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post #1 of 31 Old 07-11-2019, 11:58 AM Thread Starter
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Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

I have a 1999 Cub with a single cylinder Kohler Courage engine. This engine has always started hard since it was new. I need help with ideas on what could be wrong. Here are the symptoms:

- When cold, the engine must be cranked over and over a half-minute or more. When cranking, nothing happens, then it finally starts as though nothing was wrong - a little choke stumbling, but same as if it had fired up right away.
- Once started it runs well at speed, power and idle - no misfiring, stuttering or anything - just a good-running engine.
- It always starts...eventually. If the battery is weak, jumping or charging it will crank the engine normally...forever.
- When warm it starts on the first key turn and runs easily.
- air and fuel filters clean.
- It has a manual choke that closes properly and completely, and a throttle that works properly.
- I thought the valves were out of adjustment. I have adjusted them several times and this works for about one cold start cycle and then it's the same thing. Last time I used red loctite on the adjuster screws. no change.
- these have a crankcase-vacuum-operated fuel pump, but it seems the engine would have problems even after it starts if that was defective??
- the fuel tank is under the seat, so it's not gravity fed.
- It has several safety interlocks, but these should not allow it to start at all, right? There is an oil sentry switch.
- It never acts flooded. When it does start, the choke will flood it if I don't pay attention - a perfectly normal condition.

Any thoughts about what to do or where to look?
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post #2 of 31 Old 07-11-2019, 11:50 PM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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Originally Posted by ZTT42 View Post
I have a 1999 Cub with a single cylinder Kohler Courage engine. This engine has always started hard since it was new. I need help with ideas on what could be wrong. Here are the symptoms:

- When cold, the engine must be cranked over and over a half-minute or more. When cranking, nothing happens, then it finally starts as though nothing was wrong - a little choke stumbling, but same as if it had fired up right away.
- Once started it runs well at speed, power and idle - no misfiring, stuttering or anything - just a good-running engine.
- It always starts...eventually. If the battery is weak, jumping or charging it will crank the engine normally...forever.
- When warm it starts on the first key turn and runs easily.
- air and fuel filters clean.
- It has a manual choke that closes properly and completely, and a throttle that works properly.
- I thought the valves were out of adjustment. I have adjusted them several times and this works for about one cold start cycle and then it's the same thing. Last time I used red loctite on the adjuster screws. no change.
- these have a crankcase-vacuum-operated fuel pump, but it seems the engine would have problems even after it starts if that was defective??
- the fuel tank is under the seat, so it's not gravity fed.
- It has several safety interlocks, but these should not allow it to start at all, right? There is an oil sentry switch.
- It never acts flooded. When it does start, the choke will flood it if I don't pay attention - a perfectly normal condition.

Any thoughts about what to do or where to look?
Give it a little shot of starting fluid into carb next time.If it fires right up the choke is not fully closing or the butterfly is not closed off enough.
I have seen many single courages that needed the purple coated screw turned in a few turns to push choke closed tighter.


If not then I would suspect fuel pump losing prime BUT in less than a week the carb should still be full of fuel and start normally and the fast speed and vacuum pulses would put fuel to carb quickly. I have seen fuel pump issues that would fire right up and only run for 15 seconds and then carb bowl runs low and hasn't sucked fuel from tank yet.

I have had several with plugged or restricted lines or gas tank outlet nipples.

Take line off at fuel filter and you should be able to suck fuel easily out of line by mouth. Half the time it runs our even though not gravity design.
I have blown grass, sticks, lady bugs, japanese beetles out of lines in last 2 years alone.

Old cracked slightly air leaking lines to fuel pump will cause it to lose prime after sitting.
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post #3 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 12:11 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

Good troubleshooting guide, thanks.

I have figured it is a lack of fuel problem so your sequence looks good. Since it always starts eventually and then runs well, I have been less than diligent in trying to find the trouble. This has been there since the beginning, so I am thinking some fuel tank plastic that partially blocks the line or something like that. I have believed the choke is closing fully but need to check that closely, first!
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post #4 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 01:03 AM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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Good troubleshooting guide, thanks.

I have figured it is a lack of fuel problem so your sequence looks good. Since it always starts eventually and then runs well, I have been less than diligent in trying to find the trouble. This has been there since the beginning, so I am thinking some fuel tank plastic that partially blocks the line or something like that. I have believed the choke is closing fully but need to check that closely, first!
I had one customer that was on his 2nd season with his. He told me he had to take air filter cover off and squirt starting fluid in every time but once he did that it ran like a champ.
I held the tab all the way with my finger and it started right up.

