Download your Float Ride Seat Repair Video Tip Sheet
Steiner Float Ride Seat Repair Video Tips by Tyler Buchheit
There is nothing like the wind in your face listening to that old John Deere 20 or 30 series tractor riding across the field with a plow or hay rake in a comfortable Float-Ride seat; so long as your seat actually floats instead of bouncing the driver like on a trampoline. According to an operator manual for a John Deere model 730, “The John Deere Float-Ride seat will give you the most comfortable tractor ride you’ve ever had. Two rubber torsion springs and a shock absorber provide a gentle, floating ride over the roughest fields. Tension on the rubber torsion springs can be varied to compensate for the weight of the operator by turning a convenient handle on the back of the seat. ”
The Float-Ride seat was a true innovation in more comfortable and posture friendly seats offered by John Deere. They were introduced in 1956 on the then new 20 series tractors built in Waterloo, Iowa (520, 620, 720, and 820 models) and continued with no changes into the last of the two cylinder powered 30 series. It is little known however that John Deere actually offered the Float-Ride seats for retrofit on earlier model tractors including the 50, 60, 70, 80, late Styled A –B- G-R tractors that had battery boxes under their seats.
Many years of use, abuse, and aging have taken a toll on original Float-Ride seats leading most often to failure of the rubber torsion springs. From personal experience it seems that nearly all of the seats I’ve rebuilt had a non-functional shock absorber; imagine for a minute having never replaced the shocks on a car from 1957! The various bushings and pins are most likely worn beyond good service as well. With some good fortune the seat itself won’t have been damaged or farmer-modified.
It’s not all that rare to find a Float-Ride seat which has had some of the thin metal skirts at the front or rear which are rusted through, cracked, or torn. Unless the tractor was maintained above normal for the last 55 plus years, the tie bar that adjusts the torsion springs is most likely rusted solid. Other items to consider when addressing the Float-Ride seat are: Battery box, battery cables, rear seat light, seat cushions, seat decals, warning plate (fastened to rear of the battery box).
Taking a trip to the dealer today to price the items necessary to completely overhaul the original Float-Ride seat might make you wish you’d been sitting down. Fortunately Steiner Tractor Parts has all of the required new parts to completely overhaul your worn out Float-Ride seat and other related items. Please take the time to look at the part diagram with lettered parts A through T and familiarize yourself with the part names and refer back often to see how everything fits together.
Before ordering Float-Ride seat parts, it’s advisable to check over your seat and make a list. If you’re torsion springs are visibly cracked, torn, or adjusted to the maximum and still won’t hold up the seat when you sit on it plan on replacing them. When replacing the torsion springs a new pin/bushing set should also be installed to ensure proper seat function. I’d compare replacement of torsion springs without the bushings and pins to overhauling an engine by only replacing the pistons & rings and overlooking the crankshaft and cylinder head; omitting such important parts just wouldn’t make sense.
Removal of the seat shock and moving the shock in and out by hand is a very effective way to determine if it has any resistance or lack thereof which would require replacement. If the battery box is loose check to see if it is rusted out on the bottom (battery removal is important to really inspect any battery box). The front and rear sections of the battery box near to where the Float-Ride seat attaches are prone to stress cracking. A quick check of the seat cushions, backrest, and rear light should round out the Float-Ride seat parts check and get you ready to place a parts order.
Whether a beginner or someone with 5+ Float-Ride rebuilds under the belt, it would be prudent to consider the Seat Installation Tools (JDS2541) to make the job much more tolerable and less likely to push someone to losing their Religion during the process. The JDS2541 ends the difficulty encountered when installing the rubber torsion springs and the infamous adjusting tie-bar. Aside from the JDS2541 tool mentioned above and a SAE full wrench/socket set, the following tools will be necessary to attempt a Float-Ride seat rebuild.
· Several Hammers (small & large Ball-Peen & Dead-Blow)
· Straight punches or brass drifts
· Safety Glasses (eye protection is key with hammers, chisels, & punches)
· Roll-Pin punches (if you don’t own some, now would be a great time to get them)
· Small bushing/seal installer set (with drivers to set the bronze bushings)
· Several small pieces of lumber (2x4 or 2x6 less than 12” length) for use during the assembly process per the video
· At least two 6 inch C-clamps
· Quick Grip type clamps (not a must have, but very helpful)
Once you have determined what parts will be needed to repair & rebuild you seat and they have been ordered (or perhaps you would like to wait and see what you find after disassembly) it is time to get down to business. To start off the process it’s a best practice to disconnect your battery(s) and remove them from the battery box. Experience has taught me not to chance working around batteries with metal objects unless you want to experience welding with a craftsman wrench. You’ll find it much easier to remove the batteries after you have removed the seat frame by pulling out the adjustment knob on the side and pushing it all the way forward until it disengages from the Float-Ride frame. *Note that you must disconnect any wires for the rear seat light before sliding the seat frame forward.
With the battery(s) out of the way loosen the four mounting bolts which fasten the Float-Ride seat assembly (the factory service manual refers to the front and rear plates as bulkheads) to the battery box (a 9/16in wrench is needed here). With the bolts removed the Float-Ride assembly will be able to lift off the battery box.
