Lawn Mower Pull Cord Hard to Pull – Solved

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If you are reading this, it means you have trouble getting that lawn mower pull cord to work. I know how frustrating that can be so I will get straight to the point. Most of the time you can fix it without going to a repair shop.

A defective spring, jammed rope or loose blade are the most common reasons why a lawn mower pull cord is hard to pull. An overflowing fuel tank or hydro locked engine can prevent the starter rope from functioning.

Are You Pulling the Cord Correctly?

Yes it might sound silly, but it does happen. If you are not pulling the cord right, the lawn mower won’t start. If this is the case, you just need to pull the cord properly, not harder.

How to Fix

To pull a lawn mower cord, hold the cord with your strong hand. Place your other hand on the mower. Pull the cord straight and use your other hand to push away the mower. Repeat this a few times until the engine starts.

This problem can be avoided if you buy a quality lawn mower. This is why I prefer the Craftsman M105 140cc because it is solidly built and provides is dependable

If you have a new push lawn mower, its handle might not be fully extended. Follow the operating manual instructions on how to extend the handle.

Tangled Cord

If the starter rope refuses to pull, it might be tangled up. There are many reasons this can happen. If the mower flipped over, the cord can get messed up. If the cord was not installed properly, you will not be able to pull it.

How to Fix

There are a few ways to fix this. Untangle the cord or replace the entire assembly. If you decide to untangle the cord, you have to take the cord assembly apart. This is not always necessary but it could be needed.

A simple way to untangle the rope is to pull it gently.. Give it a tug a few times. If the cord is only lightly knotted, this should work.

If that does not work, spin the blade manually. Make sure the lawn mower is disconnected and turned off before you try this. Wear gloves too. Now turn the blade until it spins freely. Try pulling the cord now if you can pull it.

Some lawn mowers have a lever that you need to hold down to pull the cord. Look into the owner’s manual if that is required.

If none of these options work, you have to disassemble the recoil assembly. Remove the engine screws and take the assembly out. Untangle the cord and reinstall everything. Take note of any damaged parts and replace them too.

Hydro Locked Engine

When the engine has too much fuel, the cylinder is not able to function properly. This is known as hydro locking. If the piston is stuck, the rope is going to be almost impossible to pull. To resolve this, you need to get rid of the excess fuel.

How to Fix

Turn the lawn mower off and disconnect the spark plug. Place a piece of cloth where the spark plug was. Let the cloth absorb the oil that comes out.

Pull the starter rope several times to get rid of the excess oil. After a few pulls, remove the cloth and put another one in its place. Pull the cord again. Check if the cloth has oil. If there is none, you have removed the hydro lock.

Use an engine spray to remove the fuel residue. I use Chemical Guys Engine Cleaner because I only need to spray a little to clan the cylinder. Just apply a bit of the spray in the orifice before putting the spark plug back on.

Put the spark plug back and turn on the engine. It’s all right if you see smoke, those are remnants of the oil residue. Let the engine idle until the smoke evaporates.

If your lawn mower still won’t run, spray the carburetor. To do that you have to take the air filter out first. While you do this, check if the filter needs cleaning too. Spray the carburetor, put the filter back and turn the engine on again.

Clogged Blade

The blade might be clogged with grass clippings and debris. I see this happen a lot when the lawn mower is too low. Adjust the height so the grass does not get in the way of the blade.

This can be a real problem if you are trying to mow tall grass so the proper adjustment is necessary. Other signs are the blade refuses to spin, doesn’t cut as well as before and the engine stalls.

How to Fix

Turn off the lawn mower. Disconnect the spark plug. Flip it over so you can see the blade. Brush off the debris. Remove the blade if necessary.

Check if the blade needs sharpening too. I recommend Ankda Lawn Mower Blade Sharpener as it hones blades quickly. Put the blade back on and try the lawn mower again. You should be able to pull the cord smoothly now.

I want to add that blades have to be replaced eventually. You can sharpen it a few times yes, but when that no longer works, it is time to get a new one.

Damaged Pull Cord

What is the cord is not tangled but broken? You have to remove the cord and replace it with a new one. A lot of cords are bundled with handles, and it’s a good idea to get a new handle for your lawn mower too.

How to Fix

You will need a new cord, new handle, C-clamp, needle nose pliers, a cutting tool and wrench.

  1. Shut the lawn mower off and let the engine cool down. Use the wrench to remove the engine cover screws. Set the cover aside for now.
  2. Draw the starter rope out and tie into a knot. This is going to keep it from slipping into the casing.
  3. Chop the handle off with a cutting tool.
  4. Pull the cord completely out of the starter assembly. Clamp it on the starter.
  5. Grab the end of the cord and take it out.
  6. Take your new cord and thread it in the assembly. Tie a knot near the end and thread it into the handle. Knot the end.
  7. Hold the cord firmly where you put the clamp earlier. Remove the clamp and let go of the cord slowly.
  8. When the cord has recoiled, pull the starter cord. If it works, reinstall everything.

Worn Out Spark Plugs

Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with the pull cord, but something else. If the spark plug is dirty or defective, the engine is not going to start no matter how hard you pull.

How to Fix

Check the spark plug. If it is covered with soot, clean it and try again. If it looks burned or cracked, replace it. Look in the manual for what type of spark plug to get.

Remove the old spark plug and install the new one. You want it to be secure but not too tight. I like to have a few of these in reserve just in case. The rule of thumb is to replace them every year, but your mileage may vary. If your lawn mower starts smoking, there are ways to fix it.

Bent Crankshaft

If the handle vibrates and the mower makes strange noises when you pull the cord, the crankshaft is probably broken.

How to Fix It

There is no easy fix for this. The only option is to replace the shaft. If you are an expert in small engines, you can buy a new crankshaft and install it.

I want to add that removing the crankshaft and replacing it can be complicated. If you are not familiar with the process, take the lawn mower to an expert.