How to Fix a Pull Start that Won’t Retract- 4 Effective Ways. Lawn mower cord stuck

I Can’t Pull My Lawnmower Cord Hard Enough – What To Do?

Getting a lawnmower to start can be hard. Some people don’t have enough strength to pull the cord and get the blades moving. Others aren’t in good physical health, so pulling the cable has become much harder. Sometimes, the mower won’t start even when strong people are pulling on the cord. Luckily, there are many different methods you can use to make it easier for you to pull your lawnmower’s cord and get the machine working.

Along with making sure the mower is in working order, you can also adjust height settings, so it is easier to start. Other than that, making sure that you are using the correct form while pulling the cord is crucial. If all else fails, you can buy a better pull cord handle, or a specialized pull starter tool.

In the remainder of this article, I’ll list and discuss various troubleshooting tips if you can’t pull your mower’s cord or if successfully pulling the cable doesn’t start the mower’s engine.

If You Can’t Pull Your Mower’s Cord Hard Enough

The following are a few things you can do to easily start your mower if you can’t get your cord to pull hard enough:

Check Out the Mower’s Parts

Sometimes, a lawnmower will become impossible to start after you’ve used it for many years. This quite often occurs because a part of the mower isn’t working correctly.

To start the mower, you need to release the flywheel brake; if this part is broken, the mower won’t start. Other parts, such as a chipped blade, can put more stress on the mower, making it harder to use and making the cord harder to pull.

A small piece not working correctly, such as the recoil spring, can shift the burden onto the cord, requiring large amounts of energy to get the mower going.

Some common issues that can lead to a cord being harder to pull are hydro locking. which usually occurs because of oil spilling into the exhaust area, and a misshapen crankshaft. The misshapen shaft can generally be detected due to the noise it makes.

The off-ness of the shape causes the cord to be hard to pull. In such cases, it is best to replace the crankshaft to make the lawnmower easier to start.

Find Better Cord Handles

Most lawn mowers have cord handles that are in a “T” shape. These handles tend to restrict the amount of energy you can use from your hand; this makes it so that when you pull on the cord, a lot of energy gets wasted.

To make maximum use of your energy from pulling the cable, you need a handle that allows for greater use of the hand.

A popular choice is a ball or other round design that will fit into the palm of your hand. These handles can be bought at hardware shops or stores that sell lawnmowers. Such handles will make it easier to pull the lawnmower’s cord.

Use Tools for Easier Pull

For those who are suffering from a medical condition and can’t pull the lawnmower cord any harder, special tools can be used to make it easier to pull the cord. Tools like a pull starter make it effortless to pull on lawnmower cords.

The hand of the cable is attached to the mechanism, which then pulls the cord up and down repeatedly until the lawnmower starts. The device also works for other cord activated machines such as a leaf blower and edger.

This is the ultimate tool to use if you are unable to pull the cord and don’t see yourself becoming strong enough to pull it anytime soon. The device is also a good pick for those that need to protect their shoulders from injury. However, the tool costs roughly 300, so it is a costlier alternative to pulling on the lawnmower cord or starting it by other means.

Adjust the Height of the Lawn Mower

A typical lawnmower problem that can make it challenging to start the machine with a pulling cord is the height of the mower from the ground. The height of a lawnmower is adjustable, allowing consumers to decide how tall they want their grass to be.

However, if you want your lawn short but start your lawnmower in tall grass, the grass height will get caught in the blades and make it harder to start the mower.

To make pulling the cord easier, shift the lawnmower height up to start the machine, then lower it back down to your desired grass height to begin cutting.

Use The Correct Form To Start Up Your Mower

Using the correct form to start up your mower can make things a lot easier.

Here’s a trick I learned over the years: Grab on to the mower’s handle with your off-hand, while holding the cord in your main hand. Now, quickly pull on the cord while at the same time pushing the mower away with your off-hand.

If done correctly, this can nearly double the amount of force you can put into starting your mower. It takes a bit of practice to get it right, but once you master it things will be much easier.

Ask Someone For Help

When I was younger, me and my mom had a lot of trouble starting up our old lawn mower.

We managed to start it with team effort – she would hold onto the mower’s handle, while I used my full body weight to kinda “jump into” the pulling move, eventually starting up the mower.

This is not optimal by any means, but it can work fine if you are out of ideas.

If All Else Fails—Build Up Your Arm Muscles

If you’re still struggling to pull the lawnmower cord due to strength alone, it could be a good idea to consider building up the arm muscle to pull the cord more easily. You can do this in multiple ways.

Lots of gyms have specific machines that are designed to build muscle in the same places in the arms that are necessary for pulling a lawnmower cord.

If you can’t make it to the gym, you can just pull out the spark plug in the lawnmower and practice pulling ; taking out the spark plug keeps you from wasting gas in starting the mower up.

