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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hope this isn’t too much information, but it seems like multiple issues have happened at once. I’m new to riding mowers and at a loss. Has been running ok-ish, bought used just 2 months ago to cut about 1/4 acre lawn every week. Don't know how old it is but ID pic attached.

Mowing last week noticed the engine intermittently sputtering. There are bumpy spots in the lawn, and sometimes when my butt leaves the seat, it sputters because of the safety cutoff. But this happened on flat spots. I always mow in late afternoon so the grass is dry.

Today I just finished 30 minutes of mowing, it sputtered again on the bumpy spots but also on flat spots - again - where the seat wasn’t even jiggling, and 2 times, cut off completely like fuel starvation, when I was barely rolling. But it would start again.

After I (luckily) finished mowing, I tilted it on one side about 12” in the driveway and scraped all caked on clippings from under the deck. I lifted the seat and carefully examined the wires for something loose, but nada.

Afterwards it wouldn’t turn over at all, now theres only a very soft almost inaudible click.

And for some reason, now it won’t shift out of neutral or roll

Checked the obvious things
  • park brake is disengaged (or engaged no difference)
  • half tank of gas
  • fuel filter is clean
  • new gas
  • the blade drive lever is not engaged
  • transmission shift lever is in neutral
  • seat is completely down
  • depressing foot pedal/brake/clutch or not makes no difference

It has a brand new Apr.’21 battery but I cleaned the terminals and cables, and put my trickle charger on, which shows a full charge.

The headlight doesnt come on but I never noticed if it worked before.

I have the manual and under “Engine clicks" and "will not turn over”, I did the things I know how to do.

But I wondering if anything obvious comes to mind.. because the 2 issues - sputters/won’t start and won’t roll are related? Could it be the “operator presence” safety switch on the seat? Fuses? Spark plug?

I don’t have a truck or trailer so getting it hauled to a repair shop 30 mi. away will be a majorly expensive undertaking…

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Lemme first say I'm not at all familiar with the Sabre mowers, so everything I state is "typical" and may not apply!
Your transmission is hydrostatic and they do not roll freely! You should have a lever/rod/knob someplace to push or pull into the "free wheeling" mode. Manual should state about towing.

Thinking your sputtering and no start are seat switch related. Do you have a multimeter? If not you'll need to get one. A box store meter will be sufficient. If you have a meter, check for 12 volts at starter solenoid. If 12 volts on small wire, check for 12 volts on larger stud with wire going to starter, NOT battery.

If no volts to solenoid, check seat switch... with meter! I believe switch should show open with no one on seat and closed with 100+ pounds on seat. Switch can be bypassed, but we're not aloud to post about that, sorry. If seat switch appears OK, check brake switch. No clue where it is, but someplace with/on brake pedal linkage. Again only thinking this, switch should be open with brake disengaged and closed when brake engaged.

The only other item I have are fuses. Remove and check with meter... eyeballing doesn't count! Also, with fuses out, turn key "On" and check fuse clips for voltage... one should have voltage, one should not. Replace fuses and check fuse clips again for voltage...both should have voltage.

Without a wiring diagram I really can't help much more. Maybe someone has one and could post it. Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thanks for trying to help. I found the release under the rear axle so I was able to roll it back into the garage.

I really have no electrical experience to speak of but I found this old meter I use to test flashlight batteries. Can it be used for this? If so, I don't know how to use it, where to set the dial to do the tests you recommend. (or if I could get shocked from touching the wrong thing). The price range for multimeters is all over the place, from $20 -$150. I see Ace Hardware has this one. Could you recommend an inexpensive one that would work well for lawnmower troubleshooting?

I'm still looking for where the solenoid and fuses are but the starter is on the right side (pic below). This Sears troubleshooting video Riding lawn mower engine won't turn over or click has a lot of info although it would be very challenging for me to pull off all of these steps. But I have time and not money so "welcome to the world of riding mowers".

