Lawn Tractor Transmission Types
30-40 years ago gear drive transmissions were about the only transmission available for your tractor. They were built just like the transmissions in a Model A Ford or a 1953 Farmall tractor. Big, strong gears. Heavy axles and cast housings. They didn’t break but they were hard to use. You had to stop the tractor to change gears and most of the time you had to wiggle the tractor to move the shifter from one gear to another.
Because the transmissions were so heavy there was a lot of weight on the rear wheels and you could pull just about anything with them including moldboard plows. Because they were so heavily built they were also very heavy and would put grooves in your lawn if you mowed the same way more than once or twice.
Over time we asked for lawn tractors that mowed faster, turned better and didn’t cause so much damage. We no longer had the huge Victory Gardens that required plowing with the garden tractor and if we did we used rototillers instead. So the manufactures listened and changed from the heavy, cumbersome tractors to lightweight tractors that mowed well, mowed faster, turned easier and didn’t cause damage to our lawns.
Seven Types Of Transmissions:
There are now seven types of transmission found in today’s lawn tractors and zero turns. They are gear, friction disk, automatic or CVT, hydrostatic, pump/motor, electric and hybrid. I’ll spend a few paragraphs going through each type so you have a better idea of the best type for you. I am not going into the details of how each one works. Just Google the transmission type and you can read to your heart’s content.
Twenty years ago the gear drive transmission was the most popular but today automatic hydrostatic and automatic CVT transmissions have replaced them in popularity. Often called Manual transmissions this type uses a series of gears to change the ground speed of your tractor. These transmissions are not like the older styles though. They shift better, are much, much lighter and easier to use. They use and inline gear selector instead of the old H-pattern. The biggest downfall of this type of transmission is you have to stop the tractor to shift to a different speed (range). This makes them harder to use when you have a lot of garden beds and landscape features to go around.
To drive the tractor you must push in on the clutch, shift the transmission to the gear you want to use, release the clutch, and hang on. This is a dependable transmission that will give you years of service.
Some manufactures have a shift-on-the-go transmission. This is sometimes listed as a manual transmission but it is actually a CVT. These transmissions are found on the least expensive lawn tractors and are usually listed as 6 or 7 speed.
Friction Disk Transmissions
This is actually the transmission of choice for snow blowers but there are a few mowers like the Snapper Rear Engine Rider that still use this trans. It is a good, dependable transmission when used properly. It uses a friction wheel and disk to change the forward speed of your rider. Don’t use this transmission to pull heavy loads…you will tear up the friction wheel.
somebody scrapped this working honda hr214!
You can shift-on-the-go with some models but to get the longest life most brands suggest you push down on the clutch/brake pedal and then shift to the speed you want.
Automatic or CVT
John Deere originally used a CVT in conjunction with a manual transmission on the Model 110. Now days, CVT’s have now matured to the point where you find them in cars, snowmobiles, snow blowers and even heavy-duty farm tractors. There are very few parts that wear in these transmissions and the recently introduced Element V from General Transmissions for your yard tractor is now stronger and requires less worry than all the hydrostatic transmissions. CVT’s for lawn tractors essentially a belt and variable pulley system similar to the drive system in a snowmobile or mini-bike.
I predict that CVT transmissions will replace most of the hydrostatic transmissions within the next 5 years.
MTD is using this on many of it’s least expensive lawn tractors. Using one is very much like driving your car. Put the lever on the fender in F and then press the right foot pedal. The farther you push the pedal the faster you go. To go in reverse put the fender lever in R and press on the right foot pedal. This trans is designed to mow lawns and is not designed to pull heavy loads.
The Element V from General Transmissions is another CVT that you will now find in Yard Tractors. This transmission is tougher, lighter weight and takes less power than the very popular Tuff Torq K46 and Hydro-Gear T2 hydrostatic transmissions. In fact the RS 800 Element V transmission is power rated very close to the most popular garden tractor transmission, the Hydro-Gear G730. These transmissions are very easy to use. Either a fender mounted lever or foot control varies the speed and direction just like the hydro transmission you are used to. These transmissions do not need maintenance and I expect them to last the life of the mower.
To see how tough these new transmissions really are check out spot 1:27 in the next video!
There is one other form of CVT that has the possibility of also replacing the hydrostatic transmisson. Fallbrook has announced a commercial partnership with Hydro-Gear to bring NuVinci technology to the lawn garden market. Instead of a variable pulley system uses a variable disk or ball/disk system. This is the transmission of the future because it uses fewer moving parts than a gear trans, can pull heavier loads than an automatic and uses less oil than a hydrostatic. At this point in time though they are not yet cost effective for lawn tractor applications.
