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.
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 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.
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 it’s 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.
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. To use the oil check port I’d need to take the left tire off of the tractor to get to it. I contacted Hydro-Gear again about the proper location. They responded quickly saying to use the oil check port on the side I didn’t want to blindly add 2 quarts of oil in case there was oil already in the system that didn’t drain out. The service bulletin said overfilling was bad for the device.
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 it’s oil or filter changed, but it was back in action for now!