I see theres a lot of oil around there I never noticed before. I hope thats not a sign of blown head gasket or something terminal.

Attached is a wiring diagram from the manual. I uploaded the whole manual (11MB pdf ) here on Google Drive should you care to download it and have a look


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I'm not exactly sure on your meter settings, but try this... NO danger of getting a shock! Turn dial on meter so the end with the white line is at the "50" on the left side under "DCV". Touch red meter lead to Pos (+) battery post and black lead to Neg (-) battery post. Needle should swing to the right. Since meter is set on "50", you'll be reading the middle DCV black numbers. Needle should stop around 2 or 3 lines to the right of the "50" on the scale. But, you're set for "50" so you actually 2 or 3 lines over from the "10" or 12 or 13 volts DC.

Now that you're a pro at using a meter, let's put it to use! Locate the starter solenoid. This will have your battery cable from the + side on it and another red wire that goes to the starter motor. There will also be 2 smaller wires, maybe a black going to ground and maybe a purple going to the brake switch. Make SURE brake is "On" and blade switch is "Off". Put red meter lead on purple wire, black lead to ground or - battery terminal if it will reach. Your may need a third hand here, but now turn key to "Start", and you should see battery voltage. If meter shows "0" volts...or no needle movement..., look at brake linkage and make sure something is pushing against the brake switch... a switch someplace the brake linkage touches!

While you search for the switch, see if you can locate the 15 amp fuse. I don't know if it'll be a round glass fuse or a rectangular automotive type fuse. Let's stop here for now and post what you've found and any questions. We're here to help!

Post battery voltage and voltage at small solenoid wire. Bob
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks. I'm trying to grasp this - maybe just some semantics, I'm new to this - so pls. hang in there

I found the solenoid behind the battery. Apparently I'll have to disconnect and remove the battery to access it. Is this good with your process or is a connected battery key?

...But, you're set for "50" so you actually 2 or 3 lines over from the "10" or 12 or 13 volts DC.
I think theres a word missing? When I'm doing the solenoid wire tests, I should change the setting on the meter to 10, so if things are working right, readings should be 12 volts or more?

Make SURE brake is "On" and blade switch is "Off".
There's the parking brake on the floorboard easily moved with with finger and thumb, and the foot brake, which takes quite a bit of pressure to depress, basically another person if I'm working in the back (unfortunately theres no one else around, maybe a cinder block?). Not following "blade switch", you mean make sure the lever on the steering column that engages the blades is down / not engaged?

.., look at brake linkage and make sure something is pushing against the brake switch... a switch someplace the brake linkage touches!
I don't really know what a brake linkage is. A cable like on a bicycle? Or a hydraulic line like a motorcycle? Could you re-word this: I'm not sure if you meant "make sure something IS"... or "ISN'T"...pushing against.... Or what you mean by brake "switch" when I have a pkg brake lever and a foot brake pedal. I understand theres a switch for brakes somewhere in the electric harness system deep inside the mower somewhere. I'm guessing I'd have to remove a lot of parts to find that....
 

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The battery must be connected to perform any and all voltage checks. How are small wires connected to solenoid, with a push-on connector or nut holding wires in place? If push-on connector, are both wires in one plug? Not critical, but what color are the wires.

Meter setting & readings. Looking at the settings for the rotary switch and comparing the settings to the scale where the needle moves to could get very confusing, especially when set on 500 or higher. We won't be using those settings, so 1 less issue to cloud things up!
The numbers where you set the dial switch are the maximum readings that you can measure on that setting. We're looking for 12 volts, which is over 10, so you'd go to the next setting for the dial, or "50". Looking up at the scale, under "DCV" you'll see 3 sets of numbers in black. The center set of numbers ending with 50 is where you be actually reading. Near the left of that scale is a 10 and a 20 which is where your needle should stop. Once the needle has stopped look above the 10 & 20 and at the small lines on the 250 scale. You'll see 10 small lines between the 50 and 100. But since your meter is set to 50, that also means 10 small lines between 10 and 20, so each small line is 1 volt (but only when meter is set to 50! It's confusing until you do it a few times. That's one of the reasons I asked you to check your battery voltage. You should be getting somewhere around 12 and you'll have a better understanding of how to read the numbers.

