How to Fix CRAFTSMAN Riding Lawn Mower Problems
CRAFTSMAN–riding gasoline-powered lawnmowers are fantastic for cutting larger expanses of grass, such as those found in golf courses or parks. Being able to drive the mower is much more fun and requires far less physical exertion than pushing a mower up and down in the blazing sun.
CRAFTSMAN Riding Lawn Mowers offer many advantages but do occasionally develop problems:
Engine won’t start
Blades won’t engage
Runs for a bit, then dies
Won’t cut lawn evenly
Won’t drive forward
Doesn’t steer correctly
Exhaust billows smoke
And more …
Engine Won’t Start
We all know the disappointment when you’re all “dressed up” and ready to tackle the first lawn-cutting exercise of the season, only to find that your trusty CRAFTSMAN riding mower won’t start.
The CRAFTSMAN riding mower is, of course, fitted with a gas engine which means several problems could be causing the engine not to start. The below covers the common reasons why the engine doesn’t start.
Solution 1: Drain and Replace Old Gas
Check that the gas tank contains fuel, especially if the mower has been standing for an extended period. Gasoline degrades over time and evaporates.
Old gas should be drained from the system and replaced with new to eliminate this problem.
Solution 2: Replace the Fuel Filter
Following the gas line from the gas fuel tank to the carburetor will lead you to the fuel filter. The filter may be dirty, restricting or preventing fuel from reaching the carburetor so the mower won’t start.
If the fuel filter is visibly dirty inside, replace the fuel filter to ensure the gasoline can pass through the filter.
Solution 3: Ensure All Safety Cutoff Switches Are Engaged
CRAFTSMAN riding mowers have two safety switches that ensure the mover won’t start accidentally. One switch is under the driver’s seat, and the foot brake controls the other.
Their design is such that the driver must be seated on the seat, and the brake must be depressed to disengage the safety switches for the mower to start. Standing next to the mower while trying to start the engine will not work.
Solution 4:Charge the Battery
All CRAFTSMAN riding mowers have a battery located under the driver’s seat to turn and start the engine. When turning the ignition key and the engine turns very slowly but won’t start, the battery is most likely discharged.
Turning on the ignition and hearing a clicking sound without the engine turning is a sure sign that the battery is drained and needs to be charged.
In both scenarios, the battery requires charging, or if the problem persists, the battery may need replacement.
Solution 5: Clean or Replace the Solenoid
The carburetor fuel solenoid is attached to the base of the carburetor. The carburetor controls the fuel and air mixture required for the engine to run. The solenoid is an electrically operated fuel supply and shut-off valve. When the valve doesn’t work, it prevents fuel from entering the carburetor.
Diagnosing if the solenoid is faulty is quickly done by getting an ear down close to the solenoid. A click sound will be heard when the key is turned on and off as the solenoid retracts and releases. If no sound is heard, the solenoid is likely faulty and requires replacement, or the mower won’t work.
The solenoid will need to be removed by unscrewing it with a spanner of the right size and cleaned or replaced if the cleaning doesn’t work.
Solution 6: Replace the Filter
The air filter is next to the carburetor and filters the air fed into the carb. When the air filter is filthy, it may get clogged up by dust particles. The clogged-up filter will prevent air from reaching the carburetor and the engine from starting.
The solution is to replace the filter with a new one.
Solution 7: Replace the Spark Plug
The spark plug performs the critical task of igniting the fuel in the cylinder head while the engine is running. The spark plug is constantly exposed to burning gas and oil residue; therefore, the spark plug can quickly become dirty.
Removing the spark plug is a simple exercise using a spark plug spanner. A dirty spark plug can be cleaned using a wire brush but will eventually need to be replaced. Instead, replace the spark plug to be sure it’s working well.
Blades Won’t Engage
Your CRAFTSMAN riding mower is running, you’ve reached the area that needs mowing, but now the blades won’t engage. What could be wrong?
We’ve found five possible causes for the blades not engaging with CRAFTSMAN riding mowers. These problems may differ depending on if your mower has a manual lever clutch or an electronic PTO clutch.
Solution 1: Replace the Electric PTO Clutch
Faulty PTO clutch. When power is supplied to the clutch, the clutch engages and turns the mower’s blades via the drive belt. When the PTO clutch doesn’t engage, the internal mechanism has failed.
The PTO clutch is not a repairable part as it’s a sealed unit, so it needs to be replaced.
Solution 2: Remove and Test Take-off Switch
The second reason the blades won’t engage on the electrically operated unit is a faulty power take-off switch. This switch is located on the dashboard of the mower and is usually yellow. Pulling the switch engages the blades, while pressing the switch disengages the blades.
Removing the switch and testing it for continuity using a multi-meter is the best to determine if the switch won’t work. If faulty, the switch would need to be replaced as you can’t repair it.
Solution 3: Replace Drive Belt
Before we deal with the manual clutch mowers, one common item between the electric clutch and manual version mowers is the drive belt.
