Small Engine Problems? Ask an Engine Mechanic for Answers ASAP
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The belt on your mower is spring tensioned although it does have a slotted adjustment up at the drive pulley end. I suspect that there is most likely another issue causing the problem you describe.
I have a couple of questions about your mower that will help me narrow down the source of your problem.
Let me know when you get a chance and I will do my best to help you resolve the issue.
1. A little bit. Seems to be a little worse as it warms up but still at first it can't make it up the hills.
2. I've noticed a slight squeeling sound a few times and have smelled the rubber burning smell.
Also, when it won't go up the hill (even small ones) if you rock a little bit it seems to grab and go a little better.
Thank You for helping me out with the details. Theres nothing worse then steering some one in the wrong direction due to lack of information.
Based on your description I would highly recommend replacing the belt. Once the belt has slipped it gets a hard glaze on it that prevents it from ever being able to hold as it should.
Replacing the traction drive belt is a relatively simple task. Use the following steps to install the new belt.
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If all checks out good, you should be all set.
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There are a couple of things to look at that could prevent the belt from staying tight or let the belt slip. The belt tensioner bracket pivots on a pair of plastic bushings #6. It is possible that the bracket has become stiff at the pivot point preventing it from maintaining tension. When you depress the parking brake pedal it moves this tensioner an de-tension's the belt. Make sure that the brake pedal moves freely, it would also be a good idea to spray some lube on the pivot point of the bracket. Secondly the #24 idler should be moved furthest away from the drive pulley to ensure full tension.
Since you have smelled and heard the belt slipping I assumed that the hydro unit was not the issue. It may be worth wile to check the oil level in the hydro. Unfortunately they claim your hydro to be service free and made checking the oil very difficult. The hydro will squeal when it bypass internally so it is possible you could have a hydro problem.
In order to check the oil level you need to remove the vent plug (#7 in the attached diagram). The oil should be only about an inch down from the top of the vent plug hole. You will find that the vent plug itself is very difficult to access and even more difficult to add oil if needed. The recommended oil is Low Viscosity HyGard oil. If you slightly over fill the oil level it might leak out the vent plug after the transaxle gets hot but won't hurt anything.
If you find that the oil level is ok then it is most likely that the transaxle is worn internally. Rather then discard the transaxle for a pricey new unit you can often get a little more life out of it by draining the oil and filling with 10w30 engine oil. The 10w30 engine oil is thicker and won't leak past the worn internal components as fast. The catch is that the transaxle is not equipped with a drain plug so the transaxle must be removed from the tractor and the oil drained from the vent plug #7 hole. This is not a permanent fix but it might get you by for another mowing season.
Hope this helps,