how to start a lawn mower

How to Start a Lawn Mower and Resolve Common Problems

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Lawnmowers are the best machines for maintaining neat short grass on your lawn. However, mowers can sometimes malfunction and fail to start, leaving you without an alternative for your grass-cutting requirements. Luckily, we've assembled this post to discuss how to start a lawn mower and why mowers fail to start.

Let's get to business!

Reasons Why a Riding Lawn Mower May Fail To Start

There are several situations where it can be tricky to start a lawn mower. So before we discuss how to start a lawn mower, let's consider the common reasons your mower won't start. Also, check out the best self-propelled mowers or zero turn mowers here.

1. Faulty Starter

The first thing to check when your lawn mower engine won't start is the pull cord. It shouldn't be too hard to pull unless there are grass clippings obstructing the mowing blades.

You can resolve this by pulling the rubber hose to disconnect the spark plug. This will ensure the mower blades won't start while you are handling them. Then, lay the mower on the side and remove the obstructions. If the machine doesn't start, you should seek professional assistance.

2. Blocked Discharge Chute

If the lawn mower is smoking, you'll want to wait for it to cool. To stop the smoking, you can disconnect the starting rope and remove any debris you can see from the blades. Here are the best mower blades on the market.

3. Air Filter Issues

If the air filter is blocked, you can also experience issues starting your lawnmower. This is because the air filter keeps grass clippings, tiny debris, and dust from entering the engine. You can find the location of the filter in your user's manual, and you can replace or clean your filters depending on your preference.

4. Gas Issues

Another reason why your lawn mower won't start is that you have a low oil level. This might sound obvious, but you should always check to ensure it's not the main problem. Fortunately, filling your tank will eliminate this issue.

Alternatively, you could be using old gas, which could be unsuitable for running your mower. Replacing the oil is an easy fix that you'll appreciate.

5. Low Mower Height

If you notice your mower shutting down as you work, it's probably because you are mowing tall grass. As such, you'll want to adjust the height of your mower to ensure the blades don't get clogged up. Nevertheless, the spark plug should always be disconnected, and the mower is off when adjusting the mowing height.

How to Start a Push Lawn Mower

If you have a traditional lawn mower that you push around, here's how you can get it started.

Start by taking the mower to an open grassy area without obstructions. You'll have to inspect the lawn and ensure there aren't any rocks or children's toys on the ground.

Next, you'll need to check the oil and gas levels. For mowers with a four-stroke engine, you should open the gas cap to see if you have enough gas. On the other hand, with a push mower with a 2-stroke engine, you'll need to mix the oil and gas at a specific ratio.

Then, check the spark plug either on the side or back of the mower's engine. The spark plug resembles a thick extension with a rubber cap. It should be firmly fitted, and if it's not, you might need to see an expert. Ideally, you should replace a spark plug yearly to keep the lawn mower working well.

Find the carburetor and check your owner's manual to identify the primer button. It's a red or black squishy button somewhere on your lawnmower. You'll need to force gasoline into the lines by pushing the button four to five times. Pushing the button more than five times could flood your engine and cause other problems.

After priming your carburetor, you should pull the throttle lever and set it to mid-to-high. Skipping this step will cause the lawn mower to shut down as you mow your lawn which could be inconvenient.

If you are having trouble, the mower is probably cold, and you should set the choke. This will help deliver a rich mix of fuel and air to keep the mower running until your engine is warm. After a few minutes of running the engine, you should turn off the choke.

The last step is to pull the starting cord. There could be a horizontal lever close to the handle, which you can pull. Grip the handle of the starter cord and firmly pull it upwards. It might take several tries before the motor starts.

If the mower is completely quiet as you pull it quickly, the spark plug could be detached. On the other hand, if it sputters but doesn't start, you should probably add more gas.

How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower

If you have a riding lawn mower, here's how to start it:

1. Add New Gas

First, you'll need to replace the old gasoline in the oil tank because it's the most common reason why your riding lawn mower won't start. Old gas that's been sitting for months in the mower's gas tank can introduce moisture, gum, or varnish.

This can cause damage or corrosion to the gas tank, so you should avoid leaving gas in your lawnmower engine. Exhausting the fuel tank every mowing session will help keep your machine in good shape.

2. Modify the Throttle Lever

Also known as the "choke," the throttle lever helps you adjust the amount of air entering the engine of the riding mower. If you want to start a lawn mower quickly, you should regulate the air filter and ensure only a little air enters the engine. It should be easy to see how to change the throttle on your lawnmower.

There are some automatic lawn mowers that have the throttle integrated into the body. If you can't locate your throttle, you should refer to your manual for clarification. Plus, if you don't want the lawnmower to die on you as you work, you should leave the choke open for a while after it starts.

3. Push the Primer Several Times

When using a riding lawn mower, you'll need to push the primer bulb a bunch of times to ensure the gas reaches the engine. This action helps ensure you can start the mower using a few tries of the pull cord. The gas gets pulled into the carburetor, making it easier to turn the mower on using the starting rope.

If you can't find your primer button, you should check the diagram on the user manual to ensure you push the right button.

4. Pull the Starting Rope

Take the handle into your hand and grip it, then pull the cord up quickly. You should feel some resistance as you pull it, and you'll have to make 4-5 pulls before the engine starts. Avoid yanking the cord because this can cause the handle to break. If the riding mower doesn't start, push the primer bulb a few more times and try again.

Benefits of Lawn Mowers

The advantages of using lawn mowers for your landscaping routine are without question. So let's consider some of the common benefits of mowers below.

1. Consistent Cuts

The first benefit of a lawnmower is that it helps cut the grass on your lawn uniformly. As a result, you don't have to worry about your landscape looking untidy or unbalanced since the mower can handle it. So if you want a way to ensure you get the same results every time, you should get a lawn mower.

Check out the best mulching mowers for your garden here.

2. Saves Time and Energy

You can also save a lot of time mowing your lawn with a machine than you would using a manual tool like a slasher. Since mowers are operated by electricity or gas, they make work easier for the landscaper, allowing you to use minimum effort.

Additionally, you can get a riding lawn mower and eliminate the need to walk around your space while pushing the mower. This makes riding mowers great for landscapes that aren't flat. Plus, a riding lawn mower can clear grass from large tracts of land without hassle.

3. Comfort

Technology has improved mowing practices by promoting the creation of riding mowers which allow users to mow lawns without discomfort and hassle. That's why the last advantage we'll discuss is comfort.

You can take a mower with cozy seats that can help keep you in good posture as you work on your lawn. Compared to a manual approach, using lawn mowers is convenient.


Lawn mowers are great machines to have in your garage because they simplify your landscape maintenance practices. Most lawn mowers are easy to use since they feature an intuitive design. However, sometimes your mower won't start, and you'll need to look for a solution. Fortunately, once you learn how to start a lawn mower, you can rest easy and avoid a trip to the mechanic.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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