How to Replace a Lawn Mower Pull Cord in 6 Simple Steps
You filled the gas tank and put sunscreen on. It’s mid-summer, so you even set a water bottle outside for mid-mowing hydration. Then you went to start the mower, and one swift pull changed your plans for the afternoon. The cord came flying off!
Don’t worry—wear and tear can lead to a mower cord breaking, and you aren’t the first to have this happen. In fact, if you notice your lawn mower cord is frayed but hasn’t ripped, this could be part of your annual lawn mower maintenance to preserve the life of your device.
Learn how to replace a lawn mower pull cord in this simple six-step guide.
Prepping to Replace a Lawn Mower Pull Cord
For safety and efficiency purposes, there are two things you need to do prior to disassembling your mower and replacing the cord.
Identify the Type of Pull Cord You Need
Not all lawn mower pull ropes are the same: they vary in thickness and length. The wrong thickness will make starting your lawn mower more difficult to start (or could cause a jam inside your mower) if you replace it with the wrong string. Thin cords will fit, but likely rip faster than the right-sized cord.
A new lawn mower starter rope causes between 10 and 20 at home improvement stores. The majority of pull-start mowers use either a cord numbered 5, 5 1/2, or 6.
If you’re unsure which you need, bring some of your damaged rope into the store and match the size, or check your lawn mower’s manual.
Always Let Your Mower Cool Down First
To avoid lawn mower mishaps, especially if your mower cord just tore and you’ve been running the mower, wait at least 30 minutes for the engine to cool before you start taking it apart. Never take apart a hot lawn mower.
It’s always a good idea to remove your spark plug before working on a mower. This way it can’t accidentally start.
Is your lawn mower pull cord hard to pull?
I am Janine Clarke AKA Equipment Girl, a nerdy girl with an unhealthy knowledge about power tools and gardening! You can contact me here.
Like everything mechanical, modern labour-saving devices are brilliant – until they stop working.
Few things are as irritating and inconvenient as a gadget that refuses to work, especially when you can’t figure out the problem! In this particular instance, we’re talking about the lawnmower. And, more specifically, a lawnmower pull cord that’s hard to pull.
It’s a safe bet that you’re reading this because the very same thing has happened to you and you’re looking for answers. If so, you may find the following troubleshooting tips helpful, as we go through all the possible causes and offer some solutions.
The Basics: How Does It Work?
It’s essential to understand how the machine and pull cord mechanism work in order to know what problems you might encounter, and how to fix them.
What happens when you pull The cord pull?
The cord pull (also called a pull string, pull start, pull rope or starter rope!) spins a hub that’s directly connected to the crankshaft. When this starts to turn it fires up an electromagnet which kicks the spark plug into action. At the same time, the carburettor pumps fuel into the combustion chamber where it is ignited by the spark plug to initiate a compression stroke.
Once enough fuel has been gathered, the engine fires up, the blades start to spin and the lawn mower is ready to roll.
The pull cord is attached to a recoil spring that automatically winds it back into place. There should never be any slack in a pull cord. If you notice that it’s loose and doesn’t rewind into the housing, then there’s a problem!
If any part of this process is hampered by a part that’s broken or missing, then this could affect the starter rope and prevent you from starting the lawn mower.
Just in case you have broken yours here is a replacement
First Steps Before Investigating
The very first thing to do is to disconnect the spark plug wire, or, better still, remove the spark plug completely. This ensures that there’s no risk of the machine firing up accidentally while you are working on it.
Ensure that you have plenty of space around you and that there’s enough light to work by. Also, make sure there are no naked flames and that nobody is smoking anywhere near the machine.
Problem #1: Lawnmower Blade Obstruction
Once you’ve made the lawn mower safe, tip it on one side and check the blades for any debris lodged there. If something has become jammed in the blades or blade shaft, this could make it more difficult to pull the cord.
Using heavy-duty safety gloves, remove any obstructive material that you find there and try starting the machine. To avoid the problem in future, always clean down your lawn mower and check the blades after every cutting session!
Problem #2: The Flywheel Brake Is On
The flywheel brake is designed to slow the lawn mower blades down quickly. It’s usually linked to the dead man’s handle, a safety mechanism that stops the blades from spinning if you let go of the handle.
Before starting your mower, make sure that it is disengaged.
If you are unable to do this, it may be that the part is jammed or broken. This is a pretty technical and intricate problem to fix, so it may be better to ask a specialist.
Problem #3: The Recoil Starter
After several years of use, this part can become worn and stop working correctly. This will make it difficult to pull the starter rope and you’ll notice that there’s some slack. It can also become obstructed by dirt and gunk that has entered the housing.
How to fix a lawnmower /broken pull start
Use a screwdriver to undo the blower housing and place the screws in a plastic tub for safekeeping. Remove the housing and check for any debris or obstruction. Remove any obvious stuff that shouldn’t be there, and try pulling the cord to see if it is freed up.
