10 Common Lawn Mower Problems And How to Fix Them
If you have a lawn, you’re probably well aware that your classic push lawn mower is a workhorse in the yard. Throughout the long growing season, you need to be able to rely on your mower to help you maintain a neatly trimmed lawn. Unless, of course, it won’t start, or it runs over a tree root and malfunctions. Even an affordable lawn mower is an investment you should protect. You’ll want to get as much value from your equipment as possible.
But unfortunately, manufacturers’ warranties don’t last forever, and a year after you made your purchase, you and your mower are typically on your own. Luckily, many lawn mower issues can be resolved with routine maintenance or quick and easy fixes. Before you give up on your old mower and run out to purchase a new one, consider these common lawn mower issues and how to fix them.
Lawn Mower Will Not Start
It’s always a head-scratcher when your mower won’t turn over even though it started up fine the week before. In many cases, the mower simply needs more gas and will start up easily after you refill its tank.
If you determine that it’s not a fuel issue, consider the battery. Older mower batteries may fail to hold a charge; however, not all gasoline push mowers rely on a battery to operate. If yours has a battery, you can test it with a multimeter to determine if it’s holding a charge.
If there’s no battery, clean the spark plugs and replace the dirty air filter as these parts may also be the issue. If these solutions don’t work, you’ll want to speak with your local repair service for further advice. In many cases, it’s much cheaper to replace a failed part instead of buying a new mower.
Lawn Mower Loses Power During Use
The sputtering sound of engine loss can leave you with a sinking feeling. This is another common problem that eventually plagues most people who operate mowers. Frequently, this problem occurs as a result of a dirty filter. A dirty, debris-covered filter can smother the engine and cause it to lose power. Fortunately, a filter is both easy and inexpensive to replace.
If you’ve recently changed your filter or it’s not dirty, the problem could be that your mower’s cutting height needs adjusting. A build-up of tall grass could be causing the engine to stop. In this case, be sure to remove any grass clumps from the blades and raise the mower’s deck height to prevent another build-up. Dirty spark plugs or a blunted blade could also be causing your mower to cut out when in use.
Reduction in Mower Speed
In most cases, if your lawn mower loses speed, it’s because the drive belt has become damaged or dislocated. In some cases, this problem could be pinned on a malfunctioning battery, but that’s a rare situation.
To examine your drive belt, turn the mower off. You’ll find the belt within the mower’s motor casing. If you’re unsure where this is, you’ll need to check your mower’s manual or do a quick online search for reference.
Once you locate the belt, you can inspect it. If it’s loose, you can reattach it, and that should solve the problem. However, if the belt is damaged, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. You can typically order replacement belts from the mower’s manufacturer or find them at a lawn mower parts supplier.
Starter Rope is Stuck
If your mower’s rope is difficult or even impossible to pull, it’s probably because the flywheel brake is pressed against the handle. This is a common occurrence that could prevent you from pulling the starter rope. In some cases, the mower blade could be stuck, also leading to an inoperable starter rope. Check the blade to be sure that nothing is obstructing it. If these two fixes don’t solve the problem, you’ll need to have your repair service make the necessary repair.
Mower Begins to Smoke
A smoking lawn mower can be worrying. Fortunately, it’s not usually an overly serious situation. Don’t worry about the engine ‘blowing up’ – this problem usually occurs because there’s too much oil in the oil chamber; the overfill causes smoke to billow from the engine when in use. To correct this issue, check your oil chamber to determine if there’s a leak. Leaking causes the oil to drip and smoking to occur. If no leaks are visible, the oil cap may need tightening or replacing.
Rarely, a smoking mower can indicate a major problem. White smoke that accompanies a sputtering mower requires a deeper dive in the troubleshooting department. In this case, you’ll want to allow a professional to examine your mower.
The Engine Overheats
A lawn mower engine can overheat for various reasons. If your mower is subject to overheating but continues to operate, it’s definitely worth your time to investigate the problem before any permanent damage is done. If your lawn mower is prone to overheating, check if the exhaust is clogged. Grass build-up can cause a blockage that leads to your mower overheating. Also, be sure to check the mower’s cooling fins; these can also become overloaded with debris and grass, which causes overheating to occur.
Mower Vibrates Excessively
If your mower vibrates excessively, it may be because the blades have become damaged. Running over rocks or exposed tree roots can damage the blades and cause the mower to vibrate. If this occurs, you’ll need to replace all the damaged components. If your blades are in good shape, check the mower’s drive belt – a damaged belt could cause these types of vibrations. If these aren’t the problems, the vibrations could be caused by loose mounting bolts or problems with the cutting deck. Tighten all the bolts and adjust the deck to solve this problem.
Mower Runs Rough
If your lawn mower begins to run rough or you notice that something is off with its running performance, it may need a tune-up and thorough cleaning. A clogged fuel filter or dirty spark plugs can cause your mower to run rough. However, one issue that is often at play in these situations is the carburetor. A clogged carburetor could cause gas to become sticky and thick, which, in turn, could cause your mower to run poorly. A complete clean-up and new gas in the tank should help the issue.
Uneven Mowing Performance
Dull blades are invariably the cause of an uneven mowing performance. You might also notice that the grass appears to have been pulled rather than cut. Dull blades will cause this ragged appearance. Moreover, the grass can whiten or yellow because it hasn’t been properly cut. You can sharpen your mower’s blades yourself using a metal file, or you can have a professional repair service sharpen the blades for you.
Poor Discharging or Mulching Function
If your lawn mower is displaying mulching, discharging, or bagging problems, it may be because your mower’s engine is not working at full throttle. When your engine isn’t running as it should, it means there isn’t sufficient airflow beneath the mower deck to discharge grass clippings or mulch them properly. This is also a problem for the engine; poor airflow can cause the engine to overheat.
Alternatively, you may have waited too long to mow the grass. This could be preventing the mower from discharging long clippings properly. In this case, you should adjust the deck so that you mow less grass at a time. Unfortunately, this may necessitate an additional mow, or you may simply opt to mow in a few days instead of a week.
Maintain Your Mower for Better Operation
You can enhance your lawn mower’s longevity and keep it in better working order by giving it a tune-up each growing season. Make sure to clean it thoroughly after each use, too. Caked dirt, debris, and grass clippings can affect various parts of your mower. By removing these items with each use, you can prevent buildup and ward off some of the common issues outlined here.
Another way to ensure your lawn mower is operating properly is to keep the following tips in mind:
- Change the mower’s oil as recommended in your owner’s manual
- Be sure that you use appropriate replacement parts for your mower
- Use the right fuel for your mower (check the manual if you’re unsure)
- Use fuel stabilizer to keep the gas in the mower from going bad
- Clean and replace the mower’s air filter periodically
- Sharpen your mower’s blades after roughly 25 hours of use (for some, this translates to once a season)
- Properly winterize your lawn mower’s motor and store the mower properly for the cold season
If you have any difficulties troubleshooting your lawn mower’s problems or can’t make the repairs yourself, you can take your mower to a service provider. Many fixes are inexpensive. This will help you get more value from your mower.