June 9

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Lawn Mower Won’t Start? 10+ Tips For Troubleshooting

By Anton Schwarz

🌱 Stay-at-Home Gardening Guy

June 9, 2020


No matter what lawn mower you have, regular maintenance can help prevent problems and can give your lawn mower longer use life. But, if an issue does happen and your lawn mower is not starting – here are some tips and ideas that may get you up and running!

It is a perfect spring day and you take out the lawn mower to get your lawn looking great after the long cold winter months! But wait – it refuses to start.

You make several attempts to revive it but they all fail.

You now start to panic and wonder if you need to buy a new mower?

Where do you get the money?

What about repairs? How much will the repair costs be?

Will the mower even work again?

What is wrong with the mower you have?

If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone, even I have been there!

However, it does not mean you should rush to buy a new lawn mower; the solution is likely easier than you may think and we are going to go over some of the most common issues that will prevent your lawn mower from starting.

Just a quick disclaimer though: you should always check the manual before doing any repairs on your equipment, so that you do not risk voiding the warranty.

Before using this list to troubleshoot why your mower is not starting, please be sore to use safety precautions like removing gas from the tank and keeping flammable items like cigarettes and lighters away from the mower while you are working.

1. Is the starter rope stuck or difficult to pull?

The likely reason behind this is with the flywheel brake. If it is engaged at that time, the starter rope will be hard to pull and the mower refuses to go on. To solve the problem, make sure to adjust the bar and pull it down towards the handle, then pull the rope.

Another likely cause is grass clippings interfering with the mower blade, or when the blade itself drags in grass. To resolve this, move the mower to a hard surface such as concrete and switch it off completely (including disengaging the spark plug wire). Turn the mower upside down and clear its underside of any clippings. After you make sure it is clean, place it in a safe mowing position and then pull the starter rope again.

2. There is a problem with the carburetor bowl

In case your lawn mower is the gas powered type, note that it cannot get sufficient fuel to start when there are problems with the carburetor – such as when you plug in the inlet needle of the carburetor, or there are clogs in the fuel filter.

If this is the case, remove the carburetor’s fuel line, which will allow you to inspect it. If there is good gas supply, it is likely that the filter is clogged. If this is the case, then open the interior of the tank and remove all debris that is blocking the gas flow.

If the gas is getting to the carburetor, then inspect the fuel levels in the bowl by using a C-clamp. If the bowl is empty, then the inlet needle and seat might be stuck and need replacement – but you should not worry because these parts are affordable.

Regardless of the case, check the interior parts of the carburetor to ensure there is no corrosion or rust, which will force you to replace the entire lawn mower.

3. Issues with the fuel

In case the engine came on, yet it stalls after some time in the midst of your mowing session, then the fuel might be the problem. It is a very common problem, as it tends to happen when you fail to use the mower for a significant period. The usual rule is emptying out the gas from the mower once it reaches thirty days – especially after the winter months, because gasoline loses the volatility it has.

Solving it is easy though. You only need to refresh the fuel by emptying the old one and adding new gas, and the mower will resume working. In addition, if the oil is dark in color, it needs changing as soon as possible – otherwise, it will interfere with the working of the mower engine’s inner parts.

4. The air filter is old

Part of the maintenance of a lawn mower, especially the gas-powered types, is checking the air filters regularly and replacing them once a year. The reason is that the functioning of the mower is dependent on the condition of the air filter – if it is old or in poor condition, the mower will refuse to start. In addition, it leads to the buildup of carbon on the cylinder itself, and then the spark plug is compromised.

The good news is that air filters are relatively cheap, and are widely available, so you will not struggle too much to get one.

5. Is their smoke coming out?

You might be scared and very worried to see smoke coming out of the mower, but it is not a serious issue – thankfully. It can occur due to a number of reasons: the exhaust muffler has some oil that leaked when you tilt your mower sideways, or the oil chamber is too full. This is the mower’s method of cooling off, especially because the engine is heating up.

However, smoke that is light in color should be a cause of concern because it points to issues with the inner workings of the system or the power supply. In such a case, make sure to have a professional check it out and prescribe the best course of action.

6. Is the lawn mower low on oil or need a change?

This should be one of the first thing you do! Checking the oil level can eliminate this as an issue and is the least invasive option. Oil should always be at the recommended level as noted in your manufacturers product guide.

Most manufacturers recommend that your oil also be changed after around 30-50 hours of run time so if you have not done that recently you should definitely do that as well!

Some other causes

The reasons we discussed above are very common issues, but there could be other reasons behind the mower refusing to start, and are mostly resolved by professionals. These include:

  • Damage to the starter mechanism or the clutch – if you notice you have turned on the mower and the blade is rotating or the cord is easy to pull, yet it does not come on.
  • Lack of response in the button or starter key – this is mainly due to a dead battery, a broken gear, or a poor connection to the motor.
  • Lack of response even after unclogging the blade – that is likely because of damage to the inner parts.

Final Thoughts

When you have a lawn mower, it is important to keep it in optimal condition to prevent these instances from occurring. However, if they do happen, then repairs should be easy, because you will always know what to check.

Anton Schwarz

About the author

Just a regular guy who likes gardening and taking care of my lawn. Striping my lawn is oddly satisyfing to me, I guess I'm weird.

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