Why Is Lawn Mower Pull Cord Hard To Pull?

why is lawn mower pull cord hard to pull

Why is my lawn mower cord hard to pull? If you have a mower that employs a pull cord, starting it may require a bit of strength even while the unit is new.

And you may have asked this question at some point. Other than that physical quality, various problems can make the cord harder to pull.

Such problems typically develop over time due to regular wear and tear or usage.

Knowing what makes the start cord hard to pull can help you determine the best way to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

So, why is the lawn mower pull cord hard to pull? Let’s find out.

Why Is Lawn Mower Pull Cord Hard To Pull

Your walk-behind lawn mower may have a hard-to-pull cord due to an incorrect method of pulling, physical obstructions, frayed pull strings, an engine problem, or an issue with the starter mechanism.

Most of the time, slight adjustments should help fix the problem. However, where parts are damaged, you may have to replace the affected parts to solve the issue and make the pull string work more smoothly. 

Lawn mower cord hard to pull: Possible Causes

Several reasons can make your mower finicky when stating it with a pull string.

These reasons include a loose blade, engaged flywheel brake, faulty recoil spring, disconnected spark plug, frayed starter rope, or hydro-locking. 

A more serious problem like a crankshaft malfunction or damaged engine can also prevent your mower’s start mechanism from working smoothly. 

Whatever the case, start by unplugging and removing the spark plug on your mower to diagnose the problem.

Ground the spark plug wire and inspect the hole for signs of oil or dirt buildup that could prevent it from firing.

Next, you may troubleshoot the problem further by inspecting the recoil starter for any visible signs of malfunction.

After that, check under the mowing deck for debris or physical objects likely jamming the lawn mower blades before the more serious potential culprits like the engine.

That said, here is a detailed look at each problem likely to stand in the way of a smooth startup. 

1. Wrong Direction of Pulling

Sometimes your mower’s startup problem is related to something you might hardly suspect: an incorrect method of pulling.

The rope is inclined at an angle you must observe for smooth pulling. Pulling the string in a different direction than the intended one can introduce friction and resistance.

In such a case, the resistance you feel while pulling the start cord results from the string rubbing against other parts of the mower on its way out.

What to do: Correct your pulling method

You can fix this problem by observing the rope closely to see which direction your arm should take when pulling it.

Try pulling the cord in the direction that allows it to come straight out of the mower and see if this makes it lighter to pull.

Pulling the string in the appropriate direction it is designed to exit the recoil starter should help solve the problem. If it does not, your problem is likely elsewhere in the mower.

2. Factory Safety Lock

In lawnmower craftsmanship, some models feature a hidden blade lock—a wedge or block—ensuring safety during transportation.

Others have a specialized handle for the same purpose.

How to solve the issue

If the starter rope feels hard to pull on your new lawnmower, you might be staring at a factory safety lock problem.

Check the machine to see if the blades are free. If something restricts them, remove it and try starting the lawnmower again.

If the lock is the problem, your mower should work fine after removing the object used.

3. An Obstruction on the Mower Blade

If an object obstructs the blades during startup, your lawn mower may be hard to pull.

The blades must move freely to allow for a smooth starting, but a blade obstruction prevents that.

Something like tall grass or twigs can be lodged under the deck and get in the way of the lawnmower blades.

This is likely to happen if you have an overgrown lawn and the machine is set to a low height.

What to do

Check the height of your mower against the turf to see if the grass might be the problem.

If so, move the mower to a different location away from the obstructing grass to start it before returning to the lawn.

If the mower is clear of grass, some weeds, wire, or other material might be tangled around the blades. This may happen if you do not clean the deck after mowing.

A fibrous object can easily get caught under the deck, jamming the blades and keeping them from running smoothly.

Check under the deck to ensure nothing is tangled around the blades. Remove anything you find there, and try starting the mower again.

Removing the material obstructing the blades should help fix the problem.

4. Jammed Flywheel Brake

Flywheel brakes are a safety requirement on most machines. When engaged, the brakes help stop the flywheel from turning after disengaging the clutch and shutting the lawnmower motor.

Engaging the flywheel brakes slows down the lawnmower quickly to prevent injury. The mechanism also helps ensure a clean cut.

Over time, accumulated dirt and debris can jam the flywheel brake, preventing it from disengaging as it should.

When the flywheel brake malfunctions and stays engaged, it will make the start cord hard to pull when starting the mower.

You may be unable to generate the pulling force to start the engine with the flywheel engaged since the recoil spring relies on the flywheel to start the blades. Yet the brake prevents that from happening.

What to do

Inspect the flywheel brake for debris jamming it in place. If the brakes are damaged, you must repair or replace them to fix the malfunction.

Fixing a flywheel problem requires technical skills, so we don’t recommend doing it yourself. Instead, consider having a specialist service it for you.

5. Missing or Loose Blade

Unlikely as this may sound, you can forget to put back the lawnmower blade after servicing it.

If you remove the blade for sharpening and forget to put it back, your mower will not generate enough counterweight to start the motor.

Alternatively, you might return the blade and not tighten it properly. An imbalanced, wobbly, or loose mower blade may cause starting problems, including a pull cord that feels hard to pull. 

What to do

Check under the mowing deck for any missing blades. If the mower has a missing blade, follow your owner’s manual instructions to install it.

If the blade on your mower feels loose or wobbly, tighten it according to the specifications in your manual. Either fix should correct the problem and allow your mower’s starter cord to work smoothly.

6. Hydro-lock

If the engine oil reservoir has too much oil, the excess can get to the top of the piston, causing an obstruction.

This situation is termed hydro locking when excess oil at the top of the piston chocks the engine by impeding the piston movement.

Hydro locking means the mower’s engine piston has difficulty moving. When this happens, it makes your lawn mower string hard to pull.

