How to Start a Push Lawn Mower. Lawn mower pull start

How To Troubleshoot a Lawn Mower That Won’t Pull

If yes, it must have kept you wondering whether it is possible to troubleshoot such failure, and, if possible, you must have wondered how to do so.

First, measure the cord length and circumference of the winder, wind the cord 3 times, and test. Look for blade obstruction and recoil starter failure. Take the necessary action.

If you follow the instructions thoroughly provided in today’s article, you can easily fix your mower. So, learn how to troubleshoot a lawn mower won’t pull.

What Causes the Problem?

Your lawn mower might seem hard to pull or won’t pull due to wrong cord adjustment, stuck rope, or the blade dragging on the ground.

In most cases, simple cord adjustment works perfectly to solve the hard-to-pull problem, but in some cases, other faulty parts also lead to experiencing similar issues.

A lawn mower becomes hard to pull due to blade obstruction, disengaged spark plug wire, or recoil starter failure.

Steps To Troubleshoot A Lawn Mower That Won’t Pull:

Encountering such commotions every once in a while, is very common for every lawn mower user, but it’s still annoying to deal with such problems out of the blue.

If you follow the available online consumer forums, blogs, and YouTube vlogs, you will find several DIY ideas to fix such problems. Unfortunately, not all of those ideas are reliable, and most of them are not even confirmed by the users whether those fixing techniques worked or not.

Thus, I have enlisted an easy-to-do yet effective troubleshooting method to fix the problem quickly when your lawn mower fails to pull:

Things you will need to troubleshoot the lawn mower won’t pull:

Look at the checklist of the required tools or materials:

¼ Nut driver
Measurement Tape

Step 1- Measure the length of the Cord:

First, remove the recoil assembly with a ¼ nut driver to fix the lighters.

You will see a couple of quarter-inch screws so, carefully excuse them with the nut driver.

Now you can lift the upper cover off and wind it back to correct tension, you need to know the accurate length of the cord.

If you see, you will find the cord mounted up on your lawn mower handle just like most mower models.

Tip: Remember that while you are calculating the cord length, you are not going to wind the entire cord.

If you measure the cord length the way it was done in the earlier picture it will measure around 85 inches (it can differ from model to model). The entire cord length might be 35 inches.

Step 2- Measuring the Winder Circumference:

Next, you need to know the winder’s circumference, and to measure it use a measurement tape shown in the picture.

You might see a 17 and three-quarter measurement in there (it can also vary depending on your mower model and size).

Let’s do the calculation properly before proceeding further:[Overall winder – Outside winder] = 50/Circumference (17).So, our result will be 2.9 which means the wind is three times three ones.

Step 3- Winding the Cord:

Now you need to wind the cord three times. But first, get the hole lined up outside the exit and wind the cord three times by using your hand.

Next, insert a screwdriver to lock it up and hold it there.

After that prepare the cord end by cutting the damaged or worn end.

Tip: Melting the cord end will keep it safe from fraying and will help to feed through there too if it’s nice and flat

Now, thread the cord end through from the outside to the hole, which will look like threading a needle in.

start, push, lawn, mower

When the cord gets fully through the hole line, make a simple knot by hand.

Next, put the recoil assembly again in place securely. Let’s try to wind again and see whether the cord is responding or not.

Step 4- Test the Cord:

If the three winds do not seem enough, you have to take it back out and again just wind it. Back up all the way and jam the screwdriver in for the cord lined up.

Next, undo the simple knot and let it go back. Also, take off the screwdriver line that you used before.

You can do it again and this time you can try 4 if three seem too much slack. So, this time follow the same procedures to wind 4 times.

Fix a Hard to Pull Start Cord by Adjusting Valves. Briggs & Stratton 550EX Lawnmower Engine

Now mount the cord first in its original place on your mower. Then, just swivel it around and line up the holes.

Grab a quarter-inch nut driver and reinsert the nuts or connecting screws in both slides securely.

Now you need to pull the cord couple of inches before its agency engine and let’s check out the cord

Step 5- Blade Obstruction Recoil Starter Failure:

Next, you should check the condition of your mower’s blade.

If any strands of grass or debris get trapped in there, it will prevent the blade from spinning due to obstruction between the mower deck and the blade.

If you do not clean the obstruction out of the way on time, it will eventually cause the pull cord to get stuck.

To fix the blade obstruction trouble, thoroughly follow the Correct way to Tip a Mower for Maintenance.

If the blade is not the main culprit of your issue, check the recoil starter, which might be worn out or damaged.

In that case, open the blower housing first to inspect the recoil starter more closely. If it appears faulty, you need to replace the Recoil Starter.

start, push, lawn, mower

Besides that, watch this video to learn how to fix the recoil starter easily.

