Lawn mower won’t pull is a worry that you would be having because it can become a big problem to mow the grass on the lawn. A starter rope must be pulled for riding-type mowers and lawn tractors to get its engine started.

Lawn Mower Wont Pull

There are many potential reasons why a cord gets stuck and refuses to budge anymore. In this article, we are going to be discussing all the top reasons as well as their easy solutions. 

Top Reasons Why Your Lawn Mower Wont Pull

Reasons why your lawn mower won’t pull cord could be because of debris on deck, a damaged clutch, or problems with the blade bending. On the other hand, it could be due to the engine seizing, or having broken shroud in the deck, or an issue with debris shield.

A mower engine seizing up for multiple reasons will also create problems with rope pulling, which would also include the ball that would be bearing could be rusted, or there is damage in the recoil mechanism. 

– Debris Stuck In The Deck

When debris is allowed to collect in the deck for a long time, there comes the point when the mower blade refuses to budge any further. As a result, the starter cord gets stuck and cannot be pulled out anymore, because it doesn’t have the ability due to the blockage, as these particles would get in the way, and if they accumulate through the years, it becomes a major hassle. This is why manufacturers and professionals insist upon cleaning the deck after each use. 

The debris in question could be a build-up of wet grass clippings that need to be cleaned afterward. It could be a stick or pieces of twigs or rocks that enter the deck and clog its chute, this would be the result of a current use, or from older times. Unless you thoroughly clean the deck up and remove any impedance in the turning of the blade, the engine will not start.

– A Damaged Starter Clutch

A riding mower’s starter clutch keeps the blades connected to the engine. The mower pull cord will have trouble fully retracting if it gets damaged or rusted. The clutch might be responsible if you feel the cord is stuck somewhere tightly and does not budge when you pull it. 

Another major sign that the problem lies in the clutch is that the engine will not start. This would be due to the fact that the clutch has not been lubricated with the oil well, and the spring doesn’t have the ability to turn. 

Alternatively, a defective clutch sometimes lets a cord loose and without traction. Such a cord will also not pull, and the engine will remain dead. The clutch is rendered defective when too much slack gets stuck in the cord.

– The Blade Is Bent

The ropes of riding lawn mowers will sometimes stop pulling once the blade gets bent. This happens especially when the bent blade starts hitting the deck during rotation, and the rotation would not end in a good result. It puts undue stress on the cord mechanism and prevents it from releasing fully.

It’s common for the blades to get bent during lawn mowing when they strike something hard. That is why you must always clean the lawn and remove large debris before taking the mower out. Once the blade gets damaged one way or another, the only solution is to replace it with a new one.

– The Engine Has Seized Up

A lawn mower won’t start, and its cord will not pull when its engine seizes up for one reason or another. There are three main reasons why a mower engine seizes up, and you will have to test it to figure out the cause. 

You must investigate this notion and check it well, the first things that you must do is to indicate if the engine seizure is due to inadequate oil. Just take out the dipstick from the oil tank to see the oil level in it. It is also important to consider the oil you are using and whether you need to replace it with a better-quality one.

On the other hand, it is also influential to check the Hydro locking process, which is when oil leakage from the fuel tank seeps out and rests on the piston. The piston does not compress properly, because of which the blades do not spin, and the recoil coil does not pull. The cord feels stuck and will break when you pull on it.

Lastly, it can also be due to the fact that the mower engine might get seized due to the vapor lock. This happens when the mower gets overheated to the point that the fuel vaporizes. When the mower runs out of fuel and is not refueled, these vapors get sucked into the engine and lock it down.

– Broken Shroud In The Deck

Most large-sized mowers have a shroud in their deck that serves as a guide to direct the grass clippings toward the collection chute. When this shroud gets damaged or unhinged from its place, it affects the blades’ spinning, which would result in pulling multiple times and still the mower will not start. 

Lawn Mower Wont Pull Problem

You would also think about how these shrouds are made of a very thin metal that gets rusted and damaged easily, which means that it might have seen or splashed with water, which got accumulated, and the result was rust, as it dried. Moreover, if a stone gets sucked into the deck and hits the shroud, it gets damaged instantaneously. 

