Casters are no longer available for my electric lawn tractor. Here's how I built a replacement.

Some History:
GE designed and built several models of Elec-Trak electric lawn tractors in the '70s. Mine is a 36 volt model built in 1971 (more pictures below). It has a front-mounted mower deck with casters.

I broke the right hand caster. There are a few people making parts, like the Electric Tractor Store, but I needed to mow the back yard this weekend. Off I went to the farm supply to see what I could piece together.

If you want an electric lawn tractor, your choices are limited.
(1) There are many of these 1970s Elec-Traks still going strong, but people don't seem to like to part with them until they die (either the people or the tractors). They seem to be most common in the Midwest -- you might pick one up there for less than a grand (eBay or Craigslist). Kansas Wind Power sometimes has one. Check out Elec-Trak.com for tons of information on these durable machines!
(2) You can order a new Electric Ox. from Canada. Sweet electronics, no mechanical transmission. You may need a loan though.
(3) You can wait for Modern Electric Tractor Inc. These folks are setting up to build updated versions of the Elec-Trak design, as well as improved models. Word is the prices will be similar to those of professional mowers, not consumer models.
(4) You can mod a consumer gasoline tractor. Later, you will weep as all the expensive parts you added lie among the rusty ruins of the crummy donor tractor.

Step 1: Root Cause

Some idiot drove a 1000 lb. lawn tractor into the ditch and jammed one of the casters into the ground. It broke at the weld, just like they warned us in school.
This is really cool! I hope to do something similar here shortly. :)
BIL Castors and Wheels manufactures and supplies castors, casters and pneumatic wheels. Great deals on casters, big savings on pneumatic wheels. Huge selection of castors for all applications
You probably would have been better off omitting the flat washer and keeping the lock washer to keep it from vibrating apart (it is a lawnmower after all). You could also either grind the nut down so it's not as thick or used a jamb nut (not as thick as a normal nut), since you don't have the bolt fully threaded into the nut that you're using anyway (in steel 3 threads at 50% depth have are full strength). For that matter, you would have been better off just welding it.
Alas, I did not have access to a welder and I could not find a jam nut in that size. I did not think of grinding down the regular nut. My logic for keeping the flat washer was that it would be better at spreading the load at the joint while the lockwasher on the other side would still provide tension. Its not a constantly rotating joint and there's not a lot of torque load being transmitted since the top is free to rotate in a sleeve. It's been about a year with no problems. Corrosion will eventually lock them together
(oops -- I hit the "post" button too quickly!) Corrosion will eventually lock them together better than any lockwasher. If I do the mod to get more height adjustment (see step 9) I'll grind down a nut like you suggested if I can't find a jam nut. Thanks!
Heh, that's probably the best approach... if it works let it all rust together and worry about it in 20 years when the next part breaks. ;-)
Nice and clear job. The idea to put stronger bracket is good.
Thanks! It was pretty strong to start with. If it lasts another 37 years I will be very happy!
Hahahahah! 37 years only? :oooo
Hoorah! Somebody who fixes old (or new) equipment rather than just slinging it away, modern society has created a breed of utter morons! Nicely done repair that, economical too -- didn't cost a fortune did it!?! I like how you sought out a part to do the repair with and the fact that it was an ingenious bit of bodgery to make a completely unrelated part fit, using simple tools and a bit of the old grey-matter in your noggin'. What's more is that the design is modular (within reason) to allow (or hinder slightly less anyway) the facilitation of repair to some degree. Take a look at more or less anything now and they all have completely unmodular wheels and parts, unique to the given device -- it would also seem that parts are no longer manufactured to do repairs with, what a to-do!
Thanks! It was less than $25 US for the parts, maybe 2-3 hours of steady work to build & photograph. I probably spent more time wandering around Lowes & Agricultural Supply Co. looking for parts than I did actually building, but that's more like a vacation. I know I spent more time putting the Ible together than everything else combined! I'm with you, things ought to last longer & be rebuildable/upgradeable. That's one reason I bought the ET -- I went to buy a new Infernal Combustion mower and EVERY one of them had a plastic ring gear on the flywheel side of the starter -- guaranteed to wear out. I had recently repaired the same thing on my previous mower, and the replacement part is aluminum. I'd love to to be the guy that sells every family in America ONE inkjet printer that takes generic ink and lasts forever.
Your welcome. I'm glad that I can add one more person to my do-not-hitlist. This world needs a little chlorine in the gene pool. It seems that everybody these days is rather self-obsessed and nobody is truly happy, the rat race and all that -- it just steals your soul and locks it away in an impenetrable fortress -- but.. locks can be picked and security bypassed. Happy modding!
Awesome mower! I love old machines, especially electric.
It's been fun to own. Quiet, too. One day I'll build it a shed with a solar panel roof to charge it.
Your's is a good solution for anyone who does not have access to a welder. A welder or a friend who has one would open more possibilities.
Yep. GE actually made an arc welder to plug into the battery pack on the tractor, but I don't have one. I could have had the stem welded back but the yoke was badly worn from the wheel rubbing on it. A good welder could have fixed that too, but it would have cost more and taken longer. That grass needed mowing <strong>immediately</strong>!<br/>

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Bio: Engineer, Critic-at-Large
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