For closer inspection of the Float-Ride seat assembly, a good work bench or table is quite handy. To begin it’s best to remove the shock completely from the seat frame and the bulkhead (part that bolts to the front of the battery box). With the shock removed it is rather simple to test it for function by extending and compressing it checking for resistance similar to an automotive shock.
Next, the tie bar cover must be removed. To remove the tie bar cover plate (the piece on the rear of the assembly that covers the torsion springs from view) the two 3/16ths inch roll-pins must be driven out of the spindles on the rear bulkhead. With the adjusting handle accessible, drive out the 1/8th inch roll pins that retain the adjusting handle pins in the flanges of the torsion springs. If possible (assuming that your adjusting handle isn’t rusted solid) turn the adjusting handle so that to relieve any pressure on the torsion springs. Carefully pry (use a heavy screwdriver) to pull the adjusting handle pins out of the torsion springs.
The next step is often one of the most difficult. From years of rust and corrosion, the shafts attached to the rear bulkhead which go through the bushings in the torsion springs are often bound tight. Sometimes luck will be on your side allowing a few simple taps on the bulkhead with a small hammer and everything will come apart easily. However, if the rear bulkhead doesn’t come out easily consider using some good penetrating oil and walking away for an evening. The rear bushings are made of ferrous metal and will often become heavily rusted.
Sometimes it is possible to grab hold of the flange on the rear bushings (exposed after removing the tie bar plate) with an adjustable plier and rotate the bushing allowing the rusty hold on the shafts to become loosened. Take caution as not to mushroom the shaft ends by hammering or driving them as they will become wedged in the bushings and create further difficulty removing them. Resist the urge to drive chisels to wedge between the bulkhead and the suspension arms/torsion springs/ stabilizing link as to distort the metal mainly in the bulkhead.
Once the bulkhead is removed from the suspension arms/cross shafts the torsion springs can be removed. The pins which retain the short links can be driven out using a punch and hammer. Use caution as not to badly damage the thin bushing retainers which are inside of the seat skirt. If you happen to accidentally damage the bearing retainer tabs on the seat skirt, they can be easily straightened.
Drive out all of the old bushings if needed (they will sometimes be worn to the point of falling out or coming out in pieces). Take care to inspect all of the bushing bosses in the seat skirt. It’s fairly common to see the bushings worn through after many years of use which if severe enough, might warrant the need to renew the holes which retain the bushings for the drive pins.
Clean the shafts which come out of the rear bulkhead with emery cloth or fine grit sand paper until all rust is removed from them. This step will ensure smooth assembly. Also, do the same to the short pins on the front bulkhead. If any painting is planned this step may be done here as to ensure complete paint coverage. I personally recommend sand blasting then doing any cosmetic repairs necessary before priming and reassembly. It is a best practice to tape all bearing surfaces prior to painting or it will be necessary to clean these surfaces later (not fun).
Hopefully you will choose to install new bushings, pins, and torsion springs at a bare minimum. Doing this will ensure the best possible outcome for a properly operating Float-Ride Seat. If the original adjusting handle is rusted solid or has been damaged it should be replaced as it is rather inexpensive relative to the amount of displeasure of having one that won’t adjust properly.
Reassembly is not extremely difficult if the various parts and pieces have been cleaned and lubricated. It is important to note that the torsion springs will need to be clean in the center bore to allow the bushings to be installed without exerting extreme pressure that could possibly damage them during the process. Often, excess rubber from the molding process will remain inside the torsion springs that will interfere with the bushing installation. I’ve found a ¾ inch steel pipe cleaner type brush when used in a drill is quite effective at cleaning excess rubber and perhaps paint from the bore of the inner and outer steel flanges of the torsion spring. Additionally, the two small and one large mounting pins on the front flange of the torsion spring (remember front is toward the steering wheel when installed on the tractor) must be clean and shiny to ensure they will give minimal difficulty when installing them in the cross shaft lift arms.
Before beginning assembly, it is best to install all of the small brass flanged bushings in the seat skirt (8 short small bushings) and the two slightly larger bushings in the stabilizing link (connects the two large solid pins on the front flange of the torsion springs). The stabilizing link bushings should be installed with both flanges on the same side of the link. While a bushing driver works well for the stabilizing link, it does not normally work on the small bushings that go in the seat skirt. Often, these bushings can be installed with a large flat screw driver and a pair of pliers. Take care to ensure the bushings are properly seated with the flanges toward the inside which will wear against the short links when they are in place. The bushings (one brass and one steel) may also be installed in the torsion springs. Due to inconsistencies in the torsion springs, some bushings may fit tight while others will nearly fall into place. Do not worry about this as it will not matter when everything is assembled.
