How To Replace A Lawnmower Pull Cord (Step-by-Step Guide)

If you have a gasoline-powered lawnmower, you know that you have to tug on the pull cord to get it started. This cord is necessary to activate the motor by turning the crankshaft. It’s a similar process that happens in your car when you turn the key in the ignition.

Unfortunately, if the pull cord snaps off, it can be impossible to start the mower. To replace a lawnmower pull cord, you’ll have to remove the rewind housing. Then, using needlenose pliers, you can pull the old rope out of the housing. Finally, you can thread the new cord and tie it off so that it won’t come free.

In most cases, you should be able to do this repair in about 20 or 30 minutes. Even if you have never worked on a lawnmower before, this project is relatively simple. We’ll outline these steps in more detail and give you some tips on keeping your new pull cord in excellent condition.


  • Needlenose pliers
  • Work gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • New pull cord

How To Replace A Lawnmower Pull Cord

1)Remove the Rewind Unit

This piece is easy to spot because it has a bunch of slots. These openings allow air to flow into the engine for combustion to happen. On most mowers, the rewind unit is attached with multiple screws. However, some models may have a secondary covering to prevent dirt and debris from getting sucked in.

2)Remove the Old Cord

Thankfully, the pull cord is inside the rewind unit, so all you have to do is flip the housing over to find it. Needlenose pliers are ideal for grabbing onto the rope to pull it out. However, you may be able to do it with your fingers instead.

To keep the rope from pulling out, the end is knotted. You will have to use pliers to undo this knot since repeated pulls have likely tightened it significantly.

3)Install the New Cord

Before installing the new cord, you have to set the spring. To do this, simply turn the pulley in the same direction as you would the rope. If you notice more resistance as you go, you’re turning it in the right direction. Once it’s wound all the way, position the pulley so that the holes match up for the pull cord. You will need to put a screwdriver or something into the vent openings to prevent the spring from recoiling.

Feed the end of the pull cord through the hole of the rewind housing. Be sure to tie a big enough knot to prevent it from slipping out. We recommend pulling the line all the way through, tying the knot on the end, and then pulling it back until the knot snags. If the rope is made of plastic, you can burn the tip with a match or lighter so that it won’t come undone.

Finally, remove the screwdriver and allow the rope to wind around the pulley system. Don’t let it spin too fast, or the cord can get tangled. Work slowly and reposition the string as necessary to keep it neat.

4)Replace the Rewind Unit

Once the cord is wound correctly, you can replace the rewind unit. Simply reattach the screws, and it should be ready to go. If your pull cord goes up the mower handle, be sure to position it before attaching the pull cord handle. Usually, you have to tie the opposite end of the rope to the handle, just as you did with the rewind unit.

5)Test the Mower

Now that everything is installed, see how well the new cord works. Ideally, the mower should start immediately with no problems. However, if you notice that the line stops short when pulling on it, that could indicate a tangle. Restart the steps to identify the problem before trying again.

Tips and Tricks for Replacing a Lawnmower Pull Cord

As we mentioned, this project is relatively simple, but there are some ways to make it even smoother.

  • Wear Gloves – Not only will gloves protect your hands from the cord, but they won’t get dirty, either.
  • Remove Any Excess Rope – Chances are that the line you purchased will be a little too long. Instead of living with it, cut off the extra piece so that you can work more efficiently when starting your mower.
  • Burn the Tip of the Rope – One problem you may encounter is that the rope end becomes frayed, making it harder to insert through the hole. A quick fix is to burn the tip so that it melts together.
  • Clean Your Mower – Chances are that your lawnmower hasn’t been cleaned in a while, so take this opportunity to put some elbow grease into it.

How to Extend the Life of Your Pull Cord

If you’re like most lawnmower owners, you are probably abusing your pull cord without realizing it. Here are some ways to ensure that you don’t have to replace it again anytime soon.

  • Don’t Yank Too Hard – In most cases, the instinct is to yank the cord as hard as possible to start the motor. However, it’s much better to pull with consistent force. Tugging too hard will cause stress on the rope, which can lead to breakages.
  • Inspect Your Rope Regularly – You can tell if the cord is getting old because it will start to fray. Since it’s so easy to remove the rewind unit, you can check the line at the beginning and end of each season. This way, you can get ahead of any potential repairs.
  • Pull in the Right Direction – If you pull the cord to the side, it will scrape against the plastic housing, which will cause it to wear down faster. Instead, pull the rope straight back. Doing this will also make it work more efficiently, so you don’t have to use as much force.
  • Clean the Intake – It’s very easy for dirt and debris to get into the rewind unit. Over time, these pieces can rub against the rope, causing wear and tear. Cleaning this section out regularly can extend the life of your mower.


Related Questions

Can I start my mower without a pull cord?

Unfortunately, to try to do so will be more hassle than it’s worth. Since the cord turns the crankshaft, there really is no other way to get the motor started. It may be possible to switch the line for an electric starter, but that will require extensive work.

If your cord breaks and you’re trying to find a quick workaround, you can simply open the rewind unit and tie some string to the end of the broken piece. Just make sure that the knot is small enough where it won’t get tangled or caught on anything. If you’re using a plastic cord, you can melt the two pieces together instead. It won’t be a good long-term fix, but it can get the job done for one or two mowing sessions.

How does the pull cord start the mower?

There are three primary components that will ignite your mower’s engine. They are the flywheel, the pulley, and the crankshaft. The pulley is what the cord attaches to, and the flywheel helps generate the spark, using two magnets.

The crankshaft is what moves the pistons up and down so that combustion can occur. So, when you pull on the cord, you’re spinning the flywheel. When you turn it fast enough, it creates a spark to start the engine.

I replaced the cord, but my mower still won’t start. What should I do?

There are multiple reasons why your lawnmower may have trouble starting. One problem could be that it has been sitting out for too long, and the carburetor isn’t working. Another issue could be the starter. Be sure to check all of these components before taking your machine to a mechanic.