My first Power King (Jim Dandy?)

I this tractor, a 1979 1612 Power King (?), purchased ser. no. 49212, about five days ago. It came with an attached 48″ mower and the owner said that it had only been used for mowing, evidently since new. I do not have any mowing and do not need the mower but will use the tractor primarily for snow removal and some hauling of firewood and other yard chores.

Upon first inspection it looked to be in good condition. The battery was very weak but it did start and I drove it a little. It shifted and handled OK, the clutch seemed fine, the steering was tight and the engine ran smoothly. The only thing I noticed was that the front tires were toed-out about an inch and that the right front tire was rubbing the side of the spindle slightly. It appeared that it should be an easy repair although an inch toe-out did seem odd. So, to make the first part of my story short I went back the next day and bought it thinking that all-in-all it was in pretty good shape for being 42 years old and did not appear to need any major repairs and if all it did was mow then it probably had avoided any rough work and the accompanying wear and tear.

When I got it home and started to clean it up and do the normal maintenance check list of checking/changing all fluids, engine tuneup, etc. my first big surprise came when I removed the gas tank to clean it. It had a small amount of gas in it and when I lifted it up and tipped it to one side all of a sudden gas started pouring out of the bottom. There was a rust hole on one end of the bottom. When it was in the tractor it did not leak. Evidently the tanks have baffles in them and there was so much crud in that portion of the bottom of the tank that it sealed off the hole until I tipped it and dislodged some of the crud. The tank was beyond repair. First surprise.

While jacking the tractor up to work on the front axle I happen to notice that the left rear tire/wheel was loose. When I took hold of the top of the tire I could rock the whole tire/wheel assembly back and forth. I jacked up the rear and found that the tire/wheel/axle assembly was quite loose in the final drive housing. I could move it forward and backwards and up and down and in and out. Yikes! Surprise number two $$$.

After taking the floor pan and fenders off to work on the rear end I noticed that the four bolts that secure the torque tube to the back of the transmission were all about a turn or two out from being tight. There was so much grease and dirt around that area that I didn’t spot that problem right away. Surprise number three and also a mystery as to why. Now my confidence in the condition of the machine was waning.

It turns out that this tractor had very little if any maintenance. I discovered that both final drive gear cases had essentially no oil, only a thick, oily, silvery mixture of sludge. The silver color being metal fillings. By now I was really getting disheartened. I knew I was in big trouble $$$. Fortunately when I checked the differential it did have about two inches of oil in it but it does not have the small of gear oil, nor does the thick paste from the gear cases. Another mystery.

After two days I finally got the left side final drive case opened up (had to buy a large gear puller to get the wheel hub off of the 1-1/4″ axle) and found that the bull gear, axle and all needle bearings are ruined. The pinion gear appears to be OK. The hub might also be bad because it had begun fretting on the axle and was wearing the key and keyway in the axle. I’m not to hopeful about its condition.So at worst I might be looking at two bull gear/axle/bearing assemblies plus seals, snap rings, etc. WOW!

I have found several other problems caused by negligent maintenance (lubrication) but not as major as the gear cases.

This has really been a learning experience for me. None of the major problems were apparent when I did the original inspection. I have looked at many old vehicles and machinery to purchase through the years but never had anything like this slip past me. If I ever look at another Economy/Jim Dandy/Power King tractor to buy the very first thing I will do is go to each rear tire, grab the top and give it a strong shake to see if there is any lateral, longitudinal or axial play. That might be the first indication that the rear axle assembly may not have been well maintained as far as lubrication and “Buyer be Ware”. And I now realize that that is a very expensive part of the tractor to repair if the parts are even still available.

So my nice clean tractor purchase has now become a major disassembly and repair instead of a general checkup and maintenance and easy front end repair. What is odd I think is that the mower deck is in reatively good condition. All of the blade spindles are tight and smooth turning, the idler pulleys are both in good shape and there is relatively little rust overall. A box came with the tractor that had a new blade spindle, a new idler pulley and some other mower parts. It appears that the mower deck was getting all of the attention maintenance wise. It has the serial number decal still on it so it could probably be dated. Maybe it is not the original deck but it appears to be. I don’t have the number at this moment but if anyone is interested in the number I will post it.

I had not been very familiar with the somewhat confusing model designations of the tractor and thought I had purchased a Power King but apparently I have a Jim Dandy. I have since learned that the 1979 1612 is a JD and that the 1614 and up models are true PKs. While going over the parts list for the rear axle I found a number of differences between the two. The most significant being that the JD has a smaller diameter bull gear, 5.7″ compared to 9.6″ for the tne PK and the axle is shorter, 8.25″ compared to 11.75″ for the PK.

You will notice in the attached photos that there are no markings, decals, that indicate it is the smaller JD. That seems odd to me. Apparently the JD also had the small 8″ front wheels. I did notice the small wheels when I first saw it but thought that was because it had been set up for turf work wheels only and that I could change them out for the 12″. However, I have since found again through the parts drawings that the spindles are different lengths relative to the wheel sizes. In order to change to the 12″ wheels I need to go to the shorter spindles. Also the 12″ wheels have a hub with lug bolts where the 8″ wheels do not. Not as simple a swap as I originally thought. But all of that pales in comparison to the rear end situation.

That’s not all but this post is too long already so I need to end it for now. In hindsight if I had known what I know now about it I would not have purchased the tractor.

Just thought you might find this story of my first experience with a PK (or JD or..?) of some interest. I certainly have a lot to learn about these tractors. Unfortunately it appears that I am getting a crash course.


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