The John Deere 300 series Garden Tractors

Model 300, 312, 316

Capable of using many of the same attachments as the JD 140, the 300 series of John Deere garden tractors began production with the 1975 model year. In that year, the hydrostatic model 300 was introduced, replacing the John Deere 140 and its seven-year production run. Although it shared many components from the 140, the 300 was upgraded to a 16HP Kohler K-series engine and had numerous styling changes. Major changes included a more squared off hood with integral headlights, engine side panels and a black plastic instrument panel. Realizing the liability of mounting a metal gas tank under the hood next to the battery, the model 300 had a plastic gas tank relocated under the rear fender pan with an increased capacity of 4.5 gallons. The John Deere 300 came equipped standard with a two-spool hydraulic lift system, a departure from the single or three-spool system available on the model 140. The charge pump and differential were largely unchanged from the 140, with the charge pump being manufactured by Sundstrand and the differential assembly by Dana. Individual rear wheel brakes also came standard on the model 300. Notably absent on the left side of the tractor was the clutch disconnect/ neutral return pedal found on the model 140. Identical to the model 300, the model 316 (Kohler powered) was manufactured during 1978 only. This particular model is often confused with the later series model 316, which was produced from 1984-1992. Being distinctly different tractors, there are few similarities between the early and late versions of the model 316. Manufactured briefly from 1977 to 1978, the model 312 provided a basic, no frills 300 series tractor with 12 HP Kohler engine, no engine side panels, no ammeter, H1 hydraulics, narrower rear tires, and a single brake pedal for both rear wheels. Headlights were an option on the 312.
   

Model 300 (Kohler 16 HP K341AQS)

Model 312 (Kohler 12HP K301AS)

Year Serial Number

1975

30,001 - 55,000
1976 55,001 - 70,000
1977 70,001 - 80,000
Year Serial Number
1977 70,001 - 80,000
1978 80,001 - 95,000

Model 316 (Kohler 16 HP K341AQS)

Year Serial Number
1978 80,001 - 95,000

Model 314, 317

In 1979 John Deere began manufacturing models 314 and 317, respectively. Very much the same as previous hydrostatic models, the 314 and 317 represented the "basic" and "deluxe" versions of the 300 series hydrostatic tractors from 1979 until the 1983-1984 time period. One design change that is readily apparent was relocating much of the steering gear to the left side of the chassis. The 314 was an upgraded version of the 312 that reintroduced engine side panels on the "basic" tractor, increased horsepower to a 14HP Kohler engine, and standard installation of the wider 23x10.50x12 rear tires.

The 317 was John Deere’s first attempt at introducing a twin-cylinder engine into the 300 series tractor. A horizontally opposed Kohler KT17QS engine producing 17 horsepower was mated to a 300 series frame, resulting in the model 317. Offered as standard equipment on the 317 were headlights & taillights, ammeter, dual-spool hydraulics and individual rear wheel brakes.

It is no secret that the 317 has had its share of engine problems. Many of the model 317 tractors suffered catastrophic engine failure as a result of poor lubrication to the connecting rod journals of the crankshaft. The engine utilized a "Pressure spray" lubrication system, which operated at approximately 5 PSI and did not provide pressurized oil to the connecting rod journals. Instead, the connecting rod journals were lubricated with oil sprayed down from the camshaft. This resulted in inadequate lubrication, particularly if the tractor was operated on a side-hill incline. Kohler did not offer an immediate solution to this problem, and as an interim solution John Deere engineered a retrofit kit that would allow an Onan p218G to be installed into the 317 chassis.

Eventually Kohler did rectify the problematic KT17 engine by redesigning the engine with a full pressure lubrication system. Known as the KT17 Series II, the engine operated at a significantly higher oil pressure of 25-50 PSI. Kohler also cross-drilled the crankshaft, which allowed oil to be supplied under pressure to the connecting rod journals. The result was a much more durable engine with significantly longer life. A KT17 Series II engine can be identified by a specification (Spec.) number of 24300 or higher. Well into its last year of production, 1982, the 317 came equipped with a Kohler KT17 Series II engine as standard equipment from the factory. Unfortunately the reputation of the 317 and the original KT17 engine was well established by this point.

