It becomes worrying when your lawn mower starts with starter fluid then dies, especially if you think that getting your lawn mower to start using a starter fluid might do the trick. Problems related to the air filter, carburetor, spark plugs, fuel, fuel cap, and oil are the most common causes that make your mower suffer from this malfunction.

The Puzzling Case of the Lawn Mower

Given that there are plenty of things to consider when diagnosing the issue, we will help you in this article by covering the possible problems in detail and then aiding you in troubleshooting this issue by providing the solutions needed for you to fix it.

Why Does Your Lawn Mower Starts With Starter Fluid Then Dies?

Your lawn mower starts with starter fluid then dies because of a clogged or dirty air filter, a carburetor issue, old gas, a defective or dirty spark plug, oil level issues, or a blocked fuel cap.

It is important to identify the root cause before administering a solution.

Here are the common reasons why your engine only starts with starter fluid then dies, let’s begin to tackle them one by one and discover what is really happening with your lawn mower.

– Clogged or Dirty Air Filter

Issues with the air filter commonly cause a lot of different troubles for lawn mowers. However, this issue is not difficult to identify. Having a dirty or clogged air filter will result in an inadequate amount of air that can enter the engine, such that your mower won’t start.

Commonly, air filters can be clogged by oil due to incorrect tilting of the lawn mower or when your mower is filled with dirt and debris that have accumulated over time.

– Carburetor Issue

One of the common reasons why a small engine turns over when you are using a starting fluid and then dies is a fuel supply-related issue. However, this is not uncommon. What is really happening is that the starter fluid is enough that your lawn mower starts at first, but since the carburetor is not supplying the right ratio of air and fuel, the engine suddenly stops after a while.

So, issues that have to do with a dirty carburetor can be considered as one of the culprits. This happens when your lawn mower is not used often and is allowed to stay running for a long time. When this happens, the gas in the bowl of the carburetor becomes gunk over time.

– Old Gas

When old fuel turns to gunk in the carburetor, the same thing happens in the fuel tank. Though not all types of gas easily turn bad as time goes by, it is recommended to add a fuel stabilizer to prevent your fuel from getting old and going bad for a longer period of time.

Reasons for Lawn Mower Starts With Starter Fluid

Keep in mind that you should always check the carburetor and the fuel before using the lawn mower, especially if you had not used the machine for a couple of years.

– Defective or Dirty Spark Plug

If you have already checked the fuel and the carburetor and both turned out fine, then maybe those problems are not related to the gas supply but rather in igniting the gas. So this is the time when you have to look at the spark plugs.

There are a lot of reasons why spark plugs cause issues, but if your engine starts with starter fluid then dies, a faint spark is probably the reason. You can easily inspect the spark plug and replace it once you ensure that it is already damaged. If not, you can give it a good cleaning if dirt has already accumulated on it.

– Oil Level Issue

Another thing you could check is the oil level. You can use a dipstick to do this. Alternatively, you can observe whether your mower releases white smoke if you try to turn the engine over.

This white smoke could mean that there is oil that is burning in the mower engine. In contrast, if you own a two-cycle mower, observe if there is unburned gas that is released when you try to start the engine.

– Blocked Fuel Cap

The carburetor bowl has a screw placed on its feet that has a narrow opening that supports the bowl. This hole has a chance of getting clogged up and can be a reason why your engine start with a lawn mower starter fluid then dies.

How Can You Fix Your Lawn Mower Starts With Starter Fluid Then Dies?

To fix your lawn mower starts with starter fluid then dies, you can try cleaning or replacing the dirty air filter, removing and replacing the old fuel, changing the spark plug, fixing the oil level, or cleaning the dirty fuel cap.

Upon knowing the possible issues that your lawn mower might be having, let us now discuss how we can fix it through the list below.

– Clean or Replace the Air Filter

Replacing the air filter is the easiest thing to do and won’t take too much of your time, so if this is causing the issue with your mower, consider yourself a bit lucky. First, you have to closely examine your air filter. From there, you could tell if it needs replacement or just a good cleaning. Replace it once it is already full of oil and if there is too much gunk there.

Fix the Carburetor

Doing this step may sound difficult and complicated, but surprisingly, it’s not. You can use a carburetor cleaner. Use one with a narrow straw in it to easily spray it exactly on the area where you want it.

After that, remove the air filter, set it aside, and then you will see the air intake. Put the carburetor cleaner there as this will be drawn into the carburetor by the time you try to start the engine, and it may clean off some of the dirt buildup.

Reattach the air filter and then you can turn over the engine. If this method did not work, you can detach the carburetor and give the jets and bowls a good cleaning. However, if you are unsure, you may contact a small engine specialist.

– Remove and Replace the Fuel

If your mower has sat for a long time without running, the fuel may have aged and is no longer as good as it was before. Inspect the gas in the tank, and observe its color. A dark-colored fuel might mean it has already gone bad. The smell should not be pungent or sour and instead should be a normal fuel smell.

Solution for Lawn Mower Starts With Starter Fluid

Lastly, inspect the fuel closely to see if there are any particles that are floating in it because that will determine that it is not good. If this is the case, you have to remove the bad fuel by draining it out completely using a siphon and replacing it with fresh gas.

– Change the Spark Plug

In order to inspect and replace the spark plug, you have to remove a few parts to get into it. First, unscrew the wirings of the spark plug then observe the electrode and inspect it if it is filled with oil or fuel or has turned black due to carbon. Clean it if it is not extremely dirty or damaged like having cracks on it.

If it is too dirty or damaged, it is recommended that you simply replace it as part of your lawn mower’s maintenance. Also, it is not really that expensive. After getting the newly cleaned or brand-new spark plug, reattach it to the mower, along with the other parts that you have removed at the beginning. After this, you can do a test run.

– Fix the Oil Level

If you find out that your mower has a low oil level, top up the oil to the approved level. In contrast, if your mower has a high oil level, drain the excess off and try to measure it again.

If you own a two-cycle mower and you would not be able to inspect the oil range but think that you might have a higher level than the recommended, you can drain the gas, create a new oil or gas mixture, and finally refill it to the tank.

The bottom line is that proper oil level is crucial, so you should know how to identify the signs and symptoms of a lawn mower having low oil levels.

– Clean the Fuel Cap

When you have a clogged or a dirty fuel cap, cleaning it is the best thing you can do. Sprinkle the crevice with carburetor cleaner and reattach the carburetor bowl carefully to avoid a misshapen fuel cap.

Solution for Lawn Mower Starts With Starter Fluid


A lawn mower that starts with a starter fluid then dies might mean that there are problems going on inside the engine, but keep in mind that this issue can be fixed easily with the key points from the article:

  • A lawn mower that will start with starter fluid and then dies likely has a fuel supply-related issue.
  • You can also take a close look at the air filter, fuel, oil, and spark plug to see if the carburetor is perfectly fine.
  • Maintaining the cleanliness of the air filter, fuel cap, and spark plug can save you a lot of trouble by preventing this issue.
  • Oil levels should be monitored to avoid mishaps.
  • Inspect every part of your mower, especially the fuel and the carburetor, if you haven’t used it in a while.

There are no problems that cannot be fixed when it comes to a lawn mower. Having it diagnosed properly and applying the right method to fix it would do the trick.

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