9 Most Common John Deere 345 Problems & Troubleshooting

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By Marvin Tucker

Farming Equipment

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Few tractors can match the John Deere 345 for its affordability and versatility. Appropriate for homeowners with large plots of land and commercial applications such as golf courses and playing fields.

Based on the same core frame as the 265 and 245 models, the 345 introduces a slew of usability and functionality upgrades, including a hydraulic lift and a quiet and smooth operating battery.

Despite the upgrades and refinements that were introduced with this model, the John Deere 345 is not without its flaws.

So in this article, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at what kind of issues this mower faces and how you can fix them. Then we’ll share our thoughts on whether this is a worthy purchase for your hard-earned money.

The most common problems with the John Deere 345

John Deere is a well-respected company. The 345 is a solidly built machine that has received positive reviews from users thanks to its v-twin style design and many attachments allowing it to handle all applications.

From the snow blower, brush cutters, rollers, and of course, its exceptional mower function. This can handle everything and can save the user a lot of money.

Unfortunately, this John Deere tractor encounters various issues with the battery, engine, electrical system, and mower attachments. But these are all common issues, most of which can be rectified with a solid maintenance routine.

1. The engine will not start

Generally speaking, the John Deere 345 is a sturdy and reliable machine. However, certain things will undoubtedly crop up regarding the engine not starting that, as a user, you will need to address to keep the mower running smoothly.

If you find that the engine will not start, the first thing to check is adequate fuel in the gas tank. But even when there is enough fuel, you may find sometimes it still won’t start. Here’s what to look for if this happens:

  • Use high-quality gasoline – using a low-quality gas can sometimes affect the engine’s performance and, in some more extreme cases, prevent it from even starting.
  • The fuel is old/stale – over time, gasoline degrades, so if the mower has been left in storage for some time (for example, over the winter), you may wish to discard the old fuel and use fresh/new fuel.
  • The fuel system is dirty – in the same way, old and stale fuel can leave deposits that can build up within the fuel system, leading to restricted fuel flow and potential blockages. The fuel system should be cleaned and any blockages removed.
  • Dirty fuel filter – the fuel filter is designed to catch any dirt or debris trying to make its way into the engine. Over time the fuel filter will become progressively more blocked, restricting airflow to the engine. Here you can clean the air filter out, or if it’s already too old, replace it with a new one.
  • Damaged spark plugs – spark plugs can quickly fail and need replacing, be sure to give the whole mower a thorough check for any defective spark plugs.

2. The engine hard starts

While not precisely a catastrophic failure, a mower that hard starts can be troublesome and indicates that there are other internal issues that you should want to address sooner rather than later, or they may manifest their new problems down the line.

A hard start is caused by too much fuel entering the engine during the combustion process, so this problem can usually be traced back to fuel or the electrical system.

The first thing to check is that the fuel is not old and is of poor quality. Discard the old fuel and use new fresh fuel. Likewise, the fuel pipes should be checked and cleaned to ensure no remaining clogs or dirt deposits may affect the fuel blow.

The next thing to check is that the starter and all spark plugs are working. Replace as necessary.

The throttle cable should also be checked and replaced as needed.

3. The engine runs roughly

Now the engine is starting, great. But what do you do if it starts to run rough? Keeping the engine happy is a vital part of the longevity and smooth operation of the john deere tractor.

One of the significant factors in an engine running roughly is that it cannot dissipate heat due to clogged-up cooling fins. These can pick up grass cuttings and dirt over time and will need to be intermittently cleaned.

Next, you should check all electrical contact and clean/repair any defective ones to ensure the electricity is delivered to the starter correctly and not late, resulting in too much fuel making its way into the engine before the combustion process begins.

Other things to check are the air cleaner which should be repaired, the ignition system, and sometimes the choke cable will stick, which may need replacing.

4. The engine overheats

An engine that runs consistently too hot will have a reduced lifespan, resulting in more cost to you for component repairs because they have worn down fast. Not only that but extreme overheating may lead to engine shutdowns requiring you to wait for everything to cool – not ideal while in the middle of a task.

There is an easy short-term solution if you are in the middle of something and don’t have time to service the mower properly, and that’s to reduce the load on the mower.

