Why Your Lawn Mower Pull Cord Is Getting Stuck (And Tips To Fix It)

When you notice your grass getting a little long, you probably want to cut it as quickly as possible and get back to enjoying your weekend. But when your lawn mower refuses to start, your plans for relaxation are in limbo. Some problems mean that your lawn mower needs to go to a professional for repairs. Other issues, like learning how to safely replace a spark plug, can be a DIY job.

Another potential issue that you may be able to fix yourself is a stuck pull cord. Although the typical pull cord will extend at least a few feet when you try to start the lawn mower, you may only be able to extend it a couple of inches when it's stuck, meaning it cannot tighten the rewind spring enough to start the machine. You may be able to fix the issue with a bit of an adjustment, or you may need to replace the pull cord entirely. Either way, fixing a starter rope yourself is a relatively easy job that you usually can do in less than an hour and for less than $25. Should you find that the problem is beyond your skill level, though, you can always reach out to a pro, who can check for other problems, too.

Diagnosing the issue

A lawn mower starter cord that doesn't extend outward when you pull on it cause signify a few different problems. If you recently tipped the machine on its side to remove a blockage underneath, oil may have leaked into the engine cylinder, causing it to seize. Another common issue is a frayed cord, which causes it to stick. Over time, the starter rope will naturally show wear and tear that could leave it unable to do its job properly, requiring a full replacement. Eventually, a frayed starter cord will likely end up breaking, so you should not ignore this problem, even if the frayed cord unsticks itself when you yank on it a few times.

You may end up with the opposite problem — you pull the cord outward in an attempt to start the lawn mower, only to have the rope go limp and refuse to retract back into the engine housing. Without any tension on the pull cord, it cannot spin the rewind spring and generate the power needed to start the machine. Often, this issue relates to rust inside the engine housing, which prevents the spring from spinning properly.

Fixing your stuck lawn mower starter rope

To fully replace the starter rope, remove the bolts that hold the starter cover in place, as this protects the recoil spring. Then cut the old cord out, as it likely has a knot keeping it inside the spring. Save the old pieces of cord, and use them to determine the proper length for the new cord. Cut the new cord about 4 inches longer than the old cord to account for the knots. Feed the new cord through the recoil spring on one end and through the handle on the other end, using knots to prevent the rope from slipping through the feed holes.

Oil or rust inside the starter system is also usually easy to fix. To remove the oil, pull out the spark plug and then pull the rope a few times, which should clear out the unwanted oil. Wipe off the spark plug and replace it. To remove rust, disassemble the entire starter system and clean the ball bearings. If this feels too challenging, reach out to a repair person.