All that cranking is tough on starter...drive mainly.
They are a weak design without a ratcheting bendix. Only metal gear bonded with rubber to the base plate that spools up the spiral shaft as it turns. The rubber (especially early ones before 2007 or so) comes loose and slips and then friction disintegrates it and no more engine spin.
All they need it new gear but hard to find and getting expensive.
The whole starter can be had on ebay for under 36.00 for many/ most models.
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post #5 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 08:50 AM
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My 16hp Kohler single was like this. It would start easliy if I turned it o er in 2-3 10sec blips followed by turning off the key. It'd hit off on the 2nd to 3rd blip. If I just let it turn it'd turn over forever before starting.

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post #6 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 12:30 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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Originally Posted by Steve Urquell View Post
My 16hp Kohler single was like this. It would start easliy if I turned it o er in 2-3 10sec blips followed by turning off the key. It'd hit off on the 2nd to 3rd blip. If I just let it turn it'd turn over forever before starting.
I have tried that in many different sequences but no dice. I'm thinking the choke adjustment is probably the key. I'll report back when I get the chance to try some troubleshooting.
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post #7 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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All that cranking is tough on starter...drive mainly.
They are a weak design without a ratcheting bendix. Only metal gear bonded with rubber to the base plate that spools up the spiral shaft as it turns. The rubber (especially early ones before 2007 or so) comes loose and slips and then friction disintegrates it and no more engine spin.
All they need it new gear but hard to find and getting expensive.
The whole starter can be had on ebay for under 36.00 for many/ most models.
Yep, I've seen the starter . Mine got saturated with oil from a defective oil sensor switch that sprayed oil all over the engine and had symptoms like a leaky valve cover - oil dripping on exhaust manifold and choking smoking. The starter disk doesn't stick well when it's coated with 10W30. It did clean up and has been working okay since then. Then the last time I had the blower cover off I noticed the starter bolts were loose - no wonder it cranked poorly. Did some loctite on them.

This engine seems to have annoying problems constantly, but it runs really well.
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post #8 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 02:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

AFTER FURTHER TESTING:

I have found
- Manual choke is fully closing and has a spring loaded control that holds it shut. There is no adjustment.
- Starting fluid (choke closed)..started up and died immediately. Second try...started up, stumbling out of fuel, then caught and ran.

- Working on fuel system...

---checked for clear lines and filter - all good
---the fuel line comes into top of fuel tank and sucks fuel through a dip tube, so no gravity flow unless it is siphoning.
---I attached a vacuum pump to the fuel line, including the dip tube, to check for leak-down - no leak-down.
---performed a fuel pump test as shown in service manual - it is pumping fuel.
---I took the fuel shutoff solenoid from carb and performed a bench test per service manual - IT'S NOT WORKING and the plunger can't be manually moved.

SOOO....My theory is that the solenoid is stuck partly closed. When a shot of fuel is needed for starting, it blocks flow enough to prevent starting easily, so it's like a cold start with the choke open. Once running there is enough fuel to keep it going. It is weird that the engine runs essentially perfectly - no stumbling, fuel starving, power loss or anything.

I am going shopping for a solenoid to see what happens.
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post #9 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 03:10 PM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTT42 View Post
AFTER FURTHER TESTING:

I have found
- Manual choke is fully closing and has a spring loaded control that holds it shut. There is no adjustment.
- Starting fluid (choke closed)..started up and died immediately. Second try...started up, stumbling out of fuel, then caught and ran.

- Working on fuel system...

---checked for clear lines and filter - all good
---the fuel line comes into top of fuel tank and sucks fuel through a dip tube, so no gravity flow unless it is siphoning.
---I attached a vacuum pump to the fuel line, including the dip tube, to check for leak-down - no leak-down.
---performed a fuel pump test as shown in service manual - it is pumping fuel.
---I took the fuel shutoff solenoid from carb and performed a bench test per service manual - IT'S NOT WORKING and the plunger can't be manually moved.

SOOO....My theory is that the solenoid is stuck partly closed. When a shot of fuel is needed for starting, it blocks flow enough to prevent starting easily, so it's like a cold start with the choke open. Once running there is enough fuel to keep it going. It is weird that the engine runs essentially perfectly - no stumbling, fuel starving, power loss or anything.