You can do this by turning the blade speed down and slowing down the movement speed of the mower. This is particularly important when mowing uphill or on uneven terrain.

Once you are ready to address the issue, here’s what to look for:

  • Check the air inlet/cooling fins – over time, these can become clogged up with dirt and debris and should be cleaned out to allow air to enter the mower and exit correctly to dissipate the heat.
  • Incorrect oil level – the oil level needs to be just right for the engine to operate smoothly. Both scenarios may result in an excessive heat buildup if the oil level is too low or too high.
  • The oil viscosity is wrong – essential to check if the oil is old or if the mower has been left in storage. If the oil thins out or becomes too thick, it won’t function properly, resulting in overheating. The best solution is to discard the oil and use fresh oil.
  • Finally, you should check the connecting rod to the crankshaft bearing balance.

5. The engine produces black smoke

Black smoke can be very alarming, but don’t worry too much; it should also be reasonably easy to fix. Black smoke is generally caused by excess fuel being burned off due to the fuel-to-air ratio being off. We also call this ‘running rich.’

However, more often than not, this is due to a restriction of air causing the balance to be off, so the fuel amount is correct. 

So the main culprit here is usually the air filter which has become blocked or clogged up, restricting the amount of air that can make it to the engine. So cleaning the air filter out (or replacing it with a fresh one) will solve this issue.

However, it’s worth checking that the throttle is not accidentally partially engaged, which will cause fuel to build up in the engine. You may also want to check and adjust the carburetor float level to ensure it’s correct.

6. The battery does not charge

Most often, battery issues usually boil down to the mower being in storage for too long, so it will need charging, or one of the associated electrical connections has come loose or become damaged and needs repairing.

However, if your battery seems to drain unusually fast, it may indicate the battery cells have died, and the whole battery unit will need replacing. This is a natural thing to have to happen over time.

7. The starter fails

The starter is responsible for generating a small electrical current that ignites the fuel and begins the engine combustion process.

However, sometimes these components can fail, meaning your engine won’t be able to start. The starter is a relatively easy component to replace and user-serviceable.

But if you have already replaced the starter (or have confirmed that it works), here are some other items you should check:

  • Check the main fuse has not blown; replace it if it is.
  • Check all wiring and connections to see if anything has come loose or if connection points have stopped working.
  • Clean the terminals to ensure they will transfer the electrical current nicely.
  • Check and replace the ignition lock.

8. The cut quality is not good

Of course, for a machine intended for smaller commercial applications, you should expect a solid cut quality. However, the cut quality will decrease without proper care and maintenance over time until you have no choice but to service it. So it’s essential to maintain the cutting system properly to ensure the cut quality remains exceptional.

The most common cause of this is the mower blades becoming dull. This will naturally happen over time, and it’s often recommended to resharpen the blades every 25 hours of continuous use.

If the blades are damaged/chipped heavily due to picking up rocks or debris, then you should replace them instead of sharpening them.

You should also check that the cutting deck isn’t clogged up. Over time mud and grass can build up here and restrict the movement of the blades, resulting in a poor quality cut. 

Check that the grass bag isn’t full, and empty it if needed.

Finally, it’s worth noting that people often try to mow too fast, so slowing the mower down a bit and giving the blades more time to cut can dramatically improve the cut quality.

9. Slipping drive belt

Over time the drive belt can become worn, cracked, or frayed. So this is a common component that needs to be replaced.

But before it needs to be replaced sometimes, it has just become a little loose, in which case you can increase the belt tension to prevent slipping.

John Deere 345 problems: Are they a deal-breaker?

The John Deere 345 is a solid and reliable lawn tractor despite needing a fair amount of upkeep to ensure it performs at its best. But for large homestead applications and small format commercial use, this is an exceptional machine due to its reliability and consistency.

We highly recommend purchasing this lawn tractor compared to other, less popular brands. Some general maintenance is required to keep this mower working perfectly for many years to come, and it is an excellent investment of your money.

John Deere’s also a trusted brand, so you can rest easy knowing that support, repairs, and replacement parts are all easily accessible, even if you’re using this in non-commercial applications.

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