How to Replace a Starting Cord on a Lawn Mower?

The familiar whir of a lawn mower engine is a sound that signals the beginning of spring and summer for many homeowners. However, a stubborn starting cord can quickly turn that peaceful ritual into a frustrating chore. A frayed or broken cord can make starting your lawn mower a nightmare, leaving you feeling powerless against the green onslaught in your yard. Fortunately, replacing a starting cord is a relatively straightforward task that even novice DIYers can tackle. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process, from identifying the problem to installing a new cord, with helpful tips and tricks along the way.

A starting cord on a lawn mower connects the pull handle to the engine’s recoil starter. This system allows you to crank the engine and get it running. When the cord breaks or frays, you’ll need to replace it to ensure smooth operation.

Identifying the Problem: Is it Time for a New Cord?

Before diving into the replacement process, it’s essential to confirm that the issue lies with the starting cord itself. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Check for fraying or breakage: Inspect the starting cord for any signs of damage, particularly where it attaches to the pull handle and the recoil starter. If the cord is frayed or broken, it’s definitely time for a replacement.
  • Test the recoil starter: Attempt to pull the starting cord a few times. If it feels stiff or unresponsive, the recoil starter might be malfunctioning. However, if the cord feels loose or offers no resistance, the problem is most likely with the cord itself.
  • Check for entanglement: Sometimes the starting cord can become entangled with other parts of the lawn mower, leading to resistance and difficulty starting. Ensure the cord is free of obstructions before diagnosing the issue.

Gather Your Tools and Materials

Once you’ve confirmed that the starting cord needs replacement, gather the necessary tools and materials:

  • New starting cord: Purchase a replacement cord specifically designed for your lawn mower model. You can find them at most hardware stores or online retailers.
  • Phillips screwdriver: This will be used to remove screws securing the recoil starter housing.
  • Wire cutters: These are essential for trimming the old cord and preparing the new one.
  • Safety glasses: Always wear protective eyewear when working with tools and small parts.

Disassembling the Recoil Starter Housing

Now, follow these steps to replace the starting cord:

1. Disconnect the Spark Plug

Safety first! Disconnect the spark plug wire from the spark plug to prevent accidental ignition while working on the engine. This is a crucial step to ensure your safety.

2. Remove the Recoil Starter Housing

Locate the recoil starter housing, typically found on the top or side of the engine. It’s usually secured with a few screws. Use a Phillips screwdriver to loosen and remove these screws.

3. Remove the Old Starting Cord

Once the housing is removed, you’ll see the old starting cord attached to the recoil starter. Locate the spring-loaded mechanism that holds the cord in place. Carefully use a pair of wire cutters to cut the old cord as close to the spring as possible.

Installing the New Starting Cord

With the old cord removed, you’re ready to install the new one:

1. Attach the New Cord

Thread the new starting cord through the spring-loaded mechanism on the recoil starter, following the path of the old cord. Ensure that it is securely attached and that the spring is properly engaged.

2. Secure the Cord to the Pull Handle

Locate the other end of the new cord, which will be attached to the pull handle. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securing the cord to the pull handle. This may involve using a small metal clip or a knot.

3. Reassemble the Recoil Starter Housing

Once the new cord is securely attached, reassemble the recoil starter housing. Make sure all screws are securely tightened.

4. Reconnect the Spark Plug Wire

After reassembling the housing, reconnect the spark plug wire to the spark plug.

Test the New Starting Cord

With the replacement process complete, it’s time to test the new starting cord:

  • Pull the starting cord a few times: The new cord should operate smoothly and without resistance. If you encounter any issues, double-check your work and ensure all components are securely fastened.
  • Start the engine: Try to start the engine. If it starts easily, the replacement process was successful!

Troubleshooting and Additional Tips

While replacing a starting cord is generally a straightforward process, you may encounter some challenges. Here are some additional tips and troubleshooting solutions:

1. Cord Tension:

If the new cord is too loose or too tight, it can affect the starting performance. Ensure proper tension by adjusting the spring-loaded mechanism on the recoil starter.

2. Engine Issues:

If your engine is still having trouble starting after replacing the cord, the problem might be elsewhere. Check for fuel issues, a clogged air filter, or a faulty spark plug.

3. Lubrication:

Keeping the recoil starter mechanism properly lubricated is essential for smooth operation. Apply a light oil to the moving parts periodically.