The most common transmission for lawn tractors today is an internal pump and motor drive system called the hydrostatic transmission. There are two types of these transmissions used in Lawn Garden equipment, hydrostatic enclosed single and hydrostatic enclosed dual. Everything is enclosed in an aluminum housing. Hydrostatic transmissions are more expensive than mechanical transmissions but they are much easier to use.
Hydrostatic – Enclosed Single
Most lawn tractors, yard tractors, garden tractors and estate tractors in the last 20 years have an aluminum housing and inside that housing is the pump, motor, differential and drive axle. These transmissions are sized to the mower application so a lawn tractor trans is designed for mowing and light hauling. A garden tractor transmission is heavier duty and can be used not only for mowing but ground engaging tasks like pulling a DR Power Grader/a. Hydrostatic transmissions are very easy to use. Either a fender mounted lever or foot control varies the speed and direction.
The residential models you find on today’s lawn tractors are sealed units and are not serviceable by you. Most of the transmissions have to removed from the tractor for any repairs. As an owner the only maintenance you have to do is periodically clean the outside of the case with a leaf blower or garden hose. They are designed to give you hundreds of hours of service for normal use. The garden tractor and estate tractor hydrostatic transmissions are heavier and built to handle heavy loads and ground engaging attachments. Most of the hydrostatic transmissions in lawn tractors do not have posi-traction or differential lock.
These transmissions are very easy to use. Either a fender mounted lever or foot control varies the speed and direction. The pedal on the left side of the tractor is the parking brake. You do not need to depress that pedal to shift the tractor. The forward and reverse is controlled by either a lever on the right fender or two pedals on the right side floorboard. To go forward push the fender lever forward or press on the large pedal on the floor board. To stop the tractor pull the lever back to the middle position or lift your foot off the pedal. To back the tractor up pull the fender lever to the rear or press the small pedal on the floorboard.
On the fender mounted control you HAVE to move the lever to the middle to stop your tractor. It will not go to neutral by itself like the foot controls.
Hydrostatic – Enclosed Dual
Two hydrostatic transmissions are mounted side-by-side in the residential zero turns. Each trans controls a separate rear wheel. That is the primary reason why zero-turn mowers cost more than the lawn tractors. Again these trans are designed for the application and most are not designed to pull loads, just mow and bag. If you want to pull a leaf vacumn or move dirt in your yard cart this is not the transmission for you.
Most of these transmissions are controlled by individual levers called lap bars that sit in front of you. This type of transmission takes practice to keep the tires from digging into your lawn but with a little practice these are very easy to use. A large lever on each side of the seat controls that side transmission. To go forward push on BOTH levers. To stop, pull them back. (The easiest way to explain how to drive a two-lever zero turn mower is to use a shopping cart as an example. With the mower turned off sit on the seat and put your hands on the two large levers in front of you. Close you eyes and pretend you are gripping a shopping cart. What do you do to move a shopping cart forward? Right, you push on the handle. To back up? Right, you pull back on the handle. To go left? To go right? Correct, you PUSH the handle in the direction you want to turn the cart. Two lever zero turns work the same way. Instead of one bar like a shopping cart, the bar is split in two and you move each side to make it move.)
Hydrostatic – Pump Motor
The more expensive commercial zero-turn mowers, stand-ons, and some golf course mowers use a separate variable displacement pump near the gas engine connected to the wheel motors with hydraulic hose or metal lines. These are usually cast iron for long life and durability. A few of the high-end commercial mowers are now using enclosed cast iron hydros.
Electric drive systems are found in the mowers like the Cub Cadet Zero/a and Mean Green Products consist of batteries, electronic controllers and electric motors. The huge advantage of this design is it uses no belts, filters or fluids so they take less yearly maintenance. If you want green technology, no gas engine emissions and 30% less noise on your lawn this is an up and coming alternative to gas powered lawn mowers. You charge the mower using normal household current. They are currently limited by battery technology and battery price but that is changing fast. Electrics are coming and I feel in the next 5 years you will see affordable homeowner versions. These machines are not lawn tractors with electric motors replacing the gas engine but true state of the art electric vehicles. There are already commercial models that will mow all day long on a single charge.
Honda HR214 Lawn Mower Blog
How I restored my Honda HR214 lawn mower, lots of resources like manuals, parts diagrams, gxv120 rebuild instructions, and much more!
