The Lawn Mower Pull Cord Not Catching – Best Solution

A lawnmower functions similarly to every car or vehicle needing a key. Instead of a key, lawnmowers have a pull cord that needs to be pulled to start the engine.

We understand your frustration. It could be better when the lawn mower pulls cord won’t catch, and the engine won’t turn over. The most likely cause? Worn pawls. This can happen from wear and tear, but don’t worry – there are simple solutions to this pesky problem.

How does a Pull Starter Mechanism Work on a Lawn Mower?

The following details how the pull cord starter recoil works in lawnmowers. The main components of a lawnmower recoil start system include the following:

  1. Starter Housing
  2. Pull cord
  3. Handle
  4. Pulley
  5. Flywheel receiver
  6. Crankshaft adaptor
  7. Pulley recoil spring
  8. Pulley cover
  9. Engaging Pawls
  10. Paul spring
  11. Flywheel pawl receiver
  12. Pull assembly housing

When you pull on the starter cord of a lawn mower or other similar machine, you are turning a small flywheel inside the engine. This flywheel is connected to the crankshaft, which is what turns the pistons up and down inside the cylinders. As the flywheel rotates, it builds momentum, which is transferred to the crankshaft. The crankshaft then turns the pistons, which start the engine.

The starter cord retracts because it is connected to a spring. As you pull on the cord, the spring winds up. Once the engine is started, the spring unwinds, and the cord is pulled back into the housing.

Why Your Lawn Mower Cord Won’t Pull: Causes and Solutions

As discussed above, the most common cause will always be worn pawls. But before we discuss how to fix them, let’s look at the leading possible causes and solutions.

Other causes of why your lawnmower cord won’t pull can range from:

  • Damaged Pawls
  • Damaged Pulley
  • Broken Starter Rope
  • Snapped Recoil Spring
  • Dirty or Stuck Flywheel 
  • Broken pull cord handle
  • The Pulley Cover
  • Pull Start Assembly Housing

1. Damaged Pawls

This is the main cause the lawnmower cord won t pull. Pawls are installed on the pulley. These small plastic components connect the recoil starter to the engine by extending and engaging with the flywheel receiver. Over time, the pawls can wear down or break, causing the pull cord to not catch and turn over the engine. The good news is that checking the condition of the pawls is a straightforward process. By following a few simple steps:

How to Fix it
  • Remove the spark plug.
  • Take off the starter housing to see the assembly.
  • Pull out the Centre bolt and cap, which keep the pawls in place.
  • Examine the pawls for damage or wear and replace them, if necessary.
  • Put back the retaining bolt and cap after installing new pawls into their original position.
  • Reattach the starter assembly and tug the cord to ensure it engages correctly.

2. Damaged Pulley

The pulley is responsible for retracting the pull cord after each use, but because it is typically made of plastic, it is susceptible to wear and tear. If the pulley is damaged, it may prevent the rope from retracting correctly, leaving the cord too short to enable a full-length pull of the starter. Fortunately, replacing the pulley is not difficult, though it does require removing the entire starter housing. Still, trying to figure out where to begin? Follow the steps below to replace the component and get back to enjoying your tools in no time.

How to fix it
  • Remove the starter housing. It is generally attached with 4 bolts.
  • Now, Pull the starter cord out to its fullest extent and use a screwdriver to lock the spokes of the pulley so that it does not retract.
  • Release the rope off the pulley and remove the screwdriver to allow it to retract.
  • After that, undo the Centre bolt and friction plate so that the pulley can be removed from its place.
  • Replace the pulley making sure you line it up correctly with the housing post.
  • Rotate the pawl a few times so that the spring unwinds.
  • Use a screwdriver or punch to lock the spokes of the pulley to stop it from retracting.
  • Now attach the rope to the pulley and release the screwdriver to allow it to rewind inside its housing.
  • Lastly, reinstall the starter housing and check if the problem is fixed.

3. Broken Pull Cord

A broken pull cord might be pull cord not engaging flywheel. This usually happens when the cord is frayed or torn out of its casing due to excessive force.

In that case, it will not activate the starter recoil mechanism, thus preventing the crankshaft adaptor from rotating and consequently preventing the engine from starting. It is essential to take the necessary to protect cords from damage and replace them if they show signs of fraying. Is the lawn mower pull cord no tension? If the cord has no tension at all, the recoil spring may be broken or missing.

How to fix it

To do so, one must take the following steps:

  • Detach the spark plug wire from the spark plug to prevent the accidental firing of the engine. Remove the recoil starter housing and locate the pull cord.
  • Inspect the cord for any fraying or unravelling of its strands.
  • If damage is found, cut off the damaged section of the cord and tie a knot at the end.
  • Cut a new pull cord to an appropriate size, ensuring it is long enough to be pulled through the recoil starter housing.
  • Thread the new cord length through the recoil starter housing and draw in tight before tying a knot at the end.
  • Finally, reattach the spark plug wire to the spark plug and replace the recoil starter housing.

4. Snapped Recoil Spring

Lawn mower pull cord no tension? If the cord has no tension at all, the recoil spring may be broken or missing.

The recoil spring is what retracts the pull cord after it has been pulled. If this spring becomes worn out or snapped, the cord cannot retract into the housing, and your engine won’t start.

How to fix it

You must replace the recoil spring with a new one to fix this issue. You must open the engine housing and remove the old recoil spring to do so. Once it has been removed, you can install a new one.

5. Dirty or Stuck Flywheel

The flywheel is what the pawls engage with when the pulley activates them. If this flywheel becomes too dirty or stuck, it won’t be able to turn, and the engine won’t start.

How to fix it

You must clean the flywheel or replace it with a new one to fix this issue. You must open the engine housing and remove the old flywheel to do so. Once it has been removed, you can install a new one or

6. Broken pull cord handle

Another factor lawnmower cord won’t pull is when the pull cord handle is broken.

When starting the mower, the pull cord can become loose and separate from its handle. If the cord retracts back into the mower, you must remove the pull start housing to re-tension its spring and fit the new handle.

How to fix it

To resolve this issue, one must remove the pull start housing and increase spring tension to re-secure the handle. Doing this immediately is essential to prevent damage or injury from an improper pull cord connection.

7. The Pulley Cover

if your lawn mower pull cord won’t pull the pulley cover is often to blame.

The pulley cover, typically made of plastic, is an integral component of the pull assembly housing. Its purpose is to secure the pulley axle while enabling the pawls to move freely in and out. Unfortunately, it can suffer damage over time due to wear and tear, such as cracking due to excessive strain or force.

How to fix it

Changing the pulley cover is no small feat; it requires removing the pull assembly housing without touching the pulley. Additionally, when replacing a pulley cover, it is essential to ensure that its dimensions and shape match those of the existing cover. This will help ensure proper alignment with the pawls and allow for the smooth operation of the pulling assembly.


Pull cords must be inspected regularly to ensure they function correctly and are free from any damage. If any of the components mentioned above, such as the pull cord, recoil spring, flywheel or pulley cover, become damaged or worn out, they must be replaced immediately to ensure that the lawn mower is appropriately working order. Doing so will help ensure your lawn mower starts up without hiccups or difficulties.

If lawn mower string won’t pull? By taking the proper steps to maintain your lawn mower, you can ensure it runs properly for many years. This will give you peace of mind and save you the hassle and expense of repairs or replacements in the future.

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