How To Start A Lawn Mower Without The Pull Cord. Lawn mower start cord
[5 DIY Fixes] Lawn Mower Starting Cord Won’t Pull
Everyone who has owned a push mower has experienced the dreaded moment when you go to pull the recoil starter cord and you nearly throw out your shoulder or break your fingers from the tension. It’s not fun.
Sometimes the cord is completely locked up, and sometimes it will jerk towards you violently but slowly as you try not to get a hernia from your efforts.
The good news is that there is a very small chance that anything is actually broken or that you even need to replace something.
This article will take you over a few very common fixes that will take care of 95% of your problems before you need to take it to a small engine repair shop. I’m throwing 7 years of fixing small engines as a side job into this article, so hopefully that knowledge will pay off.
It is common for a lawn mower’s pull cord to not work due to hydrolock, which is where liquid oil or gas has entered the cylinder and cannot be compressed by the piston as the cord is pulled by hand. This is typically caused by tipping the lawn mower incorrectly. Removing the spark plug and pulling the starter cord repeatedly will flush out the cylinder.
While hydrolock is the most common cause, and can happen for a number of reasons, there are still a few other things you should check in case that doesn’t fix the problem.
I’ve got a quick table for you below, followed by a video where I will guide you through the process. Explanations of the problems and their corresponding repairs will make up the rest of the article.
I have the problems listed in the order I would check if I was having a problem with my own lawn mower. It should go without saying, but if this is your first time using a push mower, make sure that you are clamping the brake lever (located right above the handle) to the handle to disengage the flywheel brake before you try starting it. It’s an honest mistake, but one worth mentioning.
Don’t panic about the pull cord, we’ll get this fixed together!
Mowing a tree branch isn’t the wisest thing, but it happens to the best of us.
How to Fix a Blade Obstruction
You’ll need to access the bottom of the mower deck to check for an obstruction.
There is a right way and a wrong way to tip a lawn mower. One is safe, and the other will lead to problems. I highly recommend checking out this link here (it will open in another tab) to make sure you’re not missing anything.
Remove the rubber spark plug boot first, and then tip your lawn mower back so that the handle is on the ground. Place something heavy on the handle to keep the lawn mower tipped up.
This should give you enough room to at least check and see if you have anything binding up the blades.
Once the spark plug boot is removed, you can safely remove the obstruction by hand if you’ve got enough room to work.
If you need more room to work, you’ll need to tip the mower on its side. Please check out the article above to tip yours the correct way so that you don’t create more problems for yourself.
Also, just as a reminder, make sure to check the debris skirt for being a possible obstruction. It’s easy to overlook.
With the blade clear of anything that might be binding it, try turning the blades by hand. One side of the blade will be dull and the other will be sharp. Spin it in the direction that the blade would be cutting grass if it were spinning.
If the blade now spins freely, it should now work to pull the cord back. If the cord still doesn’t work, or if the blades won’t spin by hand, we will go to the next section.
A Seized Engine Will Stop a Lawn Mower’s Pull Cord
Next, I would quickly check the oil in the crankcase by pulling out the dipstick and seeing what level it’s at.
If your engine is super low or out of oil, it’s possible that the engine is completely seized up or damaged from overheating when you last used it.
Remember from the previous section that the blade shaft runs through the engine where it connects to the piston?
The piston needs to be lubricated by the engine oil to continue to slide up and down in the cylinder. Without oil, or enough oil, the piston will overheat in the cylinder as it will essentially be metal on metal at a very high rate of speed.
Metal can warp or start to fuse together from the heat caused by the excess friction.
Once this is done, your engine is likely toast.
If you have enough oil in on the dipstick, you can proceed to the next step.
Oil on this lawn mower is perfect. If you didn’t see any oil on the dipstick I would be very concerned.
If you don’t see oil on the dipstick at all, add oil (or drain the oil that’s in there and start fresh) until the level is correct.
Proceed to the next step where we’ll lubricate the cylinder if needed, and check for hydrolock as well.
Pro Tip: A lawnmower pull cord could also be sluggish to pull if you are trying to start the mower in temperatures below freezing 32°F, or 0°C. SAE30, the most common type used in mowers, becomes too thick at cold temperatures and doesn’t adequately lubricate the internals of the engine to allow for a smooth pull. Running a lawn mower in these temps with this oil can cause engine damage.
