How to Tell Your Lawn Mower Starter Solenoid is Bad: SOLVED. Ride on mower solenoid

​How to Tell Your Lawn Mower Starter Solenoid is Bad: SOLVED!

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I jumped on my lawn mower to start it and all I heard was a clicking sound when I went to start my mower. Electrical problems can be pretty hard to diagnose and take a lot of time to narrow down the issue.

It’s a good idea to narrow down the problem and not throw expensive parts at the mower hoping it fixes the issue.

Here are some of my favorite items I use when testing my battery and diagnosing electrical items on my lawn mower: volt-ohms meter, battery charger, and continuity light.

  • Lawn mower clicks and won’t turn over
  • Why does my lawn mower battery keep dying
  • Reasons a lawn mower won’t start
  • Reasons a zero turn won’t start

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

What Is a Lawn Mower Solenoid?

A lawn mower solenoid is an on/off switch of sorts. It is an electromagnet switch that is actuated to engage the starter motor to turn your engine over. The solenoid can be found mounted on the starter. However, it does not have to be mounted on the starter to do its job.

Some lawn mower solenoids can be found mounted closer to the battery than the starter.

Three Four Post Solenoids

This is a typical wire schematic of three and four-post solenoids. Remember, not all wire schematics are the same for every lawn mower. Some schematics will include wiring for options like lights and 12-volt ports. These diagrams only show the basic wiring schematic.

How to Identify Your Lawn Mower Solenoid?

Your solenoid may be round or square in shape with either 3 or 4 posts sticking out of it. You will find some solenoids attached right to the top of the starter and others attached to the frame.

The positive wire from the battery attaches to one side of the solenoid. Following the positive wire from the battery is an easy way to find your solenoid.

You will find solenoids on every electric start engine. Not only will you find solenoids on electric start lawn mowers, but you will also find them in trucks, cars, and tractors.

What Causes a Lawn Mower Solenoid to Go Bad?

A solenoid is an electrical switch. As we all know, an electrical item can fail at any time.

Inside the solenoid, you will find a spring and copper plate. A lawn mower solenoid can go bad if the spring gets weak or the copper plate starts to corrode. The solenoid can also fail as a result of a weak starter, bad battery, or bad ground.

It is good to know what to look for when you are diagnosing a solenoid.

Symptoms of a Bad Solenoid on a Riding Lawn Mower

A riding lawn mower solenoid may be bad when you hear a click or hum when you turn the ignition key and your mower doesn’t start. Another indication your solenoid may be bad is when a wire gets hot and begins to smoke or melt.

Steps to Diagnose a Bad Lawn Mower Solenoid

If you are going to diagnose the solenoid on your lawn mower, there are a few ways to do so.

Make Sure Your Battery Has a Full Charge

Use your voltmeter to make sure your battery has at least 12.3 volts in it. Read more about testing your battery in our article “5 Things That Are Draining the Life of Your Lawn Mower Battery“.

Bypass the Starter Solenoid Using a Screwdriver

Lay a long screwdriver over the solenoid to touch the two cables to bypass the starter. The two cables you are looking for are the cable from the battery and cable to the starter.

It may throw a spark when the screwdriver makes contact with the wires. This is common so don’t be alarmed.

If the engine happens to turn over while you have your solenoid bypassed there is a good chance your solenoid is bad. If the screwdriver does not work well, you can also use needle nose pliers to jump the solenoid.

You may only have loose wires or bad ground so you will need to check these items out before you replace the solenoid.

Test the Solenoid

Solenoids that are mounted on the starter can be tested. Remove the starter from the engine and test the solenoid with a battery charger. This is a good way to watch if the starter is working with the solenoid.

Once the starter has been removed from your lawn mower, you need to attach the negative (-) clamp to the case of the starter and touch the positive clamp to the big post and exciter wire on the solenoid. This is just a quick bench test when the starter is out.

Can You Bypass a Lawn Mower Solenoid?

A lawn mower solenoid can be bypassed by placing a long screwdriver from across the solenoid from touching the cable from the battery to the cable to the starter. Be careful. The connection could cause a spark which is normal.

Related Topics

Another reason why your mower may not start is due to water in the electrical system. Read our article “Why Your Mower Won’t Start After Leaving in the Rain”.