Undertaking such maintenance can be hazardous. Thus, always remember to read your lawn mower’s instructions manual first before operating, servicing, or troubleshooting it. Make sure you have the minimum expertise to do this task alone.

Frequently Asked Questions: lawn mower won’t pull

Why does my lawn mower pull cord not catching?

The main reason behind a lawn mower cord catching failure is the failed flywheel starter assembly components like the broken/ worn out pawls or a damaged pulley system. They mostly fail or turn defective due to regular stress of use.

What causes the starting failure of my lawn mower pull start?

Such failure might occur due to a loose, dirty, or disconnected Spark Plug and dirty Air Filter. It can also arise if fuel is not reaching the mower engine properly and causing the motor to starve for fuel.

Why can’t I pull the string on my lawn mower?

Excess crankcase oil and storing the mower while it’s standing on its front wheels can cause the oil to bleed into the piston cylinder. This action will restrict the movement of the piston, and the piston will fail to move.

As a consequence, the crankshaft will not turn, and you won’t be able to pull the rope.

What causes the cord to get stuck on my lawn mower?

Such commotion can arise due to problems with the Recoil Mechanism. The pull cord sometimes crosses over itself while rewinding and gets stuck.

How to determine if my lawn mower engine is locked up?

Some obvious signs can help you to determine when your lawn mower engine is locked up or seized. You will see symptoms such as motor sounds rough, hard to start, stuck blades, the piston, as well as cylinders won’t move, insufficient or old oil in the tank, and deteriorated fuel.

Final Verdict

Now that I have explained the simplest way to troubleshoot your lawn mower that won’t pull, you can easily get your mower back in perfect mowing condition.

But remember, you can only get the best result if you thoroughly follow all the instructions without skipping a single detail.

How to Start a Push Lawn Mower

This article was co-authored by Jeremy Yamaguchi. Jeremy Yamaguchi is a Lawn Care Specialist and the Founder/CEO of Lawn Love, a digital marketplace for lawn care and gardening services. Jeremy provides instant satellite quotes and can coordinate service from a smartphone or web browser. The company has raised funding from notable investors like Y Combinator, Joe Montana, Alexis Ohanian, Barbara Corcoran and others.

There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 669,609 times.

Starting a lawnmower can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. While there are some differences between lawnmowers, the same basic technique works for many of them. With a little practice and some elbow grease you’ll be starting your lawnmower like a pro in no time!

Starting the Lawnmower

Prepare to start the lawnmower. Move the lawnmower to an open, grassy area. Clear away any children’s toys or rocks. [1] X Research source

Make sure your mower has gas and oil. If your mower has a 4-stroke engine, you can check the oil by opening the oil fill cap or dipstick. If your mower has a 2-stroke engine you’ll need to mix oil in the gas. Make sure you mix the the right kind of oil with the gas, and in the proper ratio for your engine.

start, push, lawn, mower
  • If the spark plug isn’t firmly attached, refer to your user manual. You may need to take the lawnmower to a mechanic to have it fixed.
  • Have a mechanic change the spark plug once a year. [2] X Research source
  • If the mower is cold, set the choke. The choke helps provide a richer fuel-air mixture to the engine, which helps it stay running until it warms up. Once the mower has been running for a few minutes turn off the choke.
  • If it doesn’t start or make any noises at all, the spark plug may not be attached. Check the spark plug and try again.
  • If it sputters and sounds like it’s trying to start (but doesn’t) you may not have enough gas in the tank.

Diagnosing Problems

  • You MUST disconnect the spark plug before doing this. Otherwise, you risk the lawnmower starting with your hands inside of it.
  • If the starter is still stuck after clearing out the debris, see a mechanic.
  • Check your user manual to see if it addresses this issue. Some models have “quirks” that can be easily fixed if you know how to do it.
  • Always be careful when changing the height of your lawnmower. Make sure the mower is off and the spark plug is disconnected.

Taking Care of Your Lawnmower

  • If your lawn mower doesn’t have a dipstick attached to the oil lid, look for a “fill” line inside the oil tank. If the oil level is below that line, add more oil.
  • If you decide to change the oil yourself, remember to properly dispose of the leftover oil by taking it to a recycling facility. Used oil can contaminate groundwater and damage the environment.
  • Never attempt to work on machinery alone. If you get hurt, no one will be around to help you.
  • Avoid filling the gas tank too high. If you do, the gas may spill out and cause a fire.
  • If you’re not sure what kind of gas to use, refer to your user manual.
  • To care for your lawn during a hot summer, mow high and water deeply and infrequently. [11] X Research source
  • Choose a fertilizer for your lawn depending on whether you want to achieve growth, replenish missing nutrients, or develop stronger roots. [12] X Research source
  • Once you figure out what works for your lawn, stick to that plan and see it through.

