Mower starter rope locked. How To Fix Lawn Mower Pull Cord Not Catching

How To Fix Lawn Mower Pull Cord Not Catching?

A lawnmower is a piece of equipment that homeowners love and hate. It is a great partner in keeping the lawn in shape and looking good when working correctly. The opposite is true when it doesn’t deliver the goods, and nothing is more frustrating when it doesn’t work correctly.

A pull cord is a common problem area in some lawn mowers. The causes are easily identified and fixed. Common problems causing a mower pull cord not to catch are

  • The Pull cord is damaged or broken
  • Damaged pulley pawls
  • Damaged pull cord pulley
  • Pull recoil spring inside the mechanism has broken

Apart from the embarrassment of pulling the starter cord and flying backward because there is no resistance, it is also frustrating as nothing you do seems to get the lawnmower started.

This problem occurs more frequently on older lawnmowers that have had a hard life.

Briggs Recoil Starter Clutch Not Catching / Engaging, How To Fix

How Does The Recoil Starter Mechanism Work?

Unlike motor vehicles that can “bump” start when the battery is flat, or the starter motor is inoperative, there is no way to start a lawnmower with a pull cord that is not catching or is broken.

The following details how the pull cord starter recoil works in lawnmowers. The main components of a lawnmower recoil start system include:

When the cord is pulled, the arms on the spring-loaded pawls extend and catch the crankshaft adaptor connected to the crankshaft.

As the crankshaft starts to spin, the two magnets on the flywheel generate a current in the coil, sending a large pulse of electrical current to the spark plug, causing it to create a spark between the electrodes.

Simultaneously a vacuum in the carburetor sucks gas from the carburetor bowl, mixes the gas with air, and pushes the combination into the combustion chamber. The spark plug ignites and causes the internal combustion process to commence.

The pulley recoil spring stretches out when the operator pulls the cord off the pulley and out of the engine. The recoil spring pulls the line back onto the pulley as the operator releases the cable. It allows the operator to continuously pull the rope to get the engine moving faster and faster. The recoil is now ready for the operator to try again.

What Can Cause Lawn Mower Pull Cord To Not Catch?

Most of the issues which cause a Lawnmower pull cord not to catch are as follows.

The Pull Cord Is Damaged Or Broken

If the pull cord is broken, it will not turn the starter recoil and therefore won’t turn the crankshaft adaptor, and the engine won’t begin the starting process.

It is far simpler to replace a cord that has started to fray rather than one that is broken.

To replace a frayed cord, work through the following steps.

  • Remove the starter housing.
  • Cut the length of the new cord to the same size as the old one. Don’t remove the old line yet.
  • Pull the old starter cord out. Use a screwdriver or punch to lock the spokes of the pulley to stop it from retracting.
  • Remove the old cord of the pulley and throw it away.
  • Feed the replacement cord into the pulley and knot it.
  • Fit the pull handle and tie a double knot to keep its place at the end of the cord.
  • Remove the screwdriver and let the pulley retract.
  • Refit the assembly into the starter housing.

If the cord is broken, you must rewind the pulley spring before attaching the new line to the pulley.

To calculate how many turns you need to wind the spring, wrap the cord around the pulley and add up the number of turns it takes to wind it up.

It is the number of turns you will have to make to load the pulley spring.

Damaged Pulley Pawls Will Prevent The Pull Cord From Catching

Pawls are installed on the pulley. When the pully is activated, they extend and connect the recoil starter to the engine.

Most manufacturers use pawls made of plastic that can wear down or break. If the pawls are damaged, they will not engage the flywheel receiver and so will not turn the engine over.

To check the condition of the pawls on the lawnmower, work through the following steps.

  • Disconnect the spark plug. It is a good practice when working on a lawnmower because it prevents an accidental start.
  • Remove the starter housing to reveal the assembly.
  • Remove the center bolt and cap, which retain the pawls.
  • Remove the pawls and check them for damage or excessive wear.
  • Install the new pawls (by sliding them into the same position from which you removed the old ones.
  • Replace the retaining bolt and cap.
  • Replace the starter assembly and pull the cord to confirm it is engaging.