Linkage: Anything between your brake pedal and the brake shoes in the wheels is considered "linkage". It could be a cable or hydraulic line, as you mentioned, but with your tractor is steel parts! When you press the brake pedal, it pulls on 2 arms that engage your shoes against the brake drums. Someplace in that arrangement should be a switch. When you push the brake pedal, it pushes on the switch. You'll probably have to remove your mower deck, but you should then be able to crawl under the tractor, reach up and move the brake pedal, and see what moves. Someplace in that linkage will be a switch that gets pushed when the brakes are applied. There's a shaft that goes from one side of the tractor to the other and I'm thinking the switch is somewhere near that shaft. I'm also thinking the parking brake lever on the floorboard is nothing more than a lock for your brake pedal...push brake pedal, move parking brake lever to engage, release brake pedal, and brake is locked in park position. Brake switch may also be located on this linkage too, I don't know!
You'll also have a switch in the system that starts/stops your mower deck. Move lever and try to find a switch that's pushed against when deck is "Off"/not engaged.

Sorry I can't be more precise in where this stuff is located, but, as I said, I'm not familiar with the Sabre tractors. You've got the tractor in front of you so look at things first before you start taking it apart! It may be right in front of you or it may be buried and dismantling required. Keep looking and KEEP asking! Bob
 

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You are getting excellent help from @rwmeyer I am not going to muddy the waters here by jumping in with my .02 worth. First, right under the steering column between your feet is a brake lock lever. When you push the brake and push that lever to the left it appears your brake will be locked and (if it works right) the brake switch should be in the correct position to start.

You asked about oil and are concerned about a head gasket. That is just a little seepage from around the full tube. Easily fixed with either a new O ring on the bottom of the tube or just a rag to wipe it away. Very little leaking out so no worry there.

Follow Bob's advice and trouble shooting tips and you should be up and running in no time.

Bob--This looks very similar to the STX38 machines and very clean!
 

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Brad, You're input is MORE than welcome! I have a 314, 317, & 322 so these are the ONLY tractors I'm familiar with. The info...and hopefully help... that I offer is from looking online or looking through partscatalog.deere.com.

Although he still has questions, I think (??) I've helped OP with a meter, but feel free to "muddy the waters"!!! Bob
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Keep looking and KEEP asking! Bob
Thanks Bob, I "kept looking" and think I fixed it. [fingers x'ed).

With the battery out I got a good look at the solenoid and the mess of wires there and the fuse. It's location makes it a challenge to work on. The problem seemed to be the positive battery cable connection at the solenoid, where the rubber hood/dirt cover had melted all over and I couldn't see that the copper cable had separated from its endpiece connector. Also the last person who worked on it didn't bother getting the right length battery cable and instead, apparently just removed the 2 bolts holding the solenoid to the frame to gain an add'l 6" length. The solenoid was just hanging by all its connecting wires! I tried to repair the cable but took a trip to AutoZone.

With a new battery cable and with the solenoid bolted down, it starts up again right off, and shifts into gears and moves as intended. What a nice surprise!

So my initial thought about the seat sensor was misplaced. And this kind of mower doesn't just roll because its in neutral, it has to be running apparently. With the battery out I also happened across the hidden oil fill cap JD secreted in a deep recess below it. I haven't changed the oil yet but thought the fill tube was up front.

Thanks for suffering through my long-winded post and amateurish questions and staying upbeat. I was really cringing to think of going through with some of the suggestions, e.g. pulling the deck off this particular mower would be hugely involved. Thanks for the invaluable lesson about using my cheapo multimeter. I can see why getting a good one and learning how to use it might be an essential tool.

