Electric Tractor Repair

by Ben N on May 19, 2014

E10 before and after

It’s been a long Wisconsin winter, but the snow is finally melted and the grass is beginning to grow. So what do you MOW it with? If you are like me, the less gasoline, noise and air pollution, the better!

I’ve had a GE Electrak E10 electric lawn tractor for some years now. It’s older than I am, and frankly, we are both starting to show our age. Fortunately, I don’t rust, but the E10 does. The whole back of the tractor looked like it was about ready to come apart, and the right rear tire wasn’t holding air. Time for a little work to keep this machine going!

DSC_1750I began by disconnecting the battery pack and removing the rear-most battery. The seat is actually a big piece that’s a cover for the batteries. That was removed too. Next, I jacked up the back to take the wheels off. That’s when the real fun began. The rims have a tube going through them which slides over the drive-shaft, and is held in place by a cross pin, which is inconveniently located on the back side of the wheel. The rims are notorious for rusting permanently onto the shafts. Fortunately, those few years back when I got the tractor, I did lube up the shafts with anti-sieze. Even then, I still needed to use a puller to get the rims off. I have a small steering wheel puller, but the spacing was wrong to get the two bolts into the rims. I ended up cutting a piece of “unistrut” and placed the puller over that the pull the rims.

DSC_1752With the wheels out of the way, I could look to see what I could do to the metal on the back corner of the tractor’s boxy body. I had just stopped the other day at a rummage sale and picked up a few pieces of medium weight sheet steel. One of those pieces looked about right to cover over the rusted out area. I made two 90 degree bends in it with my vise and hammer and pressed it in place on the back. Looked like it fit pretty good.

DSC_1755I tack welded the piece in position, and then ran a  full bead around all the edges. It was not a pretty weld. Much of what I was welding to was already rusted. It was solid though. Next, I took a grinder to make the ugliness go away. Any ugly weld can always be fixed with a grinder. After grinding, I went back with a flapper disc and smoothed it out a bit more.

DSC_1757When I was done with the welding and grinding, I hit the whole area with some white primer. By that time, it was starting to get dark and I had to pause for the day.

The next day, I picked up some more primer and paint from the hardware store. The weather didn’t look like it was going to be very nice. Overcast and threatening rain never bodes well for outdoor painting. I sprayed on some more primer, and then a first coat of yellow paint. Sure looks a lot nicer with paint. Rust is one of my least favorite colors.

DSC_1772With the body work done, I could turn my attention back to the wheels. The one tire wasn’t holding air. On examining it, the sidewalls were cracked, although the tread was still great. It seemed like adding an inner-tube would make the most sense. That’s a fairly simple fix, and a tube is about $50 cheaper than a tire! I headed to the Tractor Supply store, knowing that they always have those types of things. I was able to get a 18×9.5-8 inner tube. I also looked through by their welding and tool areas, hunting for any kind of hone or reamer for a one-inch tube. I was fortunate enough to find a one-inch “corkscrew brush”. I would be able to put that in my drill and use it to clean out the inside of the steel tube of the rim.

DSC_1765Once back home, I tried out the corkscrew brush. It worked great! With it in my drill, it cleaned out rust and anything else out from inside the rim.

On the drive-shafts themselves, I simply went over them with some plumber’s emery cloth. A little back and forth with that quickly brought them up to a nice shine.

Now for the inner-tube. Getting the tire off the rim wasn’t hard. I pretty much just stepped on it to break the bead and used a pair of pry-bars to get the tire off the one side of the rim. A sharp knife made quick work of removing the valve stem. Next, I unrolled the brand-new tube and slid it inside, pushing it around the rim. Instructions that came with the tube said to lubricate the edges of the rim and the tire with vegetable oil soap. Who uses vegetable oil soap? I did have both soap and vegetable oil. What the heck, I rubbed a little canola oil on, and it seemed to work fine as a “all-natural” lubricant.

Even then, I must have spent the next hour wrestling with the rim, the tube, the tire, and a pair of flatbars. Manually installing tires is NOT one of my favorite tasks. FINALLY, I got it all together and put air in the tube. YEA!

DSC_1774Before reinstalling the wheels, I greased up the shafts with anti-sieze. With both the shafts and the inside of the rims sanded smooth, the wheels slid right on. I reinstalled the cross-pins through the shaft behind the wheels.

DSC_1786After that, it was time for the jack again to lift the tractor and get it down from the jack-stands. I reinstalled the battery and connected the cables, then put the seat back on.

I can’t say that I’m a master craftsman when it comes to metal, but it sure looks like the tractor will hold together for a few more years, and keep doing it WITHOUT gasoline, oil, and carburetors. And if nothing else, it looks a little nicer with some fresh paint.

Til next time, stay charged up.

-Ben

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