The pawls engage the flywheel receiver, usually a metal cup attached to the flywheel. Check the condition of the flywheel receiver because if it is worn, the pawls won’t be able to engage, and the engine will not catch.

With present-day lawnmowers, most flywheel receivers are made from metal; however, there is a move from some manufacturers to replace these with plastic parts, which will cause wear and damage rates to increase markedly.

A Damaged Pulley May Prevent The Pull Cord From Catching

The pull cord is attached to the pulley, retracting after being pulled, and is stored in the pulley.

Once again, these pulleys are made from plastic and are vulnerable to wear and damage.

A damaged pulley may prevent the rope from properly retracting, leaving the cord too short to enable a full-length pull of the starter.

It is not difficult to replace the pulley; however, it does involve removing the whole starter housing. Follow the steps below to replace the component.

  • Remove the starter housing. It usually involves removing three of four bolts.
  • Pull the starter rope out to its fullest extent and use a screwdriver to lock the spokes of the pulley to stop it from retracting.
  • Take the rope off and remove the screwdriver to allow the pulley to retract.
  • Undo the center bolt and the friction plate, allowing you to remove the pulley.
  • Replace the pulley making sure you line it up correctly with the housing post.
  • You need to rotate the pulley the same number of turns that released the spring.
  • Use a screwdriver or punch to lock the spokes of the pulley to stop it from retracting.
  • Attach the rope to the pulley and release the screwdriver to allow the rope to rewind into the pulley.
  • Reinstall the starter housing and check if the problem is fixed.

The Pull Recoil Spring Inside The Mechanism Has Broken

If the pull recoil spring inside the starting mechanism is broken, the starter cord will not retract and be stored in the pulley.

If the spring has broken, it is advisable to buy a complete recoil starter unit. New units are not too expensive and are sold as total units, with loaded springs and cord attached.


The most likely culprit of a lawnmower pull cord not catching is worn or broken pawls. If your lawnmower has this problem, follow the steps listed above, and you will get to the source of the issue.

If manufacturers start to replace the metal flywheel receivers with plastic units, these will become a problem in the future.


Jason is an expert writer and is passionate about Smart Homes and Home Improvements writing as well as lifestyle and Lawn Care. He spent the past twelve years living in Hawaii, where he worked closely alongside event planners and resort owners to perfect his knowledge of luxury products and aesthetics. He discovered his passion for DIY projects and home improvement there. Currently, he lives in Washington D.C with his family and 2 pets. View all posts

How To Start A Lawn Mower Without The Pull Cord

A lawn mower pull cord breaking can be a pain, to say the least. Would you like to know how to start a lawn mower without the pull cord? Well, we have researched this topic and have the answer for you. It is vital to know how to start a lawn mower without the pull cord, so if it ever breaks, you can still mow your grass.

To start a mower without the pull cord, wrap a thin rope around the flywheel. Now, pull the rope off the flywheel, and the mower will start.

In this article, we will learn how to start a lawn mower without its pull cord. We will also learn the answers to other interesting related topics such as what causes a pull cord to lock up and which mowers don’t need a pull cord. Keep reading to learn more!

How To Start A Lawn Mower Without The Pull Cord

Most lawn mowers get their power from combustion engines. While a combustion engine can deliver a lot of energy quickly, it does have the drawback of requiring a lot of force to get it started.

The primary method to start a lawn mower engine is a pull cord. A pull cord is just a thin rope that wraps around a flywheel connected to the engine. When you pull the cord, it starts the combustion engine.

Since the pull cord on a mower endures repeated high stress from being pulled regularly, it will eventually wear down and break. Once the pull cord breaks, you won’t be able to start the engine without finding a way to turn the flywheel.

The best way to turn the flywheel without the pull cord is to wrap a rope around it and pull. To wrap a rope around the flywheel, you must first remove the plastic guard covering it.

The plastic guard covering the flywheel is held in place with two to four screws depending on which mower you have. Once all the screws on the plastic guard are removed, you can lift it off and see the flywheel.