Honda Hr214 Transmission troubleshooting and repair
This page should give everybody an idea of how to troubleshoot, disassemble, and repair the transmission from a Honda hr214 or hr194. I suspect much of the same information should be valid for the Honda Hr215 as well. All parts are still available from Honda, and the shop manual has a great diagram of the transmission itself on page 53 (You can download the manual at this page: Honda HR214 manuals) You can do this!
Three things to check if your Honda HR214 or HR215 isn’t moving like it should!
Wheel ratchets. There is a rachet mechanism that fits inside each wheel-they are there so you can turn the mower under power, i.e. have one wheel moving more quickly than the other. When they fail they may stop the wheel from turning at all, or they may allow the wheel to spin freely and not power the mower at all. The left rachet is different from the right, so make sure to order the correct one!
Transmission Cable. The cable that leads from the handle to the transmission gets stretched out over time. If this is the case it may soon fail to engage the transmission, or engage it on flat ground, but not on a hill, or disengage it at random. First, try to tighten the cable (it works like a bicycle shifter cable), and then replace it if it is stretched too far.
Transmission. Contrary to popular belief, these are NOT hydrostatic transmissions! The HR214 and HR215 are plain old gear transmissions and are in fact very serviceable. I would only open one up when you’ve ruled out the other two possibilities-wheel ratchets and transmission cable.
Common issues for Honda Hr214 transmissions:
These units are pretty bullet proof. Problems like having them slip out of drive on a hill, or engaging drive in a jerking motion, or not at all, are usually traced back to the cable that runs from the mower handle down to the transmission itself. The cable will stretch over time, and can be easily adjusted near the top of the handle-it works like the cable on a bicycle shifter or brake.
Another issue that come up occasionally are complaints of the mower squeaking when moving forward or backwards. This isn’t actually the transmission at all, but is almost always the ball bearings that sit in adjuster arms wearing out over time. Remove the wheels from the axel, remove the adjuster arms and replace the ball bearings-they are still available from Plano Power or your local Honda parts dealer.
Very infrequently people have more serious issues that require disassembly of the unit. My HR214 began to stay in gear and move forward even after I disengaged the transmission-pretty disconcerting when I was mowing near the lake! After a while it refused to go into gear at all, and I knew it was time to open up the transmission.
Dissassembly was pretty easy. Remove the wheels, remove the adjuster arms, and turn the mower on it’s side. Use flat head screwdrivers and needle nose pliers to disconnect the two cables, and remove the transmission from the body of the mower. When the transmission is removed, put the axel in a vice so the 5 bolts are facing up. Unscrew the bolts and remove the upper half of the transmission case.
If your transmission was in as bad a shape as mine the case will be filled with a very small amount of milky oil! Get a container for the all the parts that you remove, then wash the parts as well as the case with a degreaser. I would not remove the final gear from the final shaft because it’s held in with a pin that is a TOTAL pain to remove. My final shaft was damaged because of a worn ball bearing set (discussed above) on the adjuster arm so I ended up ordering a new shaft and gear set because I wasn’t able to separate the two on mine. Remove the rubber seals as well before cleaning.
When everything is disassembled and clean, it should look like this:
Inspect the parts for anything broken, but you probably won’t find anything amiss. My transmission just needed to be lubricated-the driven clutch was getting stuck on the countershaft because of the ancient oil. I would definitely recommend replacing the rubber seals and replacing the gear oil as well-Honda recommended 130cc of SAE 90 hypoid oil, but the modern substitute is 80w-90 gear oil that meets GL-5 specification. 130ccs is just enough to fill the lower case after all the other parts have been put back in.
Reassembly is mostly just the opposite of disassembly. When putting the cables back together make sure to to line up the marks on the levers that hold the cables with the marks on the pivots (this may not be necessary if you just removed the cables from the levers, and left the levers on the pivots). You may need to adjust the cables after everything is back together.
Symptoms of a Bad Transmission
Did you know that your transmission experiences more wear during the lifetime of your vehicle than any other mechanical component? A smoothly functioning transmission is just as important to a vehicle as its engine. It is up to the transmission to multiply engine torque to usable power to spin the wheels of a vehicle at varying gear ratios depending on speed and load. However, no vehicle owner wants to deal with transmission issues. In fact, many drivers would sooner be ignorant about the symptoms of a damaged or quickly failing transmission. This explains why the transmission is the most underappreciated, misunderstood, and neglected major component in a vehicle. As A. Meredith Walters pointed out, “Ignoring things won’t make them go away. It only makes it harder to face them when they finally come around.”
