Steering Problem on Craftsman Lawn Tractor

I just started using my tractor having bought it new at the end of the summer 2005 mowing season.
Every year at this time I faithfully tune it up - change oil/oil filter/spark plugs/air filter/fuel filter, clean the carb, take off the deck/sharpen the blades, check the belts, ...
Having just completed all of the above, I'm finding the steering to be very difficult. It feels like a car with power steering but the power is off - much more force is required to turn the steering wheel. It is also difficult to steer back to straight from a hard turn.
What could be the problem? Could it be a simple lubrication solution, or something more significant like a bearing/bushing in a wheel/axle assembly? I see no obvious visual indications.
The model is 917.275702, 24 hp, 48" deck.
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Let me clarify my first sentence - I bought it in 2005 at the end of the cutting season but have used it every cutting season since, so used it through 2006, 2007, and 2008. Now all of a sudden the steering is difficult.
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Last time I checked out Sears lawn tractors, I decided not to buy because one weak area that I noted was the flimsy front axle and steering mechanism. Much of it is made of pressed sheet metal and could easily bend out of alignment. Check yours, a bump at some time may have bent something in the front end resulting in stiff steering.
I ended up with a John Deere, its front end is really heavy duty, easy to lubricate and very light to steer.
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On Apr 14, 9:24 pm, snipped-for-privacy@invalid.com wrote:

How does it steer if the front wheels are off the ground, is it still stiff?
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How does it steer if the front wheels are off the ground, is it still stiff?
______________________
I haven't tried that yet, but when on my driveway it is not as stiff as when it is on the grass.
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How does it steer if the front wheels are off the ground, is it still stiff?
_________________
I jacked the front off the ground. Steering is still quite stiff, though not quite as stiff as on the ground.
If anything, tire pressure was high. I adjusted all tires to spec pressure.
I lubricated all steering mechanisms with WD-40. This helped somewhat, but there is still some degree of stiffness. At times I hear a squeak on turns as well.
Whatever the source of the stiffness is, is still there, not quite as severe with the WD-40.
Now what?
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Also, no obvious visual issues.
I'm not sure how the wheel bearings could be a potential issue. This is for wheel forward rotation, not lateral rotation. Besides, when I had the tractor jacked up, the wheels spun freely just fine.
There is an axle assembly out of which the left and right spindle assemblies come out to go to the wheels. I don't know if there is a bearing or bushing inside where the spindles come out that could be the issue.
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Dimitrios Paskoudniakis wrote:

Well first of all you didn't LUBRICATE anything with WD-40. It's not a lubricant. What you need to do is lubricate the moving parts and different spots with chassis grease. Not oil, not graphite, not pam. GREASE. Get in there and find all the places where things touch and GREASE them.
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READ it again. I asked about tire pressure. WW

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wrote:

I can't fix your problem, but I do have a BRAND NEW steering assembly that fits a model 917.258552. Part number is 16702-917. If you need this part it is appox. $85 + shipping from Sears. I'll sell it to you for $50 + shippping. I bought a used rider and this came with it. I sold the mower and not the assembly. Check yours out, it may use the same part. If you want it, contact me snipped-for-privacy@aol.comdelete this. I will then give you my phone number.
Hank
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Dimitrios Paskoudniakis wrote:

Step #1 - check the tire pressure
--

dadiOH
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wrote:

Most tractors could stand to have the steering knuckles removed every few years and cleaned & greased, even ones with grease fittings there. If you really want light steering take them to a bearing shop and fit the part that goes through the Axel with thrust washers at the bottom assuming there is room.
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