Why My Riding Lawn Mower Won’t Start

Help! My riding lawn mower won’t start. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard this. To be honest, I know why the riding lawn mower won’t start if the machine belongs to me, but if the mower is someone else’s problem then it is harder to determine the issue. There are a plethora of things that could cause a cranking issue with a mower. You want to get the machine running as soon as possible so the best thing to do is pinpoint the most likely issues.

 

Out of Fuel?

I hate to go Billy Bob Thornton in “Sling Blade”, but the thing may simply be out of gas. That is an easy thing to check and yes you may think yourself a fool if it really is just out of fuel. But even so, that is an easy fix! If that is not the cranking problem you have to move on to the next item on the check list.

 

What About the Spark Plug?

lawn-mower-quick-start-guide-for-walk-behinds

Always check the spark plug to make sure the connection is good. if the plug wire is in good shape and is connecting in the proper manner with the actual spark plug then that is not the problem. If the wire is fraid or it’s not securely touching the plug then make the needed adjustment. Also be sure to unscrew the spark plug to see if it is burnt out. An old dirty spark plug won’t produce enough spark to ignite the engine. A burnt end of the plug that is inside the engine is a good indicator that it is time to replace it. That is a small cost to fix. About $2 will get you going again. Be sure and set the gap on the new plug to the proper setting. See the owners manual for more info on your particular machine.

 

Check the Safety Switches

Safety switches are a big key to why your riding lawn mower won’t start often times. I’ve noticed the blades engaged a few times after being puzzled as to why won’t my lawn mower start. Engaging the blades is a safety hazard as you are cranking a mower. It is also hard on the engine to do such an operation.

Having a lawn tractor in gear is a safety no-no while trying to crank a lawn mower. Generally this will cause a tractor to not crank to keep you from starting off in a forward movement before you are ready.

 

Take a Seat, Literally…..

Not being fully seated on the riding mower seat or not grasping the handle on a push mower will also trip a safety device to keep a mower from cranking. This safety measure is meant to protect the user from injury from falling off the mower or falling down while using a push mower. Obviously falling is very dangerous while using a machine with whirling blades that are sharp as knives. It is common for operators to try and disengage these safety switches, but it is also foolish to do so. They may cause irritation at some points during use. But overall they are a beneficial part of a lawn mower. Better safe than sorry I always say.

 

Last Chance, a Dirty Carburetor

riding-lawn-mower-quick-start-guide

Last but not least on the list of mower cranking issues is a dirty carburetor. Carbon can build up in the carburetor and choke the engine down. It can’t “breathe” properly so the engine can’t turn over enough to start up. The same is true for a dirty air filter. You should clean the air filters on your machine regularly and replace them as directed in the owners manual. If your air filter is so dirty that the engine will not start, then you are really abusing your lawn mower!ç

These are a few key issues that most people can fix if they are having trouble cranking their lawn mower. At the very least most users can figure out the problem and seek help if needed. My Lawn Mower Quick Start Guide might help you. Other problems will require a visit to the mower shop. You can’t do it all on your own sometimes.

Still, didn’t figured out why your riding lawn mower won’t start? Just message me below and I ‘ll do my very best to help you!

Happy Mowing Like Always!

 

15 Comments
  1. Reply
    Bob Cookus April 5, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    each time on cold start it takes a shot of starting fluid to get it started, then it is fine the rest of the time. there are new plugs and air filters and fuel filter. this is a kohler v twin engine. if you can let me know what the problem might be. thanking you bob

    • Reply
      Bill Martin May 17, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      It sounds like you have all the bases covered. Can you do a carb adjustment with the help of a youtube tutorial? If not then you may have to get a pro to do it for you.

  2. Reply
    Tysen May 9, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Yesterday I jump started my MTD rider mower to see if my battery is the problem. My rider started first try, but once the cables were released the mower shut off. Today I got new battery and now absolutely nothing happens. No clicking no nothing? Really would appreciate some input

    • Reply
      Bill Martin May 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Unusual issue. It is possible the new battery you bought is bad. It happens.
      Other than that I would replace the ignition (simple) and the solenoid switch before taking it to the shop. Those parts will be under $20 combined I believe at an automotive store.

  3. Reply
    Amy June 14, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Hi,

    Mower wont click. We’ve been neglecting it and changed the oil, filter, air filter, fuel filter and spark plugs. We also changed the starter. Tested the solenoid and it seems to work. Not sure what else it could be.