Community QA

Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

It is likely that the fingers on the starter clutch are staying open when you pull it so they are being tapped by the metal cup on the fly wheel that they grab onto when the pull starter is being engaged. It’s a typical sound for older used mowers and nothing to be too concerned about. If it continues after it’s started it could be the result of a rod knocking in the engine, at this point replace the engine or the mower.

Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

Lawn Mower Pull Cord Won’t Retract

You’ve just finished cutting the grass with your trusty lawnmower when you walk over to start it up again and pull on the starter cord, but nothing happens. What should you do?

When your lawn mower pull cord won’t retract, it may be due to a broken or jammed assembly, rusted ball bearings, and a damaged starter clutch or recoil mechanism. Easy fixes include replacing the broken, rusted, or damaged parts. Also, lubricating the moving parts may help solve these problems.

Read on to learn more about the problems that may cause your lawn mower’s pull cord to not retract, and easy fixes that may help.

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The Pull Cord Assembly Is Broken or Jammed

If the lawnmower pull cord is broken or jammed, it will not retract. In general, the pull cord assembly may do the following:

  • Break or get jammed due to a bent or broken pulley.
  • Have a bent or broken cord.
  • A slipped knot in the cord jams when the end comes through the hole in the housing.
  • Rust/corrosion from exposure to weather affecting metal components.

Here are some tell-tale signs of a broken or jammed pull cord assembly:

  • The pull cord is broken, or the pull cord is hanging loose but is not attached to any part of the mower.
  • The pulley does not rotate when you pull on the starter cord.
  • The starter grip rotates with the pulley, but no cord moves through it because there’s an obstruction in the housing, such as something blocking the passage of the cord.
  • The engine starts fine but stops running as soon as you release the handle or stop pulling on the cord.

How To Fix

To fix a broken pull cord, replace it with another similar-sized sturdy rope or leather cord. Make sure to knot it securely at both ends. If the pulley is bent or otherwise damaged, replace it. Have a professional repair any stripped teeth on the engine flywheel or replace it if necessary.

You could also disassemble the starter housing as far as needed to access what needs to be repaired or replaced.

As for corroded ball bearings, spray them with lubricating oil (WD-40 works well) and then work the pull cord until they loosen up again; otherwise, replace them entirely.

The Ball Bearings Have Rusted

If the ball bearings have rusted due to exposure to weather affecting metal components, the lawnmower pull cord won’t retract because the ball bearings in the starter clutch are frozen or rusted.

Here are five signs that your lawn mower’s ball bearings are rusted:

  • The starter cord doesn’t fully retract when you release it.
  • The starter cord pulls out slowly and reluctantly, even when you’re just trying to roll the mower around in place.
  • There’s a noticeable clicking or popping sound every time you pull the starter cord and try to start the engine.
  • You can hear and feel a gritty rustling noise coming from inside the lawn mower housing when you try to retract the starter cord by hand.
  • When you pull up on the starter cord, it barely moves at all. Or if it does move, then it moves only slightly but requires great effort.

How To Fix

For starters, try spraying them with lubricating oil, such as this highly effective, easy-to-apply, and moisture-displacing WD-40 Multi-Use Product with Smart STRAW (link to Amazon), and then working the pull cord until they free up again.

Also, you can try cleaning the rust/corrosion off of the ball bearings with steel wool or sandpaper to give them a fresh start. If these solutions don’t work, replace them entirely. As for the started clutch–check it for damage and replace it as necessary.

Additionally, ensure you always clean your mower to keep it in the best shape. Here’s a video that may help:

Thriving Yard aims to simplify the unnecessarily complex process of growing and maintaining a healthy, thriving lawn and garden. Unlike corporate website companies who write articles from an office overlooking a major city, the authors on this website live in small towns and regularly use many of the tips and recommendations provided in their own garden and lawn care. Read

Why is My Lawn Mower Pull Cord Hard to Pull?

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

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

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

Drill Start your mower ( no more pull start!)

Why is it Hard to Pull Start my Mower?

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

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

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

Why Can’t I Pull the Starter Rope?

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

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

Pull Chord Troubleshooting

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

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

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

Factory Safety Lock

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

Flywheel Brake Stuck

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

Debris Jam

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

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


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

Snagged Start Rope

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

Loose or Missing Blade

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

Damaged Crankshaft or Engine

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

Should I Replace My Mower’s Pull Cord?

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

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

Matt Hagens

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

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