Category Archives: Automotive

Craftsman 917. 273220 Tractor with a Kohler Command Twin CV25S Engine Starting rough, Poor performance

Winter has arrived, which means it’s time to winterize the outdoor power equipment for the season to keep everything running in tip top shape. The blower, whacker, and pressure washer are winterized, but the tractor has been having some trouble running lately. The Kohler CV25S engine will start fine but after a few seconds it will die. If I pull the choke out for a minute I can get it to stay running though. I did a cylinder leak down test, the first cylinder had excellent loss values, while the second cylinder was leaking air like a balloon with its end cut off. The spark plug was also covered in carbon

So with a leak down test that negative, and thinking I heard air coming from the oil pan, I decided the probable cause was weak piston rings letting the combustion gasses into the crank case.

Next step, take the engine off the tractor!

Taking a peak inside was pretty disturbing/ The cylinders appeared to be in great shape, but the piston head was a bit… neglected?

The cylinder head had quite a bit of carbon build up I’d need to clean off. You can also notice on the right side of the head oil stains from where the head gasket was not sealing correctly against the engine block. A possible culprit to the starting issues! This would also mean I incorrectly diagnosed the issue as worn pistons rings. This is more likely where the issue is stemming from.

The sides of the piston and the rings appeared to be in great condition. No carbon buildup inside of the grooves, the oil control rings looked like they were operating correctly. After reading some more on a few tractor forums it seems the rings on the Kohler Commands rarely need their piston rings changed. I already had the piston out at this point, might as well re-ring it and deglaze the cylinder

The top of the piston, however, was in roughed up shape. It looked like something had been sucked in through the intake and bounced around for a while!


The intake valve was in good condition. It made a proper seal. I cleaned off some of the carbon on the shaft but didn’t think any lapping would be required.

The exhaust valve was in worse condition. The bottom of the valve had something slimy on it that elbow grease and an ultrasonic cleaner was unable to remove. I’d have to take a wire brush to it in order to clean it off.

The seats were in good condition, no scratches or blemishes that could keep the valves from seating properly.

The head after a little bit of cleanup. You can see here where whatever was hitting the top of the piston also hit the bottom of the head.

The head gasket on the Kohler Command engines before 2003 was a rather poor design. The new gasket design is much more substantial.

I decided that since the engine was already disassembled I would go ahead and replace the head gasket on the other cylinder at the same time even though it isn’t having any issues right now. More experienced people that myself also recommended cleaning the valves as those are the normal culprits to poor performance with the Kohler Command engines.

I ordered
* 2 24-841-04-S head gaskets (might as well replace the other one while I was at it)
* Cylinder honing tool to deglaze the cylinder
* Fuel pump and filter
* 24-108-05-S piston ring set
* 2qt of 10w-30 oil and a 52-050-02-S filter
* 6 ft fuel line

to complete the engine winterization process.
6 feet ended up being near exactly the mount of fuel line I needed to replace every piece of fuel lines from the tank to the carburetor.

After I received the parts I got to work deglazing the cylinders and getting the new piston rings installed

Got everything back together, and accidentally broke the oil pump! Ordered a new one off of ebay, waited a week, and got everything running again!

After taking it out for a spin I realized the engine was surging pretty bad:

I took the carburetor apart again to look for any remnants of dirt or gunk in jets or passageways.

Unable to find anything wrong, I decided to purchase a cheap knock-off replacement carburetor from Amazon to rule fuel issues out of the equation.

After receiving the new carburetor I found I was still experiencing the same issues. The only other troubleshooting steps I could think of would be the coils. The Kohler Command twin engines were manufactured with “smart spark” modules that adjusted the spark timing to improve engine performance. Kohler released a parts bulletin back in 2013 stating the entire spark system was being obsoleted for a different version of coils.

I found other videos on youtube stating similar symptoms, so I decided to replace yet another part, the Kohler 25-707-03-S kit.

Unfortunately, after replacing the entire ignition system and flywheel the problem persisted. After another leakdown test the intake valve on the number one cylinder was still leaking.

It was time to turn to the professionals.