If Your Mower Still Won’t Start After Pulling the Cord Hard Enough

In some cases, it may be that you are pulling your lawnmower’s cord hard enough—it’s just that something is preventing the machine from starting at all. Here are a few final troubleshooting tips to try in these situations:

Check the Spark Plug

The kind of spark plug you have in your lawnmower can determine whether you can start the mower or not. Spark plugs that are old or don’t function well make it harder for the engine to start.

This usually results in the person using the lawnmower needing extra muscle to get the machine running.

Make sure that you invest in good spark plugs that will hold up well over time. NGK spark plugs are high quality and perform well in most situations.

Be careful while installing the new spark plug. Plugs that are screwed in too tight don’t work correctly, rendering the lawnmower unusable.

If your spark plugs seem to be in good shape, they may only need to be cleaned of any residue on them that could be preventing a spark from happening.

Check the Valves

Valves that are not adequately looked after usually lead to problems with starting lawnmowers.

In fact, valves that aren’t set up correctly in the first place will make it nearly impossible to start the machine. The valve usually causing the trouble is the overhead valve.

Make Sure There’s Enough Gas

While keeping a full tank of fuel in your lawnmower seems like a given, a lot of people forget to fill the tank after mowing their lawns. For a lawnmower to be able to start, it needs to have fuel for the engine to run on.

While the addition of fuel is a rather obvious step, it’s essential to recognize that forgetting the fuel can cause lots of problems for the lawnmower. Trying to start a mower without gas multiple times is likely to damage the mower.

In addition, if you’ve been using the same fuel in your mower for months, the problem could be that it simply needs to be replaced with fresh gas.

In Conclusion

A lawn mower’s cord can be difficult to pull for a variety of reasons. If the cable is hard to pull because something is wrong with a lawnmower part, it is best to fix the piece to make pulling the cord easier. If you are unable to pull the cable due to a lack of physical strength, there are multiple ways you can make it easier to pull the cord.

These ways include adjusting the lawnmower to better suit your needs as well as buying special tools to make starting the lawnmower easier. You can also make starting the mower easier by simply working on becoming stronger.

However, don’t rule out that you could be pulling your mower’s cord hard enough and that there could be something wrong with your mower that’s making it difficult to start at all. By following the above troubleshooting tips, you can get your mower started and going in no time.

Hi! I’m Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I’ve created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

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How to Fix a Pull Start that Won’t Retract– 4 Effective Ways

A lawn mower has a pull cord that you use to start the engine. Most lawn mowers in the market usually come with the pull cord – where a few come with a switch or key.

When you want to start your mower, you pull the T-shaped handle outside the pull cord hub. The pull cord comes out when you pull, and it retracts after releasing it – in normal conditions. That is possible because springs are used to pull back the pull start.

However, the pull start may fail to retract, thus preventing you from starting your lawn mower. Therefore, we have created this guide on how to fix a pull start that won’t retract for you.

How to Fix a Pull Start That Won’t Retract

There are various reasons why your pull start will not retract. The problem is caused by different problems that you need to fix.

Damaged Pulley

A damaged pulley is one of the reasons why your pull start in the lawn mower will not retract. The pull cord and its recoil spring are found on the side of your lawn mower engine.

When starting the engine, you have to pull the cord, and it unwinds the recoil spring and pulley. In the end, the recoil spring will rewind itself, pulling the pull start cord back.

A cracked or broken pulley will not be effective because the recoil spring won’t maintain its tension. Therefore, the pull start will not retract. Sometimes, the pull start gets stuck in those crevices from the broken parts, even cutting the pull cord.

The solution to the problem is inspecting the integrity of your pulley. Remove the starter to check for damaged parts. Those you find damaged or cracked require replacing with new and high-quality parts.

pull, start, retract, effective

Pull Cord Problems

The other reason why pull start will not retract is a problem with the pull cord. A pull cord should be made of high-quality material, but they get old, wear and tear with time.

The rope is attached to the pulley in the starter house. With many repeated engines starts, the rope wears out due to friction against the pulley. Sometimes, the rope is tangled, forming a knot that prevents it from retracting.

The chance of forming a knot inside is low. The space is enough for the rope to get inside or outside. In most cases, it occurs outside after you have pulled the rope out and knot larger than entry.

If a pull start won’t retract because of tangled rope, pull it out and undo the knot to solve the problem. But for an old and frayed rope, you must replace the rope with a new one.

Malfunctioned Recoil Spring

A recoil spring in the lawn mower is responsible for retracting the pull cord back after pulling during the starting phase of the mower. It is also responsible for enabling you to use over and over the recoil starter.

Sometimes, the spring will fail when worn out, lose tension, is broken, or get stuck won’t retract the pull cord into the starter. If you have experienced a sudden problem, most cases are where the recoil spring is stuck and sometimes comes off the pulley.

On the other hand, when it is a problem you have noticed for some time, such that the rope remains outside the pulley hub, the recoil spring has lost its tension.

Before taking any measures, examine the recoil spring and establish the cause of the problem. When you realize it’s a problem with the recoil spring, replace it with a new, high-quality spring that will not lose its tension fast.

