Hi all -
I wanted to post up some info about the LP33711 electric lift kit Deere makes for the x500 and x300 series garden tractors... I saw some people here were discussing it and after installing it I thought some of you may want to know how it went...
The story begins when I bought my '08 x500 in '11 shortly after purchasing my home... The driveway and lawn are fairly big so I knew I wanted a machine which could mow and move snow (250'+ long driveway and 100'x50' parking area) and I found a used x500 for sale online.
The machine I bought came with a standard 48" mowing deck and a Bercomac Northeast 48" 2-stage snow blower. Last winter ('11-'12) was the first year I used the blower and I was mostly pleased with the performance. I had two complaints after using the blower... First, the mechanical lift system had some drawbacks - the blower didn't really want to ride on the ground cause the lift mechanism was constantly "lifting it", and "too little" snow (~1" or less), particularly if it was wet / slushy, was a problem and would clog the chute unless I went recklessly fast.
The second problem was the easier of the two -- get a plow blade... More on that later.
We have had two big snow falls this winter (and a couple light ones) that I cleared with the blower in late Dec last month... Again running into the problems I had last year with the mechanical lift system.
After the first storm in December I spent a fair amount of time trying to get the Bercomac / Deere mechanical lift mechanism to work better than it was designed to (without much success). This lead me to investigate building my own DIY lift system for the snow blower... I looked at trying to tap into the hydrostatic transmission ports, but ultimately concluded this approach would be really expensive and complex. I also looked into using a small ATV winch to lift the blower, but couldn't come up with a mounting system / anchor points I liked in the space available. While searching around for alternative ideas I started to look at linear 12v DC electric actuators and stumbled into this forum (google strikes again!) and a couple of discussions about the John Deere LP33711 electric lift kit for the x500 / x300... No one had used it and several people were asking about it.
I found the LP33711 online for $400 + shipping... Sounds expensive, but when I looked at the cost of the parts for my DIY system I realized the $ would probably be the same and this kit was designed to be a bolt-on, which would save a ton of time... The only unknown was could I make it work with the Bercomac implement I had?
After a call to my local dealer, who was kind enough to match the internet price I found, I was able to get a copy of the install manual and get a look at how the JD kit worked... It didn't take long for me to decide to take a chance -- I figured I'd modify it to make it work as needed. Couple weeks ago (after the 2nd large storm) the kit showed up and I spent a Saturday afternoon with my Dad in my garage figuring out how to make it work on my tractor (heated garages are awesome, BTW).
Installing the LP33711 kit was fairly easy, but I had to make some minor adjustments to make it work with the Bercomac snow blower. Three modifications were necessary...
1) The Bercomac blower uses a power transfer pulley sub-assembly that mounts to the belly of the tractor. The front of the sub-assembly is mounted uses a 1/2" dowel pin that spans the belly of the machine and is supported by two 1/2" holes in the frame... Turns out the mounting bracket JD's engineers wants to use to support the electric actuator also wants to use one of the same 1/2" holes on the frame as the Berco kit... My solution was to use a piece of 1/2" SS threaded rod in place of the dowel pin so I could securely bolt the bracket and still support the sub assembly.
2) The mechanical lifting mechanism that Bercomac provides uses a ~3/4" (or maybe 5/8") shaft for a pivot point that connects the mechanical lift pedal to the hinge mount where the blower mounts... The JD kit wanted to instal a large (1-1/4"?) metal pivot point (spans the width of the frame) in the same location. I ended up removing the Bercomac lifting mechanism cause it wasn't needed anyway, which made room. There was a Bercomac bracket I did retain and have to notch a little so that the push rod used to lift implements could clear it. The Berco bracket also held a plastic bushing which I had to remove, but I did reuse the Berco mounting bolt to secure the JD shaft bracket which wanted to use a hole in the frame the Berco kit was using.
3) The Bercomac system added subframe bracket to the front of the tractor with a large hinge where the blower mounted. It is a quick-change system that also can support several Bercomac implements and has a mounting point for the push-rod from the mechanical lift system -- very similar to the JD snow blower / blade lift mount points. Turns out the Bercomac bracket is ~5" further forward that the JD system. I had to use a small piece (~4.5") of 1/2"-13 SS rod and a 1-3/4x1/2-13 rod coupler (from Home Depot) to extend the factor JD push rod so I could reach the Bercomac bracket. I also had to add a 3/8" pin because the JD kit expects a 1/2" pin and the Bercomac mechanism expects a 3/8" pin.
These changes allowed me to install the JD electric linear actuator and pivot bracket so they worked with my Berco implement.
The wiring for the JD kit is pretty simple too... The wiring harness is designed to integrate with the existing wiring easily and has ample length to get routed to where it needs to go. You do have to drill a 1/2" hole (they give a template) in the dashboard to install the lift control switch. There is a wire from the ignition you have to tap into and there are a couple wires to connect to the battery and a relay / fuse pack to secure under the hood. Everything is fairly well marked and uses mating connectors... There are two sets of wires/connectors JD could have done a better job marking, but as long as you match the colors it is obvious what connects where.
When I was done I was really impressed with how well the system works. I can lift the blower 5"-6" off the ground in a second or so with the switch on the dash... I can also apply down-force and the mechanism is strong enough to lift the front of the machine... I adjusted it so the machine lifts ~1/2", but the tires stay on the ground, when fully down (at the limit of travel of the electric actuator).
Since installing the kit I haven't seen any snow, but I heard tonight that we're likely to get 3"-5" on Wed this week, so I expect to give it a thorough test.
I've got a 54" Berco snow blade on order (should be here by late Jan) for lighter snow falls. I can swap it onto the machine and the electric lift mechanism will work with it as well.
Anyway, if you've got an x500 (or x300) and you've got a blower or blade I'd definitely recommend the LP33711 kit if you aren't happy with the mechanical lifting system... The install on a stock x500/x300 should be really easy and without the complications I had to deal with because of my aftermarket implements. I expect I'll pull the actuator cylinder, which mounts under the left foot of the driver with a couple 1/2" pins, in the summer when it is time to put the mowing deck on at the same time I pull the snow blower off.
Good luck, and I hope some find this info useful!