How To Troubleshoot a Lawn Mower That Won’t Pull. String for lawn mower

[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 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
Measurement Tape

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.

troubleshoot, lawn, mower, pull, string

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.

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.

Final Verdict

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 Won’t Pull (Causes How to Fix)

A stuck pull cord is a problem we all will face from time to time. You’re all set; the mower’s out of the shed, the tank is full, and the blade is sharp. But you pull the starter cord and nothing. It isn’t that your lawn mower pull cord is hard to pull – it’s totally stuck! Trust me; I’ve been there. So let me share the most common reasons why a pull cord gets stuck and what you can do to get back to cutting within the hour.

Why Won’t My Lawn Mower Cord Pull? (The Short Answer)

There are several causes why your pull cord could be stuck. A jam in the deck area, seizing in the engine, or a problem with the recoil starter.

A Closer Look at Why Your Lawn Mower Won’t Pull

You will notice that these problems are not centered in one area. So knowing where to start is going to save you from wasting time trying to fix something that may not be broken. Let’s look at the problems and how to address them.

Diagnosing a Jam in the Deck

First, you want to check for any obstructions in the lawn mower deck and for anything that could be damaged or misplaced. Start by removing the spark plug from the lawn mower and tuck it out of the way. Even though the mower won’t start, there could still be a charge in the spark plug that could fire up the engine. So, it’s best to be safe. With the plug disconnected, tilt over the lawn mower so you can inspect the deck. Just remember to tilt the lawn mower over the correct way.

Debris in the Lawnmower Deck

It’s as simple as it sounds. Something might be stuck in the deck, meaning the lawn mower blade won’t turn. If your blade is bolted onto the crankshaft and the blade is wedged, then the pull rope will not pull. A stick, rock, or garden hose could be the cause.

The Debris Shield is in the Wrong Place

If you ever pull your lawn mower backward, the debris shield that stops the grass from flying all over may be facing the wrong way. First, check to see if the shield is on the inside and coming into contact with the blade. If it is, the crankshaft will be stuck, as will the pull cord.

A Bent Blade

The blade could be your problem if there are no foreign objects in the deck or a misplaced shield. First, check that the blade is in good condition and not hitting the deck. A bent mower blade that is hitting the deck will need to be replaced to get the starter to work.

A Broken Shroud

Many lawn mowers have a metal shroud in the deck that helps guide the grass to the chute. These are usually made of a very thin metal that can easily damage or rust. Look to see if your shroud is hitting the blade and preventing the blade from spinning. If it is, then you’ll need to reach for your tools.

Diagnosing a Seize in the Engine

An engine can seize in three ways, resulting in your lawn mower pull cord being stuck. The first is lack of oil, the second is oil on top of the piston, and the third is fuel vapors.

So to diagnose a seized lawn mower engine, you need to test it. You have already established that the engine might be seized because the pull cord is jammed, and the top of the crankshaft will not spin. As a result, you’ll want to test the other end of the crankshaft. Start by tilting your lawn mower correctly and prop it up securely. Then, with a pair of gloves, take hold of the blade and try to rotate it by hand. You likely have a seized engine if it’s stuck or extremely difficult to turn.

Checking if the Engine is Seized Due to Lack of Oil

Simply checking the oil level on the dipstick will indicate if your mower has low oil. For example, lawn mowers can sit with low oil and become seized; this isn’t a huge problem. However, if you ran your mower on low oil and it seized in the process, the seizure could have caused extensive damage. So, pull out the dipstick and check your oil level.

How to Check Hydro-Locking

Hydro-locking is where oil has moved from the bottom of the crankcase to the top of the piston. This is usually caused by tipping over the lawn mower incorrectly and accidentally pouring oil into the piston. Additionally, using too much oil will result in the piston forcing oil into the cylinder head. Either way, the engine’s pressure stops the piston from moving and the crankshaft from rotating.

To check for hydro-locking, start by removing the spark plug and tucking it out of the way. Then, check if there’s any lawn mower oil inside the cylinder head where you removed the spark plug. If you find oil, then you probably have a hydro-lock.