We get it. No one would wish the inconvenience or expense of a transmission rebuild or repair upon their enemy. However, avoiding the topic will not prevent transmission issues. On the other hand, understanding the symptoms of a bad transmission before it fails and taking it to an experienced specialty repair shop can both lengthen the life of your transmission and save money. Often, expensive repairs can be avoided with regular vehicle maintenance – or with a quick inspection when something unusual is noticed. For example, a solenoid block or sensor can be replaced today for a fraction of a total transmission rebuild a few weeks or months down the road.
If you do need a transmission rebuild, trust a team with nearly 100 years of combined in-house transmission rebuild experience.
In this article, we discuss 10 signs your transmission went out for your reference. Some symptoms may fall into multiple categories but ultimately consider it a red flag if you experience any one or a combination of the symptoms below.
Lack of Response
Hesitation, or outright refusal, to shift into the proper gear is a telltale sign of transmission trouble. The inability to shift can be electric, hydraulic or mechanical. At times, this may feel like a delay when shifting from drive to park before the gear properly engages, especially for vehicles with automatic transmissions. For vehicles with manual transmissions, the lack of response often takes the form of disconnect between the revving of the engine’s RPMs and actual vehicle speed. In this case, the expected acceleration of the vehicle is seemingly much lower than the sound of the engine would imply. Some describe this a transmission “slipping.”
Vehicle noises differ, depending on vehicle make and model. When determining if you should pay close attention to a specific sound, consider two questions:
Is this a sound you have never heard before? If the noise is extremely out-of-the-ordinary, you should get your vehicle looked at by your local transmission shop and a team of certified transmission specialists.
Does the sound resemble humming, buzzing, whining, or clunking? These are most commonly used to describe transmission failure noises. With hundreds of parts in a transmission, a single bearing or even a worn case can emit a troubling noise. Unfortunately, these noises are more than just a hindrance. They ultimate lead to transmission failure. It is worth differentiating noises unique to automatic and manual transmission. Often, bad automatic transmissions will emit humming, buzzing, or whining sounds; manual transmissions emit harsher mechanical noises, such as clunking. Some of these noises may relate to the engine, exhaust system, drive shaft, differentials or even a wheel bearing. At this stage, it’s extremely important to diagnosis the sound correctly.
Leaking fluid is recognizable and easy to diagnose. Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) gives life to the transmission. ATF lubricates transmission components to decrease friction and prevent overheating. It also functions as a hydraulic fluid allowing gear engagement. If ATF can leak, the transmission will operate with low fluid leading to an increased chance of overheating. This is the quickest way for a transmission to break down. If you see a pool of bright red fluid beneath your vehicle, take it to a transmission shop immediately. Take note: if the leaked fluid is dark brown or black and emits a seared odor, the fluid may be burnt; if this is the case, no minor repair or maintenance procedure can fix the internal failure already present. On the other hand, a transmission pan gasket might be compromised where a transmission power flush and pan/gasket repair can fix the problem for a few hundred bucks rather than a few thousand dollars!
Grinding, Jerking, or Shaking
Shaking and jerking are good indicators of transmission trouble. Gear grinding is a common symptom in manual transmission vehicles. Automatic transmission failure often begins with some hesitation during gears shifting. Some might describe this a “slipping,” as well. Eventually, the vehicle may begin trembling or shaking during shifting. There are alternative causes for these symptoms. Engine and transmission mounts are notorious for clunking and jerking between gears. The best way to diagnose the issue is by bringing your vehicle to a repair expert immediately to determine the true problem. Any delay will likely cause further damage.
As mentioned previously, leaked fluid is a bad sign. However, if no leakage accompanies the burning odor, your transmission fluid is probably overheating due to clutch debris, breakdown of metallic components and sludge. If transmission fluid has not been flushed or serviced on a vehicle with over 100,000 miles, this is a common outcome.
How will you know what burnt transmission fluid smells like? When ATF burns, it omits a uniquely acrid smell, closer to the stench of burning rubber than burning oil. If the transmission fluid gets extremely hot, you may even observe smoke. Once the fluid is burnt it no longer can complete its responsibilities to manage heat, lubricate parts and hydraulically shift gears.
Won’t Go into Gear
You may have found yourself in this terrible scenario: sitting in a stagnant vehicle with the engine on – and you cannot move. Your transmission won’t go into gear. Cars honk, swivel around you, traffic halts for miles… Even if you have never experienced this, any driver can imagine the situation with gut-wrenching revulsion.
So, what is the issue? If your vehicle won’t go into gear, several issues can be the culprit. A few potential issues include improper transmission fluid type, incorrect shift cable positioning, internal mechanic failure, a clogged filter, faulty clutch linkage, failing solenoids, malfunctioning sensors, or a malfunctioning computer system.