Hydrolock Can Cause a Lawn Mower Starter Cord to Fail
Hydrolock is very common and can be caused for several reasons.
Hydrolock is when you have a liquid (either gas or oil) that has made its way into the combustion cylinder and it’s sitting on top of the piston. The piston cannot compress and the excess pressure prevents movement.
Air can be compressed, but liquids cannot. You certainly can’t do it by hand, and even your engine, moving at 1000’s of RPMs cannot do it. That’s why it stalls when it “floods”, or when liquid gasoline gets into the cylinder.
If the piston can’t move due, then the blades can’t spin and the recoil cord won’t pull.
You may get a little movement on the cord if you pull slow and hard, but it will feel extremely choppy and the cord will feel like it’s going to break your fingers as it snaps back to its original position.
A good visual sign that you have hydrolock is oil seeping out of the exhaust as you’re trying to pull the cord.
How to Fix Hydrolock in a Mower
Go ahead and remove the spark plug boot and then the spark plug itself. You’ll typically need a 5/8″ deep well socket, but your size may vary.
To remove the spark plug, remove the rubber boot first.
With the spark plug removed, depress the brake lever and slowly pull the starter cord. If it pulls, then you had hydrolock.
Go ahead and pull it a few times with the spark plug removed like you are trying to start the mower.
Keep the direction of the spark plug hole pointed in a safe direction since gas or oil will be flinging out of it as you pull on the cord.
Use a socket to remove the spark plug.
You can now put the spark plug back in and connect the rubber boot. The engine should start up but it will likely smoke for 10-15 minutes as it burns off the excess oil that made its way into the exhaust. This is completely normal.
Going back to the previous section regarding a seized engine — if your engine was very low on oil and you’ve removed the spark plug but the starter cord still won’t pull, then you can try to lubricate the cylinder a bit. Place a tablespoon or two of fresh engine oil in spark plug hole and gently tilt the lawn mower around a little to allow the oil to touch the cylinder walls.
Let it sit for an hour or so to let the oil try to work its way by the piston rings and lubricate everything. It may be completely beyond repair, but it’s worth a shot.
Be sure to check the following steps as well, in case the problem is upstream of the piston and somewhere with the flywheel or pull cord assembly itself!
The Brake, Brake Lever, or Cable Are Malfunctioning and Stopping a Mower’s Pull Cord
We started at the bottom with the blades, then worked our way up to the engine oil in the crankcase, and then to the piston and cylinder. If we keep working our way up, we find ourselves around the flywheel.
The brake lever that you clamp to the handle has a cable that runs down and connects to an assembly that has a brake pad that pushes against the flywheel. It is also connected to a spring. When at rest, the spring keeps the brake pad pushed against the flywheel.
The brake assembly has a pad (red) the pushes against the flywheel when you let go of the brake lever up top. If you try pulling the rope with it engaged like this, it would be like driving with the parking brake on. You can do it, but it’s not going to go fast and it’s going to take a lot of effort. Even if you pull it, the engine will never engage with the brake on since a “kill switch” is also engaged in this position. When you squeeze the brake lever to the handle up top, the brake pad releases from the flywheel (red pad) and the bottom of the assembly moves away from the kill switch which allows the engine to start.
When you pull on the lever, it lifts the brake pad off the flywheel and allows it to spin when you pull on the cord.
The brake lever near the engine also triggers a “kill switch” for the engine when it’s at rest. If the brake lever by the engine is not full disengaged by you bringing the brake lever by the handle and the handle together, then the kill switch keep the spark plug from working.
There could be a number of things that go wrong here. The cable could be inserted into the wrong hole if someone did some maintenance on it, the cable itself (usually the plastic tubing) could be compromised, there could be rust that’s not allowing the brake lever by the engine to turn, etc.
The cable itself should be relatively taut, with just a slight amount of slack when the brake lever is not being pressed against the handle. If it is excessively droopy, make sure that the one end of the cable attaches to the brake handle, and the other to the brake lever by the engine. Make sure all the cables are in place for the brake lever (up top and the one down at the brake assembly near the engine). Make sure the brake cable is relatively taut with only a small amount of slack. If you have excess slack, you will likely need to get a new cable.
If they are properly connected, then you will need to replace the cable. Search your make and model mower and check for a parts manual online to get a parts number. Cables can easily be found on Amazon.