So some very frustrating moments but overall a good learning experience for me (and possible others here) as I'm going to have fix it myself as much as possible going forward. Pull out the battery first and check all the connections to the solenoid!

I'm curious what the unit to the right of the solenoid is in attached pics might be? I originally thought that was the solenoid when looking through the wheel well as it looks similar. It's missing female connectors. There are 2 purple wires loose in the battery compartment not connected to anything.

Thanks for your help!
 

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I'm gonna take a guess nd say the other part is the original solenoid, probably didn't work, and po left it there and just bolted in a new one.

Although you didn't get the chance to test your meter skills, I think you learned a little about using a meter as well as some basic troubleshooting. Whether this tractor or another, if you're going to do your own repairs you WILL be using a meter again!

Here's a little more into for you! Go to https://partscatalog.deere.com/jdrc and create a free account. At some point in creating the account, they'll ask for your local dealer, enter it! Once you get used to the site and select a particular part you need, you will find the cost of that part and if your dealer has it in stock or needs to order it.

After creating an account, log in and you'll see a model number search box. Type in "GXSABAN010789" (caps not necessary) and you'll find every nut, bolt, and part in your tractor. It's a little difficult to navigate around at first, but you'll figure it out. Your first attempt at finding something there will be the seal for your oil fill tube. Whether you need it or get it is up to you, but it gives yo something particular to look for. Bob
 

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@actioneer , This is Important!!!

The oil fill cap is NOT under the seat. I am posting an edited photo that you originally posted earlier. We'll help with info. What you see under the seat is likely the Hydraulic fluid reservoir. It either has a site tube or will have a small dipstick.

When you start your tractor and go to drive it and it won't move, remember the tranny release lever you moved so you could push it into the garage. Put that back and you'll be good to go.

Take your meter and do some practicing with it. Just put the red lead on the + battery post and the black on the - post. You'll get the feel for it in a bit. You can also get the feel for the ohm meter portion as well (great for checking for broken wires). That looks like a nice little meter and it will become your best friend as time goes on, almost as handy as a 7/16 wrench!

Here is where you drain and fill your engine oil:



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Now I am not sure if this engine takes a filter or not, you may have to look at the other side of the motor. If it does have a filter you will need to get a similar filter. Drain the oil from the horizontal tube by pulling the plug. While it's draining, remove the filter. When done draining, replace plug on tube. Put some clean oil into the filter (so it absorbs but really doesn't sit in there loose), put filter back on. Then, fill thru the the top of the fuller tube. Not sure how much it will take to fill, but close to 2 quarts I would imagine with filter, maybe less if no filter. Clean up mess from oil that missed drain pan.

Glad you found your issue! What I would do if I was you (and you cannot get old solenoid off) would be find a suitable place to mount it where no wires/posts contact metal.

Don't hesitate to check back with us as you progress should you have any questions.
 

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It does appear that your unit has a filter. You can search for an owners manual online. Chances are you will come across this one:


Shows grease points, lube points, plus a million other things you need to know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The oil fill cap is NOT under the seat. I am posting an edited photo that you originally posted earlier. We'll help with info. What you see under the seat is likely the Hydraulic fluid reservoir.
Ok thanks for checking in and getting me back for a look Brad! What I'm referring to, tucked way down under the battery must be either a hydraulic "oil" fillcap, or transmission "oil" or someone stuck a cap on it that happens to say oil! :unsure:. Even with the battery out, I'd need some tiny pliers to reach in and unscrew it. Either way, it was odd to discover a place for "oil" way down there. You'd think JD would call it something else. I do know better than to pour oil someplace without checking the regular manual, which I have. But the tech manual is awesome. Thanks for the link! :)


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I don't see anything on the parts list that matches that. It doesn't seem your machine has a transaxle that has a fill cap. You will need to see what is under there to help figure out what it might be.
 
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