2016 Sept. Tech Metal & Shop
A little while back, I fixed a John Deere lawn tractor for someone. It had been neglected for a long time and needed inner tubes, new fuel lines, and a good cleaning.
When I tried removing the fuel line from the gas tank, the "fuel pickup" elbow connector broke. That's because it was made of cheap plastic. There seems to be a replacement part for it, but it's plastic and could break again.
The way I fixed it, that's no longer an issue.
Brazing and welding can be dangerous. Please read the Disclaimer.
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In This ArticleTransaxle
She Clean Broke Off
Before you get started, realize that a lot of these small John Deere tractors have K46 transaxles that go bad easily. The price of a new transaxle is very high. In many cases it makes more sense to buy a new tractor.
The value of one of these tractors, unless they had an upgraded transaxle installed ($$$$), is maybe $200. Don't get taken by someone who wants $1,000+ for one; if the transaxle hasn't failed yet, it could fail tomorrow. Honest dealers will sell these tractors as strictly "as-is" and mention the transaxle issue.
I've read that it's not the transaxle maker's fault; the tractor companies decided not to use the manufacturer-recommended oil in the transaxle. However, let's face it: someone decided to design this transaxle so that it's not easy to change the transmission oil. Would it have cost them that much to put a drain plug in it? Doubt it.
Machines that take away maintenance features are not doing you any real favors. Another popular one these days is to make mower decks where the spindles lack grease fittings. Skip these, wherever possible.
Is your tractor making a loud whining or groaning sound when you drive it? The transaxle may be going bad already. Some of these tractors fail at only a couple hundred hours. And a lot of people are rather upset about it.
Here's why I mention all this. The repairs we'll talk about in the rest of the article might not be worth doing, if your transaxle is going bad. (At the time, I had no idea about this.)
She Clean Broke Off!
Normally when you detach a fuel line, you would use a pair of pliers. This fuel line pickup was made of brittle plastic. Naturally, it broke.
There was no way I was going to let a whole lawn tractor go to waste over one little broken piece of plastic. And at the time, I wasn't able to find the individual part for sale. So I looked for an alternative.
Just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about so far: there's a black plastic siphon that goes into the gas tank on the John Deere LT series tractors. The plastic siphon connects to a black plastic elbow, which then connects to the fuel line.
If you break part of that plastic elbow-- which you probably will, because it's too weak for the purpose-- it will have to be replaced. But even if you can find the exact part (which I think is AM122215), it could break again. When it breaks, you'll have to remove the whole gas tank to fix it.
If the part were metal, it would last practically forever. Then, you could probably even replace the fuel line without ever removing the gas tank. Much more convenient and economical!
It's difficult to make your own molded-plastic replacement parts. Older stuff was made of metal, and easier to fix.
Some plastic parts can be substituted with metal, though.
I shopped around and found a metal elbow that was practically identical. Stens part #120-196.
The pickup siphon and the original plastic part were actually joined by a short section of brass tube. I don't know if the newer ones have that. This is what I used as the starting material for the new part. It was too large to fit the I.D. of the metal elbow, so I filed it down by hand.
Wouldn't fit the way it was; diameter too large.
Filed down. Remember not to braze while the plastic pickup tube is still attached...
If your tractor doesn't have the section of brass tubing that joins the pickup tube to the plastic elbow, you might have to scrounge around. A small-diameter piece of brass tubing will have to be attached to the metal elbow. Then you can fit the plastic fuel-pickup tube to it.
Gluing something that handles fuel is probably not going to work. I decided to braze it. Now, obviously, you know the parts have to be kept far away from the fuel tank if you weld or braze anything, but I just figured I'd remind you. (Disclaimer again.)
Silver braze melts at a lower temperature than bronze braze. Often you can use a propane torch to melt it. If you're working on a small part and you use some firebrick to keep the heat in, the silver braze will work great. Don't forget the silver brazing flux.
Not all my welds and brazes are ugly. This one is actually pretty good.
Silver braze is not pure silver. The typical medium silver solder, is 70% Ag. They call it "solder" but it's not really solder; it's braze. A good brand of 20 gauge silver braze wire costs more for its brand name, probably, than for the amount of silver that would be in it. And a job like this doesn't use that much wire. (By the way: Weldcote 56CF is "Cadmium-Free", not "Cadmium".)
Ready to install back on the fuel tank.
Brazing is a handy skill to have. Silver-brazing with a propane torch is very possible. Oxy-acetylene brazing is even more useful, because you can generate more heat and join larger parts. If you repair stuff that's made of metal, brazing is an important skill to have.
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