Why Won’t My John Deere Gator Start? [Causes & Solutions]

John Deere Gators have been a market favorite since their introduction in 1987. Designed to be an ideal five-wheeler utility vehicle, they are perfect for farm duties and construction sites and have even been made famous as Turf tractors! Nonetheless, it’s always a problem when your trusty John Geer Gator refuses to start, but why would this happen?

John Deere Gators sometimes won’t start due to several common problems: a bad battery, incorrect gear selection, fuel starvation, an air filter problem, or an electrical fault. All these issues are resolvable without the need to bring in a professional.  

When your trusty Gator develops a problem and doesn’t want to start, panic and despair are likely to follow. 

We’ve researched and identified the causes and solutions for the most common reasons a Gator won’t start. Read on so we can get you on the road again.

Why Won’t My John Deere Gator Start?

John Deere Gator engines are renowned for their reliability and durability, even when operating in extreme conditions and rough terrain. In addition, gators are available in several engine sizes, both Gasoline and Diesel.

Although John Deere Gators have an excellent reputation, they are mechanical machines with many moving parts and electrical circuitry. 

Any which could fail at any time, and if it’s a critical component, the engine may stop running and refuse to start again until you resolve the problem.

If you’re close to home, this may be an inconvenience, but the situation could become more severe if you’re far away.

Read on to discover the most usual causes of Gator not starting and the solutions for fixing it to get you on the road again. 

For an internal combustion engine to run, it requires fuel, air, and an ignition source. When one of the elements is missing, the engine can’t start. 

Battery Related Problem

The most common reason a gas or diesel Gator won’t start is a battery that has run down, either due to the Gator not having been used for a few weeks or purely from old age. 

Gator batteries are renowned for their incredible longevity, often lasting up to ten years or even longer. Although this is the ideal scenario, most Gator batteries last around four years.

When your Gator battery has let you down, here are a few checks that one can do to eliminate any external factors.

Run Down Battery

A discharged Gator battery may often only require charging,
especially if the UTV has remained all winter with the battery
cables invertedly connected to the battery of if
the lights remained on.
The solution to getting the Gator Started is to connect a battery charger to the battery to bring the battery back up to standard operating voltage. 

Alternately jump-start the Gator from another vehicle’s battery or use a portable booster pack to start the Gator and run it till the battery is re-charged.
Corrosion on the battery terminals:

Visible corrosion or oxidation on the terminals in the form of white or blue color powder is either lead sulfate or anhydrous copper sulfate.

The corrosion causes poor electrical conductivity between the battery cable clamp and the battery terminal.
Remove the powder from the battery clamps and battery, including the terminals, using a stiff nylon brush and use sandpaper to clean the surfaces of the battery cable clamps. 

Alternately a mixture of three teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and three cups of water will remove the corrosive powder. 

Pour the dissolved mixture slowly over the battery terminals and allow it to stand for five minutes as it bubbles. Then rinse with clean water and dry the battery with a paper towel. 

Wear eye protection and latex gloves and disconnect both battery terminals when performing the above steps.

Battery cables are frayed or damaged:

Battery cables are composed of individual copper strands combined to form a battery cable. 

An unsupported cable can eventually weaken and break as the individual cable stands start breaking, preventing the current from flowing through the cable. When the cable’s insulation is damaged, corrosion can set in inside the cable. Without the support of the insulation, the cable loses its integrity or strength and can cause a short circuit preventing the Gator from starting. 
The solution is to replace a damaged battery cable with a new one and ensure the cable is secured along its length to ensure excessive vibration doesn’t take its toll on the cable.

A clear sign that your gator battery is on its way out is noticeable when your Gator’s engine turns over much slower than usual when starting it up. Over time, the problem usually worsens until the engine won’t turn over one day.

In instances where the battery’s performance declines over days or weeks until it no longer turns the Gators engine, the only solution is to replace the battery.

The battery is inexpensive, and replacing it can be done relatively quickly by a professional or by watching a YouTube video.

Incorrect Gear Selection

John Deere Gators have the following gear selections: Park, Drive, Neutral, and Reverse. They are all selectable on the same gear shift lever. 

For safety, all Gators require the gear lever to be positioned in the neutral position before the Gator will start.  

Fuel Starvation

Always ensure that the Gator has sufficient fresh fuel in the tank and that it’s the correct fuel type, gas or diesel, for the corresponding engine type. 

A fuel starvation issue is likely the problem when the engine turns over but doesn’t start. Sometimes it may begin to start and then die again.

For a Gator’s engine to start, the engine requires fuel, air, and an ignition source. Both gasoline and diesel engines are fitted with a fuel filter that filters debris from the fuel passing through the fuel line to the engine. 

When the fuel filter becomes blocked or is very dirty inside, the fuel flow is severely restricted to the engine so the engine won’t start. 

To diagnose this problem, disconnect the fuel hose at the engine side of the fuel filter. Fuel should run freely through the filter when the filter is in good condition. 

If no fuel runs through the filter, disconnect the fuel line from the filter on the opposite end. If the fuel runs freely out of the fuel line but not when connected to the filter, the filter is blocked and requires replacement.

Air Filter Problem

Air starvation is not a common occurrence, but if your Gator works in dusty conditions, chances are good that the air filter element may be clogged with dust or debris preventing it from starting.  

Removing the air filter element is a simple task. First, unscrew or unclip the cover of the air filter on the Gator’s right-hand side to access the filter or element inside the air filter housing.

A dirty filter element will require replacement as grime trapped within the fibers of the element is impossible to remove thoroughly. 

Electrical Fault

A blown fuse can disable a Gator and prevent it from starting. In addition, dead dashboard lighting and accessories, such as all or certain lights, will point toward a faulty fuse. 

A Gators fuse box is underneath the dashboard on the passenger side and is visible when crouching low. 

Inspect the fuses looking for a blown fuse. Depending on the type, the fuse will show discoloration, a burn mark, or the fuse element will have melted. To access the fuses, remove the fuse block cover. 

Replacing the damaged fuse with one of the exact type and amperage is vital to ensure that the circuit remains safe. 

If the same fuse continues to blow after replacement, a problem in the wiring must be repaired, possibly professionally, depending on the cause.  

Final Word

As with any other internal combustion engine, diesel and gas Gators can sometimes face starting issues. If your Gator’s engine doesn’t fire up, the chances are that its battery and associated components are most likely the problems.

If the battery and its components are in good condition, the possibilities narrow down to either a fuel system issue or an electrical fault. It’s best to tackle each potential problem one at a time until you have found the cause of your Gator’s starting issues.

Once identified, it should be relatively simple to fix. However, if you cannot locate the problem, it’s best to seek professional help from a qualified technician.   

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