How to Tell if You Have a Vapour Lock

Vapor locking occurs when fuel vaporizes. For example, the fuel can vaporize if you’re out in the heat mowing the lawn and you have a hot engine. Also, when you run out of gas and completely drain the fuel tank, the mower can suck in fuel vapors and lock the engine. The best way to check for this is to allow the engine to cool down and check if you have gas in the tank.

Diagnosing the Recoil Starter

If you have checked for obstruction under the deck and can spin the blade by hand, it’s now time to inspect the recoil starter. These mechanical manual starters are constructed of several parts that are not always the strongest and can fail quite easily.

Removing and Diagnosing the Recoil Starter

Start by removing the spark plug from the engine and set it to one side. Then, take a socket wrench or screwdriver, depending on your lawnmower, and remove the fixings that hold the recoil starter in place. This could be either directly on the engine or the cover. Then, remove the starter rope from the lawnmower handle if you find yours is attached. Once this is complete, you should have the starter completely removed from the lawn mower.

With the removed starter, give it a pull and observe the mechanism. You may find that the coil spring is broken or the rope is caught up somehow. I suggest being cautious when testing the starter, as they tend to fly apart and uncoil their spring without warning. On the other hand, if fiddling around with the starter doesn’t help it recoil, it will need fixing or replacing.

How to Fix a Lawn Mower That Won’t Pull

Once you have diagnosed why your lawn mower string won’t pull, the final step is to carry out the repair. I have put together my step-by-step guide that will walk you through the repair and a few tips to prevent issues in the future.

By my calculations, the diagnosis should only take a few minutes to complete, so you still have plenty of time to fix your lawn mower within the hour. So let’s get started. With any repair or inspection that includes the blades, you must always remove the spark plug connection and tuck it out of the way. With this done, you can move on to the fix.

Removing Debris in the Deck

First, tilt your lawn mower over the correct way. Remember, the wrong way causes problems. Depending on what you find under the deck, you should be able to just remove it by wearing a pair of gloves.

You may find that rocking the blade back and forth will help dislodge any intruders. If you happen to have something like a rope wrapped around the blade and spindle, then taking the blade off might be the quickest solution.

Start the blade removal by locking it into position so it can’t move. I like to take a 4×2 timber cutoff and wedge it against the blade. Follow this by taking a socket ratchet and removing the blade’s center bolt. Once this is done, the blade should come away from the lawn mower. As a result, you can clear the obstruction and free the crankshaft.

Turn the lawnmower back upright and give the lawnmower rope a pull. You should find the rope will pull now as you have cleared the problem. Next, tilt the lawn mower back over and reinstall the blade using your blade brace and sockets. Finally, upright the mower and reconnect the spark plug, and you’re good to go.

Tools Required to Clear a Blockage

Repositioning the Debris Shield

For this fix, you’ll need to tilt over the lawnmower to gain access to the bottom of the deck. Grab your gloves and see if you can use some muscle to dislodge the shield.

If it’s truly wedged, then a little more power is needed. I prefer to use a rubber mallet over a metal hammer as a hammer can make a mess of the shield. Start by hitting either end of the shield where it’s jammed rather than the middle. I find if you bash the middle of the shield, it ends up getting bent, which creates more work.

Just repeat going from side to side until it is free. Now when you pull the starting rope, it shouldn’t be locked up.

troubleshoot, lawn, mower, pull, string

Tools Required to Reposition the Debris Shield

troubleshoot, lawn, mower, pull, string

Replacing a Bent Blade

We have already discussed removing and installing a blade, so the only thing to remember is that you’ll be installing a new one this time. But, before you install the new blade, check for damage.

The bent blade could have caused damage to the lawn mower deck that needs repairing before you install the new blade. Just make sure that any damage to the deck will not cause an obstruction and recreate the problem you have just fixed.

Tools Parts Required to Replace a Blade

Repairing a Broken Shroud

Broken shrouds can be tricky to repair unless you have metal working skills and tools. For example, many lawn mowers have shrouds under the deck that are welded on and can not be replaced. However, if you have a big deck on a tractor or a zero-turn, these may be bolted on and can be replaced. In this instance, we’ll tackle a shroud welded on and jamming up the blade.

