Lawn Mower Cord Stuck? Here's How to Fix It!

Updated on April 23, 2019

It's That Time of the Year Again to Mow the Lawn

Yep, it's that time of the year again to pull out the lawn mower and start the weekly ritual of mowing your lawn. But when you give that cord a good hard pull the cord doesn't retract like it supposed to, or worse, the mower fires up for a minute and the cord is whipped back, you hear some funky grinding noise, and the mower dies. Subsequent pulls on the cord are futile because the cord won't retract, now what?

No problem! This is one of the most common problems I see with lawn mowers. It's an easy fix.

The Starter Has Seized

The problem isn't the cord necessarily, it's the part on the top of the engine that is spun when the cord is pulled, called the starter clutch.

What's happened is the starter clutch has rusted itself to the starting rod, making it impossible for it to lift, spin or retract.

Rusted Ball Bearings

Ball Bearings Rusted
Ball Bearings Rusted | Source

Here's Where the Problem Is

Pictured to the right is where the problem lies. The ball bearings are rusted and the rust has affixed itself to the rod.

Follow the steps outlined below to have your mower up and running within an hour!

Step-by-Step Mower Repair

1. Remove the starter cord from the pull handle.
2. Remove three or four screws holding starter assembly on. (instructions follow on repairing the spring)
3. Gently tap on the cap of the starter clutch. (see photo)
4. Remove starter clutch assembly.
5. Using a fine grade steel wool clean the rust off the ball bearings, clean out the bearing pocket, the shaft and any other rust you may come across.
6. Before reassembling you will probably need to recoil the starting spring.
7. Reassemble taking care to put several drops of oil in the center of the starter clutch. (see additional instructions below please)
Oil Bath
Oil Bath | Source

Oil the Bearings or Don't Oil the Bearings

I have heard that the bearings should be placed back in the clutch with no oil, absolutely dry. I have also heard that the bearings and their housing should be oiled in addition to the centerpiece that needs oil.

I lean towards oil the bearings. Especially when the bearings are as rusted as the ones in the photo. I put them in an oil bath first, then drain off some of the oil and put several drops in the centerpiece. This method has worked for me for many, many years.

Recoil the Spring

After the rust is cleaned out and put back in place with the ball bearings it's time to fix the spring if it is sprung. Often times the spring is sprung from the starter seizing up. They're not too difficult to recoil.

  1. Bend the tabs up so the coil can be removed from the housing.
  2. With the coil in hand, pull the end until the coil is compact and even; a nice spool.
  3. Now place the end holding tab into the housing and lay the rest of the coil in the housing carefully.
  4. Hang onto the coil so it won't uncoil before you're ready.
  5. While holding the spring with a small finger, place the coil on top of the spring inside the housing and carefully release the spring. The clutch will hold it in place while you bend the tabs down.
  6. Place the starter assembly back onto the clutch and put the screws back in.
  7. Guide the string back through the pull start hole in the housing and tie it back onto the handle.

Now you're ready to fire it up!


Submit a Comment
  • Msmillar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Wilseyville

    Hi Kenneth, Thank you for stopping by to read! Some of my hubs are "seasonal", like the lawn mower one. It's interesting to watch the statistics rise and fall with the seasons. Yeah, I'd like to check out your work! Good Luck!

  • kenneth avery profile image

    Kenneth Avery 

    6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

    Hi, Msmillar,

    Wonderful and timely. Very helpful and easy to follow. Voted up all the way. Thanks for sharing your intelligence that us men do not have. I love your writing style and subjects.

    I ask you to read a couple of my hubs and then become one of my followers.

    I would love that.

    Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama

  • Msmillar profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Wilseyville

    Hi Benjimester! Thanks for stopping by. You are one of the few people that think of the welfare of their machinery in the winter. I try to winterize, but if I don't, I definitely run the machines every four to six weeks. Did you know, like your mower, you should turn on your a/c every so often in the winter also, especially in your car. The refrigerant acts as a lubricant and running it every so often keeps the fittings nice and fresh, like the mower.

  • Benjimester profile image

    Benji Mester 

    7 years ago from San Diego, California

    I've definitely experienced the funky grinding noise. It's definitely tough starting a mower after a season of no mowing. I didn't know that rust was responsible for the difficulty of running a mower after a full season of idleness. I usually start and run a mower a few times in the off season to ensure it will run properly in the Spring. That's good info.


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