How Long Do Toro Mowers Last? Decades if you do this…
A lawnmower can be a major investment whether if have a landscaping business or you simply want to maintain your own lawn. One of the top lawnmower brands available today is Toro. If you are considering a Toro lawnmower, then you will want to know how long they can last. You have come to the right place, I’m a mower mechanic and I’ve been fixing Toro mowers for years.
A well maintained and properly stored Toro walk-behind mower will typically last ten to twelve years and the larger Toro Zero-turn mower correctly maintained and stored may last between fifteen to twenty years.
In this post, you’ll learn how long you can expect both a Toro walk behind the mower and the larger Zero-turn mower to last. You’ll also learn common Toro issues and what you can do to help your Toro live longer.
Toro lawn mowers are manufactured by The Toro Company. Founded in 1914, The Toro Company originally manufactured tractors. However, in 1948, the company expanded into push lawnmowers. Today, The Toro Company manufacturers a variety of equipment from lawnmowers to snowblowers for both residential and commercial customers.
A properly maintained Toro walk-behind lawnmower may last ten to twelve years. And a Toro Zero-turn mower may last fifteen to twenty years. However, to realistically achieve this type of longevity a mower will require regular maintenance and must be stored indoors.
I have maintained a ton of Toro’s over the years and many of them are in the thirty-year plus range, I kid you not. So twenty years plus is very possible on both the Walk-behind Toro and the Zero-turn, but only if the proper care is taken.
Without proper maintenance and storage, a Toro lawnmower will have an expected lifespan of about five years.
So what type of care will make a Toro last twenty-plus years?
I cover exactly that in greater detail below but first, let’s take a look at what type of maintenance and repairs are typically required on A toro mower over a five-year period.
What Begins to Wear Out on Toro Mowers First?
If a Toro lawnmower is not properly maintained, then certain components and systems in the vehicle will begin to naturally break down. Here’s a look at what will last on a Toro lawnmower if it is not properly maintained.
First-year – No issues
Even if a Toro lawnmower is not maintained at all, there should be no issues with the product during its first year of operation. All components should continue to maintain their peak performance. That said I would encourage all new Toro owners to change their Toro engine oil after about ten hours of operation. It helps remove contaminants from the break-in period.
Regardless a mower should get at the very least an oil change and air filter cleaned out every season.
Second-year – Tires, Belts, and Hoses
Your Toro is still humming nicely but she’ll need a little extra care this season. In addition to an oil change and blade sharpening, your Toro mower should get a new spark plug, air filter, and fuel filter at the end of this season. You’ll need to run some belt inspections and check the cutting deck is level (zero-turn mowers)
In particular, it’s natural for tires to lose their pressure levels.
Third-year – Blades
If a Toro lawnmower is used heavily or you like to scalp the lawn, then it’s perfectly normal for the blade to become worn by the third year. This will cause issues when it comes to cutting and bagging. It’s also less efficient to cut with a blunt blade not to mention it damages your lawn. Dull blades tear the grass rather than cut it. The tearing action promotes disease and yellowing of the lawn.
As the mower got a full-service last season, it only requires an oil change, air filter cleanout, and carburetor bowl drain out. But the engine will require valve lash check and adjustment either this season or next depending on how she sounds.
Fourth-Year – Engine Components
By the end of this season, we’ll need to give her a complete service oil, spark plug, air filter, fuel filter, gas tank drain, carburetor bowl drain out. Blade sharpen and full inspection. Zero turns in particular will require an in-depth inspection of the belts.
While the drive belts generally last six to eight years the deck cutting belt may be close to needing replacing but as you can imagine this depends on how hard it’s been working.
A Zero-turn battery will if not maintained over the winter months begin to degrade and a battery may need replacing next year. Starter solenoids may begin to cause issues on the Zero-turn this season or next also.
Tips to Get the Most Life from a Toro Mower
30-year-old Customer Toro
If you want to get the longest possible lifespan from a Toro lawnmower and you now know twenty years plus is possible you’ll need to note the following:
A full tune-up every second year is advised. A full tune-up includes oil, oil filter, air filter, spark plug, fuel filter, inspection, blade sharpening, battery inspection, deck adjustment, tire pressure check, and clean down.
Be sure to clean the filter every twenty-five hours of operation and replace it every second season. The air filter is designed to prevent contaminants from entering the engine. While there are third-party filters available, it is highly recommended that you use OEM parts on your Toro. This video covers a tune-up for a walk-behind mower.
2). Add Fuel Stabilizer
Since a lawnmower is only used about once a week or once every two weeks, it is possible for the fuel to destabilize in the tank. That’s why it is important to include a fuel stabilizer in a Toro lawnmower. This will ensure proper operation over the long term and save you a ton of carburetor repairs. I covered mixing and adding gas stabilizers in this video.
