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Discussion Starter #1
I have an X540 with the 48" deck and about 250 hours on the clock. About 3 weeks ago I engaged the PTO for the mower deck and smoke came pouring out. I immediately shut it off and found the two plastic pieces shown below jammed into one of the pulleys. I have no idea where they came from but when I removed them everything seemed to work just fine. Until now.
During my last mowing I noticed a lot of belt dust buildup on the deck. I removed the deck today, cleaned everything and examined the belts to find a rubbing point. Although the deck belt had a few small marks, it looked just fine as did the drive belt which transmits power to the deck. Everything seemed to move perfectly without any resistance when I manually turned the pulleys. I cleaned the deck and ran it for about 20 minutes with same results: lots of belt dust, especially on the front left side of the deck (see photos with plastic spindle cover removed). Any suggestions for next steps?

Thanks in advance!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Those pieces parts are from the traction drive belt idler pulleys which is what drives your power train, your transmission. It came apart and fell onto the deck. Yur on borrowed time!

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Thanks. Based on this, it must be the drive belt (not the deck belts) that's getting chewed up. Is it a complex and time consuming job to replace the drive belt idler pulleys? It's disappointing these have failed at 250 hours.
 

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It is very possible that you are looking at replacing the transmission belt too. It can be a foreign object, but many times the bearings in the center of the idler pulleys seize and your belt starts melting away the pulley itself- which can very well damage the belt. I wouldn't call replacing this belt easy, but doable if can pay attention to detail.
 

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The black dust in your case does appear to excess wear and your machine does have issues. It could also be a fungus in the grass to add to the quantity that you're seeing. About every spring, my rims and deck look just like yours from the fungus.
 

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Thanks. Based on this, it must be the drive belt (not the deck belts) that's getting chewed up. Is it a complex and time consuming job to replace the drive belt idler pulleys? It's disappointing these have failed at 250 hours.
I agree. The idler pulleys on the deck are all metal. The traction belt on the other hand has a plastic idler which matches the description of your broken debris. See #16 below.

I also found a photo of idler AUC11241 on-line. The ribs look just like your debris.
 

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Failure of the traction idler pulley is not that uncommon. There are other posts with folks complaining about this plastic pulley when all the other pulleys on the machine are metal.

The biggest challenge when dealing with the traction belt is releasing the tension spring (#9) as it is VERY strong. I have seen guys who have fabricated a "pulling hook" that allows them to reach in from the back and release the tension on the spring. If you are going to tear into replacing the pulley I would replace the traction belt at the same time as you will already have everything apart.

Below is the section from my X500 manual showing how to replace the belt and tensioners.
 

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The black dust in your case does appear to excess wear and your machine does have issues. It could also be a fungus in the grass to add to the quantity that you're seeing. About every spring, my rims and deck look just like yours from the fungus.

56 is right. That dust is from the grass. You still have a problem but it's not the belt.


:greentractorride:
 

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I wish you luck. This job requires 7 hands.
I had a helluva time on my X300 a few years ago. All the steering parts, including the steering shaft gave me fits.
I had no Manual.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I ordered a new idler pulley and drive belt from Green Farm Parts. I have a couple of good spring removal hooks and a MoJack PRO lift. I hope to tackle the project this coming weekend assuming the parts are delivered before then. I'll post some "before and after" pics and a description of my repair effort.

Like much of the Midwest, we set rainfall records so mowing has been less than ideal for weeks. I've already lost track of how many times I've scraped large quantities of junk from under the deck. Until recently, the top of my deck and mower's undercarriage made it look like I'd been off roading in mud pits. I used a pressure washer to clean almost everything (when the deck spindles were cold) but now I'm wondering if that action caused the bushing on the traction idler pulley to seize. I had to get the mountain of crud out and a garden hose wasn't enough. Oh well...more to follow.

Thanks again, everyone!
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
As a follow-up to this thread, I easily installed the replacement idler pulley on Saturday. Once I removed the deck, I was shocked to discover the plastic on the original idler pulley was completely gone. The only thing left was the bearing itself which was not seized. I was surprised the X540 even moved with the idler pulley worn away. The "black dust" shown in my original photos must have been the remnants of the pulley being pulverized by the traction drive belt.

Equally remarkable, the traction drive belt was in great shape so I didn't even bother to replace it. I initially attempted to remove the belt but couldn't figure out how to get it over the PTO clutch assembly (yes, the idler spring disengaged). Removing it from the rear wasn't going to happen as the hydro fan fins presented even more of an obstacle. The X540 has power steering so there wasn't any steering linkage to contend with. I'll keep the new drive belt to have when the day comes to replace it. In the meantime, any tips for removing the belt from the front would be appreciated....perhaps removing the PTO clutch assembly is required. My X540 owner's manual has no information about replacing the drive belt so that must be in a service manual.

Back to the idler pulley issue...still shocked that Deere thought it necessary to have a plastic pulley!! I'll certainly keep an eagle eye on it going forward but the mower ran flawlessly for 5 hours on Saturday afternoon.

Lastly, if you don't own a spring hook, I highly recommend purchasing one. I use the one shown below (about $12 on Amazon) frequently for my 2-stage snow blower repairs and it's a lifesaver. Break one spring on an Ariens snow blower and the hook will pay for itself.
As always, thanks for all of the feedback!
 

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