The John Deere Gator utility vehicle is generally rugged and reliable. However, there may be instances when a gator turns over but does not start. Let’s troubleshoot this.
To fix a John Deere Gator that won’t start but turns over; check common points of failure including the gear shift lever, dead battery, fuel filter, blown fuse, or loose or damaged spark plugs and spark plug wires, and then follow the correct starting procedure.
Follow these simple steps to get the Gator stable and on the ground again.
Check the Gear Shift Lever
One of the reasons why the Gator might be turning over but does not start could be because of the gear shift lever being in drive mode. Most models won’t even turn over when in gear but I’ve encountered some older models that do.
Make sure that the gear shift is in neutral before you start the Gator. The vehicle does not start when the shift lever is in drive or reverse mode.
Check the Batteries for Corrosion
Another common cause that leads to a stuttered start or stops your Gator from starting altogether is the development of corrosion on the battery panel.
You need to remove the battery access panel. This is often placed under the passenger seat of the vehicle. You can access it by pulling the latch under the passenger seat.
Once you have the battery access panel, inspect the battery terminals for corrosion. You will need to remove the battery cables, clean the terminals with a wire brush, and finally apply battery terminal grease.
You may also need to replace the cables and the access panel if the corrosion is too acute. Once this is replaced, you can try starting the Gator once more.
Try Charging the Battery
Sometimes the problem can be as small as the batteries have run out of charge. To remedy this, all you need to do is remove the battery access panel and connect a battery charger to the battery. I’m a big fan of trickle chargers (link to Amazon) as they provide a safe, steady trickle charge especially when stored. I keep one of these on all winter and it prevents a lot of headaches come springtime.
Once charged, remove the cables, replace the access panel, and then try starting the Gator.
If the battery won’t charge, it may be time for a replacement. Chrome Battery carries a wide range of outdoor batteries and offers free shipping.
Check for a Blown Fuse
A blown fuse may also be the cause of why the Gator will not start. To solve this problem, check the fuse box to see if any of them have blown. To access the fuse box, simply reach out beneath the instrument panel—behind the brake pedal—check the fuses to see if any are blown. If you find any fuse blown, replace them, and try starting the vehicle.
Loose Spark Plug
Loose spark plugs will also hinder your Gator from starting. The spark plug wires will be at the top side of the engine.
You will need to wiggle the wires to see if any of them have come loose. In case the wires are loose, you will need to press the spark plug wires firmly back into the spark plugs. Lower the cargo box and try to start the Gator once again.
Damaged Spark Plug
There may be instances where the spark plug itself may be damaged. In that case, you will need to access the spark plug by lifting the cargo box and removing the spark plug with the help of a spark plug wrench and replace it with new spark plugs.
Once that is done, lower the lid of the cargo box and try starting your Gator.
Check the Fuel Filter
To check the fuel filter, you will need first to raise the cargo box and then locate the white plastic fuel filter in the middle of a black fuel hose. The fuel hose connects the fuel tank to the carburetor. Once you have located it, unscrew the two hose clamps on either side of the filter and slide the filter out.
At this point, you will need to replace the old filter with a new one.
The filter will have an arrow mark on it. Point the arrow of the filter downwards towards the engine. Next, you slide the clamps toward the filter and tighten it. Try lowering the lid of the cargo box now and starting the Gator.
You can purchase filters and other parts directly from John Deere.
Cold Weather Effects
Sometimes, during harsh winter days, a John Deere Gator may have problems starting. These are the three key steps that you can take to help start the Gator during cold weather:
Follow Proper Starting Procedure
The proper starting procedure requires you to put the lever in the full choke position first and then crank the engine for a few seconds. In case the engine does not start at this stage, wait for a few more seconds before cranking the engine again for an additional five seconds.
You will need to continue this set of steps in a cycle until the engine starts. If the engine seems to start but does not fully turn over, you will have to give it another five seconds. Keep doing this till the engine actually starts.
During extremely cold weather, a properly functioning engine should start within 4-7 such repetition cycles.
After the engine has started and warmed up a bit, you need to start pulling the choke lever back gradually. Within 10-15 seconds, the engine should be able to run without the choke.
Introduce Proper Cranking Speed
A 250 rpm is the minimum requirement for the engine to start properly. To gain this cranking speed, you need to ensure that the engine oil weight is not too heavy, the battery is charged up, and any corroded battery or battery panels are replaced.
It is also recommended to turn the tractor lights on a few seconds before cranking as this can help increase the battery power in the cold. Then turn the lights off before you start the cranking process.
In this video below, you will see how to troubleshoot a John Deere Gator that will not start:
Ensure That the Choke Is Properly Adjusted
It is important to remember that when the lever is in the choke position, the choke plate must be completely closed, and when the lever is in a full-throttle position, the choke plate needs to be completely open.
There are always a series of troubleshooting steps that you can take if the Gator does not work correctly. These steps help you find any underlying causes behind the problem and, hopefully, save you a ton of money that would have gone in costly repairs.
Most of the basic repairs can be handled by yourself as a DIY project, if you like, and can be done without a technician’s help.