3). Sharpen Blades
To promote healthy lawns and prevent unnecessary engine strain it is recommended that the Toro’s blades are sharpened every season or twice in the season if you mow more than twice a week. You can remove the blades yourself to sharpen them or you can hire a professional to get the job done. I’ve covered it here in this video.
4). Inspect Tires
Whether your Toro lawnmower has inflatable or non-inflatable tires, it is a good idea to inspect them once every two months to ensure that they are in proper working order. When it comes to inflatable tires, make sure that you check the air pressure.
5). Avoid Blade Strike
Be sure to check the lawn for debris or obstacles such as rocks, roots, masonry, toys, or any hard object that can encounter the blade. Impacts can damage the blade or destroy the engine.
6). Keep Mower Clean
Be sure to clean the exterior of the lawnmower but pay particular attention to the deck area. Wherever you have dried grass you have the possibility for corrosion. Decaying grass produces acid which combined with the moisture trapped in the grass creates the perfect conditions for rust. And rust kills more mowers than anything else.
Replacement decks are available but they are expensive, a little cleaning, especially before the winter hibernation really does prolong the life of a Toro. This video covers a few hacks for preventing deck rot.
damage is done over the idle winter months than at any other time of the year. You have already learned the need to keep decaying grass away from the metal deck. Here are a few other top winterizing tips that will help your Toro go the distance.
- Thoroughly clean the mower
- Store indoors
- Coat mower with Teflon or WD40 to repel moisture
- Add gas stabilizer
- Use a battery maintainer (Zero-turn)
- Cover with a breathable sheet
I’ve covered the whole process here in the winterizing video.
Top Toro Lawnmower Models
If you are in the market for a Toro lawnmower, then you will want to become familiar with some of the brand’s top lawnmower models. Here are three Toro lawnmowers to consider:
1). Toro 21. Inch Briggs and Stratton Walk Behind Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
The Briggs Stratton line of walk-behind self-propelled mowers from Toro is the company’s most popular model. This value-priced, well-built lawnmower is available in 21-inch and 22-inch blade sizes. The engine’s power is rated at 190cc.
2). Toro Timemaster 30-inch Personal Pace Mower
If you are looking for a larger and more powerful walk-behind lawnmower, then you will want to take a look at the Toro Timemaster 30-inch Personal Pace Mower. This mower is ideal for larger lawns. This model’s engine is rated at 223cc.
3). Toro Timecutter Zero Turn Mower
While Toro is better known for its walk-behind lawn mowers, they do offer several ride-on models. One top Toro riding lawn mower is the Toro Timecutter Zero Turn Mower. This model has a 42-inch blade and its engine is rated at 24.5 horsepower.
You may find the following posts helpful:
A smoking lawn mower is never a good sign. Whether the smoke is blue, white, or black, here’s how to identity and address the issue without the help of a professional.
By Glenda Taylor and Bob Vila | Updated Sep 24, 2020 1:40 PM
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Q: Recently, my mower started billowing smoke when I powered it up, so I shut it off immediately. Why is my lawn mower smoking? And is it a fire hazard? I want to know how to proceed so I don’t harm the machine.
A: Your lawn mower can emit smoke for numerous reasons—many of which don’t require the services of an expert. A homeowner can usually identify the reason for a smoking lawn mower by gauging the color of the Cloud coming around the engine, then fix it accordingly before lasting damage occurs. Keep in mind that all mowers with internal combustion engines contain the same basic parts, but the configuration of those parts varies widely, depending on manufacturer and model. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure how to access a specific part of your lawn mower’s engine.
White or blue smoke may indicate an oil spill on the engine.
If you’ve recently changed the oil in your mower and the engine is emitting white or blue smoke, it’s possible that some of the oil spilled onto the engine. Similarly, you could’ve spilled oil on the engine by mowing on a slope greater than 15 degrees or tipping the mower on its side. The smoke may look disconcerting, but it’s completely harmless. Solve the problem by restarting the mower and allowing the spilled oil to burn off. If you tip the mower often for cleaning or maintenance, check your owner’s manual to determine the best way to reduce the risk of oil leaks.
An overfull oil reservoir may also cause white or blue smoke.
Ensure you didn’t overfill the mower by checking the oil level with the dipstick located on the reservoir. To do this, remove the dipstick cap, wipe off the stick with a rag, and reinsert it into the reservoir. Then remove the dipstick once again and determine the oil level in comparison to the recommended “fill” line on the stick. If the level is too high, drain the oil (consult your owner’s manual for instructions), then refill the reservoir with it. Start checking the oil level with the dipstick after you’ve added about ¾ of the amount recommended in the manual. Continue to add small amounts of oil until the level matches the recommended “fill” line. Also note that using the wrong grade of engine oil may cause blue or white smoke. Consult the owner’s manual for the exact type of oil recommended for your mower.
