5 Common Problems with John Deere 1020 (Solutions Added)

The John Deere 1020 is the third most popular tractor in the United States and has been a staple of many farms and ranches since its introduction in 1960. The 33-horsepower tractor can handle a wide range of tasks, from preparing a garden plot to plowing the fields.

Yet, even the most reliable tractor can develop glitches—sometimes even on day one. Sometimes your 1020 will get jammed at engine start-up, leak oil profusely, or fail even to lift its own weight. Fortunately, though, most of these problems are pretty straightforward to repair without much technical expertise.

Through this article, we’ll share some of the most common John Deere 1020 problems you might encounter, accompanied by relevant troubleshooting tips to help you get back on track.

Quick Table for John Deere 1020 Problems, Symptoms, and Solutions

The chart below is an overview of the top five John Deere 1020 problems, their causes, symptoms, and solutions.

SerialProblemSymptomsShort Solution
1The Engine Won’t Start● Engine cranks but won’t start
● Starter engages, but the engine doesn’t crank
● Fuel gauge shows empty, even when it’s full  
● Fill the fuel tank and check for a clogged filter or lines.
● Perform a compression test on each cylinder
● Replace the spark plug and lead wire if necessary.  
2The Loader Will Not Raise● The loader will not raise as fast as it used to
● The loader lifts slowly, or not at all
● Lift arms do not raise  
● Replace your filter cartridge and make sure it’s filled with new hydraulic fluid.
● Repair or replace the lift cylinder, piston, relief valve, hoses, and fittings.
● Remove and clean the control valve, then reassemble.  
3The Engine Leaks Oil● Oil is found on the ground when the tractor is parked.
● Low oil level in the crankcase
● The tractor has a burning smell.  
● Check the recommended oil level.
● Inspect valve cover gasket and rear crankshaft seal for leakage.
● Install a new breather tube assembly.  
4The Hydraulics Do Not Work Properly● Power steering is stiff or not working
● PTO is not engaging
● The steering wheel turns independently
● Wheels are hard to turn
● Can’t carry a heavy load  
● Remove the contaminated oil from the tank, then flush it out with new oil.
● Check if the hydraulic pump’s hoses are free of cracks.
● Replace the hydraulic filter if it is clogged or damaged.  
5Poor Power at Low RPMs● The engine runs fine at higher RPMs but dies at low.
● The tractor has trouble starting up when cold.
● The glow plug light never stays on for long.  
● Decarbonize the engine.
● Repair the spark plug wires or replace them entirely.
● Rewire the battery’s electrical connection.  

5 Common Problems with John Deere 1020, Symptoms, Reasons and Solutions:

Let’s now discuss the most common John Deere 1020 issues in-depth and what to do to fix them.

1. The Engine Won’t Start

Having the engine not start is undoubtedly the most common complaint John Deere 1020 owners have. You may have tried to start the engine after a period of non-use, and it didn’t fire right up. You may even have tried multiple times. It doesn’t matter how many times you try; the engine won’t start.

Symptoms:

Based on these common symptoms, you can identify your problem if you have difficulty starting the engine.

  • Engine cranks but won’t start (or even fire)
  • Starter engages, but the engine doesn’t crank
  • Fuel gauge shows empty, even when it’s full (or vice versa)

Causes:

Knowing the cause of your engine’s failure makes troubleshooting easier. You can either have your mechanic assess the problem better or try attempting the repair yourself once you identify the following causes.

  • The fuel tank is empty or has poor fuel quality that has gummed up the carburetor.
  • Loose or faulty spark plug lead wire or bad spark plug
  • Clogged air filter or fuel line
  • Faulty ignition switch or starter solenoid or relay switch

Solutions:

Once you figure out the symptoms and causes, act quickly and proceed with the following:

  • Fill the fuel tank and check for a clogged filter or lines. If the problem persists, replace the fuel filter. Replace the lines if necessary. If the problem continues, rebuild or replace the carburetor.
  • Perform a compression test on each cylinder and adjust or replace components as needed.
  • Replace the spark plug and lead wire if necessary. If the problem persists, replace the ignition switch and start the relay switch if necessary.

2. The Loader Will Not Raise

John Deere 1020 owners frequently experience a problem with the loader not raising. The loader will not raise at all or only partially raise. This can be a significant inconvenience, as the loader is essential for many tasks on the farm. It may result from several different causes but can always be resolved quickly.

Symptoms:

The below signs will show when your tractor has a problem with its loader.

  • The loader will not raise as fast as it used to
  • The loader lifts slowly, or not at all
  • Lift arms do not raise

Causes:

The loader may not raise as a result of several issues. Here are the most common ones you’ll want to assess right away:

  • Dirty filter
  • Broken or disconnected hoses or fitting
  • A bad cylinder or piston
  • A relief valve stuck open
  • A clogged or broken return line

Solutions:

After you have identified the causes, you can try resolving the issue by taking the following steps. These three approaches can help you fix it by yourself in most cases without requiring professional handling.

  • Replace your filter cartridge and make sure it’s filled with new hydraulic fluid before putting it back in place.
  • Repair or replace the lift cylinder, piston, control valve, relief valve, hoses, and fittings.
  • Remove and clean the control valve, then reassemble.

