5 Common John Deere Zero Turn Steering Problems and How To Fix Them

John Deere zero-turn mowers are known for their efficiency and maneuverability, but even the best mowers experience problems from time to time. So, what steering issues besiege JD zero-turn mowers? The most common John Deere zero turn steering problems are loose steering, stiff arms, unresponsive steering, jerky steering, and difficulty turning.

Steering issues are common when certain steering system components break down due to regular use or poor maintenance. Let’s examine these problems in detail and how to fix them.

Loose or Wobbly Steering

Loose steering is a common issue among John Deere zero-turn mowers. It occurs when the steering arms become loose, giving riding a wobbly feel. When this issue occurs, you should check the connections in the steering column and tighten them.

Loose steering can also occur due to wear or damage to various parts, including the tie rods, shifting gear assembly, or the steering column. You can resolve the issue by replacing or repairing damaged or worn-out components.

You might also experience loose steering if the front wheels are loose or misaligned. When this happens, the steering column becomes loose. Tightening the front wheels should fix the issue. 

Stiff Steering Arms

The steering arms feel smooth when your zero-turn mower works correctly. However, when one or both steering handles become stiff, you must look into the issue and solve the problem.

Tire pressure is one of the causes of stiff steering. When the tire pressure is low, it can cause riding issues, including stiff steering and poor cutting performance. Ensure that you adjust the tire pressure of your John Deere zero-turn mower to the recommended levels.

You may also experience stiff steering if you haven’t lubricated your mower’s steering system for a while. Lubrication smooths the movement of joints and pivots in the steering system. These parts rub over each other without lubrication, causing resistance and stiff steering. Lubricate these parts for smoother steering.

Another reason for stiff steering is low hydraulic. Hydraulic fluid facilitates the connection between the steering system and the wheels of the zero-turn mower.

Without the right amount of hydraulic fluid, your lawn mower needs more effort to turn the wheel, making the steering feel stiff. Refill the hydraulic fluid to fix this problem.

Misalignment of the steering arms can also cause stiff steering. Fortunately, this is an easy-to-fix problem. Start by loosening the bolts that attach the steering arm to the mower, repositioning them, ensuring they align, and tightening the bolts. If done correctly, your lawn mower should steer smoothly.

Difficulty Turning

Difficulty turning is one of the common John Deere zero turn steering problems. You can encounter this problem due to the terrain you’re working on or issues with the lawn mower.

Mowing uneven terrain is a common reason for turning difficulties. When you encounter terrain that makes it hard to turn the mower, you could move at a slower speed or adjust the height of the deck. A low-lying deck can make cutting and steering difficult.

Another cause for issues with turning the lawn mower is hydraulic fluid shortage. A low level of hydraulic fluid interferes with the mower’s productivity. Refilling the fluid with clean and quality hydraulic fluid should help.

You should also check the steering wheel system to ensure alignment. If not, fix the issue to make turning the zero-turn mower much easier.

If the steering linkage is damaged, you might find turning your John Deere zero-turn mower hard. The solution is to replace the damaged parts of the shift linkage.

Jerky Steering

Jerky steering is a common problem among John Deere zero-turn mowers. This problem arises when air gets trapped in the steering column. Air can enter the steering column when you have low steering fluid, causing the pump to pump air into the system.

Air can also enter the steering column due to leaks in the steering pump, rack, and hoses.

When air enters the steering system, you’ll notice signs like leaking steering fluid, unusual steering wheel vibration, loss of steering power, and hard steering.

Some of the solutions to jerky steering due to trapped air include:

  • Bleeding the steering system of all air
  • Refilling the steering fluid to the recommended level
  • Repairing or replacing the damaged steering pump, steering rack, or hoses of the steering column 

Unresponsive Steering

Unresponsive steering is among the most reported John Deere zero turn steering problems. The steering arms may be unresponsive due to loose connections in the steering column. You can restore the function of the steering handles by tightening the connections.

Unresponsive steering can also occur due to damage to the steering system. When this happens, you must replace the steering system.

Leaking and damaged steering cylinders can contribute to unresponsive steering. These cylinders move the front tires on either side. When defective, your lawn mower’s wheels won’t respond to the steering system. Repairing or replacing the damaged components should fix the problem.

Issues in the hydraulic system are the leading causes of unresponsive steering in John Deere zero-turn mowers. These issues include insufficient hydraulic fluid, leaking fluid, and damaged hydraulic system components.

The solution is to examine the hydraulic system and replace the fluid, fix damaged components, and replace those you can’t repair.

Damaged steering control valves can also contribute to unresponsive steering by impeding the flow of hydraulic fluid to the steering cylinder. Replace the steering control valves if they are damaged.

Preventing Steering Problems in John Deere Zero Turn Mowers

You can prevent most of the steering problems in John Deere zero-turn mowers. The first way of doing this is by cleaning the mower as soon as you finish mowing. Debris accumulation is a contributing factor to the deterioration of different components of the steering system. The accumulated dirt can cause corrosion and breakdown of steering system components.

Taking care of the zero-turn mower when riding can also help prevent issues with the steering system. This includes riding on even terrain and slowing down when encountering rough terrain.

Regularly maintaining the mower helps detect wear and damage before the steering system fails. Most John Deere zero turn mower steering problems occur due to damaged or worn-out components. If you conduct regular inspections and maintenance of your mower, you can catch and fix these issues before they cause steering problems.

Finally, checking and replacing fluids will prevent several steering problems. The hydraulic and steering fluids keep the steering system going. Ensure they are always at the right level before running your zero-turn mower.

Are John Deere Zero Turn Mowers Worth It?

The steering system is such a crucial component of any mower. It’s understandable that John Deere zero turn steering problems could put you off from purchasing this mower. However, the lawn mower is one of the most reliable brands.

Steering issues are avoidable if you follow the right maintenance procedure, prevent debris accumulation, replace worn-out or damaged components, and keep the fluids at the right levels.