A broken starter cord is inevitable if you use a lawn mower that requires a pull start. Two-thirds of the year is devoted to continuous lawn care in Florida. That’s a lot of yanking on the cord. Replacing the starter cord is a simple wear and tear job that anyone can do. Even though the rain and grass keep growing, we’re not pulling your cord. Let’s get a new one!

Rip Torn – Replacing A Broken Starter Cord

We finally had a respite from the rain after weeks of nonstop downpours. That was followed by another kind of interruption. Mowing in the spongy, puddle-pocked mess I call a yard, I noticed my mower’s pull cord was frayed where it enters the starter housing. There will be a replacement in the next few months. On the first pull, it snapped.

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Starting cord, starting rope, pull cord, lawn mower rope, recoil starter rope, rip cord, etc… are just a few of the many names for this particular small engine part. We tend to use “starter cords” as well, as many other retailers do. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the process of replacing a starter cord is nearly identical regardless of the vehicle (even for other equipment, like string trimmers, pressure washers, chain saws and generators).

Housing Project – Accessing The Starting Assembly

If you’ve never had to deal with a faulty pull cord before, it can be a frightening experience when one fails on you. But don’t be concerned; it’s a simple, minor repair that can be completed in twenty minutes or less (or else you’ll get your next one free!).
To begin, remove a few bolts from the recoil starter housing and pull it away from the rest of the engine. The cord reel (spring pulley) is attached to the underside of the housing with a spring loaded mechanism. It is not necessary to separate the pulley from its housing unless there is a problem with the spring assembly itself. If the pulley is difficult to turn, you can try spraying some lubricant between the reel and the housing to loosen it up.
If possible, remove the housing and clean out any grass, twigs, and other debris that may have managed to find their way into the house during the process.

Pull The Plug On The Old Pull Cord

Disconnect the damaged cord from the reel and pull handle, and then secure the frayed ends with a piece of string. To make a new cord, measure the old one and cut it to a length that is several inches longer (to account for the knots at each end and where it broke). You don’t need to worry about the exact length of the extension cord, as long as you keep it within 6 inches of the original starter cord.
The home improvement store had a new starter cord that I planned on purchasing. For some reason, the only ones that were available at the time were made of cheap plastic rope (and included a new pull handle, which I don’t use). Instead, I used some paracord that I already had in the shop that was the right size. Paracord is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, so you can make your mower stand out visually.

May I Have Your A-tension? – Tightening The Coil Spring

To tension the coil spring behind the pulley before attaching the new lawn mower starting cord, we first need to remove the old one. By flipping the housing upside down, you can easily rotate it in the same direction that the pulley would turn if the cord were being pulled (counter clockwise).
Make sure you don’t let the spring go until it feels like it’s reaching its limit. Back the pulley off a full rotation and a little more to make sure the tie-off hole in the pulley and the cord guide hole in the housing are aligned with each other.
Thread your new starter cord through the housing and reel, then secure it with a knot at the other end of the housing. Allow the pulley to spool the cord in a gentle manner. However, leave enough hanging out to allow you to attach the pull handle.
Depending on whether your mower is equipped with a pull cord loop on the handle bar that keeps the cord close at hand, there may be a good foot or so of cord that does not wind onto the reel (this is normal). However, if your starter cord attempts to retract all the way down into the housing, you can use a clamp or a loose knot temporarily to keep the end hanging out while you attach the handle.

Final Check & Reassembly

Before reinstalling the starter, check to see if the fully-extended cord reaches its end before the spring. However, the pulley should be held in place by a knot at its end rather than by the coil spring when you’ve pulled out all of its starting cord. It’s possible that the pulley needs a few more turns of tension if the spring bottoms out before the rope.

New Lawn Mower Starter Cord – Finished!

Despite the fact that I’ve always repaired my own lawn mowers, I don’t particularly enjoy it. As for failures, replacing a mower starter cord would be at the top of my list. With this information, you’ll never have to pay a repair shop again for a starter cord replacement or an upgrade of an old worn one. That’s how we do things around here!

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