3. The Engine Leaks Oil

One of the most pressing problems with John Deere 1020 tractors is engine leaks. The oil seeps from the crankcase and makes a mess underneath the tractor. When faced with this issue, sift through the symptoms and cause to identify what’s going on.

Symptoms:

If you experience the following symptoms, then your John Deere 1020 is leaking oil:

  • Oil is found on the ground when the tractor is parked.
  • Low oil level in the crankcase
  • The tractor has a burning smell.

Causes:

So why does your tractor leak oil? This problem can have any number of causes, but here are some familiar sources of an oil leak in a John Deere 1020:

  • Incorrect oil level
  • Excessive oil in the crankcase
  • A damaged head gasket
  • Leaking crankcase breather tube assembly
  • Rear crankshaft seal leaking
  • A poor seal between the engine block and cylinder head

Solutions:

You can try resolving oil leaks by following the steps listed below based on the causes you believe are relevant.

  • Check the recommended oil level and fill to proper level if low. Drain excess oil if necessary.
  • Inspect valve cover gasket and rear crankshaft seal for leakage or damage and replace as necessary.
  • Install a new breather tube assembly if you find oil around the breather tube opening or the element screen is plugged with debris/oil sludge.

4. The Hydraulics Do Not Work Properly

The hydraulic system on your John Deere 1020 is an essential component of your tractor. It controls all the tractor movements, including steering, lifting implements and attachments, and lowering implements and attachments. If it does not work correctly, you will notice that the hydraulics are sluggish or entirely inoperable.

Symptoms:

When your John Deere 1020’s hydraulics fail, it will show one or more of these telltale signs.

  • Power steering is stiff or not working
  • PTO is not engaging
  • The hydraulic system runs hot
  • The steering wheel turns independently of the front wheels
  • Wheels are hard or impossible to turn
  • Can’t carry a heavy load

Causes:

Hydraulics failure can be a result of multiple component malfunctions. Here are the most common ones.

  • Damaged or worn steering cylinder seals, O-rings, and/or bushings
  • Leaking power steering pressure lines
  • Leaking steering cylinders
  • Hydraulic valves are sticking

Solutions:

After assessing your John Deere’s hydraulics issues, here’s what you want to try.

  • Remove the contaminated oil from the tank, then flush it out with new oil.
  • Check if the hydraulic pump’s hoses are free of cracks. If they are not, replace the hoses.
  • Replace the hydraulic filter if it is clogged or damaged.

5. Poor Power at Low RPMs

Your powerful John Deere 1020 can often suffer from poor power or sluggish performance at low RPMs, which is especially dangerous when you need the tractor to be powerful to perform complex tasks. Here’s how to troubleshoot this problem.

Symptoms:

The following symptoms will appear when your John Deere is low on power at lower RPMs.

  • The engine runs fine at higher RPMs but dies down when the RPMs are low.
  • The tractor has trouble starting up when it is cold.
  • The glow plug light never stays on for very long.

Causes:

The power issue may result from at least one or a combination of the following factors:

  • The fuel in the tank may be dirty or contain water
  • Battery Wires are Corroded or Broken
  • Spark plug wires are damaged or corroded
  • The battery has a short circuit or low charge
  • Poor electrical connection between the battery and starter

Solutions:

You can correct the low power issue on your tractor by following these steps.

  • Decarbonize the engine; remove the fuel tank cap, and run the machine with no fuel until it stops.
  • Repair the spark plug wires or replace them entirely.
  • Rewire the battery’s electrical connection along with the starter.

FAQs.

Listed below are answers to questions frequently asked about the John Deere 1020 and related issues.

What type of hydraulic oil should I use for John Deere 1020?

It depends on your environment. If you’re operating in extreme temperatures, you can use 15W-40 oil. If you’re working in temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period, use a 20w-50 oil.

If you’re operating in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period, use a 10w-30 oil. In normal conditions, you can use any of these oils interchangeably.

How can I prevent failed brakes from my John Deere 1020?

To prevent brakes failure, lubricate all friction points in your brake system with grease every six months and replace brake shoes when they show signs of wear (i.e., grooves in the metal).

What should I do immediately when the transmission leaks?

You will see transmission fluid pooling around the transmission housing when a leak occurs. Replace the seal as soon as possible to avoid damage to your tractor. If an immediate replacement isn’t possible, you should try to patch the front shaft seal.

My John Deere 1020 has weak hydraulics and barely lifts its weight. How do I fix this?

Maybe there’s a leak in one of your hoses or cylinders. Replace them if they’re old or worn out, but if they’re not, check to make sure that the valve that controls the flow of hydraulic fluid isn’t stuck open (if it is, cleans it).

What is the average lifespan of a John Deere 1020 tractor?

According to the manufacturer, the John Deere 1020’s lifespan is approximately 40 to 70 years. Some owners have reported having had their John Deere 1020 tractors for over 70 years.

Conclusion

Contrary to what many believe, maintaining a tractor is not rocket science. You can resolve most of the issues outlined above by carefully following a manufacturer’s service manual and being careful with the task at hand.

Again, preventative maintenance is hands down the most effective solution for extending the lifespan of your tractor and reducing its downtime.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful and wish you the best of luck dealing with your John Deere 1020 problems. If there was something that we didn’t address, please feel free to contact us with your questions.

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