Service Engine Soon
Beyond the possibility of transmission issues, your vehicle’s Check Engine Light is designed as an incredible early indication of a problem. Do not ignore this warning sign, and do not assume that the warning light came on for no reason. The service light on your dashboard responds to sensors placed at crucial points inside the vehicle, sensors that detect slight unusual vibrations that you may not detect while driving. Don’t wait for your vehicle to begin grinding and trembling; if the Check Engine Light turns on, it is best to take your vehicle to a repair shop you trust for an accurate diagnosis right away. In some cases, a diagnostic code could point to a minor repair that prevents a major (and costly) repair. In other circumstances, the diagnostic code tells a technician a major repair (e.g. transmission rebuild or replacement) is required.
Noisy Transmission in Neutral
Pay attention to the sound of your transmission in neutral. Does your transmission “bump” or quake? Some noises, such as this, require adding or changing the automatic transmission fluid or some other simple fix. Other times, however, a more serious issue at on hand, and – as we’ve mentioned many times – taking your vehicle to a specialty repair shop is the safest and most cost-effective option. It might sound silly but many Chrysler, including Dodge and Jeep brands, vehicles require fluid inspection in neutral.
Each symptom listed above could pose risk; however, slipping gears is an obviously serious safety hazard for both vehicle owners and surrounding drivers/ pedestrians. To avoid a dangerous situation, often a driver is forced to slam on the breaks or quickly accelerate. A vehicle that doesn’t respond, or slips between gears or into neutral, poses a serious safety threat. At this point, it is a matter of public safety to take your vehicle into a professional transmission repair shop to be examined. Many modern transmissions will prevent a driver from recklessly driving with a damaged transmission by going into “limp mode” or “safe mode.” Under this circumstance, the computer system will detect a problem with the transmission and default to one gear. The vehicle will not shift between gears and will only operate in one gear, often 3 rd gear, as a safety mechanism to allow the driver to get the vehicle to a local transmission shop.
A dragging clutch is experienced by manual transmissions only, making it extremely difficult to change gears – sometimes impossible. A dragging clutch occurs when the clutch disc and flywheel don’t disengage when the clutch pedal is pushed. In some cases, a manual transmission might also “pop-out” of gear. Oftentimes, these issues are accompanied by grinding noises during gear shifting. The master and slave cylinder must be inspected as the hydraulics of the clutch pedal to clutch to flywheel engagement is often the source of a transmission misdiagnosis.
Advanced Transmission Center
Across 4 decades in the business, we are Denver’s transmission repair specialists. We provide honest communication and top-quality workmanship for every customer. Our goal: complete customer satisfaction, every time – and we have the best positive reviews in Denver to back our claims. Read below a few of our customer testimonials:
Kevin C. wrote, “Great service. This is my second time using Advanced Transmission and every time they guarantee and do quality work. This last visit wasn’t even the transmission; they fixed a leak in my differential and replaced a drive shaft U-joint that was loose. My car hasn’t run this smooth in years. If it’s a drive train problem… this is your place. Quality parts and service for a fair price.”
Recently, Dulcie C. wrote, “Superior repairs and service. The staff is amazing, friendly and knowledgeable. They care about their customers and the quality of their work. My car has never run better.”
HONDA LAWN MOWER REPAIR : Honda HRC 216 K3 Blade Clutch Rebuild Parts 1,2, And 3
Amanda D. just gave us a kind review as well: “This shop is amazing, and the manager is super friendly/helpful! I have been meaning to write this review since my first visit but have been busy enjoying the fact my vehicle is finally safe to drive and reliable. After getting the run around at 3 other shops, the technicians here were able to diagnose and repair the issues with my vehicle in less time and for about 1/3 of the price. Other shops told me I needed a new transmission, or there was nothing wrong, or that I needed to replace my entire exhaust system. None of those being the actual issue, I only needed my transmission pan resealed and new u-joints for my drive shaft. I will definitely use this shop again for future repairs and highly recommend them!”
These are only a few examples of the reviews we receive from satisfied customers. At Advanced Transmission Center, we approach customers with honesty, setting our work apart with uncompromised integrity. Our free TrueTest TM Inspection pinpoints your vehicle’s specific issues – so you only pay for the repairs you need. Feel free to get in touch with us at either phone number below or via our online contact form.
Southwest Metro Denver (Lakewood/Littleton): Call (303) 922-4102 Northwest Metro Denver (Westminster): Call (303) 421-4140