I am going shopping for a solenoid to see what happens.
nice diagnosis, in the meantime snap off the needle on the solenoid so you can run the tractor & be sure that was the problem....I hate those things.
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post #10 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 03:13 PM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

EBay for the carb solenoid. They are between 8 and $13 shipped. . Locally you can pay $68 for one of them.
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post #11 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 03:16 PM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

I'm impressed that a courage is that old and still running. They must have ruined them later on.

In the past:
Craftsman, MTD, Snapper, 1961 Ford 801 Powermaster, 1992 LB 4.5HP 580546, 2003 LB 10552 6.5HP Duraforce, IH Cub Cadet 105, 2001 Cub Cadet 2146 14HP Linamar 38" deck, love of my life (Sold 10 Dec 2011), 2007 Cub Cadet 2550 22HP Kohler Vtwin 50"deck (Sold 22 Aug 2018)
In use:
1994 JD LX178 sweet little mower, only 15HP, twin cyl, 38" deck, liquid cooled!
1998 JD 445 22HP Shaft driven wheels, shaft driven 60" deck, diff-lock, hydraulic lift, power steering, fuel & temp gauges, fuel injected, and liquid cooled! This machine has it all!
2005 Nortrak NT 254 25HP Diesel 5' FEL, here's a case of cost-cutting, I only need a tractor 3 or 4 times a year

Going to try to stay Liquid Cooled the rest of my life! Hey, it gets HOT here!
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post #12 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 05:31 PM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

Most of the ones from around 2002-2003 have already self-destructed in blown up. The ones up until 2006 are still running but a lot of them have the bolts quite loose and will be blowing up soon if people don't take out the covers and tighten up the top bolts. I have never seen a single one after 2007 that had loose top cover bolts and there are many still out there running perfectly. It's actually a fairly well designed engine even though I can't stand twin cans because that is a waste. The inverted sumpto is a much better design for leaks and stuff even though lawn mower engines rarely leak at the crankcase seal, and the gasket on the bottom, it's still a much better design to make a soup bowl with no gasket at all that you can actually rebuild the entire engine with it still on the machine.
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post #13 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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nice diagnosis, in the meantime snap off the needle on the solenoid so you can run the tractor & be sure that was the problem....I hate those things.
I shopped locally for a solenoid and no one nearby has one. While checking I thought of your suggestion that would pretty much take care of the problem more or less permanently. I really see no purpose in these shutoffs except to prevent fuel leakage and associated pollution control that is handled anyway by keeping carb systems in good repair. i.e. its overkill.

Actually the "needle" has a rubber button seal on the end so I just popped that off to disable the solenoid. I started the tractor and it was reluctant, but probably because the bowl and fuel line were emptied when working on it. Now that it's running I will try again in the morning to see if it has solved the problem. I am optimistic.

I have said before that I think they call these Kohler Courage engines is because it takes a lot of "courage" to own one

Thanks for all the help everyone!
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post #14 of 31 Old 07-12-2019, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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Most of the ones from around 2002-2003 have already self-destructed in blown up. The ones up until 2006 are still running but a lot of them have the bolts quite loose and will be blowing up soon if people don't take out the covers and tighten up the top bolts. I have never seen a single one after 2007 that had loose top cover bolts and there are many still out there running perfectly. It's actually a fairly well designed engine even though I can't stand twin cans because that is a waste. The inverted sumpto is a much better design for leaks and stuff even though lawn mower engines rarely leak at the crankcase seal, and the gasket on the bottom, it's still a much better design to make a soup bowl with no gasket at all that you can actually rebuild the entire engine with it still on the machine.
Did I say it was a 1999 model? Actually it is a 2008 model based on the serial #, so maybe it is not set to self-destruct. I bought this the year before I retired in 2009 - my how time does fly when yer havin' fun!
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post #15 of 31 Old 07-13-2019, 04:39 PM
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Re: Kohler Courage starting problem - need ideas

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Did I say it was a 1999 model? Actually it is a 2008 model based on the serial #, so maybe it is not set to self-destruct. I bought this the year before I retired in 2009 - my how time does fly when yer havin' fun!
I was just responding to mowergene's comment that he thought they must have screwed up the newer ones. I have never seen any of them after 2007 with loose top cover bolts so you should be out of the woods and good to go.
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