While lawnmowers may seem relatively easy to operate, it’s important to know how to safely stop them when necessary to prevent accidents, particularly when the normal shut-down method doesn’t work!
On a modern gas-powered lawnmower, the fastest way to stop it is by releasing the bail lever. For older machines without a bail lever, the throttle lever is often also used as an on/off control. If all else fails, pulling the spark plug wire using a pair of insulated pliers will stop it instantly.
In this article, I’ll go over the main ways to safely stop a lawn mower normally, and step-by-step instructions for alternative methods to use in emergency situations. My goal is to make sure you know exactly what to do if your mower will not shut down.
How To Stop A Lawnmower – Normal Procedure
First of all, it’s important to go over some key safety tips you should keep in mind before using a mower:
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model.
- Keep your hands and feet away from the blades and the engine compartment.
- Wear appropriate safety gear, such as work gloves and safety goggles.
There are many models of mowers in use today and even though I’ve outlined the most common shutdown methods below, your model may be different, so check the manual before starting it up.
Most modern machines now come with a safety feature known as a bail lever, also called a deadman’s lever. When first starting up the mower this is the handle you have to pull up and hold in position to keep it going.
The idea is that should you lose your grip for any reason, such as a sudden illness or emergency, then you would naturally release the lever and the engine would get shut down straight away.
Older machines that were manufactured before this safety device was introduced, often have a throttle lever that also acts as an On/Off switch.
When you’re running the mower you usually leave it in the fully on position and to stop the engine you simply push it to the fully closed position instead.
These older machines may also have another control lever to engage the blades, and if that’s the case on your machine you can keep the motor running and just disengage the cutting mechanism to make the mower safe.
Sometimes though, these normal methods don’t work and the engine keeps running. This is typically due to the throttle or control cable getting stuck due to poor lubrication (another reason why proper lubrication is important for mowers), or perhaps becoming detached at the motor end.
If that happens to you then you will need to employ an emergency technique to shut it down.
Stopping A Mower That Will Not Turn Off
There are several ways to stop your mower if it will not shut down through the normal methods mentioned above. Read through these to see which will apply to your own model so that you know what to do in an emergency.
Pull The Spark Plug Wire
This is the quickest way to stop a mower that will not turn off normally as it shuts down the engine immediately.
As the wire carries a high voltage during use, you will need to use a pair of insulated pliers for the job. A pair with plastic-coated handles is usually good enough to keep you safe.
This voltage is usually not enough to kill you unless you have heart problems, but it will give you a nasty jolt if you touch it.
Push your mower up against a wall or other solid object before pulling the wire and do it from the side. The mower may move forward as you detach the wire and you do not want to risk your toes going under the deck with the blade still spinning!
Now just simply grab the spark plug cap or wire with your pliers and pull so that the cap detaches from the plug.
Turn Off The Gas
If you don’t have any insulated pliers on you then another option to stop a mower is to turn off the gas tap if the mower has one.
This usually sits under the fuel tank near the carburetor and will stop the flow of fuel to the engine so that it eventually dies.
Eventually, the engine will run out of gas and stall, but it may take up to a minute before it does finally stop. It’s not the quickest method to shut the mower down but always works in the end.
If you don’t have a tap then you can also cut off the fuel supply by pinching the gas line with a pair of grips or pliers.
Applying Full Choke
Some models have a choke control that you normally only use when starting the mower, but in an emergency, you can try setting it to full choke to stop the machine.
This works by flooding the engine with too much gas, which in turn causes it to stall. So just be aware that you may not be able to start it again for around 30 minutes while waiting for the excess fuel to evaporate.
Blocking The Air Intake
If your lawnmower has a primer bulb instead of a choke, another way to stop the engine is to starve it of air, which has the same effect as applying a full choke.
Be careful with this method and be sure to wear thick work gloves as the engine and exhaust areas will be hot.
Remove the air filter cover and take off the air filter. Now completely cover the air intake with a clean cloth.
Very shortly the engine will start to struggle and eventually stall.
Staying safe while mowing the lawn is crucial and by using the steps provided in this article, I’m sure you will now have a much better idea of how to safely stop your lawnmower and prevent accidents.
Remember, it’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wear appropriate safety gear when cutting your grass. Check that the bail lever or throttle switch works properly before starting and if they fail while out mowing, use one of the other methods to shut down the engine.
Above all, stay safe and happy mowing!