The flywheel will have a raised metal ring in its center, called the flywheel nut. The flywheel nut is the part of the flywheel you will want to wrap your rope around.

Wrap your rope around the flywheel nut, leaving enough rope unwrapped so you can pull it. Next, pull the rope off the flywheel fast enough to start the engine.

You will notice that the rope comes off the flywheel once the mower is started. The rope comes off because it isn’t attached to the pull cord starter which automatically retracts the cord after starting. Be sure to store the new start cord where you won’t lose it so you can quickly start your mower when you need to.

What Causes A Lawn Mower Pull Cord To Lock Up?

One of the most likely causes of your mower’s pull cord locking up is a hydraulic lock. A hydraulic lock is when oil floods the cylinders in your mower’s engine and makes pulling the cord and turning over the engine nearly impossible.

One of the most common causes of hydraulic lock is tilting the mower while it’s on. Sometimes, your mower may suffer from a hydraulic lock while mowing a steep hill.

Whatever the cause for your mower’s hydraulic lock, you need a way to remedy the issue quickly. To fix the hydraulic lock, you will need to release the pressure built up in the cylinders.

To release the pressure in the cylinders, remove the spark plug from your mower. Next, pull the mower’s cord, and the excess oil in the cylinders will be forced out.

Once the cylinders have been drained, you will be able to pull the cord again. It may take a few pulls to ensure enough oil is drained to start the engine.

mower, starter, rope, locked, lawn

What Mowers Don’t Need A Pull Cord?

While most mowers need a pull cord, there are some types of mowers that don’t. The two main mowers that don’t require a pull cord are electric start mowers and electric mowers. Let’s look at each type of mower and see its advantages and disadvantages.

Electric Start Mowers

Electric start mowers use a battery to turn the starter for your engine, allowing you to turn it on with just the press of a button. Not only is turning on an electric start mower easy but you also don’t have to worry about the cord breaking and not being able to start it.

There are also a few disadvantages associated with electric start mowers, primarily that the battery for the starter will occasionally need to be replaced.

Also, since self-starter mowers are more complex to build, they cost more. You can expect to spend twenty to thirty percent more for an electric start mower over a standard mower of the same size.

Electric Mowers

Electric mowers are similar to electric start mowers in that they are both started with the press of a button. The key difference between electric mowers and electric start mowers is their power source. While electric start mowers use a battery to start the engine, electric mowers use a battery to start and power the engine.

Not only are electric mowers easy to start but they are also quieter. While a typical gas mower may run at 90 decibels, an electric mower will run at 70. The softer sound of electric mowers makes them safer for your hearing than gas mowers.

Also, electric mowers don’t require gasoline which can cost a lot and has hazardous fumes.

While there are some significant advantages to using an electric mower, there are disadvantages. One of the main drawbacks to electric mowers is charging the battery.

While the battery in an electric mower may have enough power to mow your front and back lawn, you will have to wait for the battery to charge if you have a particularly large yard or need to mow multiple yards.

Some electric mowers try to get around this by having a power cord, but then you have the drawback of needing to drag a power cord around your yard.

Should I Get A Mower With Or Without A Pull Cord?

Now that we know the advantages and disadvantages of different mowers without a pull cord, we can answer whether you should get a mower with or without a pull cord.

One indicator that you may be best with a mower without a pull cord is if you find it challenging to start the mower with the cord. If you aren’t physically capable of starting your mower with the pull cord, it may be time to upgrade to a mower without one.

If you have a smaller yard, then an electric mower may be an excellent choice for you. It is easy to start, and you won’t have to worry about filling it with gas.

There are situations where an electric mower may not be powerful enough for your yard, but this doesn’t mean you have to get a regular mower. If you need the power of a gas mower but still have a difficult time starting a mower with a pull cord, try an electric start mower.

Electric start mowers are great for when you need the power of a gas mower but need an easier way to start it. If you need help starting your mower with a pull cord, then it would be best to choose one of these two mowers without a pull cord.

There are still situations where a mower without a pull cord may not be the right choice. Professional yard maintenance is one of the best examples of a place where a mower without a pull cord may not be the right choice.