To check the actual brake pad and the moving parts, you’ll need to remove the cover and shroud from your mower. If your cable looks good, then you’re going to want to proceed to the next step since we’ll be taking things apart anyway.
Starter Rope Assembly is Broken
Finally, we’re at the last step. We’ve worked our way up through the whole mower and are now at the starter rope assembly itself.
The starter rope assembly, or recoil assembly, is basically a giant compressed spring that winds up your cord when you let it go.
Sometimes they can get bound up, tabs can break, or things move out of place.
Removing the starter cord is relatively simple. Just a few screws hold it on. Once it’s removed, the rest is rather complicated to explain in written form.
I have a video that I made for repairing a generator pull cord. The concept is the exact same, so feel free to check out the video below. ⬇⬇⬇
Robert lives in central Michigan and enjoys running, woodworking, and fixing up small engines.
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How To Start A Lawn Mower Without The Pull Cord
A lawn mower pull cord breaking can be a pain, to say the least. Would you like to know how to start a lawn mower without the pull cord? Well, we have researched this topic and have the answer for you. It is vital to know how to start a lawn mower without the pull cord, so if it ever breaks, you can still mow your grass.
To start a mower without the pull cord, wrap a thin rope around the flywheel. Now, pull the rope off the flywheel, and the mower will start.
In this article, we will learn how to start a lawn mower without its pull cord. We will also learn the answers to other interesting related topics such as what causes a pull cord to lock up and which mowers don’t need a pull cord. Keep reading to learn more!
How To Start A Lawn Mower Without The Pull Cord
Most lawn mowers get their power from combustion engines. While a combustion engine can deliver a lot of energy quickly, it does have the drawback of requiring a lot of force to get it started.
The primary method to start a lawn mower engine is a pull cord. A pull cord is just a thin rope that wraps around a flywheel connected to the engine. When you pull the cord, it starts the combustion engine.
Since the pull cord on a mower endures repeated high stress from being pulled regularly, it will eventually wear down and break. Once the pull cord breaks, you won’t be able to start the engine without finding a way to turn the flywheel.
The best way to turn the flywheel without the pull cord is to wrap a rope around it and pull. To wrap a rope around the flywheel, you must first remove the plastic guard covering it.
The plastic guard covering the flywheel is held in place with two to four screws depending on which mower you have. Once all the screws on the plastic guard are removed, you can lift it off and see the flywheel.
The flywheel will have a raised metal ring in its center, called the flywheel nut. The flywheel nut is the part of the flywheel you will want to wrap your rope around.
Wrap your rope around the flywheel nut, leaving enough rope unwrapped so you can pull it. Next, pull the rope off the flywheel fast enough to start the engine.
You will notice that the rope comes off the flywheel once the mower is started. The rope comes off because it isn’t attached to the pull cord starter which automatically retracts the cord after starting. Be sure to store the new start cord where you won’t lose it so you can quickly start your mower when you need to.
What Causes A Lawn Mower Pull Cord To Lock Up?
One of the most likely causes of your mower’s pull cord locking up is a hydraulic lock. A hydraulic lock is when oil floods the cylinders in your mower’s engine and makes pulling the cord and turning over the engine nearly impossible.
One of the most common causes of hydraulic lock is tilting the mower while it’s on. Sometimes, your mower may suffer from a hydraulic lock while mowing a steep hill.
Whatever the cause for your mower’s hydraulic lock, you need a way to remedy the issue quickly. To fix the hydraulic lock, you will need to release the pressure built up in the cylinders.
To release the pressure in the cylinders, remove the spark plug from your mower. Next, pull the mower’s cord, and the excess oil in the cylinders will be forced out.
Once the cylinders have been drained, you will be able to pull the cord again. It may take a few pulls to ensure enough oil is drained to start the engine.
What Mowers Don’t Need A Pull Cord?
While most mowers need a pull cord, there are some types of mowers that don’t. The two main mowers that don’t require a pull cord are electric start mowers and electric mowers. Let’s look at each type of mower and see its advantages and disadvantages.
Electric Start Mowers
Electric start mowers use a battery to turn the starter for your engine, allowing you to turn it on with just the press of a button. Not only is turning on an electric start mower easy but you also don’t have to worry about the cord breaking and not being able to start it.
There are also a few disadvantages associated with electric start mowers, primarily that the battery for the starter will occasionally need to be replaced.