    • Reply
      Bill Martin June 14, 2016 at 5:01 am

      What mower (model, serienumber) do you have Amy?

  4. Reply
    Jerome Chung July 3, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    My Poulan Pro 20hp riding lawn mower won’t start after getting off the seat which caused engine to cut off. Forgot to put braking system in place. Tried restarting for one or two hours and won’t start. Left Lawn mower overnight and it started with one crank next day. I put brakes in place and switched off and restarted right away. I then got off forgetting to engaged braking system and engine cut off. Cannot restart right away. Is there a reset button or do i have to wait another day to try starting again? Thanks Jerome

  5. Reply
    Jerome Chung July 3, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Poulan Pro 20 hp riding Lawn mower cut off when i got off the seat. I understand its a safety switch feature. Is there a reset button so i can restart mower? It will not restart. I waited overnight and it started with first crank in the morning. I engaged brakes and got off and engine remained running. I then switched off and restarted in one. I got off in error without engaging brake and engine cut off. This is the problem: i cannot restart right away. Engine is turning over but not starting. Brake is in place, I am sitting on mower , but it would not start. Is there a faster way to restart immediately or do I have to wait until next day again? Thanks Jerome

    • Reply
      Bill Martin July 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Jerome, when the engine is running, any attempt to leave the seat without first setting the parking brake should shut off the engine for safety reasons. The same will happen when the engine is running and the attachment clutch is engaged and you try to leave your seat.
      When you want to start the engine again, make sure the brake pedal is fully depressed, and the attachment clutch control is in the disengaged position. Then the motor should start. Good luck!

  6. Reply
    Jeff Duncan July 23, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    I’m dumbfounded. I presumably ran out of gas while mowing, as I didn’t have much and figured I probably wouldn’t be able to finish the lawn…and, it acted like it ran out of gas. I bought more fuel and filled the tank, never looking to see if I actually had run out of gas. There was no response at the key. I tried jumping it, still no response. I took the little ignition switch apart and cleaned, no change. I hotwired the starter, and it cranks like a champ, but still does not start. I replaced what was probably a perfectly good spark plug and getting spark, the fuse is good and it seems to be getting fuel. My last effort was to remove carb and blow out all journals I could identify, and removed filter…no change. I’ve worked on many cars, mowers, blowers and edgers in my day, so this is starting to get personal!

  7. Reply
    Jeff Duncan July 23, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    I’m dumbfounded. I presumably ran out of gas while mowing (I didn’t have much and figured I probably wouldn’t be able to finish the lawn), and it acted like it ran out of gas. I bought more fuel and filled the tank, never looking to see if I actually had run out of gas. There was no response at the key. I accounted for all safety switch features. I tried jumping it, still no response. I took the little ignition switch apart and cleaned, no change. I hotwired the starter, and it cranks like a champ, but still does not start. I replaced what was probably a perfectly good spark plug and getting spark, the fuse is good and it seems to be getting fuel. My last effort was to remove carb and blow out all journals I could locate (and fuel filter), and removed air filter…no change. I’ve worked on many cars, mowers, blowers and edgers in my day, so this is starting to get personal!

  8. Reply
    Miranda July 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Seem to have a valve issue finally got the mower to turn over not start but drains the battery if we remove the spark plug it will try to start , then when it does run it is back firing?

  9. Reply
    Donny July 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    My craftsman riding lawnmower starts but quickly shuts off.! I’ve change the fuel line n filter,clean the carb at least 5 times already.! What other solutions do I hav besides burning the thing.?

  10. Reply
    Mitchell July 29, 2016 at 3:47 am

    My lawnmower will not start. It doesn’t make a sound. I have charged the battery and it reads over 12. Have done Ignition switch spark plugs. I have replaced the solenoid and tried different wiring ways with it. I don’t have any voltage drops to the starter. A couple wires were cut and I spliced them back together. Please help!!

  11. Reply
    Jamie Adams August 27, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Hi I have a John Deere ride on, no issues until I left it outside on a frosty night, next morning it tried to crank a few times but wouldn’t start and it flattened the battery. Battery charged and now when turning the ignition all I get it is a single “click” sound and the motor doesn’t even try to engage or turn. The ignition works when turning to the headlights etc so that switch seems to be ok. Any ideas?

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