Black smoke may indicate that the mower is “running rich,” or burning too much gasoline.
Your lawn mower’s carburetor regulates the ratio of gasoline to air mixture. If the carburetor isn’t getting enough air, the mixture has a higher percentage of gasoline, which can create black exhaust smoke. It’s possible that a dirty or clogged air filter is preventing sufficient airflow into the carburetor. Try replacing the air filter. (Note: air filters vary by mower model; view example air filter on Amazon.) Next, run your lawn mower for a few minutes. If the black smoke still appears, the carburetor might need to be adjusted in order to increase airflow. Either take the mower to a professional or adjust the carburetor yourself with instructions in your owner’s manual.
Take your mower to a repair shop if necessary.
If the previous steps don’t correct blue or white smoke, your mower could have a more serious problem, such as an air leak in the crankshaft (the cast iron or cast aluminum case that protects the moving parts of a mower’s engine). Continuing blue or white smoke could also indicate that some of the engine’s components or seals are worn out and need replacement. Similarly, if black smoking still persists after you’ve replaced the air filter and adjusted the carburetor, you could be facing a more serious mechanical issue. All of these problems require the help of a professional. If your mower is still under warranty, check with the manufacturer for the location of the nearest servicing dealer; problems stemming from a factory defect or poor workmanship may garner free repairs. If your mower is not covered under warranty, a reputable small-engine repair shop should also be sufficient to get the job done.
The Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers in 2023 for Making Your Yard Work Easier
These lawn mowers drive themselves, taking the load off you in the process.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: Mar 21, 2023
One of the perks of the warm-weather season is getting to spend time outside. If you own your own home and have a yard, it’s very likely that in order to enjoy your outdoor space, you need to mow the lawn. The larger the yard, the more work it will be to maintain. If you have a lot of grass to cut, you’d be wise to consider a self-propelled lawn mower especially now that there are a ton of sales just in time for Memorial Day.
The primary difference between a standard push mower and a self-propelled mower is that the former moves when you push it, and the latter essentially moves itself with only your guidance. Once the engine is running, all you have to do is squeeze a handle or push a lever and the mower will start moving forward with you as you walk.
Turning the mower around is your job, but once you have your heading, just keep the drive handle squeezed and escort the mower down the path, no pushing necessary.
From Popular Mechanics
Self-propelled law mowers take power off the engine and route it via a belt to a pulley on the transmission and axle. When you move the drive control lever on the mower handle, you tension the belt, causing the pulley to turn, and this drives the transmission, moving the mower forward.
Move the drive control lever back and the tension is released, the pulley stops turning, and the mower stops moving forward. The belt-driven transmission is a time-tested design to power the mower and take the load off you in the process.
What to Consider
A mower is like many consumer products in that the more features a manufacturer adds, the more expensive it becomes. But a longer or more eye-catching list of features isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Here are the most important to keep in mind.
Front-wheel drive mowers tend to be less expensive than rear-wheel drive units. They can be easier to turn because you don’t have to disengage the drive wheels to do so. Simply push down on the handlebar to raise the front wheels off the ground. However, their traction isn’t as strong on hills or when the bag is full, as there isn’t as much weight over the drive wheels.
Rear-wheel drive mowers do cost more and aren’t as easy to turn, as you do need to disengage the drive—but this isn’t too much of a hassle. Rear-wheel drive mowers shine on hills and inclines, and when the grass bag is full. In either scenario, weight is shifted rearward and over the drive wheels, which enables superior traction, thus making the self-propel more effective.
An engine as small as 125 cc can power a mower, but most are somewhere in the 140 cc to 190 cc range. A large engine helps when powering through tall, lush grass or in extreme conditions, such as with a side discharge chute in place and mowing tall weeds in a border area. Also, the extra torque provided by a larger engine can improve bagging when the going gets tough (tall, leaf-covered grass in the fall). But if you mow sensibly and pay attention to deck height—and especially if you don’t let your lawn get out of control—an engine between 140 and 160 cc has more than enough power to get the job done.
A mower can have all four wheels the same diameter (7 to 8 inches), or it may have rear wheels that range from 9.5 inches to 12 inches in diameter. Larger rear wheels help the mower roll more easily over bumpy ground.
With some mowers you can start the engine with the twist of a key or the press of a button. It’s a great option, but a luxury. Keep the mower engine tuned and use fresh fuel with stabilizer added to it, and you’ll never have trouble starting.
Any number of mechanisms can control a mower’s ground speed—a squeeze handle, a drive bar that you press forward, even a dial. There’s no single right answer here. Look at the design and think about how you like to work. For example, if more than one person will be using the mower (and not all of them are right-handed), a drive control like that on a Toro Personal Pace mower might be the answer. Just push down on the bar to make it go faster. Let up on the bar to slow down.