Also, since self-starter mowers are more complex to build, they cost more. You can expect to spend twenty to thirty percent more for an electric start mower over a standard mower of the same size.
Electric mowers are similar to electric start mowers in that they are both started with the press of a button. The key difference between electric mowers and electric start mowers is their power source. While electric start mowers use a battery to start the engine, electric mowers use a battery to start and power the engine.
Not only are electric mowers easy to start but they are also quieter. While a typical gas mower may run at 90 decibels, an electric mower will run at 70. The softer sound of electric mowers makes them safer for your hearing than gas mowers.
Also, electric mowers don’t require gasoline which can cost a lot and has hazardous fumes.
While there are some significant advantages to using an electric mower, there are disadvantages. One of the main drawbacks to electric mowers is charging the battery.
While the battery in an electric mower may have enough power to mow your front and back lawn, you will have to wait for the battery to charge if you have a particularly large yard or need to mow multiple yards.
Some electric mowers try to get around this by having a power cord, but then you have the drawback of needing to drag a power cord around your yard.
Should I Get A Mower With Or Without A Pull Cord?
Now that we know the advantages and disadvantages of different mowers without a pull cord, we can answer whether you should get a mower with or without a pull cord.
One indicator that you may be best with a mower without a pull cord is if you find it challenging to start the mower with the cord. If you aren’t physically capable of starting your mower with the pull cord, it may be time to upgrade to a mower without one.
If you have a smaller yard, then an electric mower may be an excellent choice for you. It is easy to start, and you won’t have to worry about filling it with gas.
There are situations where an electric mower may not be powerful enough for your yard, but this doesn’t mean you have to get a regular mower. If you need the power of a gas mower but still have a difficult time starting a mower with a pull cord, try an electric start mower.
Electric start mowers are great for when you need the power of a gas mower but need an easier way to start it. If you need help starting your mower with a pull cord, then it would be best to choose one of these two mowers without a pull cord.
There are still situations where a mower without a pull cord may not be the right choice. Professional yard maintenance is one of the best examples of a place where a mower without a pull cord may not be the right choice.
When a landscaping crew performs professional yard maintenance, they often mow several lawns during the day. If you need to charge your mower‘s battery between yards, it will significantly reduce how much you can earn in a day.
Now it may seem that the solution is an electric start mower that runs on gas, but this isn’t ideal for professional yard maintenance either. Electric start mowers aren’t suitable for professional yard maintenance because they are more expensive to buy and repair than standard mowers.
While being able to start your mower easily is convenient, the additional maintenance costs for repairing the extra parts on an electric start mower outweigh the advantages. There is also the fact that most people who work on a professional yard maintenance crew have the strength to start a pull start mower quickly.
As you can see, if you only mow your residence and find starting a mower with a cord difficult, then a mower without a cord is best for you. And if you are running a landscaping business, it would be most economical to purchase mowers with a pull cord.
In this article, we learned how to start a mower without the pull cord by manually using its flywheel. We also learned how a hydraulic lock can cause your pull cord to lock up. Remember, keep your mower as level as possible to prevent hydraulic lock.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to learn more, check out some of these other posts:
How To Troubleshoot a Lawn Mower That Won’t Pull
If yes, it must have kept you wondering whether it is possible to troubleshoot such failure, and, if possible, you must have wondered how to do so.
First, measure the cord length and circumference of the winder, wind the cord 3 times, and test. Look for blade obstruction and recoil starter failure. Take the necessary action.
If you follow the instructions thoroughly provided in today’s article, you can easily fix your mower. So, learn how to troubleshoot a lawn mower won’t pull.
What Causes the Problem?
Your lawn mower might seem hard to pull or won’t pull due to wrong cord adjustment, stuck rope, or the blade dragging on the ground.
In most cases, simple cord adjustment works perfectly to solve the hard-to-pull problem, but in some cases, other faulty parts also lead to experiencing similar issues.
A lawn mower becomes hard to pull due to blade obstruction, disengaged spark plug wire, or recoil starter failure.
Steps To Troubleshoot A Lawn Mower That Won’t Pull:
Encountering such commotions every once in a while, is very common for every lawn mower user, but it’s still annoying to deal with such problems out of the blue.
If you follow the available online consumer forums, blogs, and YouTube vlogs, you will find several DIY ideas to fix such problems. Unfortunately, not all of those ideas are reliable, and most of them are not even confirmed by the users whether those fixing techniques worked or not.
