Jim's Garage

Replacing a Dodge Diesel Oil Pan


Repairing a Dodge Ram
Air Conditioning and TIPM

Repairing a Jeep
JK AC Compressor Clutch

Repairing a Dodge
with the Death Wobble

Repairing a Dodge
Sliding Rear Window

Repairing a Deere 317
48" Mower Deck

Repairing a
Deere 301 Tractor

Rebuilding a
Deere 33 Tiller

power steering to a Deere 317

Adding a sleeve hitch, hitch rod and plow

Hummer rims for a Ram

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John Deere 317 - page 2

While I was installing the new key switch and looking at the electrical system behind the operator's tower, I noticed something that I had never seen before.  I had noticed that the ammeter needle didn't seem to do much but swing back and forth with the vibrations of the tractor.  When I was in looking at the ignition switch, I noticed that there were no electrical connections on the ammeter.  This struck me a bit odd.  Normally there are at least two - current in and current out - usually the wires come from the alternator/ regulator and proceed to the battery.  On a car, they usually have a bulb to illuminate them as well.  This one had none.  I knew I would have the whole tractor apart soon, so I made a mental note to investigate why this was and how it worked with no connections to the charging circuit.

I got the deck back together and leveled it to the best of my ability given what I knew of how it worked.  I was still a bit fuzzy on that part. I took her out for another test mow.  Much better, but still not quite good enough.  However it was as good as it was going to get with my present knowledge.  I have to say that compared to what I was used to, this tractor is a beast.  It is very heavy duty compared to the 130 and the 130 puts the MTD made home center tractors to shame.  I have some cast concrete catch basins for the gutter downspouts that have been stationary for the 20 years I've lived here.  I usually edge around them with the string trimmer, then mow up to them.  I've run into them countless times with walk behind mowers and the 130 at low speeds.  They've never budged.  I got a little too close with the 317 and pushed it a half foot before I could remember to throttle back rather than use the brakes.  The contact barely scratched the paint on the deck.  The deck is so thick that it didn't even flex.  I'll have to be more careful.  One wrong move and I could bowl over my young cherry trees.

I started thinking about retro-fitting a 318 power steering to the 317.  In the mean time, I wanted to see if I could lessen the slop in the manual steering gear.  Removing the steering gear would give me the chance to do some measuring to see how the 318 steering control would fit.  The reading I had done on the swap seemed to indicate that the bracket that held the manual worm and sector steering gear was a little too close to the center line of the tractor to be able to get the power steering controller and shaft to sit perfectly vertical.  I needed to see for myself.

Manual steering gear with right side up
Left side with attached arm and a little body rust

I pulled out the battery, removed the battery pan and took a look at the steering gear.  It is an interesting setup.  There are a few more parts than are found in the usual automotive set up.  The outline is as follows:  When the steering wheel is turned, the steering shaft turns a worm gear which then turns an arm on the side of the steering box which moves in an arc.  There is a bolt on the end of the arm that connects to a flat bar through a hole with a bushing in the end of the bar.  This bar connects to an arm on a shaft that runs about half the width of the tractor's frame.  The bar swivels in bushings on the right side and extends through the frame on the left side to a clamp on steering arm.  The steering arm on the left outside of the frame attaches to a drag link which attaches to the spindle with another clamp-on steering arm.  The two spindles are connected to each other by a tie rod with ball joints.

I don't know how many hours are on the 317, but I would guess over 1000.  It appears that the previous owners didn't do much in the way of steering maintenance as the bushings between the steering gear and rock shaft were dry. Not only were the bushings worn out, but the hole in the arm was worn enough that the bushings flopped around a bit.  Both bushings on the steering rock shaft were worn and the steering gear itself was way out of adjustment. 

I spent close to a half hour trying to get two of the three bolts out that hold the steering gear to the frame.  In retrospect, it would have been easier to pull the rear sheet metal off and then remove the operator's tower to give better access to the bolts.  From the position I was attacking the bolts, it took an offset open end wrench and another 45°/60° combination open end wrench to turn the bolts one flat at a time.  Once I got the steering gear loose, it was a struggle to remove the gear and steering shaft out of the tractor.  Again, removing the sheet metal would have sped up the process.

With the gear out, I stripped it down, cleaned all parts in the solvent tank, greased the bearings, worm gear and shaft, then reassembled it.  The adjustment procedure involves first tightening the end cap (adjusting plug) to 10 - 14 foot pounds and securing the plug with a cotter pin.  The steering wheel is then attached and turned lock to lock. Mine turned 3 revolutions. Split the turns in half to find the center point.  This was a turn and a half for mine.  The gear adjustments are made with the steering gear centered half way between the locks. You are looking for a slight drag at this position and no drag on either side of center.  You then put a 0.10" feeler gauge or spacer between the steering arm and the steering shaft and snug the nut on the opposite side of the steering arm until the feeler is just able to be moved. Torque the nut to 40 foot pounds and remove the feeler. Last of all, tighten the stud and nut on the steering arm side to 40 foot pounds. Check to see that there is a slight drag in the centered position.  Once you're done with this the steering wheel comes back off and you can install the steering gear assembly into the tractor.