I took the cylinder head to a local small engine shop to get it properly cleaned. Unfortunately again, not even the pros could do it correctly, after reassembling the engine the problem still persisted.

Changing Transaxle Oil and Filter on Craftsman 917.273220 with Hydro-Gear 222-3010L 163198 Transaxle

My Craftsman tractor was making whining noises when engaging the transaxle to move forwards and backwards. A quick email to Hydro-Gear was responded with a service bulletin stating low oil levels could cause the transaxle to operate “nosily”.

The model and cross reference numbers are found on the bottom of the transaxle. The cross reference number relates to how the transaxle is externally hooked up to the tractor. The model number is the actual transaxle itself. I found multiple model numbers that were the same but the cross reference was different like the 210-3010L which is the same as the 222-3010L it’s just oriented differently.

How to read a Hydro-Gear label

I used the 210-3010L manual for this procedure.

I went to AutoZone to pick up the required 66.7oz (2.08 quarts) of 10W-40 oil. While I was there I noticed a mispriced oil drain pan for $8!

The easiest way to get access to the transaxle is to remove the rear fender from the tractor. 3 bolts under the seat, 2 under each side of the foot rests, and 1 under each wheel well. Everything was 14mm. I removed the gas cap and unscrewed the motion control arm handle to let the fender slide right off of the tractor. I then removed the fuel tank brace and propped the fuel tank up against the steering wheel. I went to town with an air hose blasting dirt and grass out of the nooks and crannies. The service bulletin stated it was preferred to use air over a pressure washer to clean the transaxle, and the cleaner it was before changing the oil the better the chance that debris and contaminants wouldn’t get into the oil.

Top of the back of the tractor looking down. The seat would usually be here.

I disconnected the oil filter and let the oil drain for a few minutes. It didn’t look too dirty compared to what comes out of the engine after a year of use, but this was my first time playing with oil in a transaxle and wasn’t sure what “dirty” entailed. After that I removed the 7mm hex plug right next to the oil line coming out of the filter housing. It took some force to get it off, but oil drained for a few seconds after… Wait a minute, a few seconds? There was only 1/2 to 1 cup of oil in the whole transaxle when there should have been ~8. I thought I had found the issue! I called up my granddad, who I inherited the tractor from, and found out that he didn’t know there was a filter or that the transaxle was even serviceable. I hoped that there weren’t worn out or stripped gears in it because of this lack of maintenance. The tractor didn’t have any previous problems with moving or holding its weight when on an incline, so the functional pieces in it had to still be in decent shape.

I ordered a new transaxle belt, oil filter, and a pair of oil filter pliers to complete the job. I figured as long as I had the entire tractor apart I’d go ahead and change the mower deck belts (1) and (2) at the same time.

The transaxle had a thick rubber hose with a stopper in the end of it coming out of the top of the body. This was connected to a port right next to where the manual said the oil should be filled from. The port was on the side of the housing though, pouring oil straight into the port would be a messy endeavor. I took the stopper out of the tube and used that to fill the reservoir.

Location of the oil fill and check ports

The manual did not state how to check for the proper amount of oil besides “fill to the appropriate level”. I saw some YouTube videos talking about filling within an inch of the oil fill port, others saying when oil came out of the check port the housing was filled with the appropriate amount in it. I contacted Hydro-Gear again about the proper location. They responded quickly saying to use the oil check port on the side.

I started adding in the oil and waited to see it start coming out of the oil check port. I closed up the port and turned the tractor on. With the transaxle set to “neutral” (the lever that lets you move the tractor while it’s turned off) I slowly pushed the direction/speed lever back and forth a dozen or so times. This made the transaxle push the new oil through the system and get rid of any air trapped. I turned the tractor off and again added oil until it came out of the check port again, and repeated the forward/backward process. I then engaged the wheels and with the back tires propped up again repeated the forward/backward process. This time the transaxle wouldn’t take anymore oil, the bleeding process was complete!

After the oil and filter had been replaced, putting the tractor into motion made far less noise, probably because it was being properly lubricated. I don’t know how much life had been taken away from it considering it had probably never had its oil or filter changed, but it was back in action for now!