If you have a pull cord on your lawn mower that has seen better days, then it’s time to get out the tools and carry out a quick fix. Now you could let the pull cord snap just before you want to start mowing, but this makes for a long day. So, instead of letting a snapped pull cord catch you off guard, let’s take a look at how to replace the cord ahead of time.
Why You Might Need to Replace Your Pull Cord
Pull cords on lawn mowers are usually made of a pretty strong nylon rope. While nylon rope is a sturdy material, the friction between the rope and the starter housing will eventually wear it down. So, no matter how careful you are with your pull starter, the time will come when your cord will wear down and need replacing.
Of course, you can cut the cord and rethread it into the pull handle, but this reduces the cord’s length and makes starting your lawn mower much harder. After all, the cord is designed to be a certain length to turn over the engine and get the fuel pump pumping and the coil sparking the spark plug. So, if your cord isn’t long enough, you might have trouble with this process. Instead of struggling with a worn-out starter cord, let’s go over how to replace the pull cord entirely.
What You’ll Need to Replace Your Mower’s Pull Cord (Equipment List)
You’ll need to gather a few tools and parts to replace your lawn mower pull cord. Here’s the list of items you’ll need to get started.
- Replacement Cord
- Socket Wrench / Nut Driver
- Needle Nose Pliers
Making Sure You Get the Right Lawn Mower Pull Cord (What to Look For)
Before you grab the first pull cord you find, you’ll want to ensure that you pick up the right one. You’ll need to know two bits of information about your replacement mower pull cord: the thickness and the length. You should be able to find this information in your user manual.
Here are a few problems you might encounter if you use the wrong replacement cord:
- Short Rope – A rope that is too short will not allow you to turn the engine sufficiently enough to start your lawn mower’s engine.
- Long Rope – If you install a pull cord replacement that is too long, you will have a dangling starter handle which can create a hazard with the mowing parts of your lawn. Also, if the rope is too long, you might find that the rope inside the starter pulley becomes loose and tangles making the lawn mower pull cord assembly unusable.
- Thin Rope – Thin pull cords are usually designed to be used with engines that require less force to get them started, such as weed whackers and edgers. As a result, using a thin cord on a lawn mower will probably end up snapping very quickly.
- Thick Rope – Starter ropes that are too thick will take up too much room inside the pulley. So you won’t be able to get as much thick rope inside the pulley as you would if you used the right thickness rope. As a result, you will have a shorter length of rope inside the pulley, making starting the engine harder.
How to Replace a Lawn Mower Pull Cord (Step By Step)
Now that you have the correct replacement pull cord and all the necessary tools, let’s look at how to replace your lawn mower pull cord. Here’s a summary of all the steps.
- Remove the Spark Plug
- Remove the Starter Assembly
- Pull the Rope Out of the Starter
- Lock the Pulley in Place
- Remove the Rope from the Pulley
- Cut Off the Knot
- Remove the Rope from the Starter Handle
- Add Tension to the Pulley
- Align the Pulley
- Lock the Pulley in Place
- Thread the Rope Through the Starter Housing & Pulley
- Knot the End of the Rope
- Pull the Rope & Seat the Knot
- Knot the Middle of the Rope
- Release the Pulley
- Thread the Handle
- Release the Knot in the Middle of the Rope
- Test the Starter Assembly Pulls and Retracts Correctly
- Remount the Starter Assembly Back on the Lawn Mower
- Test the Assembly by Starting the Lawn Mower
Remove the Spark Plug
Before I tackle any repair with my lawn mower, I always pop off the spark plug to avoid any unexpected accidents. So, pull off the spark plug cable and tuck it out of the way. It’s just one less thing to worry about and a good habit to get into.
Remove the Starter Assembly
The first job is to remove the starter assembly from your lawn mower. My starter assembly is attached to the lawn mower with four bolts that can be removed with either a flathead screwdriver or a nut driver. So, inspect your mower and see what tool you need to use, then remove the mounting bolts and lift the starter assembly off your lawn mower.
Pull the Rope Out of the Starter
Next, pull the starter cord all the way out of the starter assembly so that there is no more cord around the pulley.
Lock the Pulley in Place
Next, pass a small screwdriver through the pulley and the starter housing so that you lock the pulley in place and can’t turn. If you have a starter assembly with no pass-through, then you’ll need to hold the pulley in place throughout the repair using one of your hands. If this is a bit too tricky, just grab some assistance.
