John Deere 316 Problems [Common Issues & Fixes!]

The John Deere 316, a classic lawn and garden tractor, is widely praised for its reliability and durability.

However, like any aging machine, it can come with its set of problems.

This article focuses on some of the common issues owners of the John Deere 316 may experience and offers possible solutions to address them.

Sputtering Engine Problem

Owners of the 1984 John Deere 316 model with a 16hp Onan engine have reported a perplexing issue where the engine sputters even after having changed essential parts like check valves, spark plugs, air filters, and fuel filters.

The problem is particularly vexing because it isn’t consistent. Sometimes, the engine seems to run without issue, purring smoothly, and at other times it exhibits persistent sputtering.


Given the inconvenience and potential damage that a sputtering engine can cause, it’s important to diagnose and treat the issue effectively. Below are some targeted solutions to address this problem.

Fuel Line and Tank Cleaning

One of the first areas to check is the fuel system, particularly the fuel line and tank. Debris in these components can disrupt fuel flow, leading to the engine’s inconsistent performance.

  1. Removing Components: Start by removing the fender pan, fuel line, and strainer from the tank.
  2. Draining and Cleaning: Drain all fuel from the tank. Then, add about a pint to a quart of fresh fuel into the tank.
  3. Shake and Inspect: Vigorously shake the tank to dislodge any particles. Pour the fuel out onto a cloth and examine for any particles.
  4. Repeat: If any debris is found, repeat the shaking and draining process until the fuel is clear.

Electrical System Check

If cleaning the fuel line and tank doesn’t resolve the issue, the next step is to investigate the tractor’s electrical system.

  1. Ignition Coil: If your tractor’s electrical components are original, begin by examining the ignition coil for signs of wear or failure.
  2. Points and Condenser: If your engine has points and condensers, these components are worth replacing as they can degrade over time and lead to sputtering.

Carburetor Rebuild

If none of the above steps yield success, rebuilding the carburetor may be the last resort.

  1. Purchase a Rebuild Kit: Rebuilding kits are readily available and generally come with all the parts and instructions needed for a comprehensive rebuild.
  2. Disassembly and Cleaning: Take apart the carburetor, removing every component that can be detached. Soak all metal parts in a specialized carburetor cleaner for at least 48 hours. Agitate the cleaner a few times during this period.
  3. Air Blowing: After soaking, blow out all passages with compressed air to ensure they are clean and unobstructed.
  4. Reassembly: Carefully reassemble the carburetor, following the instructions in the kit or the technical manual for your model.

Starting Issues


Another common problem is difficulty starting the machine, despite installing a new starter. When turning the key, a clicking sound may be heard, requiring multiple attempts to start the engine.


  • Starter Relay Kit: The use of a starter relay kit can often solve this issue. This kit adds a relay to bypass the original solenoid winding path through the key switch, thus ensuring a more reliable start.
  • Switch and Safety Systems: A thorough check of the key switch and the safety system, especially if they are old, can solve the problem. Consider replacing them if necessary.
  • Battery and Grounds: Check the battery posts and ground connections. Clean each wire connection and apply dielectric grease to ensure good electrical contact.

Ignition Problems


If the tractor fails to start despite having a new starter and fuel system, and power reaches the coil but not the plugs, the issue could be with the ignition system.


  • Check Points and Condenser: The problem may be with the points and condenser in the ignition system. Replacing these components and adjusting the point gap according to the manual may solve the problem.
  • Check Safety Interlocks: Ensure that the safety interlocks related to the PTO and operator presence are functioning properly. These can be bypassed temporarily for testing purposes.
  • Wiring and Fuse Check: Older tractors with glass fuses may experience issues due to aged fuse holders. Consider replacing them with automotive tab-type fuses and holders.


These are some of the common problems and solutions for the John Deere 316. Regular maintenance, coupled with prompt attention to issues as they arise, can help extend the life of this durable machine. Always consult the technical manual and consider professional help for complex issues.