Thus, I have enlisted an easy-to-do yet effective troubleshooting method to fix the problem quickly when your lawn mower fails to pull:
Things you will need to troubleshoot the lawn mower won’t pull:
Look at the checklist of the required tools or materials:
|¼ Nut driver|
Step 1- Measure the length of the Cord:
First, remove the recoil assembly with a ¼ nut driver to fix the lighters.
You will see a couple of quarter-inch screws so, carefully excuse them with the nut driver.
Now you can lift the upper cover off and wind it back to correct tension, you need to know the accurate length of the cord.
If you see, you will find the cord mounted up on your lawn mower handle just like most mower models.
Tip: Remember that while you are calculating the cord length, you are not going to wind the entire cord.
If you measure the cord length the way it was done in the earlier picture it will measure around 85 inches (it can differ from model to model). The entire cord length might be 35 inches.
Step 2- Measuring the Winder Circumference:
Next, you need to know the winder’s circumference, and to measure it use a measurement tape shown in the picture.
You might see a 17 and three-quarter measurement in there (it can also vary depending on your mower model and size).
Let’s do the calculation properly before proceeding further:[Overall winder – Outside winder] = 50/Circumference (17).So, our result will be 2.9 which means the wind is three times three ones.
Step 3- Winding the Cord:
Now you need to wind the cord three times. But first, get the hole lined up outside the exit and wind the cord three times by using your hand.
Next, insert a screwdriver to lock it up and hold it there.
After that prepare the cord end by cutting the damaged or worn end.
Tip: Melting the cord end will keep it safe from fraying and will help to feed through there too if it’s nice and flat
Now, thread the cord end through from the outside to the hole, which will look like threading a needle in.
When the cord gets fully through the hole line, make a simple knot by hand.
Next, put the recoil assembly again in place securely. Let’s try to wind again and see whether the cord is responding or not.
Step 4- Test the Cord:
If the three winds do not seem enough, you have to take it back out and again just wind it. Back up all the way and jam the screwdriver in for the cord lined up.
Next, undo the simple knot and let it go back. Also, take off the screwdriver line that you used before.
You can do it again and this time you can try 4 if three seem too much slack. So, this time follow the same procedures to wind 4 times.
Now mount the cord first in its original place on your mower. Then, just swivel it around and line up the holes.
Grab a quarter-inch nut driver and reinsert the nuts or connecting screws in both slides securely.
Now you need to pull the cord couple of inches before its agency engine and let’s check out the cord
Step 5- Blade Obstruction Recoil Starter Failure:
Next, you should check the condition of your mower’s blade.
If any strands of grass or debris get trapped in there, it will prevent the blade from spinning due to obstruction between the mower deck and the blade.
If you do not clean the obstruction out of the way on time, it will eventually cause the pull cord to get stuck.
To fix the blade obstruction trouble, thoroughly follow the Correct way to Tip a Mower for Maintenance.
If the blade is not the main culprit of your issue, check the recoil starter, which might be worn out or damaged.
In that case, open the blower housing first to inspect the recoil starter more closely. If it appears faulty, you need to replace the Recoil Starter.
Besides that, watch this video to learn how to fix the recoil starter easily.
Undertaking such maintenance can be hazardous. Thus, always remember to read your lawn mower’s instructions manual first before operating, servicing, or troubleshooting it. Make sure you have the minimum expertise to do this task alone.
Frequently Asked Questions: lawn mower won’t pull
Why does my lawn mower pull cord not catching?
The main reason behind a lawn mower cord catching failure is the failed flywheel starter assembly components like the broken/ worn out pawls or a damaged pulley system. They mostly fail or turn defective due to regular stress of use.
Free lawn mower. Drill Start
What causes the starting failure of my lawn mower pull start?
Such failure might occur due to a loose, dirty, or disconnected Spark Plug and dirty Air Filter. It can also arise if fuel is not reaching the mower engine properly and causing the motor to starve for fuel.
Why can’t I pull the string on my lawn mower?
Excess crankcase oil and storing the mower while it’s standing on its front wheels can cause the oil to bleed into the piston cylinder. This action will restrict the movement of the piston, and the piston will fail to move.
As a consequence, the crankshaft will not turn, and you won’t be able to pull the rope.
What causes the cord to get stuck on my lawn mower?
Such commotion can arise due to problems with the Recoil Mechanism. The pull cord sometimes crosses over itself while rewinding and gets stuck.
