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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all -

I picked up an LX188 from an elderly gentleman who bought it new and had it maintained at the local John Deere dealer all its life. Some of you helped me diagnose an issue with it stalling when I engage the PTO. Well it's much better now after running fresh gas through it. I put new blades on it so it doesn't have to work as hard when mowing. Someone made a comment in my previous thread about the 48" deck being "a lot" for the 17HP Kawasaki engine. Indeed, this thing will barely pull itself up my front yard (which is admittedly steep) with the blades running. To get the blades running, I have to have no load on it (can't be in the grass) and the engine bogs almost to the point of stalling. I have to wait for it to catch up before I begin to cut. When I let out the brake, the hydrostatic transmission draws it down a bit too - before I even try to move it. Deep grass and it crawls along barely running (though does continued to cut). Downhill is no problem. Overall it cuts really nice after performing the manual-recommended height and leveling procedure. It just seems to lack power. Is that just the way it is? If so I can live with it, but if there's something wrong I'd like to address it.
 

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There is something wrong! The 17HP engine can run a 48C deck and not even break a sweat in normal grass.
From the description of how it runs, and you did very well BTW, my first thought is it is only running on one cylinder. There are a lot of reasons for this and some are very expensive, others not too much.

With the parking brake engaged, engine running, slowly remove one spark plug wire. You should hear it ticking as it sparks. If it keeps running when you get the plug wire away about an inch, reconnect it and do the same to the other side. If there is an ignition problem, it will probably quit when you remove the "good" side. Could mean a bad plug, coil, plug wire, pulser coil, or heaven forbid, the ignition module. Something I highly recommend with this engine is to set the spark plug gap as nearly the same as possible on both plugs. And this might be the first thing you should check, even if you just installed new plugs.

Another thing that happens is a pushrod can fall out of position and compression will be incorrect on that cylinder. It may still try to fire occasionally, but won't make enough power to do it's share of the work. This can easily happen if a piece of carbon gets under a valve, a valve sticks open for just a split second, or the lash just got too loose. Removing the valve cover on the side with low or no compression is best to check this. A compression test can be done if you have a tester.

Let us know what you find out and we'll go from there.

tommyhawk
 

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Turbojimmy,

I have a LX-188 myself with a 48" deck and as Tommyhawk mentioned, a 48 nice deck is no problem for a 17hp Kawasaki. I do agree with Tommyhawk's analysis that you might only be running on one cylinder. Please keep us posted with your findings.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
There is something wrong! The 17HP engine can run a 48C deck and not even break a sweat in normal grass.
From the description of how it runs, and you did very well BTW, my first thought is it is only running on one cylinder. There are a lot of reasons for this and some are very expensive, others not too much.

With the parking brake engaged, engine running, slowly remove one spark plug wire. You should hear it ticking as it sparks. If it keeps running when you get the plug wire away about an inch, reconnect it and do the same to the other side. If there is an ignition problem, it will probably quit when you remove the "good" side. Could mean a bad plug, coil, plug wire, pulser coil, or heaven forbid, the ignition module. Something I highly recommend with this engine is to set the spark plug gap as nearly the same as possible on both plugs. And this might be the first thing you should check, even if you just installed new plugs.

Another thing that happens is a pushrod can fall out of position and compression will be incorrect on that cylinder. It may still try to fire occasionally, but won't make enough power to do it's share of the work. This can easily happen if a piece of carbon gets under a valve, a valve sticks open for just a split second, or the lash just got too loose. Removing the valve cover on the side with low or no compression is best to check this. A compression test can be done if you have a tester.

Let us know what you find out and we'll go from there.

tommyhawk
Thanks. I was hoping it was something that could be fixed, hopefully relatively inexpensively. I'll do those checks. I do have a compression tester, too. It does smoke birefly at startup, but only when choked. Gray smoke so I figured it was fuel - it goes away pretty quick.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thanks both for your replies!

It is indeed running on one cylinder. I pulled the left-side plug wire while it was running. It didn't affect the idle so I figured that was a clue right there. There was spark on that plug though. I walked around to the other side and yanked the right-side plug. It quit immediately. Probably also explains the smoke (unburned fuel). The plugs are new so I'm not sure that's the issue. I can swap them out and see if that's the problem tomorrow.

So now I need to find my compression tester. I saw it not too long ago - one of those things that you always find when you're not looking for it.

EDIT: The curiosity was killing me so I swapped the plugs. The plug on the non-firing cylinder looked like the day I put it in. Brand new. Not fouled, no fuel on it either. Swapping the plugs did NOT move the problem. So there's something going on with that one cylinder. Starting to feel more expensive....
 