Start by tilting over the lawn mower and removing the blade. With access to the broken shroud, you can evaluate what can be done. If it’s intact, you can take a mallet and try to knock it back into place.

If a piece of it is hanging off the deck, you’ll want to cut out the section. I use my hacksaw, metal cutters, and an angle grinder if needed for this job. In the end, you want to ensure that the remainder of the shroud is securely attached and does not obstruct the blade.

With the broken shroud removed and the blade reinstalled, you should have no problem pulling the mower starter.

Tools Required to Remove a Damaged Shroud

Releasing a Hydro-Lock

To release a hydro-lock, start by removing the sparkplug with either a plug wrench or spark plug socket wrench. This will release the pressure in the engine’s cylinder head, and you’ll be able to pull the starter.

Next, you’ll need to remove the oil from the engine’s cylinder head. To do this, you will need to pull the starter repeatedly. This will turn over the engine and force the oil out of the hole where the spark plug goes. Pull the starter rope until nothing is coming out of the hole.

Before pulling the rope, be aware that oil and fuel will shoot out of the hole. This is fine as long as you are in a safe environment. Be careful of where it lands and maybe place something to catch it. I wouldn’t recommend doing this out on the lawn.

Next, take an engine starter spray and spray it directly into the engine via the spark plug hole. This will help get the engine started. Once this is done, you can re-install the spark plug and give the starter a pull. It may take a few pulls as the head will have oil residue inside.

If you have trouble starting the engine, add some more starter spay into it. Once you get the lawn mower started, allow the engine to run for a while to burn off the oil in the cylinder head. Finally, check your oil level and add accordingly.

Tools Required to Release a Hydro-Lock

Freeing a Seized Engine Due to a Lack of Oil

Start by topping up the oil by filling through the oil filler or dipstick. Then with a pair of gloves, rock the blade back and forth. The motion will slowly start to work the oil onto the piston. It will be tight at first, but gradually, it will loosen.

If you are having trouble, you can remove the spark plug and spray a lubricant into the cylinder head. Let this sit for a while, then try rocking the blade again.

Once you get the engine free, you need to spray an engine starter into the cylinder head and install the spark plug. In my experience, a lawnmower that has sat for a while with low oil can be freed up using this method.

If you find that the piston is not loosening despite your best efforts, the piston may be broken due to the lawn mower overheating.

Tools Required to Free a Seized Engine

Releasing a Vapor Lock

You need to let the fuel cool down to release a fuel vapor lock. You may be surprised that fuel can boil in the fuel system and turn to vapor. When there is little to no fuel left in the tank, the small fuel volume can heat up very quickly.

To release the lock, the engine needs to cool down to let the fuel turn back into liquid form. Place the lawn mower in the shade and allow the engine to cool. If you have a leaf blower, you can give the mower a blast to help the process.

Once the mower has cooled down, you can fill the fuel tank and restart the lawn mower. But, depending on your climate, your mower may heat up quickly and vapor lock again.

So what can you do? Well, if you use a fuel stabilizer, you’ll increase the boiling point of the fuel. This means you might get an extra few degrees of tolerance and be able to cut for longer.

Alternatively, try cutting the lawn at a cooler part of the day or splitting your mowing into sections. For example, cut half the lawn and then take an hour’s break. Then, once the lawn mower has cooled down, you can complete the other half of the lawn.

Replacing a Recoil Starter

Depending on how good you are with your hands, you may want to replace the recoil starter.

If you have ever changed a rope in a starter, you’ll appreciate how frustrating it can be, especially if the spring pops out. It wouldn’t be the first time a recoil starter has been thrown at a wall. Now, a broken starter shouldn’t be confused with a snapped rope. A snapped rope isn’t going to stop the starter from turning. There just isn’t a working rope.

Fixing A Husqvarna Mower That A Has Pull Rope That Won’t Turn The Engine.

So, remove the starter from the lawn mower by directly removing it from the engine or the mower engine housing. Also, remove any attachment to the mower handle if there is one.

If you find a twist or knot in the rope preventing the rope from passing through the eyelet of the starter housing, you have found your issue. By untieing or untwisting the rope, you should be able to have it extending and retracting correctly. Additionally, you could find a rock or some other obstruction in the mechanism that simply needs removing. If this is the case, you can go ahead and reinstall the starter.

