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Discussion Starter #1
I want to acknowledge what a great resource this website is for those that are new working on lawn tractors, especially with situation that is the Tuff Torq K46. Brief history: I have a JD D130 (2017?) with 73 hours on it and I have a not flat, but only slightly inclined ~1.5 acre property that I mow and maintain with this tractor. I got it last summer with 57 lightly-used hours on it and I think I've been thorough with the maintenance for such a low hour count (plugs, a/f, oil, fuel filter, blades, and keeping it in the garage). I have a rather small 10 cu ft trailer that I use regularly to clean up leaves, haul fallen branches, and handle a heavy load here and there (firewood or similar), as well as a lawn aerator used twice a year. The tractor has never given me any signs of an issue or cause for concern, but I became interested in the idea of changing the oil in the transmission recently when I was changing the cracked original ground drive belt.

With that interest in preventative maintenance, I've recently read up a fair bit on the shortcomings and prevention techniques of the K46. I learned about the necessity of removing the unit from the tractor, how the recommended oil is now a 5W-50 synthetic, and that, under heavy service (which I prefer to subscribe to for most things, including our vehicles), it's recommended to change the fluid at 50 hours and then every 200 hours thereafter.

With three quarts of 5W-50 synthetic on hand, I took the transmission out this morning, carefully and thoroughly cleaned the case with compressed air to prevent contamination, popped the cap, cleaned the magnet (only a light coating of fine), and inverted the unit over a drain pan (which produced oil that appeared to be in very good condition). I filled the unit with two quarts of oil (that's all I got out) up to the bottom of the magnet (as it was), reinstalled the magnet and cap, and reinstalled the unit in the tractor. Post install, I followed the typically found advice for bleeding air which includes having the tractor's drive wheels off the ground and running it back and forth.

I was initially elated because I noticed the transmission was much quieter than the typical hydrostatic groan/whine emission but quickly found that anything more than flat ground yielded an almost complete loss of forward motion. Oddly, pressing the forward pedal further made it slip more and pressing it more lightly seemed to yield progress, just very slowly. I completed another brief session of bleeding by pulling the freewheeling lever and depressing the forward and reverse pedals to help work out any additional air, presuming this to be the issue. It could be placebo, but it did seem to be more willing to move forward after that, but only very slightly. I was able to complete my mowing by exercising great patience on any slight inclines, often finding success in letting off the forward pedal and reapplying lightly. I will also note that it would sometimes make a light and intermittent squeak noise (similar to a dry bearing or hinge) if I briefly persisted with holding the forward pedal down while not moving.

After getting it back to the garage, I took a peek underneath only to find everything seemingly in order, including what I believe to be the right belt tension (it seems really light as far as most belt tensions go, but it's not hanging down?). I'm perplexed as to how I went from a unit that displayed no symptoms of failure with very clean oil and no metal on the magnet to having a unit with the now-correct synthetic oil that is quiet, but slips? I thought it may have been the new ground belt, but I ran the lawn aerator (while it was cold out) after the belt change with zero issues.

Thank you for assisting with this - I hope the details will reveal an obvious step I've missed!

TL;DR: I changed the oil in my well-operating K46 and now the tractor doesn't want to move when faced with an incline. Everything seems fine otherwise. Help?
 

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Did you top off the fluid after bleeding it?
Is the tension on the drive belt correct?
Are the splines stripped out on the plastic pulley on top of the trans?
 

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Rich
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Make sure the free-wheeling rod is attached and fully to the front of tractor. Further purge the trans by doing multiple quick starts both forward and reverse with the engine running at full speed. Oil level may be low - there is a divider in the fill hole which separates the 2 halves of the K46. Oil must be above that split so that both sides are full. Since you said you added 2 quarts the level should be good, that's all mine ever takes.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Did you top off the fluid after bleeding it?
Is the tension on the drive belt correct?
Are the splines stripped out on the plastic pulley on top of the trans?
I did not recheck the fluid after installing the unit, but I did recheck to ensure I put in the same amount of oil that I got out. I poured in two quarts and then emptied the drain pan into the two bottles.

I didn't consider that possibility of the pulley - is that a known issue? I'll check and see. It does indeed feel like something up that alley since it works until I ask for more torque and then it slips. It's the sensation of getting unstuck from mud where slower and lighter does more good than spinning your wheels.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Make sure the free-wheeling rod is attached and fully to the front of tractor. Further purge the trans by doing multiple quick starts both forward and reverse with the engine running at full speed. Oil level may be low - there is a divider in the fill hole which separates the 2 halves of the K46. Oil must be above that split so that both sides are full. Since you said you added 2 quarts the level should be good, that's all mine ever takes.
The free-wheeling rod is indeed all the way forward. I did not detach it during R&R of the transmission as you can slip it through the hole in the frame easily.