– Problematic Debris Shield

A lawn mower debris shield prevents grass clippings from spraying all over the lawn. It is one of the many small components present in the mower deck. This process is natural that if this shield gets damaged, the pull cord will get stuck while pulling, because it may be made of weaker material, and since it is fragile, the shield broke. It is not uncommon to see this shroud loosening up and hitting the crankshaft.

– When The Ball Bearing Have Rusted

Metal ball bearings are an important component of the lawn mower starter having a challenging mechanism. These get easily rusted from exposure to the surroundings. Once they get rusted, these bearings get stuck, and the cord refuses to pull. 

When the ball bearings are rusted, the cord might get pulled once but refuses to retract fully, or from where you had stored it a while back, but the rust has increased. Even when the cord comes out and retracts fully, it does so very slowly and with effort. 

Proper clicking and popping sounds can be heard when the bearings are completely rusted. The deck assembly can make loud rustling sounds from pulling the cord. If you let this problem persist, eventually, the cord will get completely jammed.

– A Damaged Recoil Mechanism

The engine’s recoil mechanism is essential for starting and stopping the mower. Once it gets damaged, it will prevent the coil from retracting and pulling fully. Some other signs of a faulty recoil mechanism include the string tangled on the spindle while pulling, and it would make soil squeaky noise 

You need to figure out if the problem lies with the recoil mechanism before it can be fixed. Turn the engine off and dismantle the plug; otherwise, it might get accidentally fired up while working. Then, you must remove the fixings holding the recoil in place using an appropriate socket wrench. 

As you pull the recoil starter completely from the mower, you should do this while in your hand, you should pull its string to see where the problem lies. Either the recoil spring will be broken, or the start rope will be catching someplace. Make sure that you would wear eyewear while testing the recoil mechanism because things might fly out.

How To Fix The Lawn Mower Not Pulling

To fix the lawn mower not pulling, you must clean the deck, and work along the started clutch, moreover, you can put the debris shield back, and replace the ball bearing. You can even fix the hydro-lock, or the vapor lock, or the recoil mechanism.

Before you get your mower fixed because its cord won’t pull, you have to figure out the underlying cause of the problem. After diagnosing the root cause, it is only a matter of time before you get it fixed by yourself.

– Clean Your Deck First of All

To clean the mower deck, you will need to tilt it on its side for easy access. You must also be ready to empty the fuel tank first; otherwise, the oil and gas might leak when the mower is tilted. Before you get your hands into the deck, double-check that the engine is shut off and the spark plug disconnected, because you shouldn’t complicate the matter, and be cautious.

Now, try rotating the cutting blade by force in both directions so that any stuck rock-type debris gets dislodged. For this, you must make sure you are wearing a thick pair of rubber gloves while rotating the blades. You can clean the deck with the blades still on, but to get the best job done, the blades need to come out.

Ensure that you would lock the blades in place using a choker or rectangular wood. Start by unscrewing the central screw of the blade, followed by all other screws. Once the blade comes out, you have access to the entire deck. Start by observing the crankshaft and removing its obstruction, if any.

Grass and other soft debris stuck will have to be scrubbed off with just soap and water. Once you are done, turn the mower upside down and pull on the cord to see if it pulls, and notice if the problem has been resolved, tilt the mower and reinstall the blade.

– Work On Your Starter Clutch

The spark plug needs to come off using its specialized socket wrench to gain access to the starter clutch. Then, unbolt the screws that hold a cutting blade to gain access to the clutch. 

What you can do is to take it out of the mower to inspect it better for breakage, cracks, and damage. Sometimes, there is no other way around this than to replace the clutch altogether, and this is to be mindful of. 

Maybe the ball bearings are getting rusty, and simply oiling them properly will fix the problem. When getting a new clutch, ensure the new one is the same as the old one and comes with a good warranty. Ask your mechanic to help you if there is something that confuses you, to make things much facile for your work.