A mower that can bag, mulch, and side discharge is known as a three-function mower, the most versatile kind. Two-function mowers bag and mulch or mulch and side discharge.
Mowers will typically have one, two, or four levers to control the deck height. Single-lever adjustment is the easiest to use, but it requires more linkage, which adds weight and complexity. If, for some reason, you find yourself varying deck height frequently, it’s a good option. Otherwise, two or four levers work just fine.
Only Honda makes a gas-engine mower with a high-impact plastic deck (there are battery mowers that have plastic decks). Otherwise, mowers generally have a steel deck, and a few manufacturers—Toro, for one—offer a corrosion-resistant aluminum deck. An aluminum deck won’t rot the way a steel deck will, but you still need to keep it clean.
This is a hose fitting mounted on top of the mower’s deck. When you’re done mowing, hook up a hose and run the mower to power wash the underside of the deck. We’ve had mixed results with these, but they’re better than just letting a mass of dried grass clippings accumulate.
expensive mowers come with a more durable bag with more dust-blocking capability. If you bag a lot, especially leaves or other lawn debris in the fall, then you need a mower with a higher quality dust-blocking bag. Having said that, if you rarely bag, the standard one that comes with a mower will last you the life of the mower.
Also called wide-area mowers, machines in this subgroup help homeowners better reconcile their need for more power and speed with the fact that they may not have enough storage for a tractor or zero-turn mower. A typical residential walk mower has a single-blade deck that cuts a swath from 20 to 22 inches wide. Wide-cut mowers (built for homeowner use) have either a single blade or, more typically, a pair of blades, cutting from 26 to 30 inches with each pass. Some of these are rated for light commercial use and have larger decks, in the 32-inch range, and engines that start at 223 cc and go up to about 337 cc.
Wide-cut mowers typically employ gear or hydrostatic drive transmissions, and they have top speeds of about 4 to 6 miles per hour. At their fastest, they move so quickly you have to trot to keep up with them. Needless to say, they’re overkill for small yards; only opt for one of these if you’ve got a significant plot of land that you need to keep tidy, but not one so large that you’d be better off going with a full-on riding mower.
How We Tested and Selected
We compiled this list based on Popular Mechanics mower testing and our knowledge of the lawn mower market at large. For our testing, we put mowers through the paces using our standard Popular Mechanics methodology: We cut turf grasses such as fescues and blue grass and rougher non-turf grasses like Timothy, clover, orchard grass, and wild oats, all in both normal and shin-deep heights. We mow uphill, downhill, and across the faces of hills. The maximum slope we cut is about 30 degrees.
That may not sound like much, but it’s about all you can do to stand on it, let alone push a mower up it or across it. We mow damp and wet grass to test general cutting performance and whether clippings accumulate on the tires. And we cut dry and dusty surfaces to see how well the bag filters under less-than-optimal conditions.
Honda HRN 216VKA
Honda HRN 216VKA
Honda mowers enjoy a sterling reputation. Having tested their walk and self-propelled mowers for the last 30 years, we feel confident that Honda’s entry level mower is a great choice for homeowners looking for power and durability. The HRN features a GCV 170 gas engine that’s built to withstand long hours of operation.
If you do your own maintenance (and most owners who buy this class of product do), you’ll appreciate the easily accessible spark plug and the fuel shutoff valve that enables better winter storage. Close the fuel shutoff and run the mower until it sputters to a halt. This will clear the carburetor of any gasoline, which will prevent the ethanol in it from disintegrating and causing running issues later on. Open the shutoff valve in the spring, add some fresh gasoline, and the mower should start easily.
All this maintenance stuff is great, but we can also tell you that our past test findings on other Hondas prove that their cut quality is outstanding for cleanliness. Sharp blades deliver a velvet-like finish. And their bagging ability is also quite good, in the same league with other well-bagging mowers from Toro.
In all, if you take mowing seriously, you should enjoy this Honda. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, consider the Honda HRX, which features a mower powerful engine and a composite deck that won’t rust and is renowned for its durability.
One note is that Honda has announced that it will cease selling lawn mowers in the United States after this year—so if you’re considering buying one, best do it sooner rather than later.
Toro Recycler 60-Volt Max Lithium-Ion
Toro mowers have garnered more recommendations from us than any other brand for two reasons: build quality and cut quality. These were amply demonstrated in our testing as the Recycler turned in the best ratio of cut area per amp-hour of battery in the self-propelled category, while at the same time not skimping on cutting, mulching, or bagging quality.