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Eventually you may want to get the latest version of the Component Technical Manual CTM39 for info on the JD K series liquid cooled engines. The Service Manual gives little to no info for engine servicing. In my older version, Rev. Oct. 93, I have noted several errors in the metric to inch conversions. Use the metric figures and do your own conversions to verify.
To do a compression test, ground both spark plug leads, throttle lever full open without engaging the choke. Seems like you know your way around this procedure already, so it should not be anything new for you. Just a reminder. This engine has no compression release to throw you off.
A couple things you will want to know is compression should be around 170 PSI, max. variation 20 PSI. I wouldn't be too concerned if the compression figure is somewhat below 170. (Seems kinda high to me as premium fuel is not required)
Valve to tappet lash for the FD501V is listed as .006".
Spark plug gap is .028".
Valve lash adjustment recommendation is 300 hours.

An occasional cloud of smoke on start up is pretty normal for these vertical Kawasakis. As long as it doesn't use a lot of oil, don't let it bother you. Embarrassing, yes, but normal for it's age.

I commend you for taking the bull by the horns. When you get this rascal all figured out, you will really enjoy this rig. One of my favorites!

tommyhawk
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Eventually you may want to get the latest version of the Component Technical Manual CTM39 for info on the JD K series liquid cooled engines. The Service Manual gives little to no info for engine servicing. In my older version, Rev. Oct. 93, I have noted several errors in the metric to inch conversions. Use the metric figures and do your own conversions to verify.
To do a compression test, ground both spark plug leads, throttle lever full open without engaging the choke. Seems like you know your way around this procedure already, so it should not be anything new for you. Just a reminder. This engine has no compression release to throw you off.
Yeah the manual doesn't give you much mechanical info at all. I'm going to pull the valve cover off to make sure everything's moving like it should, then find my compression tester. A google search found a couple other people with the same issue where cleaning the carb fixed it. When I first got it, it wouldn't run at all. I took the carb off and blasted the passages with compressed air. That got it running. It's hard to envision a carb issue where just one cylinder is getting no fuel at all but that appears to be the case. I'm still going to check the compression, but I would think even a low compression cylinder would still be drawing in fuel if it was present in the intake manifold. If compression were really weak I'd think I'd see oil in that cylinder. Unless the exhaust valve is stuck open. Dunno. Lots of variables.

Hopefully something simple. I'm looking forward to seeing how this thing really performs. Based on the looks of the new plug, that cylinder has not fired in the few months I've owned it. I have about an acre-and-a-half of steep terrain to mow and it did okay yesterday. I can't imagine what it would be like with double the power!
 

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So I went home around lunch time and pulled the valve cover off of the "bad" cylinder. A pushrod fell out. A clue! Or rather a smoking gun! It wasn't damaged from being out of place, so I just popped it back in. It runs awesome! Totally different attitude now. It sounds mean, and the 48" deck now roars like a monster. Now that I have enough power and RPMs, the mulching blades actually mulch! I could smell the dust and dirt burning off that cylinder's exhaust manifold so that cylinder hasn't had fire in a while.

Thanks for the advice!
 

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So I went home around lunch time and pulled the valve cover off of the "bad" cylinder. A pushrod fell out. A clue! Or rather a smoking gun! It wasn't damaged from being out of place, so I just popped it back in. It runs awesome! Totally different attitude now. It sounds mean, and the 48" deck now roars like a monster. Now that I have enough power and RPMs, the mulching blades actually mulch! I could smell the dust and dirt burning off that cylinder's exhaust manifold so that cylinder hasn't had fire in a while.

Thanks for the advice!
Did you set the lash???
 

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No but I will. It will fall out again if I don't.

It could. Best to do both cylinders.

I was going to ask if the plug on the down cylinder was wet with fuel?

Came across a LX188 just recently. Was doing a new gas boiler and A/C unit on this guys house. We had the new equipment stored inside the garage for a couple days till we could start the job. Was sitting between the two garage doors. It was set up for winter with a single stage snow blower.
We had to go back the first hot week to check out the change over to A/C. Make sure it is all working okay seeing it was to cold outside when we put it in. By then he had the 48" deck on it.
 

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Did you get back to work on time? LOL
Way to go! As mentioned, pick up a couple new valve cover gaskets (o-ring look) and go through the adjustments on both sides with the engine cold. That ought to take care of it for a while.
Like it now, huh?

tommyhawk
 

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Discussion Starter #13
It could. Best to do both cylinders.

I was going to ask if the plug on the down cylinder was wet with fuel?