How to determine if my lawn mower engine is locked up?
Some obvious signs can help you to determine when your lawn mower engine is locked up or seized. You will see symptoms such as motor sounds rough, hard to start, stuck blades, the piston, as well as cylinders won’t move, insufficient or old oil in the tank, and deteriorated fuel.
Now that I have explained the simplest way to troubleshoot your lawn mower that won’t pull, you can easily get your mower back in perfect mowing condition.
But remember, you can only get the best result if you thoroughly follow all the instructions without skipping a single detail.
Lawn Mower Pull Cord Not Catching (How to Fix)
Nothing happens if your lawn mower pull cord isn’t catching. If your mower has a pull cord, there’s usually no way to get your mower to start, which ruins your mowing mission. It’s incredibly frustrating to do other troubleshooting to find out why your mower won’t start and realize that it’s not just that your mower needs some extra gas, but that the pull cord is faulty. In this article I’ll explain how the lawn mower pull cord mechanism works, possible causes for your lawn mower pull cord not catching, and how to fix the issue.
Why Your Lawn Mower Pull Cord Isn’t Catching
The pull cord mechanism on a lawn mower isn’t complicated, and the reason your cord isn’t catching is that one of the components of the flywheel starter assembly has failed under the stress of regular use. Typically it’s either worn or broken pawls, or a damaged pulley system. Either way, a complete OEM replacement starter assembly will typically cost less than 30 and it’s an easy DIY fix that takes a couple of minutes.
About the Starter Assembly
The starter rope is the only part of the starting system that can be seen. But inside your mower, the rope activates a series of parts that start the engine.
Learning how the mechanism functions will allow you to know how to fix a lawn mower pull cord that isn’t catching.
Sometimes the repair is simple, where the pull cord or handle itself breaks. If this is the case, simply replacing the rope or handle will be enough, and that’s a job that anyone can do.
Other issues can be the cause as well, but the good news is that these also have relatively simple fixes.
Let’s start by explaining how the pull cord on a lawn mower works, and then I’ll explain the usual reasons your cord isn’t working and tell you how to fix each one individually, and how to search for and find a brand new OEM starter assembly for your mower (what I recommend since the cost is still pretty low).
How Your Lawn Mower Pull Cord Works
When you pull the rope to start your mower, it engages the starting mechanism, which turns the engine fast enough to spark the ignition module.
The starter rope is wrapped around a pulley system. That allows it to be pulled out before it recoils into the engine. The pulley sits below the cover at the top of your walk-behind mower, and a spring is in the center of the pulley. As it’s turned, the recoil spring stretches, then snaps back when let go. This immediate snap-back retracts the pull cord and allows you to pull the rope quickly one time after another.
The recoil operates the mower’s flywheel. The flywheel sits below the starter, closer to the mower, and near the crankshaft. Magnets sit on the outside of the flywheel and generate magnetic energy as it spins. The magnets will eventually build up enough energy to fire off high-voltage sparks.
The pawls are also attached to the pulley. These are plastic wings that spin out due to the centrifugal force, helping to catch the flywheels and create a faster spinning movement.
The crankshaft is in the center of the flywheel and turns with the flywheel. As the crankshaft turns, it helps the piston move up and down, pushing more gas and air into the mower’s system. If it can’t spin fast enough, the engine won’t start.
The pawls are the most likely component to fail and it’s probably why your mower isn’t starting. That said, if the pulley or receiver is damaged, that will also cause issues.
Lawn Mower Pull Cord Not Catching: Possible Causes
There are two very common causes for a lawn mower pull cord not catching. These include:
Let’s take a closer look at each of these, and other possible causes for this mower issue.
Broken or Worn Pawls
On most modern mowers, the pawls are usually made of plastic, though some brands use metal pawls.
Metal pawls are far more durable. This component is exposed to tension from spinning out, as well as catching the flywheel.
Since this part is designed to spin out and catch the flywheel, if they’re worn out or broken, they won’t be able to do that. That prevents the engine from turning over, and it’s usually the reason you pull your mower starting cord and it doesn’t catch.
In other words, it will feel like the pull cord is pulling too freely.
To check if the pawls on your mower are broken, remove the starter and pull the rope to make them pull out. If they don’t pull out, either they’re broken or something else is broken.