When a landscaping crew performs professional yard maintenance, they often mow several lawns during the day. If you need to charge your mower’s battery between yards, it will significantly reduce how much you can earn in a day.

Now it may seem that the solution is an electric start mower that runs on gas, but this isn’t ideal for professional yard maintenance either. Electric start mowers aren’t suitable for professional yard maintenance because they are more expensive to buy and repair than standard mowers.

While being able to start your mower easily is convenient, the additional maintenance costs for repairing the extra parts on an electric start mower outweigh the advantages. There is also the fact that most people who work on a professional yard maintenance crew have the strength to start a pull start mower quickly.

As you can see, if you only mow your residence and find starting a mower with a cord difficult, then a mower without a cord is best for you. And if you are running a landscaping business, it would be most economical to purchase mowers with a pull cord.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we learned how to start a mower without the pull cord by manually using its flywheel. We also learned how a hydraulic lock can cause your pull cord to lock up. Remember, keep your mower as level as possible to prevent hydraulic lock.

We hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to learn more, check out some of these other posts:

Is your lawn mower pull cord hard to pull?

I am Janine Clarke AKA Equipment Girl, a nerdy girl with an unhealthy knowledge about power tools and gardening! You can contact me here.

Like everything mechanical, modern labour-saving devices are brilliant – until they stop working.

Few things are as irritating and inconvenient as a gadget that refuses to work, especially when you can’t figure out the problem! In this particular instance, we’re talking about the lawnmower. And, more specifically, a lawnmower pull cord that’s hard to pull.

It’s a safe bet that you’re reading this because the very same thing has happened to you and you’re looking for answers. If so, you may find the following troubleshooting tips helpful, as we go through all the possible causes and offer some solutions.

The Basics: How Does It Work?

It’s essential to understand how the machine and pull cord mechanism work in order to know what problems you might encounter, and how to fix them.

What happens when you pull The cord pull?

The cord pull (also called a pull string, pull start, pull rope or starter rope!) spins a hub that’s directly connected to the crankshaft. When this starts to turn it fires up an electromagnet which kicks the spark plug into action. At the same time, the carburettor pumps fuel into the combustion chamber where it is ignited by the spark plug to initiate a compression stroke.

Once enough fuel has been gathered, the engine fires up, the blades start to spin and the lawn mower is ready to roll.

The pull cord is attached to a recoil spring that automatically winds it back into place. There should never be any slack in a pull cord. If you notice that it’s loose and doesn’t rewind into the housing, then there’s a problem!

If any part of this process is hampered by a part that’s broken or missing, then this could affect the starter rope and prevent you from starting the lawn mower.

Just in case you have broken yours here is a replacement

mower, starter, rope, locked, lawn

First Steps Before Investigating

The very first thing to do is to disconnect the spark plug wire, or, better still, remove the spark plug completely. This ensures that there’s no risk of the machine firing up accidentally while you are working on it.

Ensure that you have plenty of space around you and that there’s enough light to work by. Also, make sure there are no naked flames and that nobody is smoking anywhere near the machine.

Problem #1: Lawnmower Blade Obstruction

Once you’ve made the lawn mower safe, tip it on one side and check the blades for any debris lodged there. If something has become jammed in the blades or blade shaft, this could make it more difficult to pull the cord.

Using heavy-duty safety gloves, remove any obstructive material that you find there and try starting the machine. To avoid the problem in future, always clean down your lawn mower and check the blades after every cutting session!

Problem #2: The Flywheel Brake Is On

The flywheel brake is designed to slow the lawn mower blades down quickly. It’s usually linked to the dead man’s handle, a safety mechanism that stops the blades from spinning if you let go of the handle.

Before starting your mower, make sure that it is disengaged.

If you are unable to do this, it may be that the part is jammed or broken. This is a pretty technical and intricate problem to fix, so it may be better to ask a specialist.

Problem #3: The Recoil Starter

After several years of use, this part can become worn and stop working correctly. This will make it difficult to pull the starter rope and you’ll notice that there’s some slack. It can also become obstructed by dirt and gunk that has entered the housing.