Starter Solenoid FAQ

Symptoms of a faulty solenoid are a clicking or humming sound when turning the ignition key, wiring getting hot and smoking, and the starter engaging and not disengaging after letting go of the ignition key.

When the starter solenoid fails, it will not provide the current required to engage the starter motor to turn over the engine.

A starter may click but not crank or turn over when the solenoid isn’t providing the power to turn over the starter. This may be due to a weak battery, loose or corroded wiring, or a faulty starter solenoid.

A lawn mower solenoid is an on/off switch of sorts. It is an electromagnet switch that is actuated to engage the starter motor by sending more current to turn over the engine.

The lawn mower solenoid is either attached to the top of the starter motor or to the frame of the mower. You can easily locate the solenoid by following the positive red cable from the battery to the solenoid.

Still Having Problems with Your Lawn Mower?

Lawn mower ownership doesn’t come without its frustrations. Own a mower long enough, you are bound to run into many lawn mower problems including starting, smoking, leaking, cutting, and overheating.

For mower troubleshooting, check out my guide Common Lawn Mower Problems: Solved.

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Mower Only Starts When I Jump Solenoid: EZ Fixes

Jumping the solenoid can be handy if you have starting issues with your mower. However, it’s best to only use it as a few times alternative because it’s not the recommended way to start the machine. The way to go is to diagnose the fault with your mower and fix it.

While it might seem like the issue is due to a faulty solenoid, it isn’t always the case. This article will teach you why your lawnmower only starts when you jump solenoid. You’ll get a detailed insight into how to diagnose and fix the issue on your mower.

What is Lawnmower Solenoid?

Before going into the causes of the issue and its solutions, it’s imperative to understand how a starter solenoid work. Understanding how a starter solenoid works will help you better understand why you’re having problems with your machine.

The starter system makes your lawnmower start when you activate the ignition button, and a solenoid is essential to the starter system. It’s responsible for sending current from the battery to the engine.

When you start the machine, the battery sends an electrical current to the solenoid. The solenoid does its work and sends a more powerful current to the starter motor, which starts the machine. Any flaw in this process might cause your mower not to start.

However, you can start the machine even if the solenoid is faulty when you jump it. When you bypass the solenoid, you’re using another method to send the required signal to the engine in place of the solenoid.

Why Does My Lawn Mower Only Start When I Jump Solenoid?

Many reasons could cause your lawn mower to only start when you jump the solenoid, and the most common one is issues with the solenoid itself. Other possible causes include a fault with the ignition system, terminals, or control cable.

This section will give you a detailed look into these causes and their possible solutions.

Faulty Solenoid

As mentioned earlier, the starter solenoid transfers current from the battery to the engine. Most mowers will have a square or round 3 or 4 posts solenoid responsible for running them. However, the most common problem for both solenoid types is similar.

Most solenoids have an electromagnet that completes the circuit between the battery and the solenoid. After some time, the electromagnet can become too weak to serve its purpose, thus causing problems. Alternatively, the component can wear down and jam up due to its nonstop plunging.

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The best way to know if the solenoid is a faulty part of the machine is to inspect other components. If all the other starting components work fine, then the problem is from a faulty solenoid.

How to Fix a Faulty Solenoid In Your Lawnmower

Before you can do anything with the solenoid, you’ll have to know where it is. You can locate the solenoid by checking your owner’s manual. Alternatively, you can follow the positive wire on your battery to find it because the cable directly leads to the solenoid.

After locating the solenoid, the next step is to fix it if it’s faulty. It’s rare to repair a bad solenoid, and you’ll mostly have to replace it. Follow these steps to replace the solenoid on your lawnmower.

  • Turn off your lawnmower’s ignition and its cover to expose the battery area. You’ll need a socket wrench to remove the nuts that hold the solenoid cables in place.
  • Remove the bolts that fasten the solenoid to the mower’s frame.
  • Remove the solenoid from the machine. It’s best to take a photo of the connections if you’re working with the mower for the first time to help you remember how to re-fix it.
  • Replace the solenoid with a compatible one for your machine. You can check the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website to know the specific solenoid type for your lawn mower. Ensure that you connect all terminals rightly, or the fix might not work.
  • Reconnect all the required cables and terminals, and the lawn mower should start well.