If it’s still not working, it may be that the recoil spring is damaged. You can fix this yourself, but in many cases, it’s easier to buy a new recoil starter. You will need to find the right one for your model but they are not expensive like the one below for a Honda.
Problem #5: Old Or Dirty Spark Plug
Spark plugs wear out after a while, so they need replacing. I have already covered “how often do spark need to be replaced in lawn mowers“. They can also become dirty and this can cause them to disconnect from the wire. While not directly connected with the pull cord problem, it could still be a factor and it’s worth checking.
Remove and clean the spark plug with a cloth, then try starting the mower again. If the spark plug is corroded or damaged, replace it and try the process again.
Make sure it is not too tight, as it may stop it from working properly.
Problem #6: Bent Crankshaft
This problem means you need to use more effort to start the mower, as the shaft will catch on the inside of the lawn mower.
You’ll usually know that this is the case because it will make a strange sound and may well produce vibrations through the handle.
The only way to fix this is by replacing the damaged shaft.
Problem #7: Hydro-Locking
This occurs when oil gets into parts of the engine where it doesn’t belong! This jams the cylinder and makes it difficult to shift, so pulling on the cord won’t start the mower.
The main cause is when you tip the lawn mower over and the air filter filter is pointed downwards.
To fix this, remove the spark plug and place a dry cloth over the hole. Pull the starter rope several times and watch for any oil being sprayed out of the hole. That’s what the cloth is for!
Keep doing this until no oil comes out, then insert the spark plug and try starting the mower.
You may find that it kicks out white smoke for a while and misfire once or twice as it burns off any remaining oil. After this, it should run as normal.
Problem #8: Lack Of Physical Strength
If there’s nothing obviously wrong with your lawn mower, it may be that you are simply unable to pull the starter rope hard enough. This isn’t a criticism: some machines are easier to start than others, and some individuals of senior years or who have a condition affecting their strength may struggle with this procedure.
One answer is to replace the pull cord handle with one specially designed to make the action easier. These are usually ball-shaped as this makes the movement more energy efficient.
You can also purchase gadgets that start the lawn mower for you. There was a guy from Ireland who had injured himself and was unable to pull the cord of his machines without pain so he invented the “Pullstarter” but im not sure if he still has any for sale but a great idea!
We hope these troubleshooting tips are helpful and that you are able to get mowing again as soon as possible! One of the best ways to avoid future problems with your mower is through regular maintenance.
They are great machines, but they do need a lot of care to keep them working well. Once you’ve been through the list here to fix the problem, it’s a good idea to flush out the fuel system and check the air filter, as these are common problem areas.
And remember to clean off any grass and mud that’s stuck to the blades and casing before you store your mower.
As they say, if you look after your tools, they’ll look after you.
Lawn Mower Starter Cord Won’t Pull
Craftsman 6.0 horsepower 22 side discharge lawn mower won’t start: The starter rope simply makes half a turn only. It sounds (metal touching sound at half turn) like something blocking the starter rope from turning in the flywheel.
The manual suggests this could be Engine flywheel brake is on when control bar is released. And I followed its suggested solution, Depress control bar to upper handle before pulling starter rope. But it doesn’t work at all.
HOW TO repair a Pull Cord on a Briggs and Stratton Lawnmower
Note: the mower was fine and it refused to allow its starter rope to be pulled again after the engine automatically stopped while mowing. Please help.
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
I had a mower that would only pull half way one day, after I had just used it. Turns out the rope was off track on the wheel. We had to remove the cover to find this out and re-align the rope. Works fine now. (05/11/2005)
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
I just had this happen to me and it turns out that the blade was clogged up by the grass, which was very long and thick. Just cleared out the stoppage and it worked again. That’s all that was needed in my case. (05/22/2005)
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
Honda rope change is a serious action and challenge. (05/31/2005)
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
Try to remove the shroud. If it is a Briggs, it will be three 3/8 bolts. Move the flywheel (the thing on top with fins) by hand or with a screwdriver or pry bar. Make sure you safely disconnect the spark plug lead first! It should hopefully free up. if you hear a clunking sound about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way around in revolution you might listen carefully to determine if you have a serious thrown rod (metal on metal sounding clunk) or crankshaft inside the block (engine).
If it does turn freely, you know you have an ordeal with the starter assembly. Take it to a repair shop. If the flywheel turns but is sluggish perhaps you have collected debris amongst the external blade, flywheel, etc. Usually it is line. If it is still sluggish take it to the shop. Another thing you could try at home is to (again disconnect the spark plug lead) and turn the mower blade by hand to determine if you have a broken flywheel key or something more serious.
