How Do You Fix A Broken Pull Cord On A Lawnmower?

Have you ever pulled on the starter cord to get your mower started, but the rope snaps? Or perhaps it pulls all the way out and doesn’t rewind by itself. Either way, it’s clear the pull cord is broken so how do you fix it?

If your lawnmower pull cord has snapped or come off, it can easily be fixed by removing the starter assembly and replacing the rope. When the cord does not rewind, then you will need to check to see if the recoil spring has broken or become detached.

Follow my straightforward step-by-step guide below to fix your broken pull cord on most mowers available today.

What Do You Do When Your Lawn Mower Pull Cord Won’t Retract?

First things first, let’s understand why the pull cord may not retract. The pull cord is attached to a spring-loaded mechanism. When you pull the cord, the spring is wound tightly. Once you let go, the spring recoils, pulling the cord back. 

Sometimes, the mechanism can get jammed or the spring can lose its tension, leaving the cord pulled all the way out.

When faced with that situation, work through the steps below one by one in order to fix it. This works for most mowers, but even if yours differs slightly, the principles are the same:

Safety First

  1. Disconnect the spark plug to ensure the lawnmower doesn’t accidentally start. This is an important safety step so don’t skip it!
  2. Always wear sturdy DIY gloves to protect your fingers, particularly when rewinding the recoil spring. I’d also put on some safety glasses too in case the spring becomes jumpy. 

Check to See If The Pulley Is Jammed

  1. Remove the starter assembly, usually located at the top or side of the mower. This is the part the cord goes into. Sometimes you will need to take off the engine cover or even the fuel tank to access it, but then it can be removed by just undoing 3 or 4 screws or bolts.
  2. Carefully examine the pulley system. If something is jamming the pulley, gently remove it and see if the cord retracts.
  3. If the cord is in good condition, but simply not retracting, you may need to re-tension the spring.

Re-tension The Recoil Spring

  1. You can re-tension the spring without taking the pulley wheel off quite easily.
  2. Simply locate where the cord comes through the cover and using a flat-bladed screwdriver carefully lever out a loop of rope.
  3. Lubricate around the edge of the pulley with some light oil and check that there are no sharp edges that could cut the cord.
  4. Now take the piece of cord you’ve pulled out and use it to wind the pulley in a counterclockwise direction four times, keeping hold of the pulley to stop it from spinning back.
  5. Once completed, carefully pull the loop back through the cover and let go of the pulley to see if it retracts the cord.
  6. You may need to try a couple more times to get the correct tension. Just be careful not to overwind the spring or it may break.
  7. If you hear the spring unwinding itself at any point, you will need to check to see if it’s broken or has detached from one of the holding tabs.

Checking The Spring

  1. Undo the knot holding the cord handle in place and detach it so that you can remove the pulley completely.
  2. Unscrew the bolt in the center of the pulley that holds it into place.
  3. Take note of how the central cover and the plastic or metal lugs underneath are positioned so that you remember how it goes back together later, then remove them.
  4. Now gently lift the pulley out of the housing. Be careful at this point to try and make sure the spring comes out with the pulley and stays in place as they are tricky to put back in! 
  5. Turn the pulley over and check the condition of the recoil spring.
  6. The outer end should be hooked into a slot on the pulley, the inner end should have a hook shape so that it catches on a tab inside the cover.
  7. The usual problem is that the inner or outer hook may have broken off but this can often be fixed by bending a new one into place using some needle-nosed pliers. The outer hook can then be slotted back into place in the pulley.
  8. Now follow the steps for fixing the pulley back in place in the next section. 
  9. If you can’t fix the spring, source a new one from your local supplier.

How Do You Replace A Lawnmower Recoil Spring

To replace the spring on your pull cord system you will need to first hook it into place on the pulley and then rewind it, which can be quite tricky!

The process is the same for a new or repaired recoil spring.

Here’s how to do it. Make sure you’re wearing gloves as the spring edges can be sharp:

  1. Hook the outer end of the spring into the slot on the pulley.
  2. Now start coiling it around the inside of the pulley, using your thumb to keep it in place.
  3. Once you’ve got the whole spring coiled up and in place, carefully wind the cord on, leaving enough spare to thread through the cover.
  4. Fit the pulley back onto the post it sits on inside the starter housing.
  5. Try to line up the inner hook with the retaining slot or tab if you can although it will often locate itself in the next step.
  6. Gently pull a little of the cord out to make sure the spring locates properly and rewinds itself.
  7. Reassemble the starter mechanism and check that the cord retracts to the correct place. If not, follow the steps in the ‘Retensioning The Spring’ section above.
  8. Reinstall the starter assembly and anything else you had to remove and then reconnect the spark plug.

Can A Lawnmower Pull Cord Be Replaced?

The pull cord on your lawnmower can be replaced if it becomes frayed or snaps. Just purchase a new one online or at your local garden machine supplier, but make sure you find out what the correct length needs to be if you don’t have the old one on hand to check.

Is It Easy To Replace A Lawnmower’s Pull Cord?

All gas mowers are put together in a way that allows for easy maintenance and to replace any parts that break. However, you may need to remove several components to get to the starter mechanism so you can replace the cord.

While the process can be a bit tricky if you’re a beginner, with clear instructions and a little practice, it’s definitely manageable. Just follow the steps in the section below closely.

How Do You Replace A Lawnmower’s Pull Cord?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to replacing a lawnmower’s pull cord. The process may be a little different on some machines, but the general idea will be the same:

1. Safety First

Firstly, make sure the lawnmower is turned off and the spark plug is disconnected. This prevents any accidental starts while you’re working on the machine.

2. Remove The Starter Assembly

Unscrew the bolts holding the starter assembly in place. Be careful not to misplace these screws; you’ll need them to reattach the assembly later.

Note – you may need to remove other items such as the engine cover and fuel tank to access the starter.

3. Pull Out The Old Cord

Once the assembly is off, you’ll see a pulley with the cord wrapped around it. Pull the cord all the way out using your thumb to prevent the mechanism from rewinding.

4. Secure The Pulley

Once the cord is fully out, secure the pulley by wedging a screwdriver in so that you can let go.

5. Remove The Old Cord

Now find the knot on the end of the cord that stops it from slipping out of the pulley and cut that off so you can extract it completely. Remove the pull handle if still attached.

6. Attach The New Cord

Take your new pull cord, thread one end through the cover, and then the hole in the pulley. Now tie a knot in that end, make sure it’s tight, and pull on the cord so the knotted end sits snug against the hole.

7. Let The Cord Wind Itself Back

While holding the pulley, take out the retaining screwdriver. Release the pulley slowly, allowing it to wind the cord onto the pulley. Leave enough cord outside the housing to comfortably grab hold of and tie a knot so that it can’t go any further.

8. Attach The Handle

Next, thread the end of the cord through the pull handle and tie a knot at the end to keep the handle in place. Make sure to test the pull cord; it should pull out and retract smoothly.

9. Adjust Tension As Necessary

If the cord doesn’t retract far enough you may need to adjust the spring by following the ‘Retensioning The Spring’ steps in the first section above.

10. Reattach The Starter Assembly

Finally, you can reattach the starter assembly and any other removed parts onto the lawnmower. Make sure it’s all secured tightly, then reconnect the spark plug.

That’s it! Now, give that new cord a pull and you’re off.

Final Thoughts

That brings us to the end of my step-by-step guide to fixing a broken pull cord on a lawnmower. Now you will know what to do when faced with the same problem, which is bound to happen at some point!

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

Recent Posts