The drive belt is located underneath the mower and connects the crankshaft to the mower blades via the clutch assembly.
The drive belt is a high-quality V belt, similar to those used in model car engines. When this belt becomes excessively worn or is damaged or cut, it can no longer drive the mower’s blades, which won’t work.
The drive belt must be replaced when damaged or worn out.
Solution 4: Replace Lever Mechanism Unit
CRAFTSMAN riding mowers fitted with a manual clutch can suffer the following failures over time that prevent the mower’s blades from engaging.
The clutch engages and disengages the blades on the manually operated version. The clutch is operated by pulling down a lever on the right of the dashboard. A cable connects the lever mechanism to the clutch located under the mower.
The lever mechanism in the dashboard can fail over time, making it impossible to retract the cable connected to the clutch.
A failed lever mechanism will require the replacement of the unit.
Solution 5: Replace Broken Clutch Cable
Broken manual clutch cable or spring: The cable, as mentioned earlier, connects the lever mechanism, and the clutch, along with its tensioner spring, is wearing parts, so it can fail with excessive use and eventually won’t work.
A broken or severely worn clutch cable and its accompanying tensioner spring must be replaced should they fail.
Runs for a Bit, Then Dies, Won’t Work
The CRAFTSMAN riding mower is reliable and generally doesn’t cause problems. Occasionally, you may find that your mower starts up and then dies. When you crank it, it starts, only to turn off again.
Briggs and Stratton’s engines used in CRAFTSMAN mowers are four-stroke engines, so they use unmixed fuel (no two-stroke oil required). They generally run very clean and shouldn’t develop any carburetor blockages.
Fuel starvation is the most likely cause of the engine starting and then stopping shortly after.
Assuming the fuel tank is sufficiently filled and contains fresh fuel. The motor dies because the fuel entering the carburetor flows in slower than the outflow of fuel into the engine; effectively, the carburetor runs dry, which causes the problem.
The cause is a blocked fuel line or clogged fuel filter. 10% Ethanol fuel is tough on rubber fuel hose and causes the fuel line to degrade internally. This degradation blocks or severely reduces fuel flow from the tank to the engine.
Replacing the fuel line and filter will restore the fuel flow to the motor and prevent the engine from turning off when you least need the problem.
Won’t Cut Lawn Evenly
Cutting a large section of lawn only to realize that you’ve cut a series of steps into the lawn’s surface can be disappointing. How does this happen?
An uneven cut results from the mower deck (cutting blades) not being set to the correct height, or your mower may have a deflated tire causing the problem.
A mower-cutting deck rides on a series of linkages. They allow the deck to be adjusted up and down to adjust the cutting depth.
An underinflated or flat tire can play havoc with the angle of the cutting blades. If the blades are not level with the ground and cut deeper on one side of the mower, it will result in an uneven cut. So make sure all the tires are inflated to the correct pressure.
Cutting deck adjustment is made through two adjustment bolts. One adjusts the height seen from the left and right of the deck, and the other changes the front and rear deck height. It’s quick and easy! We’ve attached the below YouTube video, which details how the adjustments are performed.
Won’t Drive Forward
Like so many other mechanical devices, excessive use of a CRAFTSMAN riding mower will eventually take its toll. Occasionally something may go wrong, preventing it from driving. The gear lever is one of the items on a mower that sees a lot of use as it’s constantly shifted between drive, neutral, and reverse.
The linkage joining the gear selection lever and the actual gearbox may go out of alignment or get clogged up with dirt, preventing the gear levers from traveling the entire distance to engage or disengage a gear. Of course, the gearbox could be faulty, but this is unlikely as they’re robustly built.
Following the gear level selector down below the right fender of the mower will reveal the linkages that would need adjustment when gear selection becomes difficult.
Given that the linkages vary from model to model, it may be necessary to enlist a professional. Alternatively, some trial-and-error adjustments may do the trick.
A build-up of dirt inside the linkages is a real problem. The underside of the mower is exposed to a lot of dust generated by the spinning blades.
Carefully removing the various parts of the gear selection linkage will reveal dirt that prevents the levers from shifting their entire length of travel, preventing the shifter from working. Removing the dirt will enable the gears to be selected and allow the mover to drive.
Doesn’t Steer Correctly
The CRAFTSMAN riding mower follows a traditional tractor design, having two driving wheels at the rear and two front wheels that provide steering by turning left and right. The driver operates a steering wheel precisely like you would when steering a vehicle.
Over time the steering mechanism of the CRAFTSMAN riding mower is prone to developing a problem with turning to the left but normally turns to the right. Fortunately, this is a pretty simple fix.
The CRAFTSMAN steering mechanism is pretty basic, consisting of a steering column housing a gear that connects to a gear plate. The gear plate connects the left and right front wheels via a metal rod or linkage. The gear plate rotates as you turn the steering, changing the wheels’ direction.
