Lawn Mower Starts Then Dies? Try These Easy Fixes
One of the most annoying things in the world is when you start to do something and then technology says, “No, you won’t do this right now.”
For example: how many times have you gotten frustrated when you go to start your car and the engine just won’t catch or turnover at all? You sit there wondering is it the battery? The starter?
The same goes for computers or tablets or phones. You need to answer an e-mail but all of a sudden your phone needs to update its software. Your computer stops working because of a virus. On and on it goes.
The same holds true for lawn mowers. It probably has nothing to do with a virus but it isn’t uncommon for a lawn mower to start and then suddenly die.
