6 Common John Deere 318 Problems & Troubleshooting Guide!

Apart from being solidly built, the John Deere 318 boasts excellent power thanks to its Onan air-cooled engine. And if well maintained, the tractor could last for 1000, 1500, and up to 3,000 hours before blowing up. However, throughout its life, this tractor may suffer from various problems.

So, what are the typical John Deere 318 problems? One common problem with the JD 318 is stalling when the engine gets hot. The tractor also suffers from engine problems, loss of power, rough idling, and hydrostatic transmission issues. In addition, you may experience problems with the blades not engaging.

But how do you fix or prevent these problems? Below is everything you need to know about JD 318 issues. 

Common Problems With The John Deere 318 & Solutions Table

In this table, we will briefly discuss the common issues that affect John Deere 318 and how to fix them.

ProblemsHow To Fix
StallingReplace the PTO clutch coil
Change the fuel filter
Loosen up or replace the fuel tank cap
Engine ProblemsSet the valve gap to the correct spec
Replace the camshaft and tappets
Replace the clutch coil
Loss of PowerReplace the spark plugs and wires
Change the fuel filter
Replace the fuel pump
Re-adjust the valves
Blades Not EngagingAdjust the PTO clutch gap
Recharge or replace the battery
Idle ProblemsReset the governor linkages correctly
Clean the carburetor jet
Replace the tank pickups and fuel lines
Replace the manifold gaskets and throttle shaft bushing
Hydro Transmission IssuesReplace or add more hydro fluid
Change the hydro filter
Replace the pump seals
Rebuild the tranny

What Are The Different John Deere 318 Problems & How to Fix Them?

Manufactured between 1983 and 1992, the John Deere 318 tractor has several known problems. Below is a list of these issues and their possible solutions.

1. Stalling Issues

With the 1987 John Deere 318 and early 90’s models, the engine may fire right up when cold and run great for at least 15 minutes. After that, the engine may start to stall. The motor will crank but not start after the stalling. But after cooling down, the engine will start.

Unfortunately, this issue may persist even after installing new spark plugs and changing the ignition system. It also occurs despite the cooling fins being clean and replacing the seat switch.

So, the common cause for this problem is the fuel cap not venting correctly, a weak PTO clutch coil, and a clogged fuel filter.

How To Fix?

To fix this problem, you can do the following:

  • Replace the PTO clutch coil
  • Change the fuel filter if it is clogged
  • Ensure the fuel tank cap vent is open
  • Loosen up the cap, and replace it if this does not fix the problem

Tip: Always ensure the air and fuel filters are clean and replace them when necessary.

2. Engine Problems

Engine issues are familiar with the 1986 JD 318 models featuring the Onan B43G engine. These issues include the engine bogging down when you accelerate. The engine may run fairly hot or make funny noises on idle.

Typically, the bogging down may occur due to a fuel problem. The engine problems may also occur due to a bad coil, worn out camshaft bearing, or too much valve gap.

How To Fix?

So, here are some of the possible fixes to this problem:

  • Check the valve gap and set it to the proper spec
  • Get a new camshaft and tappets
  • Check the resistance of the clutch coil and replace it

Tip: Maintain proper fluid levels to keep the engine healthy and running with minimal hiccups.

3. Loss of Power

Sometimes, the JD 318 may lose power after running great for 30-40 minutes. But once you let the engine cool down, it works fine before acting up again after it gets warm.

However, with the 1987 JD 318 models, the tractor loses power gradually while mowing. Sometimes, the engine will barely pull a short uphill.

Apart from bad spark plugs, another cause of this problem is the valves needing adjustment. It could be that the plug wires are damaged, plus the coil.

How To Fix?

Below are some fixes you can do to solve this problem:

  • Check if the spark plugs are black and replace them
  • Replace the fuel filter if it is dirty
  • Change the fuel pump
  • Check if the intake and exhaust valves are out of adjustment and re-adjust them

Tip: Always keep the fuel system clean and dirt-free to prevent blockages.

4. Blades Won’t Engage

With some John Deere 318, the blades will not engage at all. But with some units, the blades will only engage if you give the tractor more gas when warm. When this happens, the PTO light may or may not illuminate.

Meanwhile, the 1987 JD 318, featuring a P218G engine, may take 2 to 3 seconds to kick on the blades. Besides a gap issue, another cause of this problem is a bad cell in the battery.

How To Fix?

To fix this problem, you can do the followings:

  • Check the PTO clutch gap. You can tighten or loosen it to get the right setting

Watch this video on how to perform the adjustment:

  • Inspect the battery for the proper voltage. Then, recharge the battery or replace it

Tip: Check the battery voltage at least every month and the clutch adjustment. 

5. Rough Idling Problem

The 1988 JD 318 is known to experience high idle at high RPMs. Sometimes, this may be accompanied by some play in the throttle linkage. But the idling gets better once you engage the PTO to run the deck.

This problem has many causes, including the governor linkage needing to be set correctly and a dirty carburetor jet. Worn-out fuel lines and leaks in the manifold could also cause idling problems.

How To Fix?

To fix this issue, here are some of the things you could do:

  • Set the governor linkage correctly by moving it to the suitable holes
  • Drain the fuel and clean the carb jet
  • Replace the fuel lines and tank pickups
  • Look for any air leaks at the throttle shaft or in the manifold. Then, replace the manifold gaskets and throttle shaft bushing

Tip: Keeping the engine clean can go a long way toward preventing JD 318 rough idling problems.

6. Hydrostatic Transmission Problems

If you have the 80s JD 318, you may experience issues with the hydrostatic transmission lever sliding out of adjustment. Therefore, you have to keep realigning the lever every now and then while using the tractor.

It makes a slight whining sound when you change to the forward gear. Sometimes, the cause of hydrostatic failure could be dirty hydro fluid or filter and worn-out pump seals.

How To Fix?

The following are the things you can do to solve this problem:

  • Replace it with JD low-viscosity transmission fluid
  • Add more hydro fluid if the levels are low
  • Change the hydrostatic filter if it is dirty
  • Replace the pump seals if they are worn
  • Rebuild the tranny

Tip: Regularly checking and replacing the hydrostatic fluid is crucial in preventing most JD 318 transmission issues. 


John Deere 318 problems may vary depending on model year and how well you maintain your tractor. Some models are more prone to stalling, engine problems, and loss of power issues than others.

On the other hand, some JD 318 models may suffer from idle problems, hydrostatic transmission failure, and the blades not engaging. Nothing to worry about, though. Each of these problems has multiple solutions. But in most cases, you only need to replace the faulty components to solve the problem.

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