How To Remove A Stubborn Rear Wheel From Lawn Tractor

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

We all cut our grass in different ways. Some of us can get by with a traditional push mower while others use a riding lawn tractor. Whatever the case, there is a common problem that most of us have experienced before: a stuck rear wheel.

Instead of dealing with an inefficient mower that doesn’t move like it should, there are fixes to be implemented. Sometimes, it is as simple as applying a penetrating oil. Rust can permeate the rear wheel, causing it to stick. In more serious instances, removal of the wheel may be necessary.

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How to Remove a Stubborn Rear Wheel from Lawn Tractor

What You Need

Before getting started, it helps to have the necessary tools to get the job done. You can probably substitute one or two of these out for something similar, but this is generally the best kit for getting the wheel unstuck.

You will need:

  •         Hammer
  •         Socket wrench
  •         Hydraulic jack
  •         Blocks of wood
  •         Rubber mallet
  •         Penetrating oil
  •         Jack stands

Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to remove the wheel entirely. When rust becomes overwhelming, it can permeate deeper into the body of the mower or lawn tractor, creating further issues.

Step 1: Use a Level Surface

It is ideal to create an elevated, level surface for you to work on. Depending on how heavy your mower is, that may not be an option so do the best that you can with what you are given. Working on a level surface means that you aren’t contending with distorted angles.

Use a hydraulic jack. If you have a hydraulic jack, this is the time to use it. You can elevate the tractor onto a level surface or simply bring the side with the problem wheel up so that you can gain easier access to it. All you need to do to activate the hydraulic jack is turn the handle clockwise.

Make sure that you set the parking brake if there is one so that the mower or tractor doesn’t go rolling off. Also, make sure to disconnect the spark plug. Exercise caution and safety when you work on your mower or tractor.

Step 2: Block the Front Wheel

When choosing your level surface and creating a secure space to work in, you will need to keep the wheels from moving. Take the blocks of wood from earlier and use them to block the front wheels of your mower or tractor.

By placing secure blocks in their way, you keep the machine in a relatively stable place. That will allow you to work properly without having to contend with constant movement from the mower or tractor.

Step 3: Insert Jack Stands

To gain stability while on the jack, you will need to use jack stands. Place each of the jack stands under either side of the axle, located inside of the tire. Make sure you get them as close as possible to the tire for better stability.

You can then lift the arms of the jack stand until they contact the frame of the mower or tractor. Using the hydraulic jack handle, lower your mower or tractor until the weight is resting fully on the jack stand. Give the mower or tractor a slight shake to ensure that its weight is properly supported.

Step 4: Apply Penetrating Oil

Depending on the severity of the issue, this may be your final step. Wheels that don’t have a major rust problem will likely be fine after some penetrating oil. For more severe issues, continue on to learn further troubleshooting methods.

Apply the penetrating oil at the point where the axle and rim meet. Don’t go overboard with it; just spray a reasonable amount. Don’t forget to soak both the front and backside of the axle and make sure that you get all around the rim as well.

Step 5: Tap with a Rubber Mallet

It is important to note that this step will go depending on the severity of the rust issue around the axle and rim. Give the rim a tap; go around the entire circumference of the axle, covering both front and back in the process.

There is a chance that the wheel may not move all that much. It could just mean that you need to use more penetrating oil around the axle. Moreover, you may need to give the penetrating oil more time to work. Try waiting about 15 or 20 minutes after spraying before tapping again.

Step 6: Use a Hammer (Gently)

When you feel confident that the penetrating oil has had a chance to do its thing, it is time to break out the hammer. Use the hammer to knock off any of the rust build-up that you may see around the rim or axle.

Don’t go nuts; give gentle taps to start. Hit the axle head a few times and it should clear away most of the rust there unless the build-up is severe. This method should work to knock off any of the loose debris that has collected on the wheel, axle, and rim.

Step 7: Pull Off the Wheel

If there is a center bolt on your wheel, remove it completely using a socket wrench. Not every model will have one of these, so if yours doesn’t, move on.

Grab both sides of the tire and pull it completely off of the axle. Don’t torque on it; use a rocking motion. Pulling too hard could pull the mower or tractor off of the jack stand, causing potential damage or harm to you.

Step 8: A Persistently Stuck Wheel

If you have come this far and the wheel still isn’t moving, it isn’t quite time to panic. For truly persistent stuck wheels, it typically just means applying more penetrating oil and then doing some more hammering. Give it a few tries before declaring the wheel too stuck.

Worst-case, bring a friend in to help tap on the backside of the rim as you rock the tire. A helping hand can go a long way in instances like this and allow for more flexibility in the things that you can try.

Note: It is not unheard of to use WD-40 instead of a penetrating oil. If you have WD-40 just laying around, try spraying down the trouble spot and letting it sit for a few hours. That could be the trick for getting the wheel popped out and moving again.

Alternative Methods for Removing a Stuck Wheel

Penetrating oil not working so well? Don’t fret. There are plenty of other methods that have been known to do the trick just as well.

  • Heating and waxing. This one can be a bit tricky, but if you have a propane torch, you have a chance. Use the propane torch to heat the axle and wheel in a moderate fashion so that you don’t damage them. The idea here is to melt the wax between them. Give it time to cool and then slide the wheel off entirely.

This method takes less time to implement, but you need to have a torch and be comfortable using it. As is the case whenever a flame is involved, exercise the utmost caution.

  • Hydraulic bottle jack. Sometimes a little torque is all you need to remove a stuck wheel. But what happens when you can’t provide that torque by hand? You can chain a hydraulic bottle jack onto your stuck wheel and pull it out using maximum pressure. Use serious caution here: by using too much force, it can not only damage the mower, but potentially be dangerous to you as well.

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Key Things You Don’t Want to Do

Having a stuck wheel can be frustrating and hinder your ability to care for your lawn. And while frustration is understandable, it can get the best of any of us. When that happens, you may be staring down a damaged lawn mower or tractor and can even put yourself at risk.

When in doubt, there are two things that you need to remember. First is to not use extreme force. Extreme force usually ends badly. Secondly, don’t knock the wheel off by hitting the backside with force. Tap it consistently and it should eventually come free.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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