We attribute this outstanding mower performance to three features, all upgrades to the previous version of this machine. First, the air vent at the front of the mower deck seems to improve mulching and bagging performance. Toro calls it Vortex technology, a design that increases air flow under the deck. This helps to stand the grass for a cleaner cut, which improves mulching performance, and also allows better airflow into the bag when collecting the clippings.
Next, the company’s redesigned “Atomic” blade configuration appears to assist the air flow and clipping movement. Finally, the three-phase, 60-volt motor is exceptionally efficient, resulting in a large cut area for a single battery.
Toro has maintained features that make this mower work: rear wheel drive, a one-piece deck that’s all steel (no plastic nose), 11-inch wheels to help it roll over roots and crevices, and the same fold-forward handle that was an industry breakthrough when it was introduced some years ago.
Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Self-Propelled Mower
This is one of Ryobi’s top-of-the-line mowers, and it’s American-made construction is something we wish we saw more of. It delivers a tremendous cut area with its two 6-Ah batteries providing a total of 12-Ah of capacity, and its X-shaped blade leaves a pristine surface in its wake.
Ryobi estimates the design should provide 70 minutes of run time; we didn’t time our cut, but it strikes as plausible. Its rear-wheel drive and reasonably aggressive tire tread pattern provide good hill climbing and sidehill cutting performance, and its bagging on all surfaces (level, sidehill, and uphill) is also commendable.
Other ease-of-use features include an easily installed or removed bag that mounts and dismounts straight up and down through the handle; deck adjustment is quick and easy thanks to a single-level deck height adjustment. The straight edge deck is polypropylene; it will never rust and needs very little care other than basic cleaning.
Toro TimeMaster 30 in. Briggs Stratton Personal Pace
Toro TimeMaster 30 in. Briggs Stratton Personal Pace
The Toro Timemaster 30-in. mower has been around for several years and has earned a reputation as a sturdy workhorse for homeowners who want to cut down on their mowing time. It’s also used by some professionals as well. A few years ago the Timemaster got a slightly more powerful Briggs and Stratton gas engine, so it should have no issues powering through most demanding mowing jobs.
The Timemaster is rear-wheel drive and features Toro’s Personal Pace drive system that’s used on many of its self-propelled mowers. This allows the mower to move at your speed by simply pushing down or releasing the handle, which is spring-tensioned.
With a 30-in. deck, Toro claims the Timemaster will help you reduce your mowing time by about 40% compared to using a standard-sized mower. You can mulch, back, or side discharge with the Timemaster, and the handlebar can be locked in a fully vertical position to reduce space consumption in storage.
If you have half an acre to a full acre of lawn to mow and prefer the experience of a walk-behind mower versus a tractor or zero-turn, the Timemaster is worth a look.
Craftsman mowers have been doing very well in our tests, so we can recommend this one because it’s so much like the many other of the brand’s models that we’ve tested. If you’re looking for a good blend of maneuverability and power, you’ll get it with this mower. Its front drive helps move it along and makes it easy to turn.
It’s important to note that front-drive mowers do lose some traction when running uphill, particularly with a full grass bag. But if your slope is less than 20 degrees, and you’re not bagging uphill, you’ll be fine. The side discharge will also help you handle tall grass. Adjust the two deck levers to bring the mower up to full height and have at the rough stuff.
The fact that this mower bags, mulches, and side discharges is a plus, enabling you to handle a wide range of mowing conditions, from early spring and late into the fall. Three-function mowers like this are our preference for that versatility.
Toro Super Recycler Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
This is a beauty of a mower, with a cast-aluminum deck and a smooth-running Briggs Stratton 163-cc engine. We tested the Honda engine-equipped version, and it was effective at both bagging and mulching, even in moist grass.
Equipped with rear-wheel drive and the Personal Pace system (the farther you push the drive bar, the faster the mower goes), it’s an effective hill climber and moderately effective on sidehill cutting. It has relatively small 7.5-inch tires on all four corners, which causes this Toro to bump up and down a bit on washboard surfaces. But the good news is that it’s equipped with a far higher quality tire than we’re used to seeing these days. We didn’t notice them pick up any grass on moist surfaces.
Other features we like include its forward-fold handle that has a built-in shock absorber that Toro calls a Flex Handle Suspension, and a high-quality grass bag that loads through the handle, from the top.
Are there special maintenance considerations with self-propelled mowers?
Yes. Both front- and rear-wheel drive mowers typically feature a drive belt, which can crack or wear out over time. Fortunately these belts are not difficult or particularly expensive to replace.
Secondly, you may have to replace the drive wheels occasionally. These wheels are driven with gears. there are typically teeth on the inside diameter of the drive wheel that line up with a gear on the axle. These teeth can wear out, especially if they are made of plastic. Higher-end mowers may feature drive wheels with a metal gear that meets the metal axle gear, which improves longevity of these components.
