Lawnmowers come in all types and sizes. There are push type residential lawnmowers and self propelled lawnmowers with the operator walking behind the lawnmower. Then there are the riding lawnmowers which many consumers and lawn maintenance companies use to cut larger lawns. Whether you are cutting the lawn for yourself or on a commercial basis, the most common problem many people have is starting the lawnmower. In this post we will cover common issues associated with starting lawn mowers and specifically jump starting lawnmowers.
Types of Lawnmowers
Push type lawnmowers typically do not have a battery and cannot be started using an external battery such as your cars battery. If you are having trouble starting your lawnmower, make sure there is fresh gas in the gas tank, your spark plug is clean and not corroded. The gap on the electrode of your spark plug should be set correctly. You may need to consult a small engine mechanic if fixing these issues does not rectify the problem.
Self propelled lawnmowers come with many different designs. The basic function is that they propel themselves with the operator walking behind the machine. Smaller residential self propelled lawnmowers operate in the same manner as a regular push lawnmower except that they are self propelled. See above paragraph for more information on dealing with this type.
Then there are larger commercial walk behind self propelled machines. They are not that common since most people prefer riding lawnmowers for larger properties and commercial cutting. If they have a battery start, they can be started with a boost from a car battery. Otherwise you need to follow the same steps as mentioned above.
Riding lawnmowers and walk behind self propelled machines with battery start fall into a separate category of their own. Typically, they can be started with the turn of a key and a local battery will supply the power needed to the starter motor.
CAUTION: Always consult the user manual that came with the machine to verify external battery start procedures before you attempt to use your car battery or any other battery to start the machine.
Jump Starting your Riding Lawn Mower
If the battery on your lawnmower is a 12-volt battery, then in most cases operators can use an external battery such as a car battery to jump start the lawnmower. Your car battery is 12 volts and will be able to supply sufficient power to crank the engine. When connecting jumper cables, always connect positive to positive and negative to negative terminals. You can do a lot of damage to both batteries if not connected properly.
Whenever you are jump starting any engine including riding lawn mower engines, only crank the engine for 5 or 10 seconds at the most and then stop. Most operators will try 3 or 4 times using 5 or 10 second intervals. Cranking for longer periods can damage the starter motor and also the batteries on one or both machines.
Batteries will become discharged due to over cranking, age, long term lack of use and failure of the battery cells. Once you have started your engine, let it run for at least an hour while you are cutting the lawn to ensure the battery is fully charged. If you need repeated jump starting of your lawnmower you may need a new battery. Have it tested prior to spending money on a new battery.
All engines including small engines commonly found on riding lawnmowers require routine maintenance to ensure they start easily. Failure to start or long term cranking can damage the starter motor and also the battery. If a riding lawn mower engine is becoming difficult to start, it may be time for a tune up. Have the spark plug checked to make sure it is not corroded and that the electrode gap is set properly. Always use fresh gasoline and never allow old gasoline to sit in the gas tank for an extended period of time.
Believe it or not, a common problem for many operators is an empty gas tank. Many operators assume there is gasoline in the tank, start cranking the engine and drain the battery. Before starting your riding lawnmower each day go through the following checklist:
- Check that the engine oil is at the proper level
- Fill the gasoline tank
- Remove any debris from around the lawnmower
- Check the spark plug wire to make sure it is clear and not shorted by debris
- If jump starting is required check the manual first.