The steering column’s base gear plate is slotted to limit the wheel’s rotation to either side. Over time the slot located in the gear plate becomes clogged with dirt which is compressed into a solid mass inside the slot or cut out, causing left turns not to work.
The dirt build-up inside the slot limits the gear plate’s movement, limiting the wheels’ ability to turn. The plate design seems to create the problem when turning left only.
The gear plate needs to be removed to get the wheel turning again, which is more straightforward than it may sound. The dirt and grime build-up must be removed from the slot in the gear plate, and the area housing the plate must be cleaned. Once the dirt is removed, the steering mechanism will function.
Exhaust Billows Smoke
Even a great engine such as the ones used in the CRAFTSMAN riding mowers can develop a problem where white smoke starts billowing from the mower’s exhaust. The problem can become so bad that the engine won’t work.
Worn piston rings can cause the mower’s engine to billow smoke, but this tends to happen slowly over time. If a perfectly good running engine suddenly starts billowing smoke, the cause is likely a blown head gasket.
The head gasket seals the space between the cylinder head, which houses the valves, and the part of the engine housing the piston. When smoke starts billowing from the exhaust, it’s a sign that oil and even water are entering the combustion chamber, where the oil ignites and starts smoking.
Replacing the cylinder head is a task best left to a mechanic as additional damage, such as a cracked head, may have developed and would require identification and repair.
Vibrates a Lot When Mowing
Vibrations are common amongst riding mowers as they bump and grind their way. Excessive or new vibration is not good, meaning something has a problem.
Numerous problems can cause vibrations, but the most common is a blade or blades that have become unbalanced or, in older machines, a mandrel that’s gone faulty. The mandrel contains a shaft supported by bearings. The mandrel houses the blade on one end and a pulley around which the drive belt runs.
Numerous problems can cause vibrations, but the most common is a blade or blades that have become unbalanced or, in older machines, a mandrel that’s gone faulty. The mandrel contains a shaft supported by bearings. The mandrel houses the blade on one end and a pulley around which the drive belt runs.
Solution 1: Replace Worn or Damaged Blade
CRAFTSMAN blades are made of high-quality hardened steel, which lasts a long time. Blades take the brunt of the force when cutting grass; although one tries to avoid it, they strike a rock occasionally. The impact can bend or even break a blade piece, which can cause vibration.
The solution is to replace the damaged blade with a new blade. A replacement will stop the blade from vibrating.
Solution 2: Replace Worn or Damaged Mandrel
A worn or damaged mandrel can cause the mower to vibrate. Although mandrels are a sturdy kit, they can eventually wear and fail, causing vibrations.
The mandrel needs to be replaced to fix this vibration, per the YouTube video below.
Lawn Mower Troubleshooting: 4 Things to Check before Calling the Repairman
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
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If you own a lawn mower long enough, you’re going to have to figure out how to fix it at some point or another.
There are some common problems with lawn mowers that you can assess and possibly fix yourself, before taking the costly step of getting a lawn mower repair service.
I’ll tell you upfront, I’m not a lawn mower mechanic and take no responsibility for your experience. However, on my homestead, we have had to learn to problem solve ourselves.
If you’re interested in checking into a few theories as to why your lawn mower could be giving you fits, here are a few things I’ve learned by trial and error over the years doing our own lawn mower repair:
The Lawn Mower’s Engine
A lawn mower engine has many parts, and each part could be the potential cause as to why your lawn mower isn’t working properly. Here’s how I go about checking into each part of our lawn mower engine:
Disconnect the Spark Plugs
Safety is first in my book no matter what I’m working on. When you’re dealing with any kind of engine, it should be disengaged before you begin working on it.
Make sure you disconnect the spark plugs because the engine can’t crank without them being in place. Remember to wear your protective goggles and gloves too.
Check the Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are a small component of the engine yet; they can cause big problems if they aren’t functioning correctly.
Therefore, check the condition of each of the spark plugs. They should be slightly brown and show some wear from use.
However, if they look corroded, melted, etc. they should be replaced. It’s also a good idea to do further research as to the condition of the spark plugs.
If they’re damaged, there’s a reason. By checking into the condition of the plugs, it could show you if there’s an underlying condition.
Through research, you should also be able to figure out how to fix the condition which is damaging your spark plugs.
Some conditions could be as simple as the oil not being changed frequently enough. Regardless, checking on the spark plugs, their shape, and why the spark plugs would be damaged, could help save further expense on your lawn mower.
Check the Ignition System
Lawn mowers have different ignition systems. As a general overview, check all the wires in the ignition system to make sure they’re all intact and clean.
If you notice a problem, research what type of ignition system your lawn mower has. You should be able to locate a diagram of the system through research.
Once the diagram is located, it will give you an idea of how the system should look, what parts might be in need of repair, and should point out any other issues you may have going on with your ignition system.