After the bushings for the drive pins are installed in the seat skirt visually inspect all of them for proper alignment. It is possible that the smaller bushing tab on the inside of the frame could become out of alignment. Bushing alignment is important as it is necessary for the drive pin to be properly installed. When installing the cross shafts in the seat skirt note that they must go into place at the same time when installing the short links in the seat skirt. It is IMPERATIVE when installing the short links that they are in the proper orientation. Failure to do this will result in possibly damaging the flanged bushing by having to remove the drive pins. With the seat skirt upside down on a flat surface (workbench) the end of the link with the bushing must be down while the other solid end is up. The short link must also be turned so the flange is facing toward the flat bar on the cross shaft. Do not forget to slip on the metal spacer on the rear end of the cross shaft which goes between the cross shaft lift arm and the flanged bushing on the short link. If you are confused from these instructions, take a CLOSE look at the part diagram as it shows the proper orientation of the parts and bushing flanges.
When installing the drive pins into the short links, take time to drive them from the inside of the seat skirt toward the outside. Doing this ensures that the pins will go in straight and have a solid surface which will take the impact of being driven in. Remember, the drive pin is knurled so that it will stay put inside the short link. The drive pin should be centered in the short link and the knurled portion must be clear of the bushing. If you are unsure about this, simply flex the short link & cross shaft noting if there is little or no resistance from the drive pin.
Once the drive pins, sort links, and cross shafts / lift arms are installed into the seat skirt, it is time to install the front bulkhead. The shock should be installed onto the front bulkhead at the same time it is installed into the cross shaft arms. It is also a good idea to secure the front bulkhead to the shock using plastic zip ties if available. Quick grip type clamps can also be used to hold the front bulkhead into the cross shaft arms. Keeping the front bulkhead in place is very important when trying to assemble the torsion springs and other parts.
Next, install the flat nylon washers on the shafts of the rear bulkhead. These washers aren’t pictured on the part diagram, however are included in the bushing & pin kit. It is also advisable to smear a little grease on the shafts to aide in assembly. Before installing the bulkhead the torsion springs must be fitted to the cross shaft arms. Remember that when thinking about the springs in the LEFT and RIGHT positions that it is when the seat is installed right side up on the tractor and viewed when standing behind the tractor. With the torsion springs in the cross shaft arms, install the stabilizing link with the bushing flanges toward the torsion springs. With the above parts in place, slide the rear bulkhead shafts into the torsion springs & cross shaft arms. It is sometimes necessary to provide some force with a dead blow hammer.
The adjusting handle must now be installed. Support the rear bulkhead with a 4x4” wooden block to ensure the cross shaft arms are in the right position. It is also advisable to use large C-Clamps or quick grip clamps to hold the torsion springs to the rear bulkhead assembly. If you have a set of the special Float-Ride Seat tools available from Steiner (JDS2541) they can be used to torsion the springs enough to install the pins of the adjusting handle and secure them in the flanges with the 1/8 inch roll pins. Remember that the adjusting handle must be installed with the bar on the front side (next to the rubber on the springs) of the torsion spring rear flange and the handle on the right side (when sitting on the seat…so upside down it will be on the left). Failure to do this will require disassembly as the adjusting handle would interfere with the tie bar.
If you do not have the proper tools to twist the torsion springs for installing the adjusting handle, following the original instructions from John Deere will almost never work and the procedure is quite unsafe. If you are improvising the torsion spring tensioning tool, take care to ensure whatever is done will not tear or cut the rubber on the torsion springs.
The tie bar is the last part to install before mounting the completed assembly on the battery box. Slide the tie bar on the rear bulkhead pins with the flanged / square edge toward the seat skirt (remember when installed the rounded edges must be down toward the ground). This is usually simple, but occasionally the shafts will be sprung out just enough to make the process difficult. When you encounter this difficulty a large quick grip may be used with caution on the rear flanges of the torsion springs to slightly compress the two shafts closer together. If there is more than ¼in of difference between the shafts and tie bar, suspect bent shafts (this may require disassembly to bend the shafts true). With the tie bar slid over the shafts it will be necessary to compress the rear bulkhead and torsions springs enough to allow access to the holes in the bulkhead shafts for installation of the 3/16” roll pins. To avoid damage to the tie bar place a flat piece of steel or perhaps a 1x4” board over between the tie bar and the clamp. Extra caution can be used here to avoid scuffing paint by placing a soft towel between the steel/wood and the tie bar. Compress each side of the tie bar at a time then install the roll pin and drive it into the shaft. A long set of needle nose pliers and a roll pin punch greatly speed up the installation of the roll pins.
With the tie bar in place, the Float-Ride assembly is ready for installation on the battery box (unless of course you would like to paint it before installation). Mount the assembly on the battery box with the four bolts. Take care if using new bolts that they are the proper length (not too long) as they could interfere with the cross shaft arms as the seat bounces up and down. Reinstall the seat frame and cushion and give the seat a try. Note if there is any binding and the seat goes down and up without any problems. It will be necessary to adjust the handle on the rear according to the driver weight and how stiff the seat will react to rough terrain.
Hopefully these instructions have provided you with the knowledge for rebuilding the Float-Ride seat on your John Deere tractor. Once you have rebuilt a few of these seats the process is quite simple, with the only real surprises usually being the disassembly process from years of rust and corrosion. The reward of a properly operating Float-Ride seat is one that will make you wonder why you never did it sooner.
Part numbers for Steiner Supplied Float-Ride parts
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