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Small Engine Pull Cord Stuck: Why and What to Do

Small Engine Pull Cord Stuck: Why and What to Do

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Paul Brown

I have run into issues with the pull cord being stuck on my gas-powered yard tools quite a few times over the years. While this can definitely be an annoyance, it’s a relatively easy fix once you have located the problem. But why does the pull cord get stuck in the first place?

If you find that your pull cord is stuck, there are a few factors that could be causing this. For one, a build-up of grass or debris may need to be removed in order for the pull cord to move again. You may also have an issue with your recoil starter, which could be damaged. 

In this article, we’ll be going in-depth into why your small engine pull cord gets stuck, how this happens, and how you can fix it yourself. If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, keep on reading. 

Why Does My Pull Cord Get Stuck? 

There are a few factors that may be responsible for your pull cord becoming stuck. While this can be an annoyance to those who can’t figure out why their equipment has stopped working, it’s a pretty easy fix once you find the problem.

Below, we’ll go in-depth into some of the reasons your pull cord has become stuck and how you can fix this in just a few easy steps. 

Grass and Debris Is in the Way

This is a common problem that many lawn mower owners face, and thankfully it’s a pretty quick fix. Grass and debris can build up over time and can prevent the blade from turning. The blade is connected to the starter coil, so if the blade is unable to move, your pull cord will be stalled as well. 

If your pull cord moves slightly, it’s likely that there are grass and debris that needs to be removed from the housing on the top of the motor. You can simply unscrew the top of the housing yourself and have a look around to see if this is the cause of your problem. 

Once you’ve successfully removed the housing from your motor, remove the debris safely by using a screwdriver. Examine the areas surrounding the cord and the pulley disc for anything that may be hindering your machinery. 

Problem With the Automatic Break 

If you’ve examined your equipment for debris and you weren’t able to find anything, try checking the automatic brake. If you feel a lot more resistance when trying to move your pull cord, it’s likely an issue with your brake. 

Many different types of lawnmowers have this kind of lever that will automatically stop your engine. In order to get your machine moving again, you’ll have to manually depress this lever and hold it down before pulling your starter cord. 

This is another common occurrence that can easily be fixed by just following a few quick steps. If you feel if this is the problem with your pull cord, just simply depress this lever to get your machine up and running again.

Problem With the Recoil Starter 

While the slight movement of your pull cord means there is likely debris where there shouldn’t be, no movement at all is a sign of a damaged recoil starter. Your pull cord can sometimes cross over itself when it’s rewinding, causing your cord to become easily stuck.

While your pull cord may be simply tangled, it may also become damaged in the process and may need to be replaced. Upon further inspection of the area, you should be able to tell if you simply need to loosen the tangle or replace anything that’s been broken or displaced along the way. 

If you feel as if your pull cord has become tangled, remove the housing of your motor, rewind the rope to inspect if it is tangled or damaged in any way. If it’s tangled, you’ll want to reset the spring, or remove it and install a new one. 

In the video below, you can get a visual step by step, looking into how you can successfully fix the issue you’re having with your pull cord when the recoil starter is the main issue:

How to Fix a Lawn Mower that Won’t Start: Can't Pull the Recoil Starter Rope

How to Avoid These Problems in the Future

Now that we’ve tackled the main factors that cause issues for you and your pull cord, let’s discuss how you can avoid these problems from happening again in the future. 

Avoiding a Build-up of Debris

When mowing your lawn, it’s ideal to be mindful of where you are using your machine—being cautious while mowing is key to keeping your equipment damage-free, as well as free of large and harmful pieces of debris. 

Using your lawnmower in different terrains such as in high grass and rocky areas can lead to large amounts of debris entering your machine, which in turn can cause problems for you, such as your pull cord becoming stuck. 

It’s also ideal to brush off and clean the motor after each use to ensure there isn’t a build-up of debris over time. It’s also recommended that you blow compressed air into the pulley disc chamber to release any debris that may have built up in that area. 

This is a crucial step users should take to ensure that their machinery is in top tier shape and performs correctly every time they use it. Cleaning your engine and inspecting your pull cord often is a great way to keep a large amount of debris at bay, as well as keeping your equipment functional.

Avoiding Issues With Your Recoil Starter 

Similar to checking your machinery to ensure debris has become an issue for your equipment, you’ll want to check your recoil starter regularly to make sure it’s not damaged.

If you’re experiencing issues such as an immovable pull cord, it may be time to replace your equipment and install a new starter. It’s important to replace your damaged material when the time comes, so you’re not continuing to use broken equipment, which could further damage your lawnmower. 

Take the time to look at your recoil starter to ensure it’s not tangled, damaged, or in need of replacing. The last thing you want to see is any type of frays, cuts, or tears on your cord, so remember to check regularly. 

If you want a machine that functions every time, make sure you take the time to inspect your equipment for wear and tear. This ensures that problems that could have been controlled or avoided don’t build up and escalate in the future.


Now you have a better understanding of why your pull cord may have become stuck on your small engine and what you can do to fix this. 

We went over multiple factors that could affect your pull cord in this way, such as a build-up of debris over time, a problem with the automatic brake, or even an issue with your recoil starter. We went over how these factors can affect your pull cord, as well as how you can fix this issue yourself with just a few simple steps.

We also discussed how to avoid issues like these in the future, such as performing recurring maintenance on your equipment to ensure everything is in top tier shape. So next time your pull cord seems to be stuck, you have all the knowledge and tools you need to do the job yourself.