Craftsman Riding Mower Blades Won’t Engage: 5 Easy Fixes


Did you have big plans to mow the lawn only to find out that your riding mower’s blades are not engaging? You have every right to be frustrated, but you still have to fix the issue. This problem is frequent in certain tractors from the brand, including the Craftsman LT1000, Craftsman LT2000, and Craftsman DYT4000. Regardless of the model, there are several potential culprits. In this guide, we will tackle all possible ones and give you insight into how to fix the problem.

A faulty PTO clutch, PTO switch, or PTO clutch cable are the most likely reasons your Craftsman riding mower blades won’t engage. A broken or loose blade drive belt or a faulty pulley are other common causes. A thorough inspection is necessary to ensure that all parts are working properly.

How To Engage Blades On Craftsman Riding Mower

The power take-off (PTO) clutch is one of the most important components of a riding lawn mower. When engaged, this device transfers the engine’s power to the blades through the drive pulley and belt system. 

For safety purposes, you can only engage the PTO clutch when the mower is moving. However, there are times when it won’t engage regardless of the tractor’s status due to mechanical failure or other problems. Let’s see why the blades won’t engage and how to fix the problem.

PTO Clutch Cable

While the PTO clutch is a mechanical system, it also has an electrical part. The PTO clutch cable connects the clutch to the battery. When engaging the system, the battery sparks the PTO clutch, guiding the shaft and rotating the mower’s blades.

If you can engage the PTO clutch from the lever, but the blades won’t spin, the PTO clutch cable is the most likely culprit. 

The fix depends on the problem; while you can fix a loose cable, you will have to replace a worn or damaged cable.

How To Replace The Clutch Cable

  1. Park your riding mower and turn off the ignition switch and remove the key. Allow the engine to cool down before proceeding.
  2. Set the tractor deck to its lowest position. To prevent spills while replacing the cable, we also recommend draining the fuel in the tank.
  3. Set the clutch actuator lever to the off position.
  4. Lift the tractor’s hood. Remove the fuel tank mounting bolt with a 3/8-inch socket wrench and set the tank aside.
  5. Remove the screws securing the clutch actuator assembly. Pull the lever handle and release the assembly from its housing.
  6. Remove the spring from the pin alongside the washer and cable.
  7. Release the cable retainer by squeezing it with a pair of pliers. 
  8. Release the mower deck from the tractor frame, remove the belt deck from the engine pulley and the belt guides. This will help you gain access to the clutch cable retainer.
  9. Remove the cable from the retainer under the tractor frame. Slide the deck from under the tractor and release the cable from the retainer on the deck by releasing the idler arm spring. Pull it to remove it completely.
  10. Install the new cable by reversing the steps. 

PTO Switch

Depending on the model, your Craftsman riding mower can have a clutch lever or a PTO switch. If your tractor has a switch, the component might be defective. An easy way to tell is by testing it for continuity and resistance with a multimeter – if it comes out that the switch is broken, you have to replace it.

How To Test The Switch

Regardless of the riding mower make and model you have, all PTO switches look and work exactly alike. Here’s how to perform a multimeter test

  1. All PTO switches have a row of pins marked with the letters NC (normally closed) on the side of the switch. This is the bottom row. When the switch is in the closed position, there is NC continuity between the bottom and top row of pins. You should only detect continuity between pins on the same column.
  2. To detect continuity, set your multimeter on noise and touch a bottom and a top pin with the probes (red probe bottom pin, black probe top pin). If there is continuity, the multimeter will beep.
  3. When the switch is open, you should detect continuity between the bottom and middle row (between pins in the same column). Open the switch and test for continuity. If the multimeter beeps for all the pins tested, the switch is in good working order. Otherwise, you should replace it.

PTO Clutch

In addition to the PTO cable and switch, the PTO clutch is another potential culprit. If this component is bad, the blades won’t engage even if the cable and switch work properly.

Adjusting the clutch could help if it has become loose due to vibrations. However, a defective clutch must be replaced.

Blade Belt

If you’ve ruled out any PTO-related problems, the reason the blades don’t spin could be a worn-out or loose belt. Sometimes, the belt could slip off the pulley, and in this case, you can simply slide it back on to solve the problem. Otherwise, follow the steps below to replace it.

How To Replace The Belt

  1. Park your Craftsman mower on a flat surface (such as your driveway). Stop the engine, remove the key, and engage the brake.
  2. Set the mower deck on the lowest setting. 
  3. Remove the plastic cover on the deck that protects the blades belt assembly. Next, remove the mower deck from the tractor frame.
  4. Slide the belt off the pulleys and remove it. Replace with a new belt. 
  5. Attach the mower deck back to the frame and replace the plastic cover. Start the mower and test if it works.

Pulleys

Lastly, the problem could be a jammed PTO or idler tension pulley. The PTO and idler tensioner pulleys are located close to the deck. Grass clippings, mud, and other debris can easily accumulate around them and jam the system. Rust and corrosion could also damage them.

How To Fix Pulleys From Being Stuck

The first thing to do if you suspect a pulley problem is to get under the tractor and inspect them. If they are rusted or corroded, remove and replace them with new pulleys. If there is a lot of accumulated dirt and debris, here’s how to fix them: 

  1. Park the mower on a flat surface, shut off the engine, and engage the brake. Remove the key from the ignition. 
  2. Release the deck from the tractor frame and take off the belt. Remove the pulleys. 
  3. Clean the caked mud and debris from around the pulleys.
  4. Lubricate the pulleys with WD-40 or a similar lubricant. Lubricating the parts and keeping them clean increases lifespan. 
  5. Reinstall everything and test the mower. 

Don’t Forget To Check The Wirings

Troubleshooting riding mower blades that won’t spin can be challenging, especially if you’ve worked your way through the fixes above, but none solved the problem. 

Something you should know as a Craftsman riding mower owner is that some models have a poor design, and the wires connecting the clutch to the switch often become loose or damaged. Thus, if you’ve tried everything above, but the blades still don’t spin, don’t forget to check the wires.

Give Proper Care To Your Lawn Mower

Maintaining your riding mower properly is paramount if you want to keep your vehicle in top conditions. 

The most important thing to do is to clean the deck after each use. Inspect the various components periodically, especially the belt and pulleys. Replace the belt as soon as you see signs of wear and keep the pulleys lubricated to prevent rust and corrosion

The electrical part doesn’t need a lot of maintenance, but knowing that all other parts are in top working order could make troubleshooting easier.

FAQs

How much does a PTO switch cost?

PTO switches are inexpensive and easy to replace. You can expect to pay around $15 for a new part. 

What is an electric PTO switch?

An electric PTO switch is a button designed to engage the mower deck belt when you pull it and disengage it when you push it. Technically, it does the same thing as a PTO lever; the main difference is that the lever engages the belt mechanically.

What is a blade brake clutch?

A blade brake clutch (or PTO clutch) is a device that allows you to disengage the mower blades without stopping the engine. However, to engage the blades, the engine must be running.

Summary

Troubleshooting your Craftsman’s mower blades that won’t spin isn’t difficult. There are only a handful of components that can cause this problem. 

To make things easy, start by checking the belt and pulleys. If they’re in top working order, move on to inspecting the PTO clutch, switch, and cable. No matter the culprit, we hope this guide has helped you fix the disengaged issue.

Related: John Deere Mower Blades Won’t Engage: Troubleshooting Guide

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