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.


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.


35 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

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?


Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
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.

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!

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

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?

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!

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.

By devin (Guest Post)
July 15, 20080 found this helpful

Spray starting fluid in the air filter hole and where the spark plug goes or put gas in the air filter hole.

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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?

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!


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!

June 8, 20090 found this helpful

What can cause this is a primer bulb or the line going to it has a air leak. I've seen a bunch of these bad. Cost about five dollars at Lowes for repair kit. That's if the store won't take it back.

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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


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 168 Feedbacks
March 22, 20100 found this helpful

You need to find out if the mower is getting a spark from the coil as it could be a bad coil. It could be the carburetor orifices.. Take a small wire from the bread tie or garbage bags and clean it off then run the wire through the orifice and take nozzle from air pump and blow it out better. Also check to see if the float valve is working as it could be stuck.

March 23, 20101 found this helpful

Hi Mike, I have had the same trouble. Make sure spark plug is tight. The right oil is in. The lever to lift mower is not down low. Leave a while as might be flooded. Michelle.

March 24, 20100 found this helpful

Maybe the tiny hole in the gas cap, the one that lets the gas breath by letting the air in and out, is stopped up.

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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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May 20, 2017

My mower won't start and here's the situation and what I've tried so far. It has been running this spring even with a tankful of last summer's gas. But I wanted the blade sharpened and a service (spark plug and air filter check) so I took it to a free community fixit place and watched as the guy removed my air filter which was in pretty good shape with lots of white and just a bit of debris, but didn't see the filter when he replaced it.

He checked the spark plug and sprayed something in the carb and it started right up. I guess he sharpened the blade. Anyway, I came home and the mower ran for about 10 minutes and then stopped running! It wouldn't even turn over. I pulled the spark plug and I don't think it's the same because it's not the part number the manufacture suggested. I purchased a new spark plug. Still won't turn over.

Then I checked the air filter and the one in there now is about 5 years old and filthy dirty. I am not sure why that guy felt he needed to take my good one, but whatever. So I purchased a new air filter, but still nothing. So, is it possible that the mower ran on last summer's gas for a little over a tank then quit?

Also, I pulled the new spark plug and it smells like gas and is wet, does this mean that when the guy laid the mower on it's side to work on the blade that the gas and oil are now in the engine and it so, am I doomed? If not, should I remove the gas and start with fresh - obviously yes, but at this point will it matter? Thank for your help!

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November 29, 2016

I have a Craftsman LT3000. It has been sitting since July. I cleaned the tank and changed the filter and replaced the gas. It will not start and stay running unless I hold my hand over the carburator.

When I move my hand away it dies. What can I do?

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May 2, 2015

I adjusted the valves on my 22 Kawasaki engine. It turns over, but it acts likes it has no fire.

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March 20, 2015

I own a 6.5 horsepower Craftsman lawnmower, model number 917.377662 which has a Briggs and Stratton 4-cycle engine. It won't start without using a starting fluid spray. I changed the air filter, fuel, spark plug, and serviced the carburator using a carburator kit, with the same results as before. I needed to use starting fluid. Suggestions? Thanks!

By Allan J

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August 20, 2012

I haven't used my mower in about 2 months. I tried to start it today, no luck. I dumped the old gas out and cleaned the filter just like the internet said to do. I just purchased it in May of this year. What do I do?

By Larry


August 27, 20120 found this helpful

Take back to store for replacement or at least get help to return to manufacturer. Most equipment has one year manufacturer's warranty against defects.

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June 18, 2012

My Honda HGR 536 lawnmower is not starting. I have tried all the normal things, ie. change spark plug, checked the spark, and made sure it has enough fuel and oil. I also checked that the cut of fuel tap is in the correct position.

By S Jarratt from London, England


June 25, 20120 found this helpful

The man who works on my lawnmower told me that gasoline with ethyanol added has been wreaking havoc with small engines.

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December 3, 2010

I have a Troy Bilt push mower with a 6.75 engine. It has no spark from the plug wire. Any ideas?

By parkercarsfly from Columbus, OH


December 3, 20100 found this helpful

If your not getting fire to your plug check your coil pack.

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March 16, 2015

I have a Craftsman 6.5 HP self propelled mower. It is maybe 10yrs old and runs great once I get it started. I have the problem every week. I have to prime 15+ times, then pull the thing until my arm is about to fall off. I have had it serviced, oil, plug, carbkit, and the base air cleaner replaced. This one has the primer bulb. It is not bad gas, I drain and run it out every year. Once I have it started it will run and restart without an issue. A week later, same issue.

By Ken

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