Use a screwdriver to undo the blower housing and place the screws in a plastic tub for safekeeping. Remove the housing and check for any debris or obstruction. Remove any obvious stuff that shouldn’t be there, and try pulling the cord to see if it is freed up.

If it’s still not working, it may be that the recoil spring is damaged. You can fix this yourself, but in many cases, it’s easier to buy a new recoil starter. You will need to find the right one for your model but they are not expensive like the one below for a Honda.

Problem #5: Old Or Dirty Spark Plug

Spark plugs wear out after a while, so they need replacing. I have already covered “how often do spark need to be replaced in lawn mowers“. They can also become dirty and this can cause them to disconnect from the wire. While not directly connected with the pull cord problem, it could still be a factor and it’s worth checking.

Remove and clean the spark plug with a cloth, then try starting the mower again. If the spark plug is corroded or damaged, replace it and try the process again.

Make sure it is not too tight, as it may stop it from working properly.

Problem #6: Bent Crankshaft

This problem means you need to use more effort to start the mower, as the shaft will catch on the inside of the lawn mower.

You’ll usually know that this is the case because it will make a strange sound and may well produce vibrations through the handle.

The only way to fix this is by replacing the damaged shaft.

Pull Cord Not Catching

Problem #7: Hydro-Locking

This occurs when oil gets into parts of the engine where it doesn’t belong! This jams the cylinder and makes it difficult to shift, so pulling on the cord won’t start the mower.

The main cause is when you tip the lawn mower over and the air filter filter is pointed downwards.

To fix this, remove the spark plug and place a dry cloth over the hole. Pull the starter rope several times and watch for any oil being sprayed out of the hole. That’s what the cloth is for!

mower, starter, rope, locked, lawn

Keep doing this until no oil comes out, then insert the spark plug and try starting the mower.

You may find that it kicks out white smoke for a while and misfire once or twice as it burns off any remaining oil. After this, it should run as normal.

Problem #8: Lack Of Physical Strength

If there’s nothing obviously wrong with your lawn mower, it may be that you are simply unable to pull the starter rope hard enough. This isn’t a criticism: some machines are easier to start than others, and some individuals of senior years or who have a condition affecting their strength may struggle with this procedure.

One answer is to replace the pull cord handle with one specially designed to make the action easier. These are usually ball-shaped as this makes the movement more energy efficient.

You can also purchase gadgets that start the lawn mower for you. There was a guy from Ireland who had injured himself and was unable to pull the cord of his machines without pain so he invented the “Pullstarter” but im not sure if he still has any for sale but a great idea!

Final Thoughts

We hope these troubleshooting tips are helpful and that you are able to get mowing again as soon as possible! One of the best ways to avoid future problems with your mower is through regular maintenance.

They are great machines, but they do need a lot of care to keep them working well. Once you’ve been through the list here to fix the problem, it’s a good idea to flush out the fuel system and check the air filter, as these are common problem areas.

And remember to clean off any grass and mud that’s stuck to the blades and casing before you store your mower.

As they say, if you look after your tools, they’ll look after you.

The Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers in 2023 for Making Your Yard Work Easier

These lawn mowers drive themselves, taking the load off you in the process.

By Roy Berendsohn Published: Mar 21, 2023

One of the perks of the warm-weather season is getting to spend time outside. If you own your own home and have a yard, it’s very likely that in order to enjoy your outdoor space, you need to mow the lawn. The larger the yard, the more work it will be to maintain. If you have a lot of grass to cut, you’d be wise to consider a self-propelled lawn mower especially now that there are a ton of sales just in time for Memorial Day.

The primary difference between a standard push mower and a self-propelled mower is that the former moves when you push it, and the latter essentially moves itself with only your guidance. Once the engine is running, all you have to do is squeeze a handle or push a lever and the mower will start moving forward with you as you walk.

Turning the mower around is your job, but once you have your heading, just keep the drive handle squeezed and escort the mower down the path, no pushing necessary.