Watch this Before Converting Engine to Drill Start
- Unplug the spark plug wire before starting the repair. This prevents the motor from starting, and is an important safety step whenever doing any work on your mower.
- Disassemble the housing (the top cover) to expose the pull cord assembly.
- Remove the center bolt and cap in order to pull the pawls out.
- Inspect the pawls and determine whether they’re damaged or worn.
- Insert the new pawls, then re-install the center bolt and cap, as well as the starter, into the engine.
The pull cord should catch again and allow the engine to start. If the pull cord continues to not work, the issue may be something else interfering with the pawls.
The mower’s pull cord rope is stored in the pulley, as well as the recoil spring. The pulley will guide and feed the pull cord, in addition to storing it. Pulleys are usually made from plastic and this is a part that can crack.
A broken or cracked pulley will interfere with the rope pulling around the pulley. If it malfunctions or jams, the starter system will not work.
To replace the pulley, you’ll need to remove the starter system.
- Again, start by disconnecting the spark plug wire.
- Next, pull the rope out, then insert a screwdriver to secure the recoil spring and pulley.
- Remove the rope, then release the screwdriver to allow tension to return to the spring.
- Remove the center bolt and friction plate, which will release the pulley.
- Now you can place the new pulley, first aligning it with the housing post.
- Rotate the pulley, since that will tighten the spring, then insert the screwdriver to hold it in place so you can reattach the rope.
- Release the screwdriver and let the rope slowly wind up. You can then place the starter back onto the engine, reassemble, and try to start your mower.
Replacement pulleys can be bought either as just the cover or with the recoil spring combined.
It’s usually easiest to replace both simultaneously. It’s a little more expensive, but for most homeowners tackling this project it makes sense to replace the entire unit as it’s simpler.
The spring can be difficult to work with, and purchasing the entire assembly won’t add too much additional cost to the repair. In my view, it’s worth it.
Other Issues Which Can Make Your Pull Cord Not Catch
While these are the most common issues with the pull cord system, they are not the only ones that can occur.
Different lawn mower brands make their components differently. Some will use plastic instead of metal for certain components. Plastic parts will wear out faster, and are less capable of withstanding the stresses of consistent use.
The reality is that if you’re buying a new mower, you’ll find that more brands are using plastic for the flywheel receiver to cut costs and remain competitive with their price.
The flywheel receiver is a metal cup that fixes to the flywheel. This is the component the pawls will connect to. If they’re worn in addition to (or instead of) the pawls, the engine will also not catch.
Receivers are less likely to cause issues unless they’re made of plastic, but since more modern mower manufacturers are using plastic for this part, it will probably become a more common cause of failure and a reason why your lawn mower pull cord may not be catching.
Older mowers which have metal components are likely to have fewer issues, even if they’ve been used for more hours. This is one reason why it might make sense to buy a used mower instead of buying new.
Can You (and should you) DIY the Fix?
If you’re handy and like working with mechanical parts, it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to replace part or all of this component on your mower.
You’ll want to know your brand and mower model. Then you can search online for your mower brand, model number, and starter/recoil/flywheel assembly OEM.
If you’re unsure of your lawn mower model number, you can find it on a small plate on your mower. It will be alongside the mower’s serial number.
For example if I had a Honda HRN216VKA self-propelled mower I bought from Home Depot, I could search Honda HRN216VKA starter assembly OEM on Amazon and quickly find the part I need for under 30.
About Tackling This Project
Like most small engines, disassembly and reassembly is pretty straight-forward. But I always recommend taking pictures of each step so you can remember where everything went as you put the mower back together.
If you’re intimidated by the idea of doing this work yourself, you have a few options. You can:
- Check to see if your mower is under warranty. If it is, you can probably get this repaired at no cost.
- Contact a local small engine repair shop. It should be an inexpensive job that can be completed quickly. They can also do a tune-up of your machine, change the oil, and sharpen your mower’s blades for you while it’s in for servicing.
The bottom line is that this is not a major issue with your mower (even if it feels like one). You shouldn’t send your mower to the scrap heap and rush out to buy a new mower.
It’s worth fixing, and most homeowners (even those who are not mechanically inclined at all) can replace the starter assembly on a walk-behind mower.
Maintaining Your Mower
If you’re looking to keep your mower in top shape, read my articles on winterizing your mower, and my spring mower tune-up checklist.
These quick (and easy) maintenance projects at the start and end of each season will keep your mower running great for years.