Faulty Ignition Switch

When you activate the ignition button, it sends a signal to the starter circuit, which activates the solenoid. A fault with the ignition will mean it can’t send the required power to other starter components, and the mower might not start. The best way to diagnose if the ignition is the problem is to perform an output voltage test.

You’ll need to use a multimeter for the test, and if you don’t have one, you can get one at a local electrical store. Follow the steps below to check the output voltage of your ignition switch.

  • Power on the multimeter and connect the ground to the lawn mower’s battery negative terminal.
  • Connect the multimeter’s positive terminal to the ignition switch’s starter terminal.
  • Check the voltage of the connected component after you’ve connected all entities correctly.
  • Most mowers either have a 12V or 6V battery. The multimeter should read 12V for a lawnmower with the same battery type and 6V for a 6V machine. Anything less than this reading signals that something’s wrong with the mower.

How to Fix A Faulty Ignition on your Lawn Mower

It’s best to change the whole ignition system if you notice that it is faulty. Then, you can be confident that it’ll serve you for a while. Luckily, most lawnmowers (especially riding mowers) have an easy-to-change ignition system.

Follow the steps below to change the ignition on your lawn mower.

  • Remove the main battery fuse and ignition key from your lawnmower.
  • Lift the lawn mower’s hood and locate the ignition.
  • Squeeze the tabs at the back of the ignition, and you should be able to bring it out.
  • Remove the ignition from its connector and attach the new one that you have appropriately.
  • Once again, you should only connect a compatible ignition switch to your lawn mower.
tell, your, lawn, mower, starter

Faulty Control Cable

As mentioned earlier, the ignition will need to send current to the solenoid, and that’s when the control cable comes to play. Any fault or breakage with this cable will render it useless unless you change it. You can check the status of this control cable using a multimeter if you follow these simple steps.

  • Connect the multimeter’s negative side to your battery’s positive terminal and the multimeter’s positive terminal to the cable farthest from the ignition.
  • Move the ignition switch to the start position, and you should see a reading corresponding to your lawnmower’s battery voltage. Anything less than that reading is a sign that the cable is faulty.
  • Once you’ve diagnosed the issue, the next thing is to run the fix in the following section.

How to Replace the Control Cable on Your Lawn Mower

If your lawnmower is a few years old, it’s best to replace the complete wiring harness. You can replace the individual cable if the wiring harness is still functioning well.

To replace the wiring harness, all that you have to do is to disconnect the old one and connect the new one. If you’re replacing the individual cable, disconnect it from the wiring harness and fix the new one. Memorize the connection pattern to make it easier to do the reconnections.

Broken Connections in the Starter Circuit Terminals

Many connections in your starter circuit make it start, and the machine may refuse to work if there’s a problem with any of them. A multimeter is a tool you can use to test the condition of your starter circuit.

The multimeter will let you check the incoming and outgoing power. A perfectly functioning lawn mower should have a balance between outgoing and incoming power. If the voltages are imbalanced after the test, something’s wrong with the component.

How to Fix Broken Connections in Your Starter Circuit Terminals?

You’ll have to inspect the circuit terminals to determine what went wrong with them. Tighten loose connections and refix broken ones to get the mower working regularly.

Sometimes, you won’t need repairs on the terminals because dirt and debris can hinder performance. Therefore, cleaning it with an electrical contact cleaner can work wonders.

It’s imperative to disconnect the terminal before working on it to avoid accidents. Also, ensure that you use the correct tools to do the fixes. The tools you’ll need for this fix include pliers, an electrical contact cleaner, screwdrivers, a small socket wrench set, protective gloves, and a small wire brush.

Differences between a Jump Start and Jumping a Solenoid

When you jump the solenoid, the battery is good, but the solenoid is not. So, you’re trying to trick the machine into starting it with a bad solenoid. On the other hand, a jump start happens when the battery in your mower isn’t working, and you want to use the machine urgently.

Therefore, you’ll get an external battery to start it with because the lawnmower can’t possibly work without a battery. Jump-starting a mower is riskier than jumping the solenoid, which isn’t recommended. The reason is that mistakes can result in eye injury or burns.