Model 314 Kohler 14HP K321AQS Model 317 Kohler KT17 QS
Year Serial Number
1979 95,001 - 120,000
1980 120,001 - 155,000
1981 155,001 - 190,000
1982 190,001 - 222,000
1983 222,001 - 285,000
Year Serial Number
1979 95,001 - 120,000
1980 120,001 - 155,000
1981 155,001 - 190,000
1982 190,001 - 222,000
1983 222,001 - 285,000

Model 316, 318, 330, 322, & 332

Starting with the model 318 in the 1983 model year, John Deere completely redesigned the 300 series. It was as revolutionary as the 140 had been when it was introduced. From a clean sheet of paper came the model 316 and 318, respectively. Once again all of the attachments that could be used on the previous 140 and 300 series tractors could be adapted to the new 318. New design features included:

  • Two-cylinder Onan air cooled engine with cast iron cylinder liners standard on both tractors.
  • Rear of frame redesigned to an "Open Frame" configuration, as opposed to "closed frame" design of previous 300 series tractors.
  • First use of annunciator lights incorporated into dash panel of 300 series tractors. Electromagnetic clutch for both front and rear PTO.
  • Redesigned fender deck resulting in a more "squared off" appearance resulting in greater operator protection and comfort.
  • Redesigned front axle to allow more weight bearing capacity. Replaceable spindle bushings.
  • Transaxle manufactured by Tecumseh, with a Hydraulic oil cooler as standard on the 318
  • True hydrostatic power steering. A first on a Lawn and Garden tractor.
  • A reserve fuel tank that allowed 15-30 minutes extra operating time.
  • Two spools of remote hydraulics

The 318 was truly a revolution in the Garden Tractor industry. And it needed to be. After the public relations disaster that Deere endured over the 317, Deere had gone back to the drawing board and went above and beyond anything the competition had. Operator comfort had been dramatically increased through the used of hydrostatic power steering. With a tight turning radius on 26 inches, the 318 turned inside many on the previous models.

The 18 horsepower Onan engine was powerful, and had tremendous lugging ability. The twin cylinder design was smooth and the engine was rubber mounted to further enhance operator comfort. As stated earlier, all of the current worktools in the Deere stable that fit previous models, could be used on the 318. In addition to those, a new two stage snow blower was added, as well as a Deere designed front broom.

With a change in the rear frame design, a whole new set of rear attachments was introduced. A rockshaft mounted three point hitch and 2000 RPM rear PTO controlled these attachments.

In 1984, the 318 was joined by its little brother the 316. Basically the same tractor as the 318, but without power steering and having only 1 spool of hydraulics. In 1986 the 330 joined the team, Deere’s first diesel powered Lawn and Garden tractor. And in 1988, the 330 was replaced by the 332, a diesel and the 322 was added with a 3 cylinder gasoline engine. The 330, 332, and 322 were all liquid cooled and the engines were sourced from Yanmar, the supplier of John Deere’s compact tractor line since 1979.

During the reign of the 318, Deere produced its 1 millionth Lawn and Garden tractor, and the 318 outsold any of the other models. It remains a very sought after tractor, with resale values remaining very high.

Model 318 Onan

Year Serial Number
1983 222,001 - 285,000
1984 285,001 - 315,000
1985 315,001 - 360,000
1986 360,001 - 420,000
1987 420,001 - 475,000
1988 475,001 - 595,000
1989 595,001 - 999,000
1990 010,001 - 100,000
1991 100,001 - 110,000
1992 110,001 - 120,000

Summary by Mike Scheifelbein, 318 by Robb Kruger Pictures from John Deere advertising literature 1/30/02 9;