Reverse gradually fades to zero

When I start my Craftsman Mower Model 917.289240, full forward speed is about 75%, and just nudging the shift lever past neutral makes the mower shoot backwards at a nearly uncontrollable speed.

It takes me about 45 minutes to finish my lawn, and in that time, reverse gradually fades to a crawl - forward speed stays about the same.

In between, pushing the lever all the way reverse gradually gets me less and less speed, but if I leave it there, the full 'rocket' speed will eventually kick in. By the time I'm done, it won't do that. Reverse is a very slow crawl, no matter how long I wait.

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Craftsman Mower Model 917.289240 is a YTS3000 with a hydrostatic drive. The issue your mower displays appears to originate in the transaxle. I am sure that you already checked all the belts etc. so it is possible that you may have to purge the air out of the system. the instructions for that should be in your owners manual. If you do not have it, this should work for your mower:

To ensure proper operation and performance, it is recommended that the transmission be purged before operating tractor for the first time. This procedure will remove any trapped air inside the transmission which may have developed during shipping of your tractor.

IMPORTANT: Should your transmission require removal for service or replacement, it should be purged after reinstallation before operating the tractor.

1. Place tractor safely on a level surface - that is clear of objects and open - with engine off and parking brake set.

2. Disengage transmission by placing freewheel control in disengaged position (See "TO TRANSPORT" in this section of manual).

3. Sitting in the tractor seat, start engine. After the engine is running, move throttle control to slow position. With motion control lever in neutral position, slowly disengage clutch/brake pedal.

CAUTION: At any time, during step 4, there may be movement of the drive wheels.

4. Move motion control lever to full forward position and hold for five (5) seconds. Move lever to full reverse position and hold for five (5) seconds. Repeat this procedure three (3) times.

5. Move motion control lever to neutral position. Shutoff engine and set parking brake.

6. Engage transmission by placing freewheel control in engaged position (See "TO TRANSPORT" in this section of manual).

7. Sitting in the tractor seat, start engine. After the engine is running, move throttle control to half (1/2) speed. With motion control lever in neutral position, slowly disengage clutch/brake pedal.

8. Slowly move motion control lever forward, after the tractor moves approximately five (5) feet, slowly move motion control lever to reverse position. After the tractor moves approximately five (5) feet return

the motion control lever to the neutral position. Repeat this procedure with the motion control lever three (3) times. Your transmission is now purged and now ready for normal operation."

Should this have no results check your mower's transaxle carefully and see if yours has a filler plug on the back top side of the transmission. Most of these units should be sealed units, but some actually did have a plug. If yours does, remove the plug and measure from the edge of the plug hole down to the oil. It should measure from 1.25-1.5 inches down. If yours has more than that it would mean that the transmission oil is low. You can add 20W50 motor oil to bring it up to the right level.

If yours does not have a plug, then we definitely would need to identify which transaxle model your mower has. See if you can find any identifying marks or tabs on the axle and let us know.

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Thanks for the tip. I went through the routine 3 times, but to no effect.

My transaxle does have a plug, and I managed to remove it. The reservoir is full to the bottom of the filler hole. I dipped an allen wrench into it and it looks like clear motor oil.

Any other ideas?


Steve VanKirk, check or a shift linkage adjustment perhaps, see link below, this person was having similar issue.


Steve VanKirk any tags any identifier on the transaxle? From what I can see Craftsman uses a lot of Hydrogear trans axles. a possibility would be a Hydro 336-0510 since it has been used in Craftsman equipment. There is a filter in that trans axle that may give you grief. Image added, it is number 45 in the diagram and it should be accessible from the bottom. Of course, before anything else, you did make sure that the belt is not starting to slip etc.


Sears parts bot confirmed the filter, as much as that can trusted.

From the schematic, it looks like the tranny has to be split to get at it. Parts schematics not my strong suit - can you confirm? If so, that is going to go a bit beyond my back yard mechanic's abilities.

They were happy to provide a link for a new transaxle - only $250+shipping for the exact short-lived piece of **** I already have.

Might be looking for tips on who makes a good mower.

Thanks for your help - you got me a lot further down the road than I was.


Steve VanKirk yes it does look like it will be a PITA to change it. It does not appear as having any kind of access from the bottom.


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