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Predator Engine Installed In Wheel Horse Tractor
“I run a lawn mower repair shop and last summer I installed a Harbor Freight 23 hp. horizontal shaft Predator engine into a Wheel Horse 520H garden tractor. The customer was happy because the Predator sells for about $1,000 less than a new Kohler engine,” says Steven Reining, Mt. Zion, Ill.  
In the past Reining has installed several 2-cyl. engines in Wheel Horse tractors, but this was his first Predator. “The conversion I made can be easily and affordably done to any Wheel Horse tractor, and possibly other garden tractor brands, too,” says Reining. “When I was done the tractor ran great, and the customer used it all year with no problems. Most people don’t even notice that the engine isn’t original.”
He was able to install the engine by using the tractor’s original Onan engine to build and install a “locator frame.”
“The locator frame’s purpose was to make sure the original belts would fit,” says Reining. “I drilled a hole approximately in the center of a 14-in. long, 1-in. wide, 1/4-in. thick steel bar, which fit onto the existing bolt in the end of the Onan engine’s crankshaft,” says Reining. “I then ran two steel supports from the bar back to a random bolting point on the tractor’s frame and welded them to the bar. With the Onan engine removed and with the locator frame bolted to the tractor, I knew exactly where the Predator engine needed to go - side to side, front to back, and height so the crankshaft would line up to the hole in the locator frame.”
He used a 3-in. long bushing with a 1-in. ID and a 1 1/8-in. OD to adapt the crankshaft to the Wheel Horse components. “The engines on most Wheel Horse tractors come with a 1 1/8-in. dia. crankshaft, whereas the Predator has a 1-in. dia. crankshaft so I also had to cut a key slot in the bushing,” says Reining.
The customer wanted to save money by rewiring the tractor and engine himself, including the safety switch wiring. To make the job easier, Reining disassembled the Predator’s speed and choke controls. He also installed longer wires and relocated the Predator ignition switch to the original Wheel Horse key switch position. “The customer was then able to rewire the safety switches at his convenience, which wasn’t a difficult job,” says Reining.
With a little cutting and welding, he also modified the engine’s exhaust pipe so it fit under the tractor’s hood. “I cut the flanges off the Onan engine’s muffler and welded the flanges off the Predator muffler to the Onan muffler,” he says.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Steven L. Reining, 120 W. Main St., Mt. Zion, Ill. 62549 (ph 217 864-4664; slreining@gmail.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #4