Fixing a Lawn Mower That Won't Start

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 899 Posts
May 10, 2013

mowing the lawnWe have a Craftsman mower (with a Briggs and Stratton engine) that we have not taken very good care of. Not only did we not remove the gasoline before wintering it over, but we also did not maintain the air filter or spark plug. So it was not surprising that when we went to use it this spring it wouldn't start. However, with these simple steps we were able to get it running as good as new.


Total Time: 20 minutes


  • spark plug
  • air filter
  • fresh gasoline
  • carb cleaner
  • gas siphon


  1. Begin by siphoning out the old gasoline into a container for proper disposal. It is best to use one intended for this purpose, instead of using your mouth and a hose.
  2. siphon out gas
  3. Now add fresh gasoline and put the cap back on the gas tank.
  4. add fresh gas
  5. Remove the spark plug using a spark plug socket. Put the new plug in and reattach the wire.
  6. remove spark plug
    old and new spark plugs

  7. Open the air filter housing and remove the filter. Some air filters can be washed and reused, however if it has been a long time you may want to just replace it.
  8. take out old filter
    dirty air filter
  9. Once the filter is out you need to spray carb cleaner directly into the carburetor. A few good sprays should do.
  10. spray carb cleaner
  11. Put the new air filter in and close the housing door.
  12. put in new filter
  13. Now is a good time to try starting the mower. Be sure to prime the mower with the priming button. It may take a few tries to get the mower going.
  14. start mower

  15. I suggest running it for a few minutes the first time you start it. This will help get the new gas running through everything. Happy mowing!
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January 5, 2017

We have a Craftsman mower (with a Briggs and Stratton engine) that we have not taken very good care of.

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March 17, 2015

I created a video blog on fixing a mower. It is a step by step process. It was much simpler than taking a thousand pictures and typing all that I wanted to say.

Comment Pin it! Was this helpful? 7

35 Questions

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April 12, 2022

My Murray riding mower will not start. It has set up for a while and has never mowed any grass. The motor will turn over a few times and then nothing else,

go back later and it will turn over a few times and then nothing?


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April 12, 20220 found this helpful
Best Answer

There are so many things that should be done when a mower has set up over a few months and one that has set up longer will need even more checks or you will continue to have problems and could completely disable the mower.


Most likely you will have to drain all of the gas and replace it with fresh gas (you may have to remove the gas tank to completely remove all of the sludge that has built up over the years).
You can take the battery to an auto parts store and ask them to check it for you.
You will need to replace all filters (could be 2-4 filters), check the solenoid and the carburetor will probably need cleaning.
You will probably need to replace several lines also.

Truthfully, if all of this is not something you usually do, I would recommend you take the mower to a good repair shop and pay for an overall tune-up.

If you still wish to try this yourself, you can always join a mower forum and ask your questions as these members are much more likely to steer you in the right direction so you'll know what to start with.


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April 18, 2018

I put a new battery on my mower, but it will not turn fast enough to start.


April 24, 20180 found this helpful
Best Answer

Hi, the symptoms you described is most often caused from miss-adjusted valves. Your engine has a compression release to allow the engine to turn over easier during starting and as soon as it starts the compression release disengages and normal compression resumes. This is common on overhead valve engines as the valves need to be adjusted after the first 100 hours and then every 200 hours thereafter. If you are not familiar with performing the adjustment, bring it to your local small engine repair shop and they will perform the job for you.


I normally charge 1/2 hour labor for the job. It is possible that your starter is getting tired but have the valves adjusted first before spending money on a starter you likely do not need and will not solve your problem. I hope this is helpful and happy mowing.

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March 23, 2006

I'm looking for assistance in getting my gas lawn mower to start more easily. Last year I had minor back surgery. After that I had trouble pulling the cord hard and fast enough to get the motor to "catch" and run. I often ended up needing to pull the cord over and over to start - probably as many as 20-25 times.

It was maddening, frustrating, painful, and exhausting. I'm 58 years old and not in the best physical condition. The mower is 7 years old. I do all the recommended maintenance. Last year my neighbor was able to get it going in 6 or 7 pulls, so I don't think there's a mechanical problem. It's probably just me. I'm not currently in a financial position to buy a new mower or to hire a lawn care service.

Does anybody know anything I can do to make it easier for me to get the mower started? Thanks for any help.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Amy from Lafayette, IN


By Kayray (Guest Post)
March 23, 20060 found this helpful

does it have a gas primer button? I have to push mine about 20 times, then it starts easily. Sorry I don't have any other suggestions, other than make sure the spark plug is good, or call a neighbor kid to come over and start it for you.

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By Barb (Guest Post)
March 24, 20060 found this helpful

My husband taught me the trick of using a can of stuff called Quick Start or something like that. It's an aerosol can of something that you spray onto the vent holes of the air filter of the lawn mower and then pull the cord. I think it may be ether. The people at your local hardware store may be able to help you find it. Of course, make sure your lawn mower is clean and in good working order and, as always, be sure to follow any safety instructions on the product. Good luck!

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May 18, 20060 found this helpful

The day they gave those gas mowers automatic chokes was the day I started to loose my religion.
Oh yes I over primed them buttons
I did some ritual holding and releasing the feed handle. and checked the spark plug wire
What works for me is to pop open the air filter tank and send a little gas down the hole to the carburator.
You wait 5 minutes until the gas smell is gone then in about 4 or 5 pulls the mower grumbles. That next try it starts

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By (Guest Post)
May 29, 20060 found this helpful


Editor's Note: I have no idea if this is practical advice or not. I don't know how this would work. Anyone?

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By Rhonda (Guest Post)
April 18, 20070 found this helpful

Hi I just want to say that I tried what Mr. Thrifty suggested about pouring a little fuel down the hole of the air filter ( I removed the filter and cleaned it too) and the mowre started right up and stayed cranked. I have been so frustated as I can't afford to pay a repairman to even check it out. This was free advise and I am so appreciative! My lawn needed mowing so I can finish up! Thanks!

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By Tommyapples (Guest Post)
June 3, 20070 found this helpful

I have a an commercial mulcher /mower which doesn't start on occasion. I replaced the spark plug, checked if it had spark after, and then cleaned the air filter by dipping it in gas of paint thinnner. I then sprayed the choke and carburater assembly with (brake) cleaner. I then adjusted the choke handle cable at the carburator site. So far so good.

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June 8, 2018

My Honda lawnmower is leaking gas from a little hole at the top of the carburetor whenever I have the gas line open. It ran fine for a few minutes, but now it won't run at all. I hadn't used it in a few months and it had the same gas in it that I put in a couple months ago, but it wouldn't work then.

The leak wasn't the issue then so I just changed out the spark plug based on some suggestions and it cranked up on the first try. But now it's leaking from the carburetor top with the gas line open and won't crank.

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January 6, 2015

I have a Briggs and Stratton classic/sprint/quattro, model series 90,000-100,000. I just need a belt, but what size is it?

By Mike from Morbihan, France

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August 6, 2007

Lawnmower problem. Bought a new Poulan self-propelled in June 07. Briggs and Stratton engine. Very hard to start. Have used twice. Requires maybe 30 compressions of the primer (3 is recommended). I think it's a lemon--but are mower lemons returnable? My guess: needs some carburetor adjustment. Anyone have advice?



By Dean (Guest Post)
August 7, 20070 found this helpful

As you can't start the mower is no indication that it is a lemon. I would call,a visit is best, the store you had purchased the mower from and ask for a return. What is their return policy? What policy do they have for repairs?Have you called Poulan with your concerns? Did you ask a small engine repair man his opinion?

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August 7, 20070 found this helpful

Ok, there's a reason why we used to call them "Briggs and Scrap Iron"!!! Where did you buy it? Any place with any kind of reputation to uphold should take it back or offer service for the lemon. Personally, I avoid Briggs the plague!

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 364 Posts
August 13, 20070 found this helpful

Anything is returnable - it just depends on the policy of the store and the sympathy of the store manager from which you bought it!

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May 4, 2018

What can I do to fix my mower? I have tried to work the choke without success. It is getting gas as I can see the spray when I removed the air filter and tried to start it. I can smell gas which indicates possible flooding so I removed the spark plug to air out cylinder and I checked for a good spark which it had. I replaced the plug and tried again and it still will not start.

Any suggestions?

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March 22, 2010

I tuned up my Scott 6.5hp push lawnmower. I changed the oil, spark-plug, put in fresh gas and a new air filter. The mower started, ran for 1 min, then shut off and will not start again. Can anyone tell me what might be the problem? Thanks.

By mike from Houston

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June 15, 2017

I have a Murray 21" push mower with a Briggs & Stratton engine, model year 2015. I've been using it fine for over a year. I keep it maintained: make sure the carb is cleaned, oil checks, nonethanol gas, etc.

I mow my grass every 2 weeks, aside from winter months, of course. Last time I cut my grass, it cut fine. Normally it takes 2 tanks to mow my lawn. I filled my tank the 2nd time to finish up and it won't crank. So, I figure I'd wait until next time, since, I didn't really have, but a couple of passes in the backyard.

Now, two weeks later, it still won't crank. I've taken apart the carb and detail cleaned it and checked it for any cracks or breaks. I know the gas is getting into it, because, I poured out gas when I took it apart. I've replaced the already fine gas with brand new gas, again, I use nonethanol anyway.
I've checked the spark plug, cleaned it off, it's fine. Checked the blade, cleaned it. Checked the oil, it's at a really good level. The pull string is at a fine tension, same as it was when I bought it. It tries to turn over, but just doesn't.

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May 11, 2016

I have purchased a used, well kept Husqvarna self-propelled push lawn mower from a friend. It worked fine last year and this year I changed the dirty air filter, spark plug, and added gasoline and oil.

It worked a couple of weeks ago and last night started in order for me to cut for 5 mins. or so. It puffed out white smoke and conked-out. I primed it, but to no avail, it will not start.

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