it to crank.

PLEASE look at the schematic on page 58 of the owners manual I gave the link for.
You don't need to have a great understanding of schematics!
Think of it as "plumbing that needs the pipes connected to get water to flow from point A to point B.
AT this point, we're just trying to connect the Battery to the starter motor.

10-24-2008, 10:54 AM
WOOHOO - sort of
I think I isolated the problem - with all of your help.
I looked at the schematics and it made everything clear.
Tested the voltage across the battery - 13v
Tested voltage to soleoid - 13v
Tested voltage from battery to other side of soleoid - when turn key - 13v
Tested voltage to red cable going to starter - 13v when turn key

I think this means the starter is bad - so what next guys?


I still have not figured out how to jump the solenoid. It is in such an awkward position. I can not get the end of the jumper cable to it. Anyway - thanks again.

Now should I just replace the starter?


10-24-2008, 11:19 AM
I think this means the starter is bad - so what next guys?

Not necessarily... depends on where you were measuring the ground. You could be having a poor ground issue. If you have jumper cables, connect one end to the ground terminal on the battery and the other end to a bolt on the engine. Then connect the other wire to the hot on the battery and touch the other end to the big (hot) terminal on the starter. If it cranks, you have a high resistance connection somewhere.

10-24-2008, 02:06 PM
Have you turned the starter by hand? As in turned the metal plate under the plastic bendix? It should rotate fairly easily.

A new starter is over 100 dollars, a dealer may offer a reman starter for under 70 though.

If it rotates freely, and you hit the key and nothing happens, its likely a bad starter. You can remove it easy enough and take it to a service center for a quick test. we have a starter/alt/gen tester that tells us how many amps it is pulling as wel.

10-24-2008, 04:38 PM
OK - I did the jumper cable from the battery to the starter - and nothing.

So how do you turn the metal plate under the plastic bendix. I am new at this and you guys have taught me a lot, but I have no idea what a bendix is. The starter has a metal plate on the bottom, plastic cover, and the power wire going to it.


10-24-2008, 05:34 PM
The bendix is a movable gear on the end of the shaft. The plate is at the base of the bendix and turns with the shaft.

When the starter spins, a helical gear kicks the bendix up to engage the flywheel ring gear. If the starter can kick the bendix up to the ring gear, that is the distinct "womp" that is heard. If the starter doesn't have enough power to turn after the bendix is engaged, you hear nothing after the womp.

There are several reasons why the starter may not have enough power:
The motor may be harder than expected to turn.
The starter could have failed motor windings.
The starter could have a bad bearing.
The starter might not get enough current from the battery/wiring.
The bendix might be binding on the ring gear.

10-24-2008, 05:43 PM
OK - I did the jumper cable from the battery to the starter - and nothing.

Did you also do the jumper cable on the ground side to rule out a bad ground?

Your volt meter test seems to indicate that the power side voltages are good. Now, if the starter is drawing too much current as would often be the case with bad windings, the voltage at the starter should have dropped at the womp. Since it didn't, it indicates that either the ground return is bad, or the motor isn't drawing much current. Where was the volt meter ground reference taken?

Try both jumper cables on the starter both installed and with it removed. Just be careful when removed as the torque could make it jump causing you to short the jumper cables. Hold it down with your foot.

10-24-2008, 06:26 PM
I am sorry I am so stupid and keep asking so many questions, but stay with me guys.

OK - I know the starter is getting power. How exactly do I do a ground test. The only wire I see to the starter is the red cable from the solenoid. I also think the womp I am hearing is coming from the solenoid.

And as far as seeing gears on the end of the starter, there are none. The starter is still in place and covered. Should I have taken something off?


10-24-2008, 06:47 PM
Uh- Oh - I think I made a mistake. I did what every curious do it yourselfer does when they get stuck. I started taking things apart. I took the heat shield off so I could access the starter. There is one cable going to it - the power. Disconnected the battery and then disconnected the power. Then there were 2 small nuts on the bottom. I figured if I took one of these off I could get to the gears inside. I know you guys know what is coming next. The bolt is about 6 inches long and goes all the way through the starter.

If I take the other one out I envision the entire starter falling apart.

Should I just put it back or keep going?

Bill Kapaun
10-24-2008, 06:58 PM
You aren't stupid. You have the ability to learn!

Current indications are that the starter is bad, BUT-
as mentioned, we want to check the ground side of the circuit.

To do so-
Place black meter test lead on battery neg. POST
Place red test lead on starter body.
Turn key.
ANY Voltage reading is voltage drop on the ground circuit.
A high reading indicates that you have a bad connection in that part of the circuit. HOPEFULLY, that's the problem, because it's not costly$$$$$$

The ground circuit is pretty simple-
Starter motor body to engine, engine to frame, frame to battery - cable, and battery - cable to battery - post.