Worn-out or Broken Friction Plate

There is a friction plate in the starter, one of the interlinked parts available. The plate undergoes a lot of friction, making it wear out and break.

Some of these plates are made of plastic, making them not long-lasting. When worn out or broken, the pull cord will not move freely, thus stuck inside or outside after pulling out.

If you want to check the part of the starter, then you need to remove the starter. When you find it broken, you can see that straight away.

When not, pull the cord and see how the parts will behave, and when you hear a funny grinding noise, that means the plate is worn out. Replace with a new one and test the pull cord for a smooth flow before you can reinstall the other parts.

In addition, check any dirt and debris in the pulley system causing the pull cord to get stuck. Clean the area with blow air and a soft brush to remove dirt.

FAQ: How to Fix a Pull Start that Won’t Retract

Why does the pull start get stuck?

After pulling the starter rope, a pull starter has a spring to spin the engine crankshaft and lawn mower blade.

The rope will not cross over itself with a broken spring when rewinding.

Why does my pull cord not recoil?

After the pull rope or starter cord fails to recoil after pulling while starting the lawn mower engine, there is a problem with the mechanism inside. The rope may develop kinks or twists, preventing it from rewinding back.

Why is my lawn mower’s pull cord stuck?

When the starter rope doesn’t budge while pulling it, the recoil starter has problems. You have to fix the problems to avoid pull cord sticking.

All machines experience different problems in one way or the other. With your lawn mower, you may want to mow your lawn, but after giving it a hard pull of the cord, it fails to retract as it is supposed.

Subsequent pulls, but the pull starter won’t retract. Now what? This is among the common problems most lawn mowers experience.

We have provided you with tips on how to fix a pull start that won’t retract. You can quickly check the cause of the problem and fix it. If the problem does not end, call a technician.


Hi, I’m Ricky. I’ve been involved in lawn care and landscaping from when I was 15. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of pushing mowers, collecting grass clippings, and maintaining flowerbeds at the time. But having seem the passion my parents had for gardening and outdoors and the effort they put in maintaining the health and beauty of our landscape, I couldn’t help but not only admire their hard work but also I became a part of it. As someone who loves to spend time with nature’s best, I find myself learning a lot more about gardening and outdoors on a daily basis. Not to mention I love to share the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years with my readers at We Mow Dallas. To be clear, I don’t have a Master’s degree in gardening or anything like that. Everything I’ve learned about gardening, landscaping, and lawn care spring from passion and engagement with my parents. And with a ton of free information out there, plus the ability to run tests and determine what works best for lawn care and landscaping, every day is an opportunity to learn and implement something new. My goal with We Mow Dallas is to teach you exactly how to maintain your lawn and landscape. And since I walk the talk in reality, you shouldn’t hesitate to join me in this wonderful world of landscaping and lawn care. View all posts

Lawn Mower Pull Cord Not Catching (How to Fix)

pull, start, retract, effective

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.

To repair worn or broken pawls.

  • 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.

Damaged Pulley

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.

The Pull-Cord on My Lawnmower Is Stuck

Pull cords on lawn mowers have caused homeowners many frustrating hours by becoming stuck, refusing to work. Simple troubleshooting to determine one of two issues causing the problem can solve a stuck pull cord. Once the issue is determined, the correct solution can be implemented. A few preventative measures can help reduce the occurrence of a stuck pull cord.


Pull the cord multiple times to determine play in the cord. Slight play indicates blockage or debris trapped inside the housing on top of the motor. No play indicates the cord is caught and may be damaged. Unscrew the screw on top of the housing to gain access to the cord and pulley disc for further inspection.


Examine both the cord and the pulley disc for rocks, sticks or entangled weeds around either the disc or cord. Attempt to remove the object from the disc or cord; if this isn’t possible without causing further damage, pull the disc and cord out together to gain access to the foreign object. Clean the disc of any dust or dirt. Return the disc and cord to their proper locations, reversing the order of removal.

A cord caught on the pulley disc or housing can seriously damage the cord and pulley disc. Examine the cord to determine the extent of the snag and the sharpness of the point holding the cord. Pulley discs can fracture or develop sharp edges over time and eventually snare the cord at the point of damage. Carefully remove the pulley disc and cord together. Unwind the cord completely and discard the cord.- once damaged the cord can easily snap. Replace the cord with fresh cord, installing in the reverse of how you removed the old cord. Make sure the cord lines up with the holes and notches or it will snag again.


Watch for potential problems when mowing high grass, weeds or on rocky ground. Grass or weeds higher than the mower can become entangled in moving parts or drop seeds and debris into open cavities such as the pulley disc housing. Dirt and dust kicked up while mowing can deposit into open cavities. Brush off the mower after each use. Blow compressed air into the pulley disc chamber to force out debris inside. Examine the cord on a routine basis looking for frays, tears and cuts. Replace the cord if you find damage.


Measure the length between the motor housing and the mower handle. Double that number to achieve the length for the new pull cord. Use coated cord to help prevent sticking or sudden damage; remember though that a coated cord will lose the coating over time due to friction between it and the disc.

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