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Craftsman mower keeps breaking primary mower belt

I have a 7 yr old Craftsman riding mower (917.273663 - 25hp Kohler with 48'' deck) and have replaced the primary mower belt twice this summer. It just broke again. Initially I thought the ''cheap'' replacement belts from Rural King were the problem. The Rural King Kevlar belts seem to disintegrate (crack and come apart in multiple places), so I decided to buy the OEM belt (174368) thinking it may be better as they are twice as expensive. Since it cost over $40, I decided to do a quick test before mowing the complete yard, which is 2 acres. After about 5 mins of operation, I was shocked to find the primary mower belt was extremely HOT to touch, so something else is going on. I then removed the deck, and also the secondary belt. I double-checked the 3 mandrels/blades and they seem to move smoothly (btw, the secondary belt is the original as well as the main drive belt). The flat and V-shaped idler pulleys also spun easily. I'm thinking the only thing left that is contacting the primary belt is the electric clutch, and maybe it's slipping ever so slightly when engaged/under load causing the excessive heat build up. Just another tidbit, a momentary loud squeal was heard whenever the electric clutch was activated for the past few summers, but I don't recall hearing it recently when the clutch was engaged. How do I check the electric clutch and is there a way to adjust it to make sure it's not slipping under load (with the engine off I can grab the pulley and rotate it although there is quite a bit of stiff resistance).
Thanks!

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Have you check the tensioners? The idler pulleys that are on the arms with springs on them. My reasoning is, if the arms are rusted, or stuck for some reason and not moving freely then the springs can't pull the belt tight. If that's the case, I could see where the belt could be slipping more than it needs to and prematurely wearing out. Just something to check. Good luck.

Posted on Aug 24, 2010

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