How to Repair a Lawn Mower Pull Cord

Updated: May 15, 2023

Replace a broken starter rope in a half hour.

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An hour or less




Replace a broken starter rope on your lawn mower quickly and easily by following this simple step-by-step procedure.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Leather gloves
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Nut driver

Materials Required

  • New pull rope

You tug one last time to get the lawn mower started, and suddenly the pull cord breaks and the end goes spinning into the hole. Don’t blow a gasket. If you have even a tinge of mechanical aptitude, replacing a starter rope is pretty easy. If the spring breaks—a rare event, according to our repair expert—the fix is a lot harder, and we recommend you take the mower to a repair center.

Stuck Cord or Broken Cord?

First, check to confirm that the cord is actually broken and not just stuck. If it’s stuck, it may be an easier fix than full pull cord replacement and you likely won’t have to buy any new parts. Here are a few tips for fixing an electrical cord.

Run through your troubleshooting checklist if your cord isn’t working. Check to ensure the brake is off, make sure there isn’t any lawn debris clogging the blade, and finally, if all else fails, use our steps below to open the rewind unit. There, you’ll be able to see if the cord is stuck or fully broken.

What to Know About Replacement Cords

Different lawn mowers need different types of pull cords. If you don’t have time to spend looking for the right match, you can opt to get the thinnest kind, which will fit no matter what. But the thinner the cord, the more likely it is to break again soon. If you don’t already have replacement cord on hand, go to your local hardware store with the broken cord. The associates there should be able to help you get the exact kind you need.

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Remove the Old Starter Rope

The first step in repairing a pull cord is to remove the rewind assembly from the lawn mower. How you do this will vary depending on your lawn mower model, but it’s usually held on by three or more screws.

Some mowers have a shroud covering the top of the mower. On these, you’ll have to search for and remove the screws that hold the shroud in place. If your rewind unit is held on by rivets instead of screws, see “No Screws?” below.

  • After you remove the rewind unit, flip it over and look inside to find the knotted end of the broken rope.
  • Grab it with a pair of needle-nose pliers and pull it out. You’ll thread the new replacement starter rope through this hole.

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Step 2

No Screws?

Sometimes, lawn mowers will have rivets hold the rewind unit to the metal shroud. To access this kind of rewind unit, remove the bolts that hold the shroud to the engine. If the rivets are loose, drill them out and replace them with bolts and locknuts.

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Step 3

Install a New Rope

Before you install the new rope, you have to rewind the spring by twisting the rope pulley in the same direction it goes when you pull on the rope. You’ll know when you’re turning the pulley in the right direction because it will get harder to turn.

  • Keep turning the pulley until you feel resistance and it won’t turn easily.
  • Then let it unwind about one-half to one revolution until the hole in the pulley lines up with the hole in the rewind housing.
  • Wedge a screwdriver against the pulley to keep the spring from unwinding while you thread the rope through the holes.
    • Pro Tip: With leather gloves on, melt the end of the rope with a match. While the plastic is hot, give it a quick twist to create a pointed end so it’s easier to thread in.
  • Push the end of the rope through both holes and tie a knot.
  • Heat the knot a little bit with a match and pull it tight to keep it from coming undone. Just because you know how to fix this lawn mower problem doesn’t mean you want to do it again anytime soon.
  • Remove the screwdriver while you keep pressure on the pulley with your finger, and gradually let the rope wind onto the wheel.
  • You may have some extra rope to cut off after everything’s back together. Mount the rewind unit and reinstall any shrouding or other parts you had to remove.

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Step 4

Tie a Knot

  • Put the handle on the rope and tie a knot. Position the knot so that there’s a little tension on the rope when you release the handle.
  • If the rope on your lawn mower extends up the handle, make sure to place the rope handle in its final position before tensioning the rope slightly and tying the knot.
  • Let the pulley wind the rope back into the rewind.
  • Reinstall the rewind unit and any other parts you’ve removed.

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