Carburetors can hold power in many mechanical situations. I’ve learned a great deal about carburetors when helping my husband fix up an old boat. If the carburetor isn’t cleaned and well-maintained, you’re going to have issues with the equipment running efficiently.
To begin, remove the carburetor and check each part. In my experience, the carburetor has tiny holes throughout it.
When the holes become clogged, your lawn mower can develop problems. It’s a good idea to start by cleaning each hole of the carburetor with a wire brush.
If you battle cleaning the holes, place the entire carburetor in lemon juice and let it soak for a while, then try cleaning it again.
When the carburetor is thoroughly cleaned, if it still isn’t functioning, check each part to make sure it’s functioning as it’s supposed to.
If it isn’t, replace the malfunctioned part of the carburetor and reapply the carburetor to the mower.
Fuel Lines Matter
If your fuel lines are having issues, again, your lawn mower will have issues. Problematic fuel lines affect whether the lawn mower get adequate amounts of fuel and it not.
When the lawn mower doesn’t get enough fuel, it won’t run. Some mowers have a hole in the gas cap. If this hole becomes clogged, the lawn mower won’t function properly.
Therefore, check the hole in your lawn mower cap to make sure it’s clean.
Next, check the filter on the gas tank. If it’s filled with gunk, use a wire brush to gently clean it.
From there, begin checking for holes in the gas lines. You can also run a long wire brush or a pipe cleaner through the lines to dislodge any blockages.
Intake Valve and Exhaust Valves
The intake valve’s job is to shoot the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber. The exhaust valve’s job is to release the carbon monoxide and any leftover from the combustion.
These valves have a camshaft which moves them. The camshaft is driven at a specific rate by the engine. Obviously, these parts must work together in time, or your lawn mower will have a problem.
The valves can collect gunk which will stop the camshaft from moving as it should. Therefore, you should clean the valves and camshaft by hand or by using a cleaner.
If the valves are leaking, it’s most likely due to lack of oil changes. Change your oil and replace the valves if you notice this issue.
If the valves have become damaged, they’ll allow fuel to pass through at the wrong times. It will reduce the combustion within your mower. The valves should be replaced if you notice any damage to them.
Clean Spark Arrestor
This is a simple component of your lawn mower, and it sometimes goes overlooked. Its job is to catch any sparks your lawn mower may produce to prevent fires from happening.
By law, this piece is required on any outdoor equipment. The spark arrestor should be cleaned with a wire brush. By gently rubbing the brush over the part, it should remove any clogs.
Pistons and Gaskets
When trying to clean your lawn mower engine and locate potential issues, it’s easy to damage a gasket. If you’ve done everything listed above and things still aren’t running smoothly, try replacing the gaskets.
We also know pistons and their corresponding rings can have an impact on how your mower runs. Looking into this will require you to split your engine into two parts to access the pistons.
If you’re not an experienced mechanic, I wouldn’t recommend doing this step yourself because you can easily damage your lawn mower.
Don’t be afraid to take the lawn mower to a friend who is more experienced or a local repair person, if you’re under the impression the pistons could be a problem.
My Lawn Mower Won’t Start
If your lawn mower won’t start there could be a few potential issues. They’re easy enough to figure out:
If your air filter isn’t clean, it will make life hard for your mower. Before you become too flustered because the lawn mower won’t crank, take a quick peek at your air filter.
You can either use a brush to knock the dirt off the filter gently or if it’s beyond help, replace it.
A Dry Spark Plug
When I had a small push-mower, we had this issue many times. Check the spark plug to make sure it’s dry. It not, the lawn mower won’t fire.
Clean the spark plug with carburetor cleaner and allow it to dry before attempting to fire again.
When you leave old fuel in your lawn mower, it can be hard on it. Fuel can be considered old if it’s been in your mower for a month or more.
If you have old fuel in the mower, siphon it and add fresh fuel. Be prepared to clean and dry the spark plug a few times because it may take a few tries to get the fresh fuel to the carburetor for the lawn mower to crank.
Check Fuel Filter and Lines
Your fuel filter and lines are another important part of the lawn mower and could hinder it from cranking.
Begin with a bowl and hold it under the fuel lines. Use a C-clamp to cut off fuel at each section as you work your way up the lines.
Start by checking the fuel filter. Remove any dirt or replace the filter if needed. As you work your way up the fuel line and move the clamp, hold the bowl beneath the lines.
With each section, there should be fuel flowing out. If there isn’t, you’ll know there’s a clog farther up and to keep working your way up the fuel lines.
When fuel begins to flow into the bowl, you’ll know you’ve found the clog, kink, or damaged part. Once fixed, you can put the pieces back together.
As mentioned above, the carburetor can be the answer to many issues when it comes to considering lawn mower repair.
If the lawn mower doesn’t crank, check the carburetor to see if it appears corroded. If it does, it’s time for a new carburetor.