Came across a LX188 just recently. Was doing a new gas boiler and A/C unit on this guys house. We had the new equipment stored inside the garage for a couple days till we could start the job. Was sitting between the two garage doors. It was set up for winter with a single stage snow blower.
We had to go back the first hot week to check out the change over to A/C. Make sure it is all working okay seeing it was to cold outside when we put it in. By then he had the 48" deck on it.
The plug was dry as a bone - that was kind of a clue. Must have been the intake valve pushrod that fell out.

Yes I'll do both cylinders. I read that the pushrod will sometimes fall out after they sit for a long time (which this one did). The theory is that the valve stem gets gummed up with the valve open. When you try to start it, the valve doesn't close and the valve drops out. I dunno. Best to check the lash anyway.

I have a guy mow every 2 weeks - he does a much better job than I can and he's cheap. It takes 3 guys an hour to mow and trim. But every 2 weeks is a bit too long - the grass gets pretty high, and I'm too cheap to have the guy come more often. So I figured I'd fill in the gaps with some sort of tractor. When I saw it on Craigslist for $350 and knew it was a good deal so I snagged it. Also...my driveway is 500 feet long. I use a snowblower with a 28" cut to clear it (takes forever), but it would be nice to have a plow for light clean-up. The driveway is steep so I have to get it down to dry pavement in the winter in order to keep from sliding off into the neighbor's house. So I'm on the hunt for a plow for it. A snowthrower would be really cool.

The deck was hard to get on and off at first, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. I mowed when it was raining yesterday so I'm going to have to take it off and clean it.
 

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Did you get back to work on time? LOL
Way to go! As mentioned, pick up a couple new valve cover gaskets (o-ring look) and go through the adjustments on both sides with the engine cold. That ought to take care of it for a while.
Like it now, huh?

tommyhawk
Yes! I was kind of underwhelmed with it. I had no perspective so I figured that's the way it is. I'm so glad I asked the question here! It's a great machine now that it runs right!
 

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I am glad that you got it figured out turbojimmy, I think you will really like this machine. I cut 1.5 acres with mine and it looks like a carpet after I am finished.:bigthumb:
 

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I am glad that you got it figured out turbojimmy, I think you will really like this machine. I cut 1.5 acres with mine and it looks like a carpet after I am finished.:bigthumb:
I was thinking the same thing! Like a carpet. The first time I tried it I scalped the lawn in several places. Leveled the deck and adjusted the wheels per the manual and it does awesome. I have a lot of elevation transitions and it does great.

My front yard carpet. Done on one cylinder!:
20170531_183925.jpg
 

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:unknown:
The plug was dry as a bone - that was kind of a clue. Must have been the intake valve pushrod that fell out.

Yes I'll do both cylinders. I read that the pushrod will sometimes fall out after they sit for a long time (which this one did). The theory is that the valve stem gets gummed up with the valve open. When you try to start it, the valve doesn't close and the valve drops out. I dunno. Best to check the lash anyway.

I have a guy mow every 2 weeks - he does a much better job than I can and he's cheap. It takes 3 guys an hour to mow and trim. But every 2 weeks is a bit too long - the grass gets pretty high, and I'm too cheap to have the guy come more often. So I figured I'd fill in the gaps with some sort of tractor. When I saw it on Craigslist for $350 and knew it was a good deal so I snagged it. Also...my driveway is 500 feet long. I use a snowblower with a 28" cut to clear it (takes forever), but it would be nice to have a plow for light clean-up. The driveway is steep so I have to get it down to dry pavement in the winter in order to keep from sliding off into the neighbor's house. So I'm on the hunt for a plow for it. A snowthrower would be really cool.

The deck was hard to get on and off at first, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. I mowed when it was raining yesterday so I'm going to have to take it off and clean it.
Pretty soon you will be telling him that you will just do it. lol

With my lawn business it would be cheaper to come every week. Kind of like snow plowing. The deeper it gets the more it costs. lol

My usual guy called me late this season. The grass was like 2' high the first time I cut it. Now I got plenty of dead stuff laying everywhere. Going to try and get my lawn sweeper over there tomorrow. Last time I cut it was Sunday.
 

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Pretty soon you will be telling him that you will just do it. lol

With my lawn business it would be cheaper to come every week. Kind of like snow plowing. The deeper it gets the more it costs. lol

My usual guy called me late this season. The grass was like 2' high the first time I cut it. Now I got plenty of dead stuff laying everywhere. Going to try and get my lawn sweeper over there tomorrow. Last time I cut it was Sunday.
It may come to that. They do a good job, but I do get some satisfaction out of doing it myself. This is my second mowing season in this house. I kind of inherited the landscapers - just continued what the previous owner was doing. It's by far the biggest property I've had to maintain and this machine helps a lot!
 
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