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Lawn mower pull cord
You filled the gas tank and put sunscreen on. It's mid-summer, so you even set a water bottle outside for mid-mowing hydration. Then you went to start the mower, and one swift pull changed your plans for the afternoon. The cord came flying off!
Don't worry—wear and tear can lead to a mower cord breaking, and you aren't the first to have this happen. In fact, if you notice your lawn mower cord is frayed but hasn't ripped, this could be part of your annual lawn mower maintenance to preserve the life of your device.
Learn how to replace a lawn mower pull cord in this simple six-step guide.
Prepping to Replace a Lawn Mower Pull Cord
For safety and efficiency purposes, there are two things you need to do prior to disassembling your mower and replacing the cord.
Identify the Type of Pull Cord You Need
Not all lawn mower pull ropes are the same: they vary in thickness and length. The wrong thickness will make starting your lawn mower more difficult to start (or could cause a jam inside your mower) if you replace it with the wrong string. Thin cords will fit, but likely rip faster than the right-sized cord.
A new lawn mower starter rope causes between $10 and $20 at home improvement stores. The majority of pull-start mowers use either a cord numbered 5, 5 1/2, or 6.
If you're unsure which you need, bring some of your damaged rope into the store and match the size, or check your lawn mower's manual.
Always Let Your Mower Cool Down First
To avoid lawn mower mishaps, especially if your mower cord just tore and you've been running the mower, wait at least 30 minutes for the engine to cool before you start taking it apart. Never take apart a hot lawn mower.
It's always a good idea to remove your spark plug before working on a mower. This way it can't accidentally start.
Photo: Lost_in_the_Midwest / Adobe Stock
Locate Your Lawn Mower's Starter Housing, Then Unscrew It
On the top of your lawn mower, locate the starter housing. Look online for a diagram of your mower or pull out your manual to locate yours if you're unsure where it is.
You'll find between two and four screws or bolts holding the top on. Unscrew/unbolt these. Set your screws aside somewhere you'll find them or put them in your pocket.
On some models, you may need to take the plastic top off, then unscrew a second part underneath, which houses the starter cord.
Carefully Remove the Starter Housing
Place the lid of your mower off to the side. Clean any debris, such as grass, twigs, or dirt build up, stuck under the cap or on the ridges where the two parts meet.
Remove the Old Pull Cord
Locate the reel in the center of the starter housing. You should find the other frayed or broken end of your pull cord pretty easily concealed inside the recoil housing attached to a spring.
Unwind the cord in the direction it would go to start your mower. This may require hand turning to prevent the recoil spring from holding it in place on some models.
Measure the Old Cord, Then Cut a New One
If you don't know exactly how long the old pull cord is, place both lengths of the old cord side by side and match your new cord to that length. Cut it there. Being an inch or two off isn't a big deal, but a full foot of length could be an issue.
(In fact, an extra inch or two might be good since you'll be tying off a knot. You can always cut off any excess.) Use a lighter to seal off any frayed edges after you cut.
Thread Your Cord, Then Tie It Off
Feed your new cord into the recoil device the opposite way you unwound it. Tie a tight knot at the end.
On some models, you may simply be able to release the spring and it will wind back up the cord. Leave enough material out to thread it through the starter housing and give you length to start your mower once it's put back together.
Rescrew or re-bolt your starter house and cap the way you took it apart. Prime your mower if needed, then give the ripcord a pull to make sure it works and is assembled.
Sip some water and reapply that sunblock. You're good to start mowing!
Replacing a Lawn Mower Pull Cord DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
Replacing a ripcord on your lawn mower is a quick and relatively straightforward job most homeowners can tackle. It takes less than an hour and you probably won't spend more than $20 on parts if you have the basic tools you need to do the job.
However, if taking a mower apart makes you uncomfortable or you aren't sure you'll be able to put it back together, a lawn mower repair shop near you can tackle the job just as easy. It won't cost an arm and a leg, either.