King of the Lawn: LX176 Project

John Deere LX176

John Deere LX176 on loan to us from a neighbor in exchange for the work to get it running.

There are many things we love about our new life in the great Midwest. We’ve got real seasons, a great environment for raising our son, great neighbors, and we’ve got the giant yard we always wanted. It turns out that yard part of the equation has really come to haunt us, though… Or at least it’s come to haunt me.

When we lived in Southern California, a decent backyard was hard to come by. One of the biggest reasons we moved to the Midwest was because of the amount of property you could have for a fraction of the cost. Of course, as long as I’ve yearned for a huge yard for my family, I never really thought about caring for it.  And there’s the rub!

To make a long story short, it’s been taking over 2 hours to mow the lawn with our non-assisted push mower and its little 21-inch blade. To top it off, I broke a toe a few days ago, and the lawn was about due for some cutting. Great neighbors to the rescue…

As luck would have it, one of our neighbors just a couple houses down has started to pay someone to do her lawn, so her John Deere LX176 riding mower hasn’t been used in quite some time. Of course, one of the reasons she opted for paid gardeners is because the tractor wasn’t running. I happen to have tools, and I enjoy tinkering a bit, so it was my civic duty to offer some help—in exchange for the use of the mower for the rest of the season. Done deal!

The only problem she was aware of was the flat tire, but walking down the street with our air compressor solved that temporarily. As it turns out, the battery was dead, too, but attaching my trickle charger would solve that problem. Or would it? Once we rolled it home, it was obvious that filling the tire with air was the least of my worries…

John Deere LX176 Corroded Battery Terminal

The battery wasn’t just dead, it was already decomposing. That was easily the worst bit of battery corrosion I’ve ever seen.

As I propped open the hood to charge the likely-dead battery, I found myself staring at the most corroded battery terminal I’d every seen.  Charging was obviously not an option, so out to the hardware store I went to pick up a replacement.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to remove the battery first.  Not only was I unaware of the core charge/refund with the old unit, but I didn’t realize just how extensive the damage to the terminal was…

John Deere Corroded Battery

Much of that crumbled up mess isn’t just corrosion, it’s the remains of what used to be the end of a bolt and a nut on the other end.

Where once there was a nut and bolt to remove the battery cable, there was no more.  The acid had completely eaten through the ends, so it all crumbled off like hard dirt as I tried to clean it, and all that was left was a corroded stud holding everything together. Luckily, there was a simple option for removing the positive battery cable from the other end.

LX176 Battery Cable

Much cleaner at this end, so the positive battery cable off and ready to be replaced.

Off the cable came, and back out to the hardware store I went.  My 4-year old son proved to be not only a great help in the garage, but he’s the perfect road companion for shop trips, and he likes to help carry stuff.  Excellent!

New LX176 Battery Cable

The Lowes nearby didn’t have the specific cable, but we’re lucky enough to have a lawn care store nearby where they specialize in all things John Deere.

No good DIY project is worth anything until you stumble upon other problems, and there were a few of those. As we were at the store, I completely forgot about the disintegrated bolt that held the old cable to the battery terminal. I didn’t want to head back out to the store for such small hardware, and then I flashed back to how my wife never understands why I hang on to all my old car parts. Vindication!

Original and Homemade

Fancy “Euro” custom setup on the left compared to the original version on the right. Works for me!

I just happened to have the perfect-sized bolt left over from the air intake swap on my E36 M3 project, so it was just a matter of hunting and pecking for a washer and nut that would fit, and voila… The perfect match. Or at least good enough for government work.

LX176 Magna Power Battery

Couldn’t find the specs for the original John Deere branded battery, but found something that should do the trick.

With the new battery installed, and a gallon of fresh gas to hopefully dilute the who-knows-how-old fuel that was sitting in the tank, it was time to fire her up.

Of course, it didn’t start.  Why would it?  I was just happy to hear it cranking, though, and I figured it was probably just because it had been sitting for at least a year, so whatever fuel was in there was probably bad.  There was less than 1/4-tank of old gas in there when I added a gallon of fresh fuel, and it has a 2.5-gallon tank, so it wasn’t as diluted as I’d hoped.  Like any car project I’ve worked on, I sort of figured it wasn’t going to start on the first try.

LX176 Intake Filter and Instant Starter Fluid

It’s rare that I seem to have random things like this on the shelf in the garage, but here’s to one less trip to the store.

After opening up the air filter housing, it became apparent that I probably should’ve picked up a new filter, but that’ll be a project for another weekend. Maybe even a full open-element performance intake? Maybe not.

LX176 Intake Filter

Gotta love a good action shot of some propellant. This was surprisingly hard to time with a camera phone.

After spraying a bit of Instant Starting Fluid into the air intake, it was time to give it another try…

Success! With half a day of working on the LX176, we now have a surprisingly impressive riding mower to use for the rest of the lawn growing ‘n mowing season. For the cost of a new battery, battery cable, oil (that was also incredibly low) and likely a new tire in the next week or so, I’d have to say it’s pretty darn good deal for us.  Although, it’ll be tough to return it when asked, and I don’t think I can ever get myself to use a push mower on our yard again.

Happy Man Mowing

Sometimes I’m an idiot, and sometimes I’m a manly man. Sometimes I’m both, like when I’m using the LX176 riding mower for the first time.

As much as I hate stupid pictures of myself, I can’t help but laugh at this one my wife took, so it’s got to be shared. That’s the celebratory look of a very happy man who doesn’t have to spend 2 hours a week sweating in the humid Midwest summer heat while pushing a tiny mower. Now I’ll be sitting back, listening to some music, and quite possibly carrying one of my favorite beverages along for company.

It’s good to be king of the lawn.