My lawnmower says I don’t ever have to change the oil, but just add oil when needed. Is this OK?
It’s not a good idea to never change the oil in your lawn mower. In a lawn mower, same as a car, oil degrades over time and is less effective at reducing heat and friction in metal components. Changing the oil in your lawn mower is easy to do and will significantly increase its service life. For most homeowners, changing the oil at the beginning or end of each mowing season should be sufficient, though there is certainly no harm in doing it more often.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.
Toro Lawn Mower Won’t Start – Free simple fix!
Toro builds excellent machines; I know because I inherited an old Toro push mower that still runs like you wouldn’t believe.
So, your Toro lawn mower won’t start? A dirty carburetor is the most common cause of a Toro lawn mower won’t start. Other possible reasons include the following:
This guide will help you quickly diagnose why your Toro lawn mower won’t start, restart, or stops when hot. Toro uses several different engine manufacturers – Briggs Stratton, Kawasaki, Honda, and Toro engines.
This guide won’t cover each of these engine types, and so your engine may look different from the ones used here. The diagnostic and repair procedures will be very similar regardless of your machine.
If you have a pull cord problem, I wrote a complete guide to repair all the most common issues – “Pull cord troubleshooting.”
Diagnosing a no-start Toro is pretty straightforward; carry out a few basic tests to eliminate ignition, fueling, and mechanical faults. Tests are not complex, but you must execute them correctly to avoid burning time or replacing parts needlessly.
This guide covers all the common causes of a no-start Toro pretty well. However, if you need more help, check out “Mower won’t start video.” It walks you through all the tests you’ll meet here in this post and includes a step-by-step guide to nailing your repair successfully.
There may be many other reasons why your Toro lawn mower won’t start. In this guide, we will cover all the most common faults.
Check the Basics
Before we go any further, let’s check all the basics. Sometimes the easy answer is the solution or checks out the “Common causes of no start video.”
The basics include:
- Check for low oil; some mowers have a disabling system. Check out “How to check lawn mower oil”
- Is the gas turned on? Check out “Where is my lawn mower gas tap”
- Is the gas fresh? Gas older than one month is stale. Check out “Gas bowl drain video”
- Is the choke on and working? Check out “How to start a lawn mower”
- If the air filter is clean and dry, a gas-soaked filter will prevent starting. Check out “Mower tune-up guide”
- Is the plug wire on securely?
- Is the bail lever on and working OK? Check out “Hard to Start when hot”
That’s all the easy stuff checked; now we’ll dig a bit deeper.
Things Your Engine Must Have
Toro is a quality outfit, I have customers with 30-year-old Toro mowers still giving excellent service, so I know they can go the distance. The Toro mower engine is simple. It needs three things to run.
Fresh Gas – You must have clean, new gas. Old stale, or dirty gas, is by far the number one cause of all minor engine issues. This doesn’t guarantee that bad gas is your problem, but it’s one of the first things to check.
Spark – A well-gapped spark plug and fired at the right time is as essential as good gas.
Compression – Piston rings, valves, and cylinder head gaskets help create compression; any problem here and the engine won’t run.
Each of these three systems will have many components, any of which could be the problem. Performing the following simple test will point us in the right direction.
You might find this page useful, “Small engine tools.” These are the tools I use; some of these will make your life a ton easier.
Try The Gas Shot Test
To quickly test if we have: (1) Fueling, (2) Spark, or (3) Compression fault, we will bypass the fuel system, and we do this by pouring some fresh gas directly into the carburetor. This is the fastest way to diagnose which of the three systems has failed; it’s an elimination round.
For this test to be successful, you’ll need clean, fresh gas. If you are unsure of the quality, stop now, get fresh, and always in a clean empty can. Fuel older than one month is likely stale.
In my workshop, fueling causes the most issues – stale or dirty gas, dirty carburetors, blocked filters, and the list goes on. When you identify which system has failed, you will be directed to the relevant repair guide, he said confidently.
Gas shot is covered here in the “Mower won’t start video.”
Remove – Remove the air filter cover and air filter; some will be fixed on with screws or wing nuts, and others will just pull off.
Shot – Pour some fresh fuel into the carburetor, about a cap full.
You’ll have to tilt your mower on its side to get the gas to flow in.
Pull – Now, attempt to start the mower in the normal way.
Two possible outcomes –
(1) Mower attempted to start or started – tells us we have a fueling fault, go ahead and test the choke system. (see below)
(2) Mower made no attempt to start – then we’ve likely eliminated a fueling fault, and the fault will probably be a lack of spark. Check out the “Spark test video” here or check out this post, “Mower won’t start no spark.”
Self-Propelled Mower. 159cc Cub Cadet Engine with IntelliPowerª Technology 
If both fuel and spark have checked out, then our problem is likely in the compression area of your engine.