If the carburetor looks fine at a glance, begin checking the different parts. When you locate a part which seems corroded, clogged, or damaged, replace the specific part of the carburetor.
Clogged Main Jet
The main jet could be another reason your lawn mower won’t crank. Clean it with carburetor cleaner. If the lawn mower still won’t fire, the engine is probably still not receiving fuel. In this instance, you’re most likely in need of a new carburetor.
It’s Running… But Not Well
Your lawn mower cranked. Happy day! Yet, it’s running choppy and unsmooth. You’re not sure how long it will continue to run in this condition.
It’s most likely still a wise decision to replace the carburetor. Sometimes it can be the difference between equipment barely running and running like a champ.
Help! My Lawn Mower is Blowing White Smoke
Your lawn mower is blowing smoke. What should you do?
The answer can range anywhere from ‘do nothing’ to ‘do a bunch.’ If your lawn mower is blowing black smoke, it’s burning more fuel than it is air.
If the lawn mower is blowing blue or white smoke, it means the mower is burning oil. Don’t panic because this could be a simple fix.
Lawn mowers are meant to work at certain angles. Let’s say you became carried away and ran over something which jolted your mower at a steeper angle than intended.
At this point, oil could’ve leaked. The lawn mower will burn the oil off, and life is good. If you notice the mower only blows smoke briefly, you’re probably in the clear.
However, let’s say the mower continuously blows smoke. This could be anything from the crankcase’s breather, a blown head gasket, or an old cylinder or rings.
Check all of these possibilities and again, you may need to call in a professional or someone more experienced to help.
My Lawn Mower is Sputtering
Yes, I’ve been here too. It’s frustrating when you go to mow, and suddenly the lawn mower sputters and spits at you.
There could be a variety of reasons for this happening too:
- Stale gas
- Dirty carburetor
- In need of an oil change
- A damaged spark plug
I’ve mentioned most of these problems above and how you can go about correcting them. Remember, if you have a damaged spark plug, research the condition of the spark plug to diagnose any underlying issues before replacing the spark plug.
After reading this overview, hopefully you know more about lawn mower repair. It should help you have a better idea of how to diagnose any issues before taking the expensive step of taking it in for repairs.
If you’re new to working on lawn mowers, don’t get frustrated with yourself. I’m not mechanically inclined, and it took me longer than my husband (who is mechanically inclined) to get the hang of each part.
With time, patience, and lots of research you should be able to diagnose and work out many of the issues which may arise when owning a lawn mower.
How to Winterize Your Lawn Mower
It’s important to look after any mechanical investment, and your lawn mower will need special protection over the winter since it will go unused.
Winterizing your lawn mower is not hard. Here’s all you need to know to take the best care of your lawn mower this winter:
Cover is Important
If you expect any piece of equipment to last, one of the most important steps you can take is to give it proper cover from the elements.
We all know winter can bring anything from cold temperatures, rain, ice, and snow. None of which is great for your lawn mower.
It can cause moisture build-up which invites corrosion and rust. Be sure to give your mower a proper cover, store it under a carport, or in a garage.
Iron Sharpens Iron
You guessed it. Before you put your mower up for the year, it’s time to perform basic maintenance on it. Basic maintenance could be anything from sharpening the blades, to oiling exposed moving parts on the mower.
If your mower has been having issues over the season, it’s a good idea to fix the problems before retiring it for the season too.
This will take one more thing off your busy spring to-do list. Before putting your lawn mower up for the season be sure you’ve made all necessary repairs, oiled everything down to make sure it won’t rust or worsen over the winter, and also sharpen your blades to make sure the lawn mower will be ready to use when spring rolls around again.
Time for an Oil Change
After running your mower all season, it’s a good idea to put fresh oil in it before putting it away.
Some people prefer to change it after a season’s use because they don’t want dirty oil sitting in the lawn mower all winter.
However, some prefer to do it at the start of spring to make sure there’s no moisture in the oil. The danger of changing the oil before winter is condensation could build up in the mower and add moisture to it.
However, if you top off the fluids in the lawn mower, theoretically, there shouldn’t be room for condensation to form. This is a personal decision you must make. Either way, be sure the lawn mower gets an oil change before use the next season.
Ditch the Fuel
Ditching the fuel is perhaps the item of greatest importance on the winterizing list. Be sure you drain the lawn mower of all fuel.
When you are positive you’ve removed it all, crank the lawn mower to let any remaining fuel which may have found a place to hide, burn off.
The issue with leaving fuel in your lawn mower is it becomes stale which isn’t good for your engine, but it also draws moisture to the mower.
Moisture is a problem because it can cause corrosion inside your mower. This damages parts and can create unnecessary expense.
Also, fuel can eat away at rubber and plastic parts in the fuel system. Again, this causes an unnecessary headache and expense.
Do yourself a favor and be sure to drain all the fuel from your mower before putting it away for the winter.
