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Troubleshooting a Riding Lawn Mower That Won't Start

Category Lawn Mowers
Mowing the grass is one of the rites of summer, but now your mower won't start. There are many things that can cause a riding mower to refuse to fire up. This is a guide about troubleshooting a riding lawn mower that won't start.
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By 3 found this helpful
June 5, 2017

If your riding mower will not start (most of these tips are applicable to push mowers also):

  1. Make sure you have fresh fuel; dirty or old fuel will not burn. Consider an octane boosting additive.
  2. Make sure the oil level is correct; too much or too little oil will prevent the mower from starting.
  3. Most riding mowers start only when in neutral and when the blades are not engaged; make sure the trans is in neutral and the blades are not engaged. Engage the brake and/or clutch.
  4. Ensure it's getting fuel to the carburetor by pulling the line at the closest inlet near the carburetor, then cranking; it should spurt fuel. Make sure if you put new fuel in the tank, that you purge the old fuel from the lines by this method.
  5. If you are getting fuel, the carburetor may be dirty from fuel setting in the bowl for a long time; take the carburetor apart by removing the brass bolt from the bottom of the bowl, and cleaning the bottom parts with carburetor cleaner.
  6. Make sure the seat switch engages when you sit squarely in the seat.
  7. Wear safety glasses when you use pressurized air to clean dirt off of the entire engine; leaves, dirt, and other foreign particles may prevent the engine from breathing. Keep the top of the flywheel and the fins on the flywheel clean.
  8. If the magneto(s) or the flywheel are rusty, you won't get spark; use emery cloth to sand the rust off of the flywheel and the magneto(s). You have to remove the magneto to clean the rust off. Get all the rust off; the flywheel needs to shine where it makes contact with the magneto(s).
  9. Dead batteries are usually bad batteries. If the battery is dead, and does not charge, you probably have a bad alternator, or a bad battery.
  10. Make sure you 'choke' the carburetor the first time you crank it. After some cranking, you may need to adjust the choke. Make sure the throttle is adjusted to the 'Start' position.
  11. The air filter must be clean: If your carburetor is starving for air, the mower will not start. Clean the filter with soapy water and a soft brush. Hold the filter to a light, or the sun; you should be able to see light through the filter. Try starting without the filter, but do not operate the mower without the filter.
  12. Grass build-up in the mower deck may prevent the mower from starting. Make sure to pull the spark plug when you tip the mower to bust the clogged grass away from the deck. Be aware that tipping the mower can cause oil to leak from the engine block into the cylinder, which will result in smoke from the muffler due to oil burning; it should just last a minute or less.

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April 29, 20171 found this helpful

This is a guide about Husqvarna riding mower won't start. Determining whether it is a problem with fuel, spark or air when your mower won't start, can be a challenge.

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April 27, 20171 found this helpful

You can almost hear the grass growing as you sit there trying to start up your uncooperative riding mower. This is a guide about John Deere riding mower won't start.

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August 30, 20170 found this helpful

Hitting objects such as gravel or stumps when mowing can damage the crank shaft and other parts of your riding mower. A careful inspection will be needed to determine which parts are affected.

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This is a guide about when a riding mower won't start after hitting gravel.

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This guide is about why Bolens mower won't start. Determining the reason why your mower is not starting can be a challenge.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

February 23, 20144 found this helpful

My mower just clicks when you turn the switch on. It has a new battery and belts. It only stated for a few seconds and died. Now all it does is click when you try to crank it.

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By Preston

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February 27, 20141 found this helpful
Best Answer

The fact that it just "clicks" when you try to turn it over may mean that the engine has seized up. Lack of oil mixed in the gas could lead to this. Also, you may want to try to replace the carburetor. Plenty of "How-to" sites on Utube and choose a reputable online business for mower parts and they should allow you to return carburetor if that is not the problem.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 9, 2018

The ignition switch won't start the engine for my 12 hp Ranch King riding mower.

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May 10, 20180 found this helpful
Best Answer

I was going to say, cleaning battery terminals and even making sure that the batteries are regularly maintained - some need water levels checked and added - can cure most of these sorts of problems

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By 0 found this helpful
April 30, 2017

My brother has an old riding mower (90s I think) that won't start. He put in fresh gas, a new battery, and fresh oil, but the engine won't start. He says it's just making a click, the motor shakes, but nothing happens.

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He is tight on money and can't afford major repairs or parts. Any suggestions on what's wrong with it and how to fix it?

Answers

April 30, 20171 found this helpful

The switch is under the seat. Disconnect it and reconnect it.

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April 30, 20170 found this helpful

How about the spark plugs?

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Anonymous
April 30, 20170 found this helpful

new spark plugs? Does the carb have old fuel in it?

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April 30, 20170 found this helpful

Clean out the carburetor and it should do the trick

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May 5, 20170 found this helpful

I have had pretty good luck cleaning the carburetor. Then if it still doesn't start up, add some fuel cleaner to the tank.

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Follow the directions for the amount. Even with new gas, there still can be some bad gas or moisture in the system.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 21, 2017

I was cutting the grass. I got off my Snapper rider to pick up trash. The mower died and won't start back up. It is like a dead battery, but the battery is good. Could it be the solenoid?

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By 0 found this helpful
May 10, 2017

I have a Scott's riding mower with a 17Hp Briggs and Stratton motor. It won't turn over after mowing the grass last week. It needed a new battery and air filter. There is gas or oil in the air filter and it back fires out of the air filter, with fames an all. Any help? I changed the plugs and oil before storing it this winter.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 20, 2018

I was mowing and stopped to move something and I killed it. When I got back on it wouldn't even turn over.

