Some followed my earlier story on the regional section, but will repeat, and extend it here. Getting to the bottom line: What to do next, after two attempts at fixing an oil leak have failed? I have a John Deere, 717A ZTR, 48" deck, with 19hp Kaw. It now has about 1900 service hours on the meter. In Fall 2012, I noticed a drop of oil on the trailer bed, coming from the rear of the engine deck. I watched it closely. One drop was followed by two, then three, and then more. The first observation was about six weeks before the end of the season. I chose to keep tabs, hoping I could reach the end of the season, and have a repair done in the off-season. The problem was not significant enough to be a bother -- perhaps a cup of topping off oil level every 10 hours of work. I made many calls in early February. My assessment was probably a top or bottom oil seal, or maybe both. But, I have no experience, so my assessment really wasn't worth much. Everybody's story was pretty much the same, "Two weeks turn around, just bring it in ...." I opted for one shop, let's call it SC for reference purposes. I dropped it off, and a couple of days later received a call, "Pick it up, ... minor problem." I was told the valve covers were not as tight as they should be, so they were tightened, and it should be ready to go. I brought it home, ran it outside for 30 minutes here and there, took it to the road for some WOT travel, and believed the problem was fixed. The mowing season started in early April. The oil problem appeared to have been fixed, but after a week or so, a single drop, ... same as before. Then two drops, then three, then more and more leaking. The rear of thee engine, that is the wall behind the carb was fully covered with oil. However, with high air flow on a running engine, who knows where the oil could be leaking and finding a settling spot. The problem continued to get worse, with the leaking reaching about 2 cups per 10 hours of work. When the engine was shut down after being run hard, small wisps of smoke, and an oil-burning odor were coming from the top of the engine. By this time (middle of May), my season was well under way, and having the machine 100 available was very necessary. One of the problems of being a small-time operator, no back up. I've worked this way for 18 years, and this is the first time something significant arose. Yes, small hand-helds have failed, but a quick trip to buy new was an easy fix. I do all my own maintenance work, but getting inside the engine was beyond what I felt comfortable doing. I talked to the folks at SC, and they suggested new valve cover gaskets. I really didn't think these gaskets were the source of the problem. I ordered new gaskets, and made the replacements. The outcome was no change. The leak persisted, at the same rate as before. I started making calls, "... anybody with a ZTR for rent to cover while my machine is getting fixed ...?" I did find one, but at some distance away. Again, the answer was always the same, "... bring it in, we will take a look, ... turnaround is 2-3 weeks for repairs...." Ouch!! I cannot be without a ZTR for 2-3 weeks! Nobody takes appointments. The timer only starts when the machine is in their lot. I made further calls to SC repair shop, believing they had some skin in this game. They had "made the repair" and sent it home as being fixed. They did have an understanding of my situation, and offered me a loaner ZTR. Good! I hated to give up my ZTR, but at least I had a loaner. I was not as efficient with the loaner, but still was able to keep schedule with longer work hours. After 14 days, "... come back to pick it up, ... replaced lower oil seal ..." I returned the loaner on Friday morning, and picked up my JD. I was pleased the total bill was only for a couple of hours of labor, 2 qt oil, and a seal. I was expecting more. By early afternoon, I came to understand that the problem remains. No, the oil leak is not as significant as before, but still several drops on the trailer bed within 10 minutes of parking it. And, after running hard, small wisps of smoke and burning-oil odor coming from the engine. I ran it a couple hours on Friday, and several more hours yesterday (Saturday). And, I now know that the leak remains, and that I am in trouble! I will certainly inform SC about the lack of success. But, do I return it again for another 14 days, with a third attempt at repair? Or, do I find another place to make a repair, hoping I can find somebody else with a loaner? I was unsuccessful at the loaner request earlier. Or, do I decide this is not repairable, attempt to make a private sale of this machine, and buy new? I am hoping this will be my last season, to buy new with an expected six months of use is painful thought. But, I need a 48" ZTR to finish out my season. I could probably use a stand-on as well. In my discussions a few weeks ago, I asked the repair shops if a short-block idea had merit. Nobody wanted to even consider a short-block. I knew a short-block was expensive, but the task to make the replacement is a well-defined task, complete with gaskets. The outcome should be certain. I will ask the brain-trust here -- good idea, not a good idea? One more thought ... The loaner ZTR had really tight hydro controls, very responsive. After running it for two weeks, and then returning to my own JD ZTR, I realize that my hydro controls are very "loose." Remember, it has about 1,900 hours on the meter. One source of slop in the controls is the post coming from the transmission. Yes, there is some play in the linkages from the sticks, but I was surprised to feel/see some movement on the post coming from the transmission. I raise this point to wonder out-loud about the merits of putting lots of money (e.g. short-block) in to the engine, with a transmission that may have limited life. Any thoughts about this? So, ... back to the "bottom line" question raised at the beginning, "What to do next?" The present 717A fits my needs very well. It has been a very solid machine, fits on my trailer, cuts beautifully. If it failed in some/all of these points, the decision is easy. I wish to keep it, but I need a 100% available machine to finish the 2013 season. Anybody with any thoughts or ideas? Thanks. P.S. No apologies for the length of the post. I wanted to be complete, eliminating any back/forth questions.