Self-propelled law mowers take power off the engine and route it via a belt to a pulley on the transmission and axle. When you move the drive control lever on the mower handle, you tension the belt, causing the pulley to turn, and this drives the transmission, moving the mower forward.

Move the drive control lever back and the tension is released, the pulley stops turning, and the mower stops moving forward. The belt-driven transmission is a time-tested design to power the mower and take the load off you in the process.

What to Consider

A mower is like many consumer products in that the more features a manufacturer adds, the more expensive it becomes. But a longer or more eye-catching list of features isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Here are the most important to keep in mind.

Front-wheel drive mowers tend to be less expensive than rear-wheel drive units. They can be easier to turn because you don’t have to disengage the drive wheels to do so. Simply push down on the handlebar to raise the front wheels off the ground. However, their traction isn’t as strong on hills or when the bag is full, as there isn’t as much weight over the drive wheels.

Rear-wheel drive mowers do cost more and aren’t as easy to turn, as you do need to disengage the drive—but this isn’t too much of a hassle. Rear-wheel drive mowers shine on hills and inclines, and when the grass bag is full. In either scenario, weight is shifted rearward and over the drive wheels, which enables superior traction, thus making the self-propel more effective.

An engine as small as 125 cc can power a mower, but most are somewhere in the 140 cc to 190 cc range. A large engine helps when powering through tall, lush grass or in extreme conditions, such as with a side discharge chute in place and mowing tall weeds in a border area. Also, the extra torque provided by a larger engine can improve bagging when the going gets tough (tall, leaf-covered grass in the fall). But if you mow sensibly and pay attention to deck height—and especially if you don’t let your lawn get out of control—an engine between 140 and 160 cc has more than enough power to get the job done.

A mower can have all four wheels the same diameter (7 to 8 inches), or it may have rear wheels that range from 9.5 inches to 12 inches in diameter. Larger rear wheels help the mower roll more easily over bumpy ground.

With some mowers you can start the engine with the twist of a key or the press of a button. It’s a great option, but a luxury. Keep the mower engine tuned and use fresh fuel with stabilizer added to it, and you’ll never have trouble starting.

Any number of mechanisms can control a mower’s ground speed—a squeeze handle, a drive bar that you press forward, even a dial. There’s no single right answer here. Look at the design and think about how you like to work. For example, if more than one person will be using the mower (and not all of them are right-handed), a drive control like that on a Toro Personal Pace mower might be the answer. Just push down on the bar to make it go faster. Let up on the bar to slow down.

A mower that can bag, mulch, and side discharge is known as a three-function mower, the most versatile kind. Two-function mowers bag and mulch or mulch and side discharge.

Mowers will typically have one, two, or four levers to control the deck height. Single-lever adjustment is the easiest to use, but it requires more linkage, which adds weight and complexity. If, for some reason, you find yourself varying deck height frequently, it’s a good option. Otherwise, two or four levers work just fine.

Only Honda makes a gas-engine mower with a high-impact plastic deck (there are battery mowers that have plastic decks). Otherwise, mowers generally have a steel deck, and a few manufacturers—Toro, for one—offer a corrosion-resistant aluminum deck. An aluminum deck won’t rot the way a steel deck will, but you still need to keep it clean.

This is a hose fitting mounted on top of the mower’s deck. When you’re done mowing, hook up a hose and run the mower to power wash the underside of the deck. We’ve had mixed results with these, but they’re better than just letting a mass of dried grass clippings accumulate.

expensive mowers come with a more durable bag with more dust-blocking capability. If you bag a lot, especially leaves or other lawn debris in the fall, then you need a mower with a higher quality dust-blocking bag. Having said that, if you rarely bag, the standard one that comes with a mower will last you the life of the mower.

Also called wide-area mowers, machines in this subgroup help homeowners better reconcile their need for more power and speed with the fact that they may not have enough storage for a tractor or zero-turn mower. A typical residential walk mower has a single-blade deck that cuts a swath from 20 to 22 inches wide. Wide-cut mowers (built for homeowner use) have either a single blade or, more typically, a pair of blades, cutting from 26 to 30 inches with each pass. Some of these are rated for light commercial use and have larger decks, in the 32-inch range, and engines that start at 223 cc and go up to about 337 cc.