Unplug the Battery
Some people have shifted to all-electric mowers. Other people have traditional mowers with a battery. Either way, your battery needs care.
If you’re working with an all-electric mower, be sure to remove the battery over the winter and store it in a battery storage case. This case should protect it from the elements and keep the battery from draining.
If you’re using a traditional lawn mower, it’s still a good idea to either place a battery maintainer on the battery to keep it from draining or to remove the battery and store it in a safe location from the elements of winter.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when my husband tries to put something away knowing it isn’t ready for its next use.
Well, a lawn mower is no different. If your lawn mower is dirty, don’t put it away. You don’t want the dirt and grime to freeze to your lawn mower. It can’t be good for the paint job at the least.
Therefore, take the time to clean it well before storage. You should clean the mowing deck. Make sure all grass and debris are removed from under the mower.
Wet grass tends to stick to any place it can. Check the lawn mower to make sure it’s washed, dried, and all outdoor particles are removed.
Next, check the air filter. If it’s nasty beyond saving, toss it and replace it with a new one. If the air filter is dirty but can be cleaned, clean it.
Finally, as I mentioned above, take the time to oil any exposed movable parts of your lawn mower. If they’re starting to stick now, imagine what a few months of cold temperatures, damp weather, and sitting still will do.
Try to stay ahead of the game and anything which might need maintenance in the spring, go ahead and do it now.
Pay Attention to Where You Store
You may think if you store your lawn mower in a garage or carport, you’re good to go. Well, not exactly.
Accidents happen over winter. People rummage through garages and carports looking for items, they spill things, said items get all over everything, and many times the messes don’t get cleaned up because it’s cold and no one wants to freeze while cleaning it up.
In these instances, it matters where you park your lawn mower. Be sure you don’t leave cleaning supplies or fertilizers near your lawn mower.
If they get spilled on the lawn mower, they’ll cause corrosion. Again, this will hurt the lifespan of your mower.
Being careful to provide cover for your lawn mower and double checking what you park it next to can be the difference between a beautifully winterized lawn mower or a springtime headache.
We trust these tips will help you store your lawn mower in the best possible setting over the winter months.
Remember, the idea is to do what you can to prolong the life and health of your mower. An unhealthy mower will begin to give you problems. An uncared for lawn mower will eventually give out.
Lawn mowers are too expensive for them not to last. Do yourself and your wallet a favor by taking the time to properly winterize your lawn mower, as it is one of the biggest assets in caring for your yard.
Lawnmower Won’t Start? Do this.
Bad gas or a dirty carburetor are the most common reasons for a lawnmower that starts hard or runs rough.
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A lawnmower that won’t start, especially when taken from storage, is almost always due to one problem: bad gas.
Storing a lawnmower in the fall without adding gasoline stabilizer to the fuel tank can cause the fuel to break down and plug the fuel passages. If fixing that problem doesn’t help, there are a few others that can help fix a lawnmower that won’t start, as we explain here.
How to Fix a Lawnmower That Won’t Start
Replace the Bad Gas
Over time (like the six months your lawnmower sat in your garage over the winter), the lighter hydrocarbons in gas can evaporate. This process creates gums and varnish that dirty the carburetor, plug fuel passages and prevent gas from flowing into the combustion chamber.
The carburetor bowl below formed corrosion and deposits during storage, which can easily plug fuel passages and prevent the engine from starting.
Storing equipment without stabilizing the gas can lead to deposits that foul the carburetor or injectors.
Ethanol-containing gas can absorb water from the atmosphere, which can lead to phase separation, which occurs when ethanol and gas separate, much like oil and water. Ethanol that has absorbed enough moisture and has sat long enough can foul the fuel system and prevent the engine from starting.
No matter how many times you yank the pull cord and pollute the air with your advanced vocabulary, the lawnmower won’t start if it’s trying to run on bad gas.
In extreme cases, evaporation of lighter hydrocarbons can change the gasoline’s composition enough to prevent it from igniting. The gas may be fueling the engine, but it doesn’t matter if it won’t ignite.
Bad Gas in Your Lawnmower? Here’s How to Fix It
If you neglected to add gasoline stabilizer to the fuel prior to storage, empty the tank and replace with fresh gas. If the tank is nearly empty, simply topping off with fresh gas is often enough to get it started.
On some mowers, you can easily remove and empty the fuel tank. Sometimes that’s more trouble than it’s worth. In these cases, use a fluid extraction pump or even a turkey baster to remove the bad gas. You don’t need to remove all of it; but try to get as much out as possible.
Clean the Carburetor
You’ve replaced the fuel, but your lawnmower still won’t start.
Next, try cleaning the carburetor. Remove the air filter and spray carburetor cleaner into the intake. Let it sit for several minutes to help loosen and dissolve varnish and gums.
Remove the air filter and spray carburetor cleaner into the intake. Let it sit a few minutes to loosen deposits.
