How To: Start a Lawn Mower (and Troubleshoot Common Problems)
Starting up a lawn mower should be easy, right? But occasionally, particularly after a long, dormant winter, a mower can be tough to start. To get your mower humming along, follow these simple steps—and if it balks, try our tips for troubleshooting.
Regular mowing is not only beneficial to the look of your lawn, but also to its health. Whether you’ve recently purchased a new grass guzzler or have finally dragged out your old machine for the new season, it’s not uncommon to be frustrated when trying to start up the lawn mower. Of course, different mowers operate slightly differently, but the following guidelines can help you start a lawn mower of the most common type—that is, gas. If you’ve followed the steps outlined here and still cannot start your lawn mower, be sure to consult the troubleshooting tips offered at the bottom of this post.
Safeguard the mower blades against damage by taking the time to remove all objects from the parts of your property given over to grass. Clearing the way entails not only picking up children’s toys and moving lawn furniture, but also addressing any tree branches that have fallen or rocks that have been unearthed.
Next comes a step that may seem glaringly obvious, but which, on account of its simplicity, some homeowners forget: Confirm the presence of oil and gas in the mower. Are you readying a new gas-powered mower for its first go on your grass? Consult the manual to learn the fuel and oil recommendations for the specific model you now own.
With the mower all set to go, press the primer button three to five times in order to channel gas into the engine. If, however, you’ve used the mower recently, you should be able to skip this step. Priming the engine is necessary only after a prolonged period during which the lawn mower has not been used (over the winter, for instance).
Notice how there are two handles on the lawn mower, each running horizontally only inches apart from the other. Press and hold these handles together, keeping them together as you pull the starting rope. Do so quickly and with considerable force. That action should cause the mower engine to turn over. Sometimes, as you have likely experienced in the past, it can take several attempts before pulling the starting rope achieves the intended result: a purring motor.
You’ve checked and rechecked the mower for oil and gas. You’ve pulled the starting rope so many times that your arm is sore. You’ve flipped through the owner’s manual, muttering curse words all the while. At times, lawn mower maintenance can be truly exasperating. When all else fails, consider these possibilities:
• If you know that there’s oil and gas in the mower, but the engine still refuses to start, it’s possible that either the carburetor has flooded or the cylinder has become soaked with gas. (The smell of unburned gas is a telltale symptom.) Leave your mower on level ground for at least 15 minutes, which should allow enough time for the gas to evaporate from within the mechanism.
• If you are returning to your lawn mower after having left it to spend the off-season in your garage, any gas that was left in the machine may have gone bad. If you think that could be your issue, observe the mower the next time you try to get it going. Does it appear to start up, then quickly stall out? The fix is simple: Siphon out the old gas, replacing it with fresh fuel.
For more lawn mower advice, check out our video on the most common mowing mistakes almost everyone makes.