Wide-cut mowers typically employ gear or hydrostatic drive transmissions, and they have top speeds of about 4 to 6 miles per hour. At their fastest, they move so quickly you have to trot to keep up with them. Needless to say, they’re overkill for small yards; only opt for one of these if you’ve got a significant plot of land that you need to keep tidy, but not one so large that you’d be better off going with a full-on riding mower.

How We Tested and Selected

We compiled this list based on Popular Mechanics mower testing and our knowledge of the lawn mower market at large. For our testing, we put mowers through the paces using our standard Popular Mechanics methodology: We cut turf grasses such as fescues and blue grass and rougher non-turf grasses like Timothy, clover, orchard grass, and wild oats, all in both normal and shin-deep heights. We mow uphill, downhill, and across the faces of hills. The maximum slope we cut is about 30 degrees.

That may not sound like much, but it’s about all you can do to stand on it, let alone push a mower up it or across it. We mow damp and wet grass to test general cutting performance and whether clippings accumulate on the tires. And we cut dry and dusty surfaces to see how well the bag filters under less-than-optimal conditions.

Honda HRN 216VKA

Key Specs

Honda mowers enjoy a sterling reputation. Having tested their walk and self-propelled mowers for the last 30 years, we feel confident that Honda’s entry level mower is a great choice for homeowners looking for power and durability. The HRN features a GCV 170 gas engine that’s built to withstand long hours of operation.

If you do your own maintenance (and most owners who buy this class of product do), you’ll appreciate the easily accessible spark plug and the fuel shutoff valve that enables better winter storage. Close the fuel shutoff and run the mower until it sputters to a halt. This will clear the carburetor of any gasoline, which will prevent the ethanol in it from disintegrating and causing running issues later on. Open the shutoff valve in the spring, add some fresh gasoline, and the mower should start easily.

All this maintenance stuff is great, but we can also tell you that our past test findings on other Hondas prove that their cut quality is outstanding for cleanliness. Sharp blades deliver a velvet-like finish. And their bagging ability is also quite good, in the same league with other well-bagging mowers from Toro.

In all, if you take mowing seriously, you should enjoy this Honda. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, consider the Honda HRX, which features a mower powerful engine and a composite deck that won’t rust and is renowned for its durability.

One note is that Honda has announced that it will cease selling lawn mowers in the United States after this year—so if you’re considering buying one, best do it sooner rather than later.

Toro Recycler 60-Volt Max Lithium-Ion

Key Specs

Toro mowers have garnered more recommendations from us than any other brand for two reasons: build quality and cut quality. These were amply demonstrated in our testing as the Recycler turned in the best ratio of cut area per amp-hour of battery in the self-propelled category, while at the same time not skimping on cutting, mulching, or bagging quality.

We attribute this outstanding mower performance to three features, all upgrades to the previous version of this machine. First, the air vent at the front of the mower deck seems to improve mulching and bagging performance. Toro calls it Vortex technology, a design that increases air flow under the deck. This helps to stand the grass for a cleaner cut, which improves mulching performance, and also allows better airflow into the bag when collecting the clippings.

Next, the company’s redesigned “Atomic” blade configuration appears to assist the air flow and clipping movement. Finally, the three-phase, 60-volt motor is exceptionally efficient, resulting in a large cut area for a single battery.

Toro has maintained features that make this mower work: rear wheel drive, a one-piece deck that’s all steel (no plastic nose), 11-inch wheels to help it roll over roots and crevices, and the same fold-forward handle that was an industry breakthrough when it was introduced some years ago.

Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Self-Propelled Mower

Key Specs

This is one of Ryobi’s top-of-the-line mowers, and it’s American-made construction is something we wish we saw more of. It delivers a tremendous cut area with its two 6-Ah batteries providing a total of 12-Ah of capacity, and its X-shaped blade leaves a pristine surface in its wake.