4. Model Compatibility:

Always purchase a starting cord specifically designed for your lawn mower model. Using a generic cord can lead to compatibility issues and performance problems.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

Replacing a starting cord is just one aspect of maintaining your lawn mower. Regular maintenance, including oil changes, air filter cleaning, and blade sharpening, can help keep your mower running smoothly and extend its lifespan.


A broken starting cord can turn a simple lawn mowing chore into a frustrating experience. However, replacing it is a relatively easy task that most homeowners can handle with a few basic tools and some patience. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can restore your lawn mower’s starting mechanism and get back to enjoying a well-maintained lawn. Remember, proper maintenance and safety practices are crucial for a smooth lawn mowing experience.


1. What Tools Do I Need to Replace a Starting Cord on a Lawn Mower?

You’ll need a few basic tools to replace a starting cord on your lawnmower. These include a Phillips head screwdriver, a pair of wire cutters, and a wire stripper. You may also want to have a pair of needle-nose pliers handy for manipulating wires. You don’t need specialized tools for this task, so you should be able to find everything you need at your local hardware store.

It is also important to disconnect the spark plug wire before starting work. This will prevent accidental ignition and ensure your safety. After disconnecting the spark plug wire, check that it is firmly seated in its connection.

2. How Do I Identify the Starting Cord on My Lawn Mower?

The starting cord, also known as the recoil starter rope, is the rope you pull to start your lawnmower. It is typically located on the side of the engine and is attached to a spring-loaded mechanism. You can identify it easily by its bright color, usually red or orange, and its attachment to a spool.

If you’re unsure, you can consult your lawnmower’s owner’s manual. It should have a diagram or instructions on locating and replacing the starting cord. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find it online on the manufacturer’s website.

3. Can I Use Any Type of Rope for Replacing the Starting Cord?

While it’s tempting to use just any rope you have lying around, it’s best to use a specifically designed starting cord. These ropes are typically made of nylon or polyester and are designed to withstand the repeated stress of starting the engine. They also have a smooth finish to prevent friction and wear on the spool.

Using a regular rope can result in premature wear and tear on the recoil mechanism, causing it to malfunction. You can find replacement starting cords at most hardware stores and online retailers, ensuring a proper fit and long-lasting performance.

4. How Do I Disconnect the Old Starting Cord From the Recoil Mechanism?

To disconnect the old starting cord, you’ll first need to remove the cover of the recoil mechanism. This cover is typically held in place by a few screws or clips. Once the cover is removed, you’ll see the end of the starting cord attached to the recoil mechanism.

Carefully disconnect the old cord by unscrewing the nut or bolt that holds it in place. You may need to use a pair of pliers to grip the nut or bolt securely. Once the old cord is disconnected, you can safely remove it from the recoil mechanism.

5. How Do I Connect the New Starting Cord to the Recoil Mechanism?

Connecting the new starting cord is simply the reverse of disconnecting the old one. You’ll need to thread the new cord through the recoil mechanism, making sure it’s properly seated. Then, use the nut or bolt that came with the new cord to secure it to the mechanism.

Make sure the cord is properly secured and that there are no loose or frayed ends. When tightening the nut or bolt, be careful not to overtighten it, as this could damage the mechanism.

6. What if My Recoil Mechanism is Broken or Worn Out?

If your recoil mechanism is broken or worn out, you’ll need to replace it entirely. This is a slightly more involved process and may require removing the engine from the mower. You can find replacement recoil mechanisms at most hardware stores and online retailers, but make sure to choose one that is compatible with your model of lawnmower.

Replacing the recoil mechanism can be a challenging task, especially if you are not familiar with engine repairs. Consider consulting a professional mechanic if you are unsure about the process or if you are uncomfortable working with mechanical equipment.

7. How Do I Test the New Starting Cord After Installation?

Once you have installed the new starting cord, it’s important to test it to ensure it’s working properly. Before starting the engine, reconnect the spark plug wire. Now, gently pull the new cord to check that it winds smoothly and retracts properly. Make sure the cord doesn’t snag or bind.

If everything seems to be working well, you can start the engine and check that the new cord starts the engine reliably. If you encounter any problems, recheck your installation steps to ensure you have connected the cord correctly. If the issue persists, you may need to consult a professional for further assistance.

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