If you want to jump-start your battery, ensure that you wear protective equipment. Only jump-start your mower with a battery with a voltage that matches the one on your lawn mower.


Faulty solenoids and spark plugs are the two biggest reasons your lawn mower may require you to jump the solenoid every time you want to start it. Aside from the fact that jumping the solenoid isn’t the regular way to start the machine, it’s uncomfortable. Therefore, it’s best to repair the mower as soon as possible so you can start it properly.

The diagnosis and fixes mentioned in this article will help you fix the issue on your lawn mower in no time. You should check the fuel and spark plug first before attempting other fixes. If the machine refuses to start after running all the fixes, it’s best to take it to a qualified technician for repair.

tell, your, lawn, mower, starter

Lastly, it’s imperative to wear protective equipment anytime you want to work with your mower. Also, don’t attempt any repairs unless you have all the required tools.

Riding Lawn Mower Won’t Start, No Clicking — Solutions When Your Riding Mower Does Nothing When You Turn The Key

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There’s nothing quite as frustrating as a faulty lawnmower. Fortunately, if your riding mower won’t start and no clicking comes from the engine, you might not need a replacement just yet.

Below, our experts have put together the potential issues with a riding mower that won’t start or click and provide troubleshooting tips to help your riding mower work again.

How to Fix a Riding Lawn Mower That Won’t Start

“Should I call a professional when the riding mower does nothing when I turn the key?” The answer is: not always. You should be able to find out the problem with your tractor or mower yourself. But first, ensure you set the parking brakes.

Then check if the blade is still disengaged. Your riding mower won’t work otherwise.

How a Riding Lawn Mower is Powered

Riding mower is powered by a four-cycle engine (intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust). Some mowers use gasoline as their fuel and a spark plug to combust it. Others are powered by diesel and require no spark plug. In either case, the engine runs the transmission and drive wheels, and rotates the cutting blades underneath the machine.

Like automobile car, riding mower requires to charge a battery, starter motor, and ignition switch. When you turn the ignition switch to the ‘Start’ position, 12 volt of direct current travels from the battery through the starter solenoid to the starter motor. This current also flows through a cable to the anti-afterfire solenoid in the engine

When you release the key to the ‘Run’ position, this DC of twelve (12) volts is then redirected. Instead of going to the starter and motor, it moves to the alternator and anti-afterfire solenoid only. Together, these parts help to charge the battery and start auxiliary power sources like headlights and power plugs.

If your high-quality zero turn mowers work fine, you would hear a clicking sound between the ‘Run’ and ‘Start’ positions. This implies that the starter solenoid is getting power from the battery. On the other hand, when you don’t hear a click from the engine, the starter has failed, or its coil isn’t getting power from the battery.

Although mowers differ from models, they all work on the same principles.

Check and Charge/Replace Dead Battery

Battery troubles are one of the most common reasons a mower won’t run or click. A corroded battery won’t start an engine, and neither will a drained battery, when you forget to turn off the safety switch. Corrosion can be a usual problem for used riding lawn mower models at cheap of 500 below, so make sure to check this when you buy one.

A service monitor on a mower can help you identify when you’ve got battery troubles. But without one, you can check the battery using a multi-meter by following these steps:

  • Turn off the ignition system before accessing the battery.
  • Set the multimeter to DC voltage
  • Use the multi-meter’s red probe to touch the positive terminal and the black probe on the negative terminal.

If the multitester reads more than twelve (12) volts, the battery is good. Otherwise, it is weak, or dead and you’ve found the problem with your mower.

How to test Starter Solenoid

  • Accessing the battery, which is usually under the driver’s seat.
  • Connecting the charger clips to the battery terminals.
  • Plugging the charger to a power outlet. The charger should work on at least 10volts to charge the battery. Still, a 12-volt charger is sometimes preferred.
  • Disconnecting the charger reversing the steps above.
  • Plugging the charger to a power outlet. The charger should work on at least 10volts to charge the battery. Still, a 12-volt charger is sometimes preferred.
  • Replacing the seat and reconnecting the new battery in your mower correctly.