Before diving into something major do yourself a favor and take it to a repair shop! Hope this helped some. (03/11/2006)
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
Thanks for the tips. This definitely helped me with the problems that I was facing. (05/20/2006)
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
I had the same problem and it was the plastic inserts that catch the wheel when you pull the rope. They’re easy to replace and cost very little (even for the entire set-up). Simply take off the top plastic cover/s then the three little bolts on top and flip the tank assembly toward the handle (watch the gas line).
Remove the four bolts that hold the metal housing and flip it over to see the pull assembly. If you unscrew the center bolt it lifts off to see two plastic parts the wing out when you pull the rope. This will allow you to pull out the coil so be careful. If you need parts MandD mower has great prices. (11/10/2007)
Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck
Great suggestions here. This all helped me fix my Briggs push mower. In my case, the starter rope would move when disconnected. The fly wheel would not. I looked under my mower and the blade housing was bent and preventing the blade from turning. Thank you all for the help. Back in business with my old, cheap push mower. (08/16/2008)
ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.
Archive: Lawnmower Woes: Starter Cord Won’t Pull
I purchased a new lawn mower the end of July this year. I’ve mowed my lawn approximately 6 times. I went out today to mow.
Ask a Question Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.
Question: Lawn Mower Woes: Starter Cord Won’t Pull?
Recently I bought a new Briggs and Stratton 550 series push mower. I pulled it out, assembled it, put oil and gas in, and primed it. When I went to pull the starter cord, it wouldn’t budge. Advice? Anything I missed? I followed the owners manual word for word.
If you’ve mowed before and then have problems pulling the cord to get it started, it could be that your mower needs cleaned from underneath where the blade turns. When mowing damp grass, it tends to cake around the bottom and it dries up making it hard for the blade to turn which locks up the pulling cord.
Turn your mower sideways and see if it needs cleaning. Scrape off all dried up grass, then try to start up as usual. Should do the trick. Good Luck! Handy-Mama
I recently bought a Troy Bilt self propelled mower, model TB210. I experienced a similar problem, followed the assembly and set up instructions and the starter cord would come out about 5 inches and not budge. No knots in the cord, and I was holding the blade control bar against the upper handle, as instructed. I checked the blades and realized that I did not extend the handle bar as much as I needed to. There was still about six inches of handle bar extending into the rotating blade area and it was preventing me from pulling the starter cord out fully. Once I readjusted the ends of the handle bar I had no problem.
Question: Lawn Mower Starter Rope Stuck?
My Craftsman 6.0 mower pull cord is stuck. I’ve checked gas, oil, spark plug, and blade. Everything is good on those, but the blade won’t turn by hand. What options do I have, or should I take it to a shop?
You might try spraying a little WD-40 on whatever part(s) you think are stuck. If that fails, then you’ll probably have to take it to the shop.
The rope sometimes gets stuck on the coil winding mechanism underneath. In this case, you need to take it apart, get a new rope and put the whole thing back together.
The Pull-Cord on My Lawnmower Is Stuck
Pull cords on lawn mowers have caused homeowners many frustrating hours by becoming stuck, refusing to work. Simple troubleshooting to determine one of two issues causing the problem can solve a stuck pull cord. Once the issue is determined, the correct solution can be implemented. A few preventative measures can help reduce the occurrence of a stuck pull cord.
Pull the cord multiple times to determine play in the cord. Slight play indicates blockage or debris trapped inside the housing on top of the motor. No play indicates the cord is caught and may be damaged. Unscrew the screw on top of the housing to gain access to the cord and pulley disc for further inspection.
Examine both the cord and the pulley disc for rocks, sticks or entangled weeds around either the disc or cord. Attempt to remove the object from the disc or cord; if this isn’t possible without causing further damage, pull the disc and cord out together to gain access to the foreign object. Clean the disc of any dust or dirt. Return the disc and cord to their proper locations, reversing the order of removal.
A cord caught on the pulley disc or housing can seriously damage the cord and pulley disc. Examine the cord to determine the extent of the snag and the sharpness of the point holding the cord. Pulley discs can fracture or develop sharp edges over time and eventually snare the cord at the point of damage. Carefully remove the pulley disc and cord together. Unwind the cord completely and discard the cord.- once damaged the cord can easily snap. Replace the cord with fresh cord, installing in the reverse of how you removed the old cord. Make sure the cord lines up with the holes and notches or it will snag again.
Watch for potential problems when mowing high grass, weeds or on rocky ground. Grass or weeds higher than the mower can become entangled in moving parts or drop seeds and debris into open cavities such as the pulley disc housing. Dirt and dust kicked up while mowing can deposit into open cavities. Brush off the mower after each use. Blow compressed air into the pulley disc chamber to force out debris inside. Examine the cord on a routine basis looking for frays, tears and cuts. Replace the cord if you find damage.
Measure the length between the motor housing and the mower handle. Double that number to achieve the length for the new pull cord. Use coated cord to help prevent sticking or sudden damage; remember though that a coated cord will lose the coating over time due to friction between it and the disc.