On some carburetors, you can easily remove the float bowl. If equipped, first remove the small drain plug and drain the gas from the bowl. Remove the float bowl cover and spray the float and narrow fuel passages with carburetor cleaner.
This kind of “quick-and-dirty” carburetor cleaning is usually all it takes to get the gas flowing again and your lawnmower back to cutting grass.
If not, consider removing the carburetor from the engine, disassembling it and giving it a good cleaning. Be forewarned, however: taking apart a carburetor can lead to nothing but frustration for the uninitiated. Take pictures with your phone to aid in reassembly. Note the positions of any linkages or the settings of any mixture screws, if equipped. If you’re at all reluctant, visit the servicing dealer instead.
Consider replacing the carburetor altogether. It’s a fairly simple process on most smaller mowers and it’s often less expensive than taking it to the dealer.
Direct compressed air from the inside of the air filter out to remove debris that may be reducing airflow and preventing the lawnmower from starting.
Clean/Replace the Air Filter
With the air filter removed, now’s the perfect time to clean it.
Tap rigid filters on a workbench or the palm of your hand to dislodge grass clippings, leaves and other debris. Direct compressed air from the inside of the filter out to avoid lodging debris deeper into the media.
Use soap and water to wash foam filters. If it’s been a few years, simply replace the filter; they’re inexpensive and mark the only line of defense against wear-causing debris entering your engine and wearing the cylinder and piston rings.
An incorrectly gapped spark plug can prevent the engine from starting. Set the gap to the specification given in the owner’s manual.
Check the Spark Plug
A dirty or bad spark plug may also be to blame. Remove the plug and inspect condition. A spark plug in a properly running four-stroke engine should last for years and never appear oily or burned. If so, replace it.
Use a spark-plug tester to check for spark. If you don’t have one, clip the spark-plug boot onto the plug, hold the plug against the metal cylinder head and slowly pull the starter cord. You should see a strong, blue spark. It helps to test the plug in a darkened garage. Replace the plug if you don’t see a spark or it appears weak.
While you’re at it, check the spark-plug gap and set it to the factory specifications noted in the lawnmower owner’s manual.
If you know the plug is good, but you still don’t have spark, the coil likely has failed and requires replacement.
Did You Hit a Rock or Other Obstacle?
We’ve all killed a lawnmower engine after hitting a rock or big tree root.
If your lawnmower won’t start in this scenario, you probably sheared the flywheel key. It’s a tiny piece of metal that aligns the flywheel correctly to set the proper engine timing. Hitting an immovable obstacle can immediately stop the mower blade (and crankshaft) while the flywheel keeps spinning, shearing the key.
In this case, the engine timing is off and the mower won’t start until you pull the flywheel and replace the key. It’s an easy enough job IF you have a set of gear pullers lying around the garage. If not, rent a set from a parts store (or buy one…there’s never a bad reason to buy a new tool) or visit the dealer.
My Lawnmower Starts But Runs Poorly
If you finally get the lawnmower started, but it runs like a three-legged dog, try cleaning the carburetor with AMSOIL Power Foam. It’s a potent cleaning agent designed to remove performance-robbing carbon, varnish and other gunk from carburetors and engines.
Add Gasoline Stabilizer to Avoid Most of These Problems
Which sounds better? Completing all these steps each year when your lawnmower won’t start? Or pouring a little gasoline stabilizer into your fuel tank?
Simply using a good gasoline stabilizer can help avoid most of the problems with a lawnmower that won’t start.
AMSOIL Gasoline Stabilizer, for example, keeps fuel fresh up to 12 months. It helps prevent the lighter hydrocarbons from evaporating to reduce gum and varnish and keep the fuel flowing. It also contains corrosion inhibitors for additional protection.
I have a five-gallon gas can in my garage from which I fuel two lawnmowers, two chainsaws, two snowblowers, a string trimmer, an ATV and the occasional brush fire. I treat the fuel with Gasoline Stabilizer every time I fill it so I never have to worry about the gas going bad and causing problems.
You can also use AMSOIL Quickshot. It’s designed primarily to clean carburetors and combustion chambers while addressing problems with ethanol. But it also provides short-term gasoline stabilization of up to six months.
Use a Good Motor Oil for Your Lawnmower
Although motor oil has no bearing on whether your lawnmower starts or not (unless you don’t use oil at all and seize the engine), it pays to use a high-quality motor oil in your lawnmower.
This is especially true for professionals or homeowners running expensive zero-turn or riding mowers.
Lawnmower engines are tougher on oil than most people realize. They’re usually air-cooled, which means they run hotter than liquid-cooled automotive engines.
They often run for hours in hot, dirty, wet conditions. Many don’t have an oil filter, further stressing the oil.
In these conditions, motor oils formulated for standard service can break down, leading to harmful deposits and reduced wear protection.
For maximum performance and life, use a motor oil in your lawnmower designed to deliver commercial-grade protection, like AMSOIL Synthetic Small-Engine Oil.