Unfortunately, if anything is cracked or snapped, you’ll need to replace the starter with a new unit. Exposure to fuel and oil tend to cause the rope to become brittle over time and break.

Tools Parts to Replace a Recoil Starter

About Tom Greene

I’ve always had a keen interest in lawn care as long as I can remember. Friends used to call me the “lawn mower guru” (hence the site name), but I’m anything but. I just enjoy cutting my lawn and spending time outdoors. I also love the well-deserved doughnuts and coffee afterward!

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I inadvertently ran over newspaper that was covered by a bunch of leaves. It appears the lawn mower jammed and shut down immediately. Now the pull starter only moves a few inches. What to do now?

Hi Allen, I would start by removing the spark plug and then tilt over your lawn mower. Then try giving the blade a turn by hand. You might find that you still have paper jamming up the engine, or you have a bent driveshaft. But, usually, what happens when a lawn mower is stopped suddenly under the force of operation is that either the flywheel key breaks or possibly the push rods become damaged. So, when you try to pull the starter cord, the compression in the engine can’t be released. So, you’ll want to check the flywheel key first, then take a look at the push rods and valve setup. I hope this gives you a few ideas. Tom.

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Why is My Lawn Mower Pull Cord Hard to Pull?

Lawn mowers are great when you can roll them onto your lawn, top up the fluids, pull the chord, and get to work. Unfortunately, as your mower gets older, that smooth startup seems to happen less and less. Frayed pull strings, a clogged air filter, faulty valve plugs, or even a dirty spark plug could make your motor putt putt but never start.

If you are experiencing more difficulty pulling your starter rope or if you cannot pull it at all, know that it happens to the best of us. Lawn mowers have a lot of built-in safety functions as well as counterbalances and a recoil mechanism, all of which can act up and make it hard or impossible to pull start your mower.

If you can’t get your engine to fire, read below to find out what to do.

Why is it Hard to Pull Start my Mower?

Before you go tearing open your engine, you may want to look at some possible physical hindrances. Some older lawnmowers need a lot of umph to get going, and it’s possible you aren’t putting your all into it. If the pull cord begins smoothly and then catches, that could be a different issue than if it won’t move at all.

troubleshoot, lawn, mower, pull, string

I have even found that the ground I am standing on can affect how easy or difficult it is to pull the starter handle. If I can’t get a good footing, then the starter flywheel won’t turnover, and there will be no ignition in the combustion chamber. The grass under the mower can also present a problem with easy starting.

Whenever I need to start a finicky mower, I put it on a hard flat surface. This allows me to really get a good footing and pull the cord smoothly. With no turf underneath to slow the blades down, eventually, I can get the motor cranking. If my mower starts to get like this, I usually begin replacing parts that are wearing out.

Why Can’t I Pull the Starter Rope?

There are quite a few reasons why new lawn mowers might not pull start right away, and a quick look-over can ensure that everything is assembled correctly. The blade needs to be attached tightly, and the flywheel brake needs to be unlocked. If anything is loose or not attached right, find the special tools that came with your mower, like the flywheel key and the tool to adjust your mower blade.

If everything is unlocked and connected correctly, it may be an issue with the recoil spring, hydro-locking, or a disconnected spark plug. Remove the spark plug with a spark plug removal tool, and then you can check the lawnmower blade for debris or a blade obstruction. The recoil starter can also be examined. If the issue is still not clear, you may need to do more detailed troubleshooting.

Pull Chord Troubleshooting

To really get to the bottom of what is wrong with your lawn mower starter rope, you will need to look at all the components that are responsible for starting the engine. If there are no obvious steps that can fix the problem, you may need to begin taking things apart and looking at individual problem areas. Inspection of a mower should always be done safely.

Unplug and remove the spark plugs and ground the spark plug wire to make sure the mower will not fire suddenly. Check the spark plug hole for signs of oil, and look at the recoil starter. Finally, check the blade for debris jamming before moving on to more detailed looks at the trouble zones.

