John Deere Won’t Move Forward or Reverse: 7 Problems

Is your John Deere not moving forward or reversing? This is a more common problem than you think, as many other owners have also experienced this same problem. 

There are several reasons a John Deere won’t move forward or reverse. The issue may be due to a dead battery, transmission failure, defective drive belt, damaged tensioner pulley, low hydraulic fluid, flat tires, or the absence of an axle key. 

Fortunately, most of these issues are easy to fix. Read on as I discuss why the John Deere lawn tractor won’t move forward/reverse and highlight all the quick fixes. 

Dead or Bad Battery

The first reason your riding lawnmower won’t move may be a dead or failing battery. A dead battery will be unable to power your machine’s engine, and if you can’t power up your engine, you won’t be able to ride forward or reverse.  

Fix: If the battery is dead, I recommend charging up the battery and testing if the engine responds. However, if the engine doesn’t pick up, you must buy a new mower battery.  

Transmission Failure

The transmission of the John Deere lawn mower helps control the machine’s speed and direction. If this crucial component fails, you’ll notice your lawnmower moving slowly or in only one direction. 

Fix: Unfortunately, you may be unable to repair the transmission. For this reason, I recommend consulting a skilled repairer for assistance. You may have to purchase a new mower if the damage is severe.

Defective Drive Belt

drive belt is a lengthy, continuous loop of flexible material that transfers power from the lawn tractor’s engine to the wheels. So, if the drive belt on your mower is damaged, the machine won’t move forward or reverse. If you notice your machine’s engine is running, but the wheels don’t spin, the main culprit could be a worn-out or damaged belt.

Fix: Replacing a bad drive belt is straightforward and should take about thirty minutes. For this task, you will need an air gun, sockets, a wrench, and a replacement belt. 

First, raise your tractor slightly and activate the emergency brake. Then remove the engine pulley; the belt should be visible between the shaft and steering column. Next, loosen the bolt holding the steering column, as that allows you to remove the other part of the belt. When done, use your socket to loosen the bolts so the belt can come off. 

Remove the old belt and put in the new one. Screw your bolts back in place. All that is left to do is confirm that everything is working as it should, and that’s all; your tractor is good to go again. 

Expert Tip: Ensure the drive belt is properly attached to the lawn tractor’s pulley system to prevent the belt from falling off. 

Damaged Tensioner Pulley

A tensioner pulley is in charge of keeping the drive belt in place. The tensioner pulley is typically plastic and is prone to wear after prolonged use. So, if you notice the mower’s drive belts fall off, and the belts appear in good condition, the tension pully is most likely faulty. 

Fix: Replace any worn-out pulleys with new ones. Also, ensure the tensioner arm remains lubricated so that it can move smoothly. 

Low Hydraulic Fluid

The John Deere riding mower’s transmission system is a critical component that keeps the machine running. This component requires hydraulic fluid to lubricate the system and keep it working perfectly. If your machine has a low hydraulic fluid level, the transmission system goes through more stress and eventually causes the mower to stop moving.  

Fix: Ensure the hydraulic oil level of your John Deere mower is at the right levels. Pay attention to any strange sounds and carry out periodic check-ups. Also, check the hydraulic filters and verify that they are in good working condition. 

Tip: Some hydraulic fluids contain chemicals that cause skin irritation. So, I recommend wearing gloves when handling hydraulic fluid. 

Flat Tires

If your machine’s tires are flat, you’ll experience more difficulty moving forward and reversing. You may also notice the machine starts veering uncontrollably. 

Fix: Check the John Deere tires and inflate the flat tires. All tires should have equal pressure to prevent random movement.

No Axle Key

The axle key locks your machine’s axle to the wheel. The mower’s wheels won’t move if the axle key is absent because the power from the engine isn’t transferred to the wheels. From experience, the axle key usually comes off when servicing the mower’s wheels.

Fix: Retrace your steps and look for the key on the floor or around your workstation. The key is around 3 inches long and squarely shaped. 

Once you find the key, spin the affected wheel on the machine and ensure both rectangular holes on the wheel are aligned. Then, insert the axle key in the square once the rectangles align. If you can’t find the key, you’ll have to buy a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my riding mower transmission is faulty?

Keep a close eye on the engine when it’s running. If the pulley spins but the wheels do not turn, the transmission is faulty. Unfortunately, if this is broken, you may need to purchase a new mower because the transmission is irreplaceable.

What fluid can I use in my John Deere hydrostatic transmission?

I recommend using the John Deere All-Weather Hydrostatic fluid for your transmission. This fluid was specifically formulated for John Deere engines, so it is my recommended pick

Why is my riding lawnmower not moving?

This issue could be a defective tensioner pully, drive belt, or battery. Review the solutions we discussed to fix these issues. 

Final Thoughts

You won’t be able to trim your lawn if your lawnmower stops moving. That is why you need to inspect and resolve any issues you encounter. The solution I have listed above should help you get your tractor back running. Should any of these issues persist, it would be best to consult a qualified technician.