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By 0 found this helpful
November 7, 2015

I was mowing and the mower shut off. It still had plenty of gas. I changed the fuses, but all the engine did was click. The battery is fully charged. I crossed the posts on the solenoid with pliers, the engine cranked, but when I turn with the key there is only clicking.

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Is it maybe the ignition module?

Answers

November 8, 20150 found this helpful

It could be one of the safety switches in either the brake or the seat.

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November 12, 20150 found this helpful

we had this problem and it was the fuel injector for us

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February 19, 20160 found this helpful

Check the oil and make sure it doeset have gas mixed in oil also pull spark plug to make sure cylinder isn't full of gasoline causing it to stop piston from moving

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By 0 found this helpful
August 6, 2018

I have a D130 John Deere tractor. The engine starts for me 220 lbs, but not for someone 150 lbs. I can start it, they get on and can't. I get back on starts no problem. Could it be the seat interlock switch? and if so what do I do to repair it?

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By 0 found this helpful
July 11, 2018

I have been troubleshooting my riding lawn mower all the way to the starter. Everything is in check and I have a new battery, but it hasn't been started in a couple years and the flywheel will only turn one time and stop when I turn the switch. I wonder what could be the problem?

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By 0 found this helpful
May 31, 2017

My mower won't fire even though I put a new plug in.

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March 4, 2017

I have a Castle Garden rideon mower. I only had it running a couple of months ago (cut the garden), it was sitting up in the garage since then, now it won't start. The lights come on, everything seems OK, but it just won't start. The orange light beside the red button to get the blades cutting came on. Any help or ideas please.

Answers

March 4, 20170 found this helpful

Check the battery. Probaly low on juice.Use a trickle charger for a day.

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March 4, 20171 found this helpful

Its grand, fixed it,was a safety issue,plug underneath came undone, was to do with the gears,safety connector to engine,saying it was in gear when wasn't,simple to fix,just plugged it back in

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March 6, 20170 found this helpful

Thank you for letting us know you found your problem.
I would just like to add that so many people do not "winterize" their mowers properly and then have many problems when "cutting time" comes around.
Just in case you need information on storing your mower properly, I have gathered some easy to follow instructions. I believe if someone does nothing else, just adding a fuel stabilizer would save them countless problems (and money).

http://www.cons  -mower/index.htm

https://www.jac  r-or-lawn-mower/

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By 0 found this helpful
April 21, 2009

I have a Toro Wheel Horse riding mower. I started it and pulled the choke up all the way really fast and now it will not start at all. I have replaced the battery but when I tried to start it, it just smoked. Then I thought it was flooded so I took the spark plug out and put it back in and then it just did not make any noise. Now I am trying to find out what is wrong with it.

By kyle from Williamstown, PA

Answers

April 21, 20090 found this helpful

You flooded the mower. Leave it set awhile open the throttle wide open; don't continue to choke. This will open the butterfly valve to let more air in and clear it.

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April 21, 20090 found this helpful

Don't pull the choke out all the way or the same thing will happen again from flooded motor. Good Luck!

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June 8, 20090 found this helpful

If it smoked when you turned the key on and now nothing at all you'll probably find a blown 12 system fuse hid somewhere where you cant see it. if it is a blown fuse you have a direct short on the 12 volt line somewhere. When you find your short your mower will probably be fine then. Hope I could help if you need help finding the short list what model mower it is and ill try to find schematics for it on line and maybe make a couple suggestions.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 14, 2018

I have a Morrison mini rider. I can not seem to work out how to free push it. It is in neutral.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 27, 2017

I have a older Yard Machine riding lawn mower that has been sitting for a couple years. First of all I can't seem to get it into neutral to push it, second of all when I do try to start it it's tries to turn over, but it is with the deck engaged and I can't get the deck to turn off to get it started. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 29, 2016

My lawnmower will not start. It doesn't make a sound. I have charged the battery and it reads over 12. I have done the ignition switch and spark plugs. I have replaced the solenoid and tried different wiring ways with it. I don't have any voltage drops to the starter. A couple wires were cut and I spliced them back together. Please help!

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By 0 found this helpful
July 2, 2016

A couple of weeks ago while I was mowing the lawn with my 12.5 hp Yarkworks lawn tractor for some reason the machine started revving really fast. I turned off the ignition as quickly as I could. I then went to restart my tractor. However the machine would not turn over until it cooled down. The symptoms haven't changed. I can mow the grass for hours as long as I don't turn the machine off. Then I must wait until it cools down again. Someone told me I may have a warped head since the machine revved like it did. Help.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 29, 2015

I changed the oil filter, added new oil, new carburator, new spark plug, new fuel filter, new battery, new air filter, and new gas, but it still will not start. The flywheel is turning over, the muffler puffs occasionally when I choke, but nothing happens. I am stumped. I poured a teaspoon of gas in the spark plug area to see if there was fuel constraint which resulted in a few coughs through the muffler. What do I do next? any suggestions? Thank you!

Answers

October 5, 20150 found this helpful

could be that the switch under the seat is bad. it feels when you get out of the seat and shuts off the mower. you can bypass it with a short peace of wire

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October 5, 20150 found this helpful

could be the switch under the seat is bad. it can tell if you get off the mower and shuts off the engine.you can bypass with a short piece of wire

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By 0 found this helpful
July 5, 2015

I have spark, I can smell the fuel, it appears to have compression, but still won't start. There is a new battery, it turns over with good power, but won't start. What else should I check?

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July 7, 20150 found this helpful

Check the oil

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