If a simple recharge doesn’t work, you need to replace the battery pack in the mower. Avoid a jump start mower to prevent damages to the on-board system

Check the Ignition Switch

The problem with your mower could be with the switches. When you start the engine and your riding mower does not forward nor reverse, your ignition switch’s contacts complete a circuit. This circuit is from a red to a white wire, which is on the B-terminal and S-terminal, respectively.

  • Pull up the mower’s hood to access the ignition switch.
  • Remove its cable harness.
  • Remove the tabs to pull the ignition switch out of its slot.
  • Turn the key to the start position and set the multi-meter to measure resistance, not voltage.
  • Connect the black multi-meter probe to the B prong and the other to the S prong. These terminals are along each other’s diagonal at the bottom of the switch.
  • Use the key to turn the ignition switch and start the engine. The resistance should display on the multi-meter when you do this.

The top-rated riding mowers should have good ignition switch measuring 0 ohms. This means its contacts complete the B and S terminal circuit and can send voltage to the solenoid. On the other hand, a damaged ignition switch will measure infinite resistance.

Other common issues you can experience with a damaged ignition switch include loose wiring and connections, corrosion, or spinning ignition. To fix this problem, check the ignition wiring for corroded, damaged, or loose wires

Inspect the Control Module

A control module is a printed circuit with resistors, relays, and a ground side that receive commands from the safety switches. If the sensors in the motor work correctly, a circuit module will also output a command to the starter through the solenoid. However, not every mower has one.

Depending on your model, a control module could be anywhere, even under the seat. And if you notice that your high-quality electric riding mower won’t start and no clicking comes from the device, or cranking doesn’t work, then this module could be faulty.

There are two ways to check the control module yourself:

  • Wiggle test: Here, wiggle the red and black wires connected to the control module while you start the mower. If everything checks out fine and the wires are connected, visually check the printed circuit for water damage and loose connections. To save time, you may have someone help you with the wires in a wiggle test while you FOCUS on finding the issue.
  • Main fuse check: Modules have internal or external fuses, and a blown fuse cuts out the supply from the battery. First, to check the fuse, remove its zip tie and then pull the fuse from its holder. If any element in the fuse is broken or there’s a fault in the ground connection, you should have it replaced. However, if you’re unsure, you can check for continuity using your multi-meter.

A good fuse should measure near 0 ohms. On the other hand, a blown fuse will measure infinite resistance.

Check Safety Functions

Every mower even the cheapest riding mower you can find in the market has in-built safety features. Typically, sensors or switches control these features, and they are routed through the control module. Once a detector activates a safety function, your mower won’t work as usual.

The main ones to check are the brake pedal switch, blade switch, battery connection, weight sensor (to make sure a driver is sitting before the mower works).

When you jump start the engine, you should press your brake pedal. If the brake pedal doesn’t work, then you need to inspect your brake detector.

  • Remove the hood and air-duct screws.
  • Pull off the air duct and take the fuel tank and filter out of the way.
  • Pull the cable harness off the brake switch, noting the wiring.
  • Using the multi-meter probes, touch both prongs that connect to the wiring of the brake detector.

If the brake switch is okay, the multi-meter should display 0 ohms of resistance. Replace this switch if you read infinite resistance from your multi-meter.

A riding mowers engages when the blade knob is switched off or the transmission isn’t set to park. To check the blade switch, our experts recommend to do the following:

  • Take out the clutch lever mounting screws. The assembly should drop slightly when the screws aren’t in place.
  • Note the prong’s wiring and then disconnect the blade switch’s cable harness.
  • Using your multi-meter probes, touch both prongs to measure the resistance of the blade switch.
tell, your, lawn, mower, starter

Like before, 0 ohms implies your blade switch is good, while infinite resistance means you need to replace it.

Motion detectors, switches, and sensors have in-built override functions. These functions are generally used for tests, and simply disconnecting a detector can cause an override. If you suspect your sensors are on an override, our team suggests to reconnect them before starting the device.

