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I wonder if Deere has gone from spec'ing hand lapped valves to precision ground and honed valves? That'd account for a decrease in cost (ground and honed being less labor intensive) and an increase in internal leakage.


The fact all compact tractors today have a weak frame design, versus no-frame designs from yesteryear, should clarify any doubt of the cost-cutting measures JD (and all others) have implemented.
 
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