I made up some bushings on the lathe that fit a little tighter than the existing ones that connect the steering arm to the rock shaft.  I decided not to replace the rock shaft bushings as I was just going to pull this all back apart soon and the rock shaft would not be used with the power steering, so I put her all back together.  The steering was now quite acceptable with only about 8 to 10 degrees of slop.  It did absolutely nothing for the amount of force it takes to turn the wheel with the tractor standing still.  I did read an interesting post about adding needle bearings to the bottom of each of the spindle shafts to lessen the friction when turning the wheels, but I don't think that this will be necessary with the addition of power steering.

While working on the steering, I took some time to take some measurements.  The 3/16" steel upright that holds the manual steering gear is a little less than 1.25" from the center line of the steering shaft that connects to the steering wheel.  I'd need this information to help me design a bracket to hold the 318 power steering control valve.  Speaking of which, I found a 318 steering controller
on Ebay and won it.  A five port model which I understand to be the preferable way to go.  I've read that the early 318s came with a four port control. One port takes fluid pressure in, one port returns fluid to the hydro and one each for pushing the steering ram in and out to turn the wheels left and right.  As I understand it, the four port steering is plumbed in parallel with the spool valve that operates the lift or auxiliary components and they tended to loose power steering when the lift was operating.  The five port control has an auxiliary port that passes hydraulic pressure from the steering control to the spool valve which allows the power steering to operate even when using the lift.

So I had a steering controller coming.  It was time to make a decision on a steering ram.  I had read that a few guys had used the 318 ram, but hooking up the ram to the spindle arm was a bit of a chore.  I happened to be searching Ebay for steering components and came across a steering ram for a newer 345 model.  It looked perfect for my application.  The end that attached to the spindle arm had the same ball joint as the current drag link and the end that mounted to the frame had a large swivel with a conical stand-off.  No one else even bid on it.  Two down.  I found a set of 5 port steering hydraulic lines for cheap and bought those.  I also found a used 318 oil cooler and purchased that.  This seemed to be going well.  I wondered when the trouble would start.  No modification goes this smoothly for me.

My first issue came when I received the steering ram.  I have to say that this was my first experience with modifying a hydraulic system and I knew next to nothing about hydraulic lines and fittings.  All of the automotive systems I'd done were with factory parts that just fit.  I was in for an education.  The ram looked great.  The chrome rod showed no pitting.  The fluid that leaked all over the box it was shipped in was clean and there was no signs that the ram had been leaking before it was removed.  It came with both hoses, but the fitting on the hoses was not the same as the fittings on the 318 control valve or lines.  I had no clue as to what I needed to attach the 345 ram to the 318 lines.  Over the course of the next week, I read everything I could find on hydraulic fittings.  I found that the 318 fittings I had were a #6 JIC which was also known as a 3/8" Army/Navy or AN fitting.  The connections on the 345 ram were of a newer style known as a o-ring face seal or ORFS.  I found some fittings that connected the two, but when I went to check out, I found I hadn't met the $20 minimum order.  I decided to purchase a hydraulic pressure gauge that I could plug into the auxiliary fittings on the 317.  I had seen one of these listed as a special tool in my new 317 service CD.  Now I needed a fitting that would plug into the auxiliary hydraulic ports of the 317 and mate up to the 1/4" pipe threads on the gauge.  Lost again.  I posed my question to the Yahoo Deere group, but didn't even receive a reply.  I was on my own - again.  I finally learned that the quick connect hydraulic fittings were probably made by Parker Hydraulics and the item I needed was a AG Series (ISO 5675) quick coupler  I took a chance and placed the order.  When the parts arrived a few days later, everything fit.  I got lucky again.

I now had my 318 5-port control valve in hand.  The first thing on the agenda was to measure the outside dimensions of the valve body.  It was about 3.035" square.  This put the center line of the steering shaft at 1.5175".  This was 3/8" more than I wanted.  I now had a couple choices.  I could either cut out the 317 steering mount and weld in a new one or I could work with the existing mount and angle the steering shaft a few degrees to get it to clear the hole in the dashboard.  Decisions, decisions.

By now, Halloween had come and gone and the leaves were beginning to fall from my trees.  I mulched the leaves that had fallen with the 317, then went over them again with the trusty 130.  The 130 has the high lift blades and really does a great job of shredding the leaves.  No raking for this boy.  I figured that I'd only have a few more weeks of mowing before the lawn went to sleep and I could handle that with the 130.  I was looking forward to getting the 317 into the basement and getting started.  I had to pull both sliding glass doors off the entrance to the basement, but in less than an hour, the 317 was in the basement and up on jack stands.

With the body off, it's time to pull the engine.
It's even easier than yanking an old VW bug motor.
Everywhere I look, parts are covered in dirt.  I wish I would have borrowed a power washer and cleaned it before moving it into the basement.
The steering rock shaft is removed and checked for play.  Both bushings are pretty sloppy, but it won't be used with the power steering.



© Fager 11-20-10