How to Start a (Stubborn) Lawn Mower: Gas or Electric

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Updated June 27, 2022

Even the best lawn mower can be stubborn at times.

Having trouble starting your mower? Or perhaps you’re just wondering how to start a lawn mower?

You aren’t alone! Some mowers can be notoriously tricky to rev up, especially if you have an older model. Or if you’ve got an electric mower, jump to How to Start an Electric Mower.

If your mower is giving you problems, you may want to consider an upgrade to a new lawnmower. In fact, it’s now 2018, and if you’re not cutting your lawn with an electric mower you’re missing out. Both from an eco-friendly and maintenance standpoint.

How to Start a Mower Step-by-Step Guide

How to Start a Gas Mower

how to start a gas mower
Starting a gas mower is generally easy.
  1. Step 1: If it’s been a while, check the oil in your mower, which should have an oil tank with attached dipstick near the engine. If your oil is low, fill it before continuing. This step isn’t always necessary, depending on the engine design, so if you cannot locate the oil reservoir, you probably don’t need to worry about it, but you should check in the manual to see if there are any unique oil requirements.
  2. Step 2: Check your gas levels, and if they are low then add more gasoline. The typical 4-stroke lawnmower needs fresh unleaded gasoline with an octane level of 87 or higher. If this is your first mower, make sure you purchase a portable gas canister when getting your gas, which is important for pouring and storage.
  3. Step 3: Look for stop switches or shutoff valves. These are safety/maintenance features included on some gas lawnmower models that prevent fuel from seeping into the engine, creating residues and other issues. Simply make sure these switches and valves are now open.
  4. Step 4: Check for a primer. This is a small rubber button located on the engine. Its job is very important if you have an obstinate engine. Give it around have a dozen pumps.
  5. Step 5: Position yourself behind the mower. Put one hand on the handle and hold down the engine stop lever (not all mowers have this lever on top of the handle, but many do). Use your other hand to grasp the recoil starter handle.
  6. Step 6: Pull the starter handle slowly until you start to feel resistance, and then pull it quickly up toward your shoulder (please don’t pull any muscles at this point).
  7. The Result and Trouble Shooting: The starter will try to ignite the fuel in the engine and get it going, but this ignition sequence doesn’t always work. If the engine is coughing a lot but not starting, try using the primer again to see if that helps – it often does. As a general rule, the older the mower is the more patience you need.

How to Start an Electric Mower

Best Electric Lawn Mower
Electric lawn mowers require little maintenance and are extremely easy to start, unlike their gas counterparts.

If you are learning to work your first electric mower, you may have some questions about how to start it. Why? Simple: the battery-powered version is very different from the traditional gas mower, and the controls probably look unfamiliar.

Fortunately, electric mowers are usually easier to start than gas mowers, once you learn the process:

  1. Step 1: Make sure that the battery is charged and properly inserted into the mower. If the battery is not properly locked in, then the mower won’t work.
  2. Step 2: Check the safety key. Electric mowers have a safety key that is necessary to complete the electrical circuit and start the motor. This key helps prevent accidentally turning on the mower when you are doing maintenance, checking for clogs, and so on. There is a slot, typically on the handle (occasionally near the battery itself) where you need to insert the key.
  3. Step 3: Look for the electric switch near the mower handle that turns the mower on, and flip it. That should be it! Depending on the design, some electric mowers may have you hold down an additional safety handle while you turn the switch on, so watch for this extra step if it the electric mower doesn’t seem to be working.

If You Still Can’t Start Your Mower

If you’re mower still won’t start, especially after repeated attempts and using our guide, then we can only suggest that you call the manufacturer.

If all that fails, visit your local showroom or a retailer that sells your brand. Often store employees will be able to help you troubleshoot the issue. Once there you might have to leave it for repair.

Hopefully, it’s still under warranty at that point. Also, make sure you check what credit card you purchased your mower with. There is a good chance that your credit card extended the warranty, which could save you hundreds. Or perhaps you bought an extended warranty at point of sale.

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