Remove the Rope from the Pulley
Use your needle nose pliers to pull the knot from within the pulley. You don’t need to pull the cord too far, just enough so you can access the knot in the cord.
Cut off the Knot
Next, cut the knot off inside the pulley with scissors and pull the cord from the starter assembly. At this point, the cord should be completely removed from the starter assembly.
Remove the Rope from the Starter Handle
Now, remove the old cord from the pull handle so you can install it on the new rope. You may need to remove a cover on the handle that hides where the knot sits. If you use a small screwdriver, you should be able to pop this cover off and pull out the cord.
Add Tension to the Pulley
Let’s go back to the starter assembly. First, you want to grip the pulley so it can’t turn, then remove the screwdriver that was locking it. Next, turn the pulley to increase the tension until you are unable to turn the pulley any further. This process ensures you have the maximum amount of tension on the pulley so it can recoil the cord during the mower’s starting process.
Align the Pulley
Now it is time to back off the tension a little bit so that the holes in the starter pulley and starter housing both line up. So, keep a good grip on the pulley, then let some tension off and line up the two holes.
Lock the Pulley in Place
Next, use your small screwdriver to lock the pulley as you did before to hold the tension. Again, if you don’t have any pass-through available, you’ll just need to keep hold of the pulley with one hand.
Thread the Rope Through the Starter Housing & Pulley
Pass your new rope through the starter housing, then through the starter pulley keeping the pulley locked in place.
Knot the End of the Rope
Next, tie a knot on the end of the new starter cord inside the pulley. You want to tie a knot so that there is as little excess rope inside the pulley as possible. If there is too much excess, cut it off using scissors.
Pull the Rope & Seat the Knot
Pull the rope, so the knot seats itself into the pulley. The starter housing on my starter assembly has a small recess that the knot sits in. So, if your assembly is the same, then make sure to seat the knot into the recess correctly.
Knot the Middle of the Rope
By this stage, you should have the rope threaded correctly, knotted, seated in the pulley, and the rest of the starter cord hanging freely. Cool. Now, take the hanging rope and tie a big loose knot in the middle.
Release the Pulley
Now it’s time to release the pulley and allow the pulley to take up the cord. So, either remove the screwdriver or ease your grip and allow the pulley to take in the rope. Remember not to let go of the pulley, as this could cause a tangle. Instead, allow the pulley to slide through your fingers until the knot you just tied hits the starter assembly.
Thread the Handle
With the starter assembly taken care of, it’s time to move on to the starter handle. So, thread the end of the cord through the handle, making sure that you thread the cord through the bottom of the handle and not the top, then tie another knot. Again, try to tie a knot, so there is as little excess rope as possible.
If you have to cut off too much cord at either end, you’ll end up shortening the rope making starting your lawn mower all that much harder. So, once you have the knot tied, pull the cord through the bottom of the handle, then replace any cover on the handle that you might have removed.
Release the Knot in the Middle of the Rope
The last thing you need to do with the rope is remove the knot you tied in the middle. Then, allow the tension on the pulley to pull in the remainder of the cord until the start handle meets the starter housing.
Test the Starter Assembly Pulls and Retracts Correctly
Ok, we are almost done. After installing the pull cord replacement, you want to try it before installing the housing assembly back on your lawn mower. So, pull the handle a few times and make sure anything is moving smoothly and that the cord retracts fully.
Remount the Starter Assembly Back on the Lawn Mower
Finally, take your starter assembly, reattach it back onto the top of your lawn mower, and install the bolts you previously removed. Once you have the last bolt installed and tight, you are done.
Test the Assembly by Starting the Lawn Mower
Unless you are 100% confident with your repair and sure everything is perfect, I suggest you try starting your lawn mower. Once you give the cord a good pull, hard enough to start your mower engine, you’ll soon find out if you were successful or not. I’m pretty sure you’ll have everything just right.
Things to Be Careful of When Carrying Out a Pull Cord Replacement
You shouldn’t have any issues if you follow my 20 steps to replace a lawn mower pull cord. Remember to use the right cord and keep a good grip on the pulley while working. If you let the pulley spin so that it loses all its tension, then jump back to step 8 and tension the pulley.