This problem can also occur when you tip your lawnmower with the air filter facing downwards. Whatever the cause, the engine may not start until you remove the oil from where it does not belong.

Oil from your mower’s muffler is a common sign of hydro locking. The other telltale sign is the mower failing to crank over.

What to do

Remove your mower’s spark plug and cover the hole with a dry cloth, then pull the cord to start the motor. You should notice a mix of oil and fuel from the spark plug hole.

Keep pulling the starter cord and watching for oil ejecting out of the spark plug hole until no oil comes out.

That should fix it. When no more oil comes out of the hole when you pull the start rope, replace the spark plug and start the mower.

Removing the spark plug should release the pressure in your lawnmower engine, allowing the pull cord to move more easily.

Dumping the oil out of the spark plug hole helps fix the problem and allows the mower to operate normally.

7. Worn-out Recoil Starter

As the name suggests, the recoil starter in your lawnmower is responsible for starting the engine when you pull the starter cord.

The spring then coils back the cord into the mower. Over time, this crucial part can get damaged or worn, causing it to malfunction.

Damaged components of the recoil starter will typically create resistance that you feel when pulling the cord.

This problem might result from something as simple as dirt accumulation. So it should be something you can fix without a specialist’s help.

How to fix it

Open the blower housing with a screwdriver to access the recoil starter. Once that is done, closely check the components for any debris or buildup that might obstruct it.

Remove any noticeable objects foreign to this part of your mower. Once done, try pulling the rope to feel if the resistance is gone.

If the cord still feels hard to pull, check the recoil spring for any obvious damage. You may resolve the damage or replace the spring with a new one, depending on the extent of the damage.

8. Crankshaft Malfunction or Damaged Engine

The crankshaft is the component that turns over when you start the engine. So if this crucial component malfunctions, the engine will have trouble starting, and the mower might start then dies.

If the crankshaft in your mower’s engine fails, the engine will misfire. This can happen when the crankshaft slips or jams, causing a misfire.

Such engine problems can result from impact from physical objects, poor maintenance, or improper storage conditions. When they occur, the pull cord may feel harder than usual.

What to do

Have a technician repair the engine or replace the bent crankshaft altogether.

9. Snagged Start Cord or Damaged Pull Cord Handle

Since the pull cord is a rope, it can get tangled inside the mower. When your lawn mower pull goes bad, you may feel resistance when pulling it to start the mower.

The cord can also sustain damage along its length or on the handle, preventing it from moving smoothly. Such a snag may keep the rope from starting the engine.

Whether the rope is frayed or has a handful of snags, it can snap or stick in the mower when trying to pull it. Frayed cords are common with older lawn mowers that have been used for long.

What to do: Replace the mower’s pull cord

If your mower has a frayed cord or damaged handle, get a new one and use it to replace the worn mechanism. This fix should help allow you to start the engine effortlessly.

How to Replace the Pull Cord and Handle

If your mower has a damaged pull cord, your best option is to replace it. This process requires removing the blower housing with a screwdriver to access the pull-start assembly.

How easy it is to complete this task depends on the manufacturer. You will notice that some make this process straightforward, while others have more challenging designs.

Whichever the process, start by purchasing a compatible spring and pulley. This assembly comes as a unit to simplify the replacement process.

Once you have the assembly, here are the tools and materials to use:

  • Screwdriver
  • Socket wrench
  • C-clamp
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Scissors

Replacing your frayed pull cord step by step

It is best to replace your mower’s pull cord before it breaks. Once you find it is frayed, we recommend replacing the cord and handle the process will be more straightforward.

Replacing the blower housing, followed by the pulling assembly. Once done, you can install the replacement pull assembly and replace the housing to complete the task.

  • Step 1. Confirm the correct pull cord length for your mower and cut it off the new cord.
  • Step 2. Measure it against the old cord.
  • Step 3. With a flat screwdriver and needle nose pliers in hand, pull the frayed cord out of the mower.
  • Step 4. Secure the pulley by locking its spokes with a screwdriver, stopping it from retracting.
  • Step 5. Cut and discard the frayed cord.
  • Step 6. Replace the old cable with the new one; knot it and fit the handle. Next, double-knot the new pull cord and remove the screwdriver.


Why is my pull start hard to pull?

A bad recoil starter, broken recoil spring, or tangled pull cord may cause your starter cord to feel harder than usual. The problem can also be related to a wrong direction of pulling or physical obstructions on the mower blade.

What causes a pull cord to lock up?

Things likely to cause a pull cord to lock up include a grass buildup under the deck or debris jammed in the recoil starter mechanism. Removing these obstructions should fix the problem. However, it can also be related to a frayed recoil starter, which may need replacement.

How to make a pull start easier

To make a pull start easier, ensure the engine and parts are well-maintained, including the spark plug and air filter. Use fresh fuel and check for any obstructions in the pull cord’s path. Applying a little oil or lubricant to the pull cord mechanism can also help reduce resistance.

Why is the Honda lawn mower pull cord hard to pull?

The Honda lawn mower pull cord may be hard to pull for several reasons. It could be caused by a clogged air filter, a dirty or worn-out spark plug, insufficient engine oil, or a mechanical issue with the mower’s internal components. Regular maintenance and addressing these issues can help make the pull start easier.

Why Lawnmower Cord May Be Hard To Pull: Final Thoughts

Lawnmowers require regular maintenance to remain in their best condition and serve you as desired.

One area that directly benefits from such maintenance is the start assembly responsible for turning over the engine and getting your mower to work.

Ensure you clean the unit regularly to avoid debris buildup, maintain the fuel system, and service various parts as often as possible.

And if your mower’s pull cord ever feels hard to pull, use this guide to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

We hope this resource helps you out. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.