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Troubleshooting a Riding Lawn Mower That Won't Start

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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.
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  3. Make sure the oil level is correct; too much or too little oil will prevent the mower from starting.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Make sure the seat switch engages when you sit squarely in the seat.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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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168 Questions

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February 23, 2014

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.

By Preston

Answers

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.

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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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October 5, 2020

My riding mower will not start unless I charge the battery. Parts store says battery is good.


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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
October 5, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

If the battery needs charging to start the mower normally this means that one solenoid inside the battery is bad or is going bad. If this is the case when the store tests the battery it can test fine on the battery tester. Considering the solenoid is going out in the battery and it takes a full charge to start a mower it is better to get a new battery or just keep charging the battery each time you want to use the mower until the battery finally dies and buy a new one.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
October 6, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

Most likely your battery is in the final stages and does need to be replaced.
I feel sure the parts store did a fast check on your battery and they needed to do a slow check (takes longer of course) to find your problem.

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Be sure to buy your battery at a store that has a good warranty on their batteries. I have usually found that Walmart carries most size batteries and their stock seems to be fresher than many other stores - even the parts stores.
Most of their batteries have a 2 year replacement - not a partial payment like most others.

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May 22, 2020

My rider won't start. I replaced the filter, plugs, and fuel pump. It's not getting gas. Any ideas? If I put gas directly into the carb it starts for a few seconds. The gas lines are clear.


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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
May 22, 20200 found this helpful
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Have you tried to clean out the injectors yet? When you pump the gas is it going into the gas lines. What I mean by this if you try and pump the gas and remove the gas line from the carburetor do you see gas coming out of the lines?

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If not then there is an issue with the lines being plugged or you are having an issue with the new fuel pump not pumping the files through the lines. Have you tried to prime the fuel pump to get it pumping the fuel?

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
May 23, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

That's a bummer!
Why did you decide to replace all those 'parts'?
Your mower would not start or would not run?
Have you been able to use it this season or had trouble from the beginning?
Did you put mower to bed last year with gas in the tank? If so, did you add any kind of gas storing additive?

If old gas you need to remove gas and use only new gas. You will need a Siphon Kit for removing gas. These are sold at Walmart or any auto parts store.

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If you go to an auto parts store then you may need to also purchase a can of starting fluid. This is to spray into your carburetor to get it started and maybe clean out the fuel jets.
Also - if you did not replace the air filter (you just said 'filters' so gas? or?) this would be a good move.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbmisJHvzBQ

You can discuss your problem with someone at the auto parts store and they may have some additional solutions to try.

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May 9, 2018

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


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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 107 Posts
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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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.

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?

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
April 30, 20171 found this helpful

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

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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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Diamond Post Medal for All Time! 1,246 Posts
April 30, 20170 found this helpful

Clean out the carburetor and it should do the trick

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 141 Feedbacks
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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July 15, 2019

I have a Yard Machine riding lawnmower that won't start. It has good gas and the oil is good. So id the battery. It turns over strong. The only way to get it to fire off is to either pour gas in the intake or cover the intake to restrict the air from intake, but it will die as soon it it fires off.

Fuel is in carb bowl and it's been cleaned.

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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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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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Diamond Post Medal for All Time! 1,246 Posts
May 11, 20170 found this helpful

If your engine uses breaker-point ignition, then your points might have fallen out of alignment. Check to see that they are properly in place.

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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.

Is it maybe the ignition module?

Answers

November 8, 20151 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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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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October 30, 2019

I have zero turn Z4200 riding mower and this particular day I was mowing and the mower lost power and stopped running and I tried to restart again, but wouldn't even crank over. I used a screw driver on the solenoid and it would turn over with very minimal power. I took the spark plug off and cranked it over and had a good spark and good compression as well, but when I placed my finger on the spark plug hole the compression was not enough compression to push my finger off the spark plug hole. With my finger still on spark plug hole I used a screw driver on the solenoid with my finger on the spark plug hole it has no power to push my finger off the spark plug hole.



What could be wrong and reason for this episode?

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September 24, 2019

Do I need power out of both posts on my solenoid for my mower to crank over?


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August 29, 2019

I just recently cleaned out the carby on a 13hp Briggs and Stratton ride on and tipped the mower on its side to sharpen the blades, (spark plug on higher side). A fair bit of oil went through the carby, but I cleaned it out well. I put everything back together and it does the 1 click when turning it on, but won't even turn over? Can anyone help me out please?


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