– Put The Debris Shield Back

Since the debris shield is located within the deck, the mower will again have to be tilted on its side. Stick a wooden plank between the blades to keep them from turning. If the shield stuck between the blades or the crankshaft can be wedged out easily by hand, your job will be much more easily completed. 

If it is stuck more persistently, take a hammer to get it out. However, make sure that you do not use the hammer with too much force, or you might end up breaking it altogether, which is more of a worry.

– Fix Hydro-lock In Engine

When you get your cord stuck and oil starts seeping out of the exhaust, this 100 percent means that your engine suffers from hydro-lock. This would be easy to fix, if you become mindful and focus on getting it all together, which means that first and foremost, you must turn the engine off and dismantle the spark plug before putting your hands near the engine.

Then, make sure that you are searching for the brake lever and press it down gently while pulling the cord. Remember that in this case, you will feel a catch, but you must keep pulling on it consistently. Don’t be anxious as in this step oil will continue pouring out of the hole left behind by the removed plug.

Lawn Mower Wont Pull Solution

On the other hand, there’s a plus side, that once the oil has been spitted out of the engine, put the plug back and again pull on the cord. Finally, place a few tablespoons of fresh engine oil in the hole for lubrication, and to smooth things out.

Don’t forget that you must reinstall the plug and put the mower back in its place before starting the engine again and pulling on the cord. It might take half an hour to two hours for the engine oil to lubricate and get rid of the hydro-lock.

– Fix the Vapor Lock

When the mower gets very hot, and the starter rope gets stuck, you can be 90 percent sure you are dealing with a vapor lock. You must wait for the engine to cool down first and get safe enough to get near, to avoid any type of hazard, however, you can help the engine cool down quickly by putting it in a shaded spot and patiently waiting. 

Make sure that you do not pour cold water over the engine to cool it down earlier. Instead, take help from a tool like a leaf blower to help release the pent-up heat. Once the engine gets cooled, the cord will start pulling easily again, but the problem will again come back once the engine gets heated. 

Now, you should start using better-quality high-octane fuel instead of a cheap one for a permanent solution. Which means that you must make sure that the fuel contains a stabilizer that prevents it from boiling. Choose a part of the day when it is generally cooler to take the mower out to cut grass.

– Replaced Ball Bearings

Regularly oiling your mower machinery will keep it from getting rusted even after extensive use. Get a good-quality lubricating oil in spray form, as these are the easiest to apply, the quality will ensure the facility of the turn. However, feel free if you look through the system and find the bearings deeply rusted. 

Rust is easy to get rid of from bearings made of stainless steel, and all you need is fine-grit sandpaper and a lot of patience to remove it. You can also get corrosion-removing cleaning products that are mixed in with water. 

Leave the ball bearings in this solution for the amount of time specified. Once the bearings are clean, lubricate them and put them back in their place, as a result you will see how easy it gets from now on to pull the cord and start the engine.

– Fix The Recoil Mechanism

To fix a recoil starter mechanism, remove it from the mower and inspect it closely. It is easy to see where the cord is getting stuck this way. This also makes it much easier to fix the problem simultaneously, and it will be done so you can pull the rope and see it work.

If the cord is only tangled, then remove it by hand, untangle it and then put it back as carefully as you can, this should take focus. If the spring or any other part within the recoil assembly is damaged, replace it with a new one. The new parts should be of the same brand as the mower’s manufacturer to fit well, and so that you wouldn’t foresee any problems in the long run.

Lawn Mower Wont Pull Conclusion


So far, you have read up on many reasons why a mower cord won’t pull and what you can do about it.

  • Debris stuck in the deck or built up over time will prevent the blades from spinning, and the cord will not pull.
  • A mower engine gets seized and prevents the cord from pulling when the fuel tank is empty or when hydrolock and vapor lock is happening.
  • Rusted ball bearings in the recoil machinery must be constantly oiled to help relieve a stuck cord.
  • You will have to fix a faulty recoil mechanism or replace it if the problem lies in it.

The next time you pull the cord and it gets stuck, think back on all the possible reasons we have discussed in this article. We have also given out the solutions to all the problems using the easiest approach possible.

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