Compression issues are usually related to wear and tear of the engine piston and rings; while replacing the rings is possible, it rarely makes economic sense to do so; more often, at this point, it makes more sense to go shopping for a new mower.
Try The Choke Test
In this guide, we will check that the choke systems are working correctly. As you know, the correct starting procedure for a cold engine will require giving it extra gas to enrich the fuel/air mixture, which a cold engine needs for a smooth start. Toro mowers are fitted with Briggs Stratton, Honda, and Kawasaki engines. They use two different choke system types to achieve the enriched cold start mix.
If your Toro is pretty new, you’ll have an auto choke, and so you won’t have a lever to control choke. The choke test is covered in the “Mower won’t start video.”
Three types of choke are common, manual, auto, and primer bulb. Go ahead and identify which choke system is fitted to your Toro and check it’s working correctly. If all checks out ok, remove and clean the gas bowl.
To view the choke plate (if fitted), remove the air filter. When choke on the choke is on, the choke plate should be fully closed. If not, check for cable adjustment.
Choke Plate – The first is the choke plate type – The manual version will have a lever to control the choke. There’s an auto choke version, and it won’t have a choke lever, but it operates similarly.
As the engine heats, the choke plate should be open (Choke off). Some auto choke carburetors give hot start flooding issues. Both versions of the choke plate type create a fuel-rich condition by reducing the amount of air and increasing the amount of fuel supplied to the engine.
Manual Choke On – If you have a manual choke control, move the throttle lever to the full choke position to start a cold engine. All current models are auto choke and so won’t have a choke lever.
Manual Choke Off – Move the choke to the fast/run position as the engine warms a little. The choke should be off at this point. Check that it’s moving to the off position.
Auto Choke On – The auto choke system is controlled by a lever connected to a thermostat which is positioned close to the muffler or on the cylinder head. Check that it’s moving to the off position.
As the muffler warms up, the choke plate should open. Check its function. On some auto choke models, customers complain about hot start flooding issues.
The Fix – Drill a hole in the choke plate. Check for binding of the control links also.
Primer Bulb – The second type is the primer bulb – This is very simple and easy to use. It creates a fuel-rich condition by squirting extra fuel into the engine. You do this by pressing a rubber primer bulb mounted at the carburetor.
Check the bulb for damage; mice like to eat them. Replacement kits are available.
If all checks out OK, go ahead, remove and clean the gas bowl.
Clean The Carburetor Bowl
Cleaning the carburetor and fresh fuel will solve the problem of bad gas or a dirty carburetor. But removing the carburetor can take time and effort. So, before we go down that road, we will try a quick fix. Removing and cleaning the fuel bowl fuel feed bolt (Not all mowers have the fuel feed bolt) is something we can do with a minimum amount of effort and tools.
This may well solve your problem. I covered it below in pictures, or check out the “Mower won’t start” video for additional help. You won’t need any special tools for this job, but a carburetor cleaner can make life a lot easier. I use Gumout carb cleaner in the workshop; you can check it out here on the “Small engine tools page.”
I’ve listed a few other tools on this page, “Carburetor cleaning tools.” Cleaning the carb thoroughly is important. Nobody wants to visit the same job twice. These tools will help you nail it the first time out.
You can find your fuel bowl behind the air filter. I’ll show this process for the most common types of carburetors. Remember, if your gas is older than three months, it’s stale. So cleaning the bowl won’t make it go. You need to drain the tank and carburetor bowl and fill them with fresh gas.
Suppose this works out for you. Great! If not, I wrote this guide. It’ll walk you through the whole process – “Remove clean carburetor.” Alternatively, it’s all covered in the “Mower won’t start video.”
If you’re not into cleaning the carburetor, I understand. Why not just change it? Carburetors aren’t expensive or difficult to replace. I’ve listed the most popular carburetors on the page, where you can check the price and availability of “New mower carburetors” or check out the Amazon link below.
Pull – When working on your mower’ remove the plug wire and turn off the gas. If you don’t have a fuel tap, use grips to gently squeeze the fuel line. This prevents a spill.
Briggs Gas Bowl – This is an older model Briggs and Stratton engine. The fuel bowl lives behind the air filter.
Your carburetor may look different; other examples are shown below. Remove the bowl using a 1/2″ socket and ratchet. Turn on the fuel to check that fuel flows from the carburetor. If not, move on to the fuel flow test.
Clean the gas bowl. This model has a fuel feed bolt; it’s a hollowed-out bolt that feeds gas to the carburetor jet. Be careful with the bolt gasket. The bolt must be clean; use a wire brush strand to clean it. Spray some carb cleaner up into the jet.
Check the large o-ring seal, which usually stays on the carburetor, and if so, that’s OK. Leave it there. If however, it came off with the bowl, apply a small amount of oil to help it seat on the carburetor side.
