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!

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

  1. Matt, thank you so much for this detailed write up! I have the exact same tractor and have been trying to figure out how to do the oil change for years. Quick question / favor, would you be able to snap a pic of how the three fluid hoses are routed under the transmission? I replaced mine as well and I didn’t take a pic before I hooked it all back up and I think I might have hooked them back up incorrectly. Thank you in advance!

        1. I have added an image of a bottom-up look from the ground to the bottom of the transaxle. It has one of the hoses in view with what it connects to. Can you figure out where the other one goes to?

          1. Thank you Matt!

            That definitely helps me with the bottom hose. There are another two just right above the black filter in the picture. If you were to stick the camera up just pointed a little above that black filter, you’d see two more hoses. This helps a lot, thank you so much!

          1. LOL! No need. Your picture helped – I was able to figure out the remaining two by process of elimination. I ended up replacing mine while I was in there because they were dry and cracked out and were leaking at each connection. Used brand new hose and clamps from the auto store and now I don’t have any leaks. If you ever get any leaks / drips on the ground – first place I would check would be those hoses. They were very easy to replace once the transmission was drained. Just make sure you take a picture of those hoses before you take them off 🙂

  2. did u fill the transaxle with the tube that comes out of the top of the trans? from standing behind the tractor what side is the fill and oil level check port?

    1. Yes I used the tube. the fill tube and check port are on the left side if you’re standing behind it.

  3. HELLOguys, I got question( looking for ANY HELP /INPUT) I have a Ranch King Pro with a 22 horse Kohler twin which I believe has trans axle m–222 3010 L in it..the problem I have is when the engine is started and you put it either forward or reverse it don’t move and seems to have a whining sound from the transmission. When you lift up the back end with tires off the ground and start it and put it in forward or reverse the tires spin, you stop one tire and the other Tire spins freely and faster and vice versa. My assumption is that it’s the pump motor that’s bad. I am not sure. I’m debating on whether to tear it apart look at it see what it’s the problem is and possibly fix it. But I am unsure if sticking money into it is worth it. Although the tires are in very decent shape the engine runs exceptionally well does not smoke. I believe the tractor was made in the late 90s like 1998-99 . My understanding is that Husqvarna and Sears and several others have the same transaxle as I do. I tried to remove the plug close to the break desk to check the oil and can’t seem to get a right tool in there to break it loose. If anybody can give me any kind of help on it and point me in the right direction I’d be deeply grateful..THANK YOU

  4. Matt, you ROCK!! Thank you so much for this, I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to find out how to do this!!

  5. Thank you so much for the post!

    I have an older craftsman rider and the same trans. Sadly in the sears owners manual they say the trans is not serviceable and don’t need to ever service it. Thought that was very odd because I noticed a filter the other day while replacing the drive belt. So they are letting people drive them until they burn out? Guess so they can go to sears and buy a new one huh?

    My dad bought this new and I doubt he ever serviced the trans. And I have not either. Probably why it’s always had a noise. Thought it was normal. Guess not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.