Possible Cause What to Check What to Adjust
Factory Safety Lock Where the handle extends below the mower deck Remove any pieces that obstruct the blade shaft
Fly Wheel Brake Stuck Handle and Cable Tighten or loosen the cable and open and close hand grip
Debris Jam Under Mower Deck and Blades Remove clumps and anything stuck or tangled
Hydro-Lock Engine and cylinder head Pour the oil out of the spark plug hole
Snagged Starter Rope Recoil Assembly Replace the whole unit; do not take it apart
Loose or Missing Blade Mower Blade and Hardware Replace or attach the blade and tighten the nuts
Damaged Crankshaft or Engine Engine Cylinder and started mechanism near the crankshaft Replace any damaged or faulty parts

Factory Safety Lock

Some mowers come with a block or wedge to keep the mower blade stationary in transport. Other brands have a handle that holds down where the blades sit for transport and then needs to be removed before starting. Check to make sure that everything restricting starting has been removed before investigating further.

Flywheel Brake Stuck

This slows the mower down quickly to prevent injury or to help keep lawn cuts clean. The flywheel brake can get sticky with lawn debris and other grime and may stay engaged even when you have released it. With the brake engaged, it will be hard to generate the pulling power needed to start the motor. The recoil spring uses the flywheel to counter the pull and start the blades, so if that can’t occur smoothly, it is unlikely your mower will start.

Debris Jam

While it is usually a good idea to clean your mower between uses, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes pesky weeds or fibrous material can get tangled around the blade and make it hard to start. There have even been occasions where something like wire or rope has worked its way under and jammed up the blades.

Whatever is causing the obstruction, you will need to remove it. Make sure the mower is safe to work on, and then while wearing gloves, try to remove all of the jammed materials and free the blades.


This is an issue when a mower has been flipped upside down or tilted aggressively. Oil makes its way into areas of the engine it shouldn’t and prevents the mower from starting. To reverse this process, you will need to remove the spark plug and dump any oil out of the hole. Make sure you don’t spill fuel or anything else into the engine while trying to clean it out. Once it is drained, reconnect everything and try to start it again.

Snagged Start Rope

Anywhere between where you hold the starter and where it cranks the engine, there is a chance for the cord to snag. If the rope catches, it may not direct enough energy into the engine to start the mower. Enough snags can fray the wires and lead to snapping. Older mowers may have cords tied back together, and the knots have the potential to catch regularly. Make sure the line from the handle to the engine is clear before yanking on the starter rope.

Pull Cord Not Catching

Loose or Missing Blade

I have forgotten to put the blade back on after sharpening. The counterweight was wrong, and the mower wouldn’t start. Once I replaced the blade, it fired up on the 3rd tug. A loose or wobbly blade can also prevent an engine from starting since the flywheel will recoil in a jerky motion and not give a smooth glide that fires the cylinders. Also, check that the blade is tight before operating your mower.

Damaged Crankshaft or Engine

The crankshaft is what turns over inside the engine and leads the combustion. When you pull and hear what sounds like cables moving and gears churning, that’s the crankshaft. If there is damage or slippage, your engine may not fire. Rocks and other hard pieces flying around can sometimes lead to damage, but often it is improper storage, and lack of maintenance can mess these parts up. Often you will need to get it repaired or replace the entire piece to fix this problem.

Should I Replace My Mower’s Pull Cord?

If, after all the troubleshooting, you are still unable to get the cord to work, you will need to start replacing parts. It makes sense to start with the cord and the rest of the recoil box before moving on to the more expensive mechanical and electrical components. The cords can become old or be subpar material and need to be replaced.

To get a return in combustion, you can replace a mower cord that is too short, damaged, too long, or that has a difficult-to-use handle. By adjusting and customizing your pull cord, you can make it easier for you to start your mower without investing in expensive upgrades or engine components. If you need to work on the recoil housing, it is usually best to replace the whole thing unless you know what you are doing to avoid it whipping out and causing injury.

Matt Hagens

My name is Matt, and I am the founder of Obsessed Lawn. I am very passionate about my lawn. keeping it looking beautiful but also safe for my family, friends, and our dog Liberty. I hope you find my website helpful in your quest for a great-looking lawn!