I'm going to attempt additional air purge techniques. As I mentioned above, I don't think it's an low oil condition as there's definitely two quarts in there and that's what I got out. I did also note that the fluid was at the bottom of the magnet when first opened and there were no signs of leaks anywhere.
 

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Rich
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Yes the pulley stripping out is quite common, but at low hours I doubt it. Unless it was a defective pulley to begin with or installed wrong.
You didn't mess up the linkage adjustments I hope.
 

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This is one reason why i have long ago recommended not opening a hydro system unless there is a problem. Ive seen many instances where good working systems are rendered damaged after well intentioned preventative maintenance is done. One of my own customers has a 2017 D130 with 900 hours on it..used commercially, its on its 3rd deck, 4th steering overhaul...trans has never been touched.

Your issue does sound like a release valve not seated, or belt slip. Try to pull back on the clutch pedal and see if it changes any
 

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Great to see a post from you
RED-85-Z51.
. You were a big help to me when I first started piddling with lawn tractors 10 years ago. I've always appreciated it.
I've had 2 Deere tractors with K46's that would not pull, turned out to be the belt slipping.
Link to one of the threads. LA130 with Dead Trans
Cannon
 

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I have a Murry which started doing the same thing. I'm sure it's a different trans, but the same symptoms of light pedal pressure and it moves, heavy pressure and it slips. It was a bad belt.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
This is very encouraging. I’m wondering why a brand new belt would slip unless I got oil on the pulley or the tension spring is too weak (it really seems like the tension is too low on that belt).

I’ll take it being a belt, spring, or both 5x over before I want it to be a failing trans (as much as I want one of those upgraded K66 units)
 

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Great to see a post from you
RED-85-Z51.
. You were a big help to me when I first started piddling with lawn tractors 10 years ago. I've always appreciated it.
I've had 2 Deere tractors with K46's that would not pull, turned out to be the belt slipping.
Link to one of the threads. LA130 with Dead Trans
Cannon
Yeah, its been a long long time.

K46 caught heck but it wasnt a terrible unit. The general trans plastic models are far far worse.
 

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This is very encouraging. I’m wondering why a brand new belt would slip unless I got oil on the pulley or the tension spring is too weak (it really seems like the tension is too low on that belt).

I’ll take it being a belt, spring, or both 5x over before I want it to be a failing trans (as much as I want one of those upgraded K66 units)
Did you use an OE Deere belt? If not, that could be your problem.
 

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This is very encouraging. I’m wondering why a brand new belt would slip unless I got oil on the pulley or the tension spring is too weak (it really seems like the tension is too low on that belt).
Since it wasn't slipping before you took it apart and changed the oil, my guesses, in order of probability would be:

1. The belt isn't routed properly

2. You got the wrong belt.

3. Something wasn't put back together properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yep, used a G20006 belt, OEM markings and whatnot. I am very certain (and thankful) that it's only the belt slipping at this point. It smells noticeably like burning rubber if I continue to push it when slipping, along with a very audible squeal. The belt is definitely not tight, but it's not falling off either.

I double checked the belt routing when compared to a diagram I found online. Seems to be in the right places (and I don't see how else it could go in such a simple layout). I'm starting over. I ordered a new belt and a new tension spring (just in case). As soon as I get them, I'll pull the deck off again and replace those two parts and see where I'm at. I completely agree with your logic about it not being put back correctly, but all I did was pull the bolt on the crankshaft and the spring on the tensioner to remove the belt from around the transmission fan.

Thank you for your feedback on this issue so far - I feel like I'm fighting a problem with an invisible cause, but I'm sure it'll become evident the next time I look at it.
 

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It's possible, and wouldn't be the first time, that the computer system at your parts supplier lists the wrong part for your application.

Or it could just be that you got a bad belt. As I've often said to others, just because a part is new does NOT mean it's good! Whenever you replace a part and a problem occurs, troubleshooting should start all over again from the beginning and any new parts should receive the same scrutiny as the rest of the parts on the machine during inspection and troubleshooting.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I definitely recognize that from my experience with wrenching on cars; always plenty of DOA parts to go around. I did match the PN on the belt that came off, but I didn't compare the lengths. I've kept the original belt and will compare them when I change it out this second time in a few days.
 

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Was there something wrong with the original belt? If not I would re-install it and be done. The original belt should last for at least 10 times the 73 hours it has on it now.
 
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