Its long-life formulation has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to safely exceed original equipment manufacturer (OEM) drain intervals in the toughest conditions. It provides an extra measure of protection when equipment goes longer between oil changes than is recommended by the OEM.
So you are trying to get the lawn mowed, and your trusty mower won’t start?
The lawn needs to be mowed, but the tool you need the most is not up to the task.
Good News! Most of the time a mower will start after some basic troubleshooting.
So what should you do next?
Here are a tips on some quick troubleshooting.
If you have a push mower this can be pretty simple.
Let’s take a look at the 5 steps you can take to get your mower up and running.
Start with the basics…. does it have gas in it?
Silly question, I know, but double check.
Time to check the air filter-
Take the air filter cover off, and remove the filter.
The air filter cover will be a plastic rectangle usually on the left or right side of the motor. Though, sometimes they are on the front. You may need a screwdriver to get the cover off, but most of the time they pop off easily, or have a fastener that can been removed by hand.
Now remove the filter, it could be stopped up with debris and this could be the problem, lightly tap the filter against a concrete surface to remove the debris, then use a vacuum cleaner to clean the rest of the debris.
While the filter is off try to start the mower quickly. Sometimes the filter gets covered in fuel, or is just too dirty for it to start.
Not recommending this, but in my experience have run a push mower for over a year with no air filter. I had to remove it to start the mower. Here’s the thing, the mower deck fell apart before the engine ever did.
IF the filter is torn, or your mower only starts when it is off you will need to replace. The Home Depot, Lowes, your local hardware or auto store should stock them. If you have time to wait, do a search online, enter the mower make and model into Google and you should be able to find it.
If you are having difficulty with the filter check out this lawn mower air filter guide.
Still nothing? Try Starter fluid.
Bad gas, clogged lines, and flooded motors are common issues for a mower not starting.
Now that you have cleaned the air filter, try spraying some starter fluid into the engine.
Behind the air filter there is a hole. Spray the starter fluid for 2-3 seconds into the hole behind where the filter sits. Then quickly try to start the mower.
It would be best if someone helped you pull on the starter cord repeatedly while you spray the fluid into the engine.
Most of the time this will get it started. Once you get it running, spray some of the carb cleaner into the carburetor while it’s running, this will clean the carb and prevent issues down the road.
Careful while you do this the blade is spinning!
Nothing again? Clean the carburetor and gas lines.
Water in the gas line, or just plain bad gas will prevent the mower from starting.
In most cases you can remove lower part of the carb by removing one bolt, which is located at the lowest part of the carb, see the photo below.
But first! You will need to drain the gas tank, assuming you have bad gas or water in the tank, you need to empty the entire tank.
Now that the gas has been removed, its time remove that bolt at the end of the gas line below the air filter. You can undo the bolt (see photo below) while the carb is still mounted on the mower. Keep in mind gas will come out. Once the bolt and reservoir are removed, flush the lines with good gas (safely and legally). Also clean the gas bowl with good gas.
Put it all back together, and fill it with good gas. Will it start now?If not, cleaning the entire carb takes longer, but may be necessary. Use this guide to do a complete carb cleaning.
By now I assume most of you are cutting your gas, but if none of that works….
It’s time to check the spark plug,
The spark plug will be on the front face of the engine and will have a rubber boot with a wire coming out of it that is connected to the tip of the spark plug. Make sure that rubber boot is connected properly.
Try starting again, if you still have no luck.
Most people don’t know this, but it’s time to remove the spark plug and replace it. You will need a spark plug wrench. If you don’t have one they can be purchased in the lawn and garden section of any major store, or at any auto parts store.
Remove the plug and take it to an auto parts store, and they will be able to match it up with the correct plug. Reinstall the new plug and try to fire it up again.
Sadly, if you are still here, then you could have more serious issue such as an internal motor problem or a bad carburetor.
Then it’s time to take it to a professional.
What’s the point?
If you have used these 5 Steps,
- Check for gas
- Check the air filter
- Try starter fluid
- Clean the carburetor
- Change the spark plug
And it still won’t start you may need a new mower.
Here’s why, in most cases when it comes to a push mower it is not worth spending the money to have a professional repair it. A decent push mower can be bought for 200-500.
IF you drop it off at the lawn mower shop it’s going to be a minimum of 50 to look at it ,and before you know it you could possibly have a 200 repair bill in a mower that is not worth that.
I hope these tips helped out, and get you back running again.
Hi, I’m Gene Caballero and I’m the co-founder of GreenPal. At GreenPal, we’re helping hundreds of thousands of Americans solve one of the trickiest problems: a reliable, fast, and affordable way to get lawncare taken care of. On behalf of GreenPal, I’ve been featured in the Indianapolis Star. the Sacramento Bee. Entrepreneur. Inc.com. and dozens more. Please feel free to say hi on or connect with me on LinkedIn.