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I have a 7 year old Honda HRB217HXA hydrostatic self propelled mower that has worked fine until this season. The issue I have is that when it's first started up, in the self propel mode it is noisy (a low 'growl' when engaged) and erratic (starts and stops intermittently) but after warming up it works pretty well. What might be wrong with it, do you think it's repairable and might the repair be something I might attempt myself? I wouldn't call myself a mechanic (as in diagnosing mechanical problems) but I do all of my own maintenance on both my lawn tractors and this mower and if I know what needs to be done I have a pretty good collection of tools and know how to use them.

Thanks a lot,
John in Olympia, WA
 

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Everything I know about hydros tells me that it's low on fluid.
RTFB (read the f***ing book :banghead3 :fing32: )
and make sure the fluid level is up where it belongs.
Check that first.
 

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Everything I know about hydros tells me that it's low on fluid.
RTFB (read the f***ing book :banghead3 :fing32: )
and make sure the fluid level is up where it belongs.
Check that first.
The f***ing book was the first place I went to and it says nothing about hydro fluid, checking or filling it and there doesn't appear to be any way to check it or fill it if it needs it. And that's why I posted the question here, but thanks anyway.
 

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There's gotta be a service fill port somewhere. Now...The type of fluid they used in it, now that's another question. Most hydros can get away with ATF, or in the case of my Ariens GT17 (what an absolutely awesome tractor), 5W30 motor oil.
 

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Use Honda Hydro fluid only! I think on your model the fill is under an oval plug on top of the trans held on by 2 bolts. I'd drain and refill the trans with fresh fluid. It just goes to the top of the small hole under the cover.
 

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Thanks a lot k91.....now that's some helpful information. I'll try to get out there today and see if I can take it apart and find that plug. Wait a minute......I don't think I'll be able to get and fluid on Memorial Day. Maybe tomorrow instead, but I can at least take it apart today. I wonder why it's not addressed at all in the Owners Manual?
 

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I got this information from planopower.com.
Hope it helps...

"Self Propelled Problems...

Q: My Honda hydrostatic walk-behind doesn't seem to travel as fast as it used to. What could be wrong?

A: Over time, control cables on lawnmowers will stretch with use. The hydrostatic transmission on the Honda is a precision instrument. A small amount of cable stretch makes large difference in travel speed. It is a relatively simple procedure to adjust the cables yourself, or if you take your Honda in for annual service, make sure that your dealer adjusts the cables as well."
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks johnsonmk. When I took the mower in for it's first servicing my Honda dealer showed me how to adjust the cable and I already tried that so I know that's not the problem.

k91: I just flipped the mower over and since it's a one-piece molded deck, there is no ready access to the top of the transmission. I tried to figure out how to get the transmission out of there but it sure looks like it's a major production. So maybe this will be something better left to a professional mower repairman.
 

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John WA - Its not that bad. You have to remove the blades and then 4 bolts to drop the back baffle out. Then you can grab the trans and pop the belt off and then the spring. After that you can rotate the entire trans forward and you can see the top of it. Not sure if that makes any sense without pictures but :goodl:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
k91: I tried to find repair manuals and/or diagrams on line but came up empty handed except for some pretty pricey repair books. But you know what, with your explanation in hand I may at least just give that a try. I can always take it in if I can't manage it. Thanks a lot!
 

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:goodl: John! Just watch the bolt on the right side near the discharge chute they tend to rust fast and then the nut which is more like a flat rectangle with threads in it will turn and strip out the deck.
 

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John,
My bet is that you have lost some transmission fluid.

For me: Success!

My transmission was low on hydrostatic fluid. One of the seals was leaking- visibly. I bought a new seal from Honda and was able to install the seal and filled up the fluid without removing the transmission via the rotate the transmission trick and a self invented trick: stand the mover up vertically. Required removing a deck underside belt cover to verify that the belt was good [I replaced belt anyways], remove the belt tensioner spring- when removed allows the transmission to be rotated but not enough! Remove one wheel/bearing assembly nearest transmission as this was the side where the seal was leaking. After the seal was removed and installed, I had to rotate the transmission to get access to the top filler plate and rotate the entire mover vertically on its front wheels so that the oil reservoir cover was right side up and level. From there I proceeded to remove the filler cover plate and diaphram, add oil, rotate the drive shaft and repeat this process until no air bubbles. Put the cover and diapham on, reassembled wheels and tested it out.

It cost me about 25.00$ which includes a new belt to fix it myself. I used 10W30 synthetic oil for topping off the fluid.

Worse case: If you are going to use it as a push mower - cut the belt and remove it and remove the drive gears behind each wheel. Pushes much easier and you'll gain back some lost engine power.

John WA said:
EDVITEK said:
Hello John:
I have the same problem with my Honda HRB317-HXA Lawnmower. How did you solve it? Was it low on fluid? Was the clever way of accessing the transmission (rotating it) recommended. My belt, wheel gears, and cables are all in adjustment. I hear the growl when its cold. Sometimes it will drive just fine when I first start out then it slows way down and then when it warms up it seems to be a little better. I'm hoping its just the fluid level.
Hi EDVITEK,

I apologize for taking so long to respond to your private message but I rarely visit My Tractor Forum these days and I only now saw it when I signed in for the first time in months. I don't know what happened as I thought I was supposed to get an email when someone sent me a PM?

To answer your question, I just figured that the repair was somewhat beyond my mechanical ability so I chickened out and took it in to the dealer that I bought it from. They checked it ($40) and told me that the transmission was shot and that a new one would cost about $300 and another $200 labor and other parts to replace it. Needless to say, I elected not to do it (I paid $700 for the mower new) and it is now being used as a push mower until I buy a replacement. I've been looking around to try to get a used commercial mower with a pressurized oil system as I believe my conditions are just too much for a standard mower. Otherwise I may just spend more and get a new commercial mower.

From your description it does sound like your mower is doing the exact same thing that mine was. Since you emailed me in January, I am guessing that yours has either already been repaired or replaced?

Again, sorry I didn't get the message sooner!

Happy mowing,
John
 
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