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Garden Tractors Discussion Forum

Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap?

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Author  [Modern View]

03-15-2012 18:26:47

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The 20 hp Onan has problems with intake valve seats. So far 2 machine shops have had to decline to install new seats in it. (One refused to even look at it, The other on inspection, determined the block wouldn't fit in their machine.

I was just wondering if anyone re-powered one of these old Wheel Horses (1991) and if so, what engine did you use? And What problems, if any did you encounter?

I really want to hear from someone who actually did the job or had it done.


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03-19-2012 19:13:16

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to t.r.k., 03-15-2012 18:26:47  
I swapped an engine in mine, a 1992 520H. I stayed with Onan though. I had an 18hp P218G out of an 1855 Massey that someone had junked. I took it to a local cylinder head shop aand they replaced a valve seat for me. Didn't cost much at all. Then I put in new crankshaft bearings and all new gaskets, never even bothered with pistons, rings or anything like that. Ran for years after that. My opinion is Onans are tough. Sometimes expensive to fix but often worth it. Gotta wath them fins though. Keep em clean or they overheat and blow valve seats.

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03-16-2012 10:32:06

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to t.r.k., 03-15-2012 18:26:47  
Find a better machine shop, one with experience with these engines! That's a common problem with the Onan engines. They get overheated in garden tractor applications because of the grass and dust that gets sucked into the engine shroud.

You might check with the guys on WeekendFreedomMachines DOT com. The John Deere 318 also uses an Onan two cylinder. If the seat has not been replaced before you can probably replace it using hand tools, then stake around the seat to hold it in.

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03-18-2012 11:59:08

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to steve_in_mo, 03-16-2012 10:32:06  
Its not the seat that slides out of the block that worries me. The seat in the other cylinder has been hammered back almost into the intake port. Its at least 1/8" back in there from where it should be.

I think the owner is just going to junk the mower.

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03-19-2012 20:18:55

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to t.r.k., 03-18-2012 11:59:08  
Someone might have gotten a little too busy with the cutting tools when they were "fixin" on that deep-seated valve seat. Junk might be a good description for the engine. A Chinese diesel might make an interesting repower project.

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03-16-2012 09:00:21

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to t.r.k., 03-15-2012 18:26:47  
Thanks for the replies. After speaking to the owner, I think he's just going to replace the mower.

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joe csuti

03-16-2012 03:10:30

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to t.r.k., 03-15-2012 18:26:47  
I've never done swap,however checking sew site they have a 23hp briggs conversion for $1650 + shipping but some of the existing gauges won't work with eng,check ebay several p220 remanfactured long block eng listed for $1400 + shipping/core also one used eng listed,the remanfactured/used eng might be the better way to go as you just drop in & don't have to worry about any mods,but that's just my opinion.

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03-16-2012 04:03:17

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 Re: Wheel Horse 520-H engine swap? in reply to joe csuti, 03-16-2012 03:10:30  
I have a Wheelhorse w/a 16 HP onan that took a dump on me & bought a 21 HP Kawasaki off ebay & it a the correct wiring for the motor on it for around $1,200.00 from a place that specilizes in swaps like this.

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