When refitting, don’t over-tighten the bowl; this will cause the feed bolt gasket or the large o-ring to deform and leak.
If, after cleaning the bowl, the mower is still running rough, Check out “Remove and clean carburetor”
Briggs Plastic Gas Bowl – This plastic carburetor is the latest generation from Briggs Stratton.I use grips to gently squeeze the fuel line to prevent fuel spills.
The bowl drain plug is in the bottom of the fuel bowl. Remove it; some can be tricky as clearance is poor. If your struggling to gain access to the drain plug, (Black hex head) go ahead and remove the two bowl retaining bolts.
Use a flat screwdriver to pry off the bowl.
Now pry out the fuel jets. Use a fine wire to clean them. Be careful with compressed air, as the little brass jets will fly and be lost forever. With the bowl removed, remove the grips from the fuel line and check fuel flows from the carburetor; if not, move on to the fuel flow test.
Rebuild in reverse order after cleaning.
If cleaning isn’t successful, order a new jet pack. Few different types, so have your engine number handy.
Honda Gas Bowl – This type of bowl is fitted to the Toro and Honda engines. Honda has fitted a drain bolt that allows you to drain the fuel from the bowl. Nice! This is great if the bowl has some bad gas in it.
However, if the bowl has some grit, it won’t drain out completely. So best to remove the bowl and clean it thoroughly. Turn on the fuel and check that you have fuel flow from the carburetor; if not, move on to the fuel flow test.
If the mowers are still running rough after cleaning the bowl, Check out “Remove and clean carburetor” or check out the “Carburetor cleaning video” here.
If none of this helped, go to the “Mower won’t start video” page and start at the beginning, the solution is there.
Tune-up Your Toro
To get the best from your Toro, you should service at least once per season, ideally in the spring. The tune-up kit includes oil; plug; air filter; fuel filter (if fitted); new blade (optional). Doing a tune-up is simple. This guide will have your mower tuned up in under an hour – “How to Tune-up your mower.”
You will need your engine model code. It’s stamped on the body of the mower or on the engine. Briggs and Stratton stamp their codes into the metal valve cover at the front of the engine. Kohler has a tag, and Honda has a sticker on the engine.
After you find these numbers, buying the tune-up kit online is easy. Suppose you can’t find the code – no problem. Remove the air filter and match it against a tune-up kit listed online, most mower engines are very common, and so you won’t have a problem getting a tune-up kit to match.
A full tune-up, including blade balancing and sharpening, is covered in the “Mower tune-up video.” Tune up once per season at the start of the season. If your mower is new, change the oil after the first 5 hours of use.
The Problem With Gas
Most manufacturers are OK with e10. This has a 10% ethanol blend. E15, on the other hand, is not OK. Ethanol is an alcohol fuel made from sugar, corn, and other plant materials. The alcohol is then blended with gas to make ethanol.
What Manufacturers Say
Some manufacturers claim that the alcohol content of the ethanol will damage the carburetor’s plastic and rubber components. E15 and E85 burn hotter than regular gas. Your mower is not designed to run at these temperatures. Using these types of fuels will damage your engine and void your manufacturer’s warranty.
What Toro Say
Toro advises using ethanol-free gas with an 87-octane rating. The max ethanol blend advised is E10, and methanol is a no, no. They also advise the use of a fuel stabilizer.
A stabilizer will keep your gas fresh for up to 2 years. You can mix it with your gas and use it all the time, but I only use it towards the end of the season and when winterizing all my gas-powered kit, including two stroke. A few drops in the gas tank are all it takes.
I use a product called Sta-bil gas,1 ounce treats up to 2.5 gallons; it prevents gumming and cleans the fuel system. Using a gas stabilizer is covered in the gas stabilizing video here, and you’ll find a link to the stabilizer I use here.
The Problem With Ethanol
It absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. If the fuel is left in the mower over the winter, the moisture collects in the carburetor. The water will often corrode and leave a varnish-type deposit that blocks up the ports. This is what causes the poor running/no start.
Gumming – It’s a carburetor killer. Using a gas stabilizer will prevent a lot of problems.
How do you start a Toro lawn mower? All new Toro mowers today are auto-choke, which means all you need to do is pull and hold the handlebar bail lever and yank on the pull cord. That’s it.
Lawnmower won’t start after tilting? Remove the air filter and attempt to start your mower. If the air filter is wet with fuel, replace it. A lawnmower should always be tilted carburetor side up; this prevents fuel and oil from spilling into the air filter.
Hey, I’m John, and I’m a Red Seal Qualified Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience.
I’ve worked on all types of mechanical equipment, from cars to grass machinery, and this site is where I share fluff-free hacks, tips, and insider know-how.
And the best part. it’s free!