Ryobi estimates the design should provide 70 minutes of run time; we didn’t time our cut, but it strikes as plausible. Its rear-wheel drive and reasonably aggressive tire tread pattern provide good hill climbing and sidehill cutting performance, and its bagging on all surfaces (level, sidehill, and uphill) is also commendable.

Other ease-of-use features include an easily installed or removed bag that mounts and dismounts straight up and down through the handle; deck adjustment is quick and easy thanks to a single-level deck height adjustment. The straight edge deck is polypropylene; it will never rust and needs very little care other than basic cleaning.

Toro TimeMaster 30 in. Briggs Stratton Personal Pace

The Toro Timemaster 30-in. mower has been around for several years and has earned a reputation as a sturdy workhorse for homeowners who want to cut down on their mowing time. It’s also used by some professionals as well. A few years ago the Timemaster got a slightly more powerful Briggs and Stratton gas engine, so it should have no issues powering through most demanding mowing jobs.

The Timemaster is rear-wheel drive and features Toro’s Personal Pace drive system that’s used on many of its self-propelled mowers. This allows the mower to move at your speed by simply pushing down or releasing the handle, which is spring-tensioned.

With a 30-in. deck, Toro claims the Timemaster will help you reduce your mowing time by about 40% compared to using a standard-sized mower. You can mulch, back, or side discharge with the Timemaster, and the handlebar can be locked in a fully vertical position to reduce space consumption in storage.

If you have half an acre to a full acre of lawn to mow and prefer the experience of a walk-behind mower versus a tractor or zero-turn, the Timemaster is worth a look.

Craftsman M220

Key Specs

Craftsman mowers have been doing very well in our tests, so we can recommend this one because it’s so much like the many other of the brand’s models that we’ve tested. If you’re looking for a good blend of maneuverability and power, you’ll get it with this mower. Its front drive helps move it along and makes it easy to turn.

It’s important to note that front-drive mowers do lose some traction when running uphill, particularly with a full grass bag. But if your slope is less than 20 degrees, and you’re not bagging uphill, you’ll be fine. The side discharge will also help you handle tall grass. Adjust the two deck levers to bring the mower up to full height and have at the rough stuff.

The fact that this mower bags, mulches, and side discharges is a plus, enabling you to handle a wide range of mowing conditions, from early spring and late into the fall. Three-function mowers like this are our preference for that versatility.

Toro Super Recycler Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

Key Specs

This is a beauty of a mower, with a cast-aluminum deck and a smooth-running Briggs Stratton 163-cc engine. We tested the Honda engine-equipped version, and it was effective at both bagging and mulching, even in moist grass.

Equipped with rear-wheel drive and the Personal Pace system (the farther you push the drive bar, the faster the mower goes), it’s an effective hill climber and moderately effective on sidehill cutting. It has relatively small 7.5-inch tires on all four corners, which causes this Toro to bump up and down a bit on washboard surfaces. But the good news is that it’s equipped with a far higher quality tire than we’re used to seeing these days. We didn’t notice them pick up any grass on moist surfaces.

Other features we like include its forward-fold handle that has a built-in shock absorber that Toro calls a Flex Handle Suspension, and a high-quality grass bag that loads through the handle, from the top.


Are there special maintenance considerations with self-propelled mowers?

Yes. Both front- and rear-wheel drive mowers typically feature a drive belt, which can crack or wear out over time. Fortunately these belts are not difficult or particularly expensive to replace.

Secondly, you may have to replace the drive wheels occasionally. These wheels are driven with gears. there are typically teeth on the inside diameter of the drive wheel that line up with a gear on the axle. These teeth can wear out, especially if they are made of plastic. Higher-end mowers may feature drive wheels with a metal gear that meets the metal axle gear, which improves longevity of these components.

My lawnmower says I don’t ever have to change the oil, but just add oil when needed. Is this OK?

It’s not a good idea to never change the oil in your lawn mower. In a lawn mower, same as a car, oil degrades over time and is less effective at reducing heat and friction in metal components. Changing the oil in your lawn mower is easy to do and will significantly increase its service life. For most homeowners, changing the oil at the beginning or end of each mowing season should be sufficient, though there is certainly no harm in doing it more often.

Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.