Replace Faulty Solenoid

Follow these steps to change a faulty solenoid:

  • First, raise the seat to get to the battery. Then, disconnect the battery terminals, starting with the negative (colored black) and then the red
  • Remove the battery from its slot. While at it, check for leaks or corrosion at the bottom and sides. Clean corrosion off the cable leads with a wire brush if they are still there after dusting.
  • Disconnect the cable harness that’s connected to the seat’s detector.
  • Pull off the battery box after removing its clips or screws.
  • Note the wiring connected to the solenoid and then disconnect the cables in any order.
  • Remove the mounting and tab both with a screwdriver.
  • Remove the faulty solenoid and replace it with the new one.
  • Finally, replace the seat, battery, and other parts.

While you can repair some solenoids, it’s often better to change them for longevity. In this way, you can still have the opportunity to place your riding lawn mower on retail in the long run given that the equipment is properly maintained.

Will a Bad Solenoid Drain the Battery on a Lawn Mower?

Nothing is worse than getting ready to work on your yard, just for your mower to not start or die on you. Since solenoids directly connect to your mower’s battery, you might wonder if that’s to blame. And even if it’s not, can it cause other problems?

A bad solenoid will not drain the battery on your lawnmower. However, a faulty or damaged solenoid can cause other issues, such as trouble starting the engine. A faulty voltage regulator or corroded battery posts are some common causes of battery drain in lawnmowers.

Next, we’ll dive into why a bad solenoid won’t drain your lawn mower’s energy. We’ll also look at how you can fix your solenoid, as well as common causes of battery drain. Reading this article will save you the stress (and money) from troubleshooting this issue on your own.

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Why Bad Solenoids Won’t Drain Battery

To understand the effects of a faulty solenoid, you should first learn what they are and how they work.

Solenoids are electromagnetic switches usually either inside or attached to your lawn mower’s starter.

When you turn the key on a riding mower, the solenoid is what connects that action to starting the motor. Because of that, solenoids are the crucial link between your starter and ignition.

However, the solenoid itself doesn’t drain your battery. There’s no onboard computing or lights. It only serves as the connection that ignites your engine when you turn the key.

As a result, it functionally can’t take energy from your battery.

So if a bad solenoid can’t drain your battery, what can it cause?

The most common problem is that your mower won’t turn on. Since the solenoid is one of the critical components of ignition, any issues with it may prevent engine start-up.

rarely, the ignition may occur more slowly or seem to stutter. This is usually due to corrosion or loose wiring hampering the solenoid’s connection to the battery (source).

Signs of a Bad Solenoid

How can you be sure your solenoid is actually the problem?

There are a couple of ways you can tell.

First, assuming the engine won’t start, try listening to your mower.

If you try turning the key but don’t hear anything or only a little spinning, your solenoid may be faulty. The lack of any auditory feedback is an indication that the solenoid isn’t starting the ignition process. Solenoids often make a loud “clicking” noise when they’re working.

Also, open up your mower’s panels if necessary to physically check the solenoid. It’s connected to or part of the starter. You can usually find it by following the red wire from your mower battery’s positive terminal.

If your solenoid’s connection looks loose, corroded, or otherwise damaged, that is a clear sign that it’s faulty.

There’s also a test you can utilize to assess your solenoid.

Craftsman Riding Lawn Mower Starter Solenoid #532192507

Testing if Your Solenoid Is Bad

For this test, you’ll need a metal screwdriver and gloves.

For the gloves, you want something that will protect you from electricity since you’ll be touching wires. Rubber insulating gloves are best for this reason. If you don’t own any, latex gloves in conjunction with leather gloves will also protect against electric shock.

Here’s how you check if your solenoid is bad, assuming your mower won’t start:

  • Ensure your mower’s brake is engaged.
  • Put on your gloves.
  • Open up your mower panels so you can see your solenoid.
  • On the solenoid, locate the two terminal posts that the thick red wires connect to.
  • Turn your engine to the “On” position.
  • Connect the gap between the terminal posts with the screwdriver.

Then, one of two things will likely happen.

If you hear the starter begin to spin, your solenoid is faulty. But if nothing happens, that means your starter doesn’t work, and your solenoid is likely okay.

Also, for the best results, try charging your lawn mower battery before attempting this. Or use a new one, even if temporarily. That way, you can make sure that the battery isn’t the problem (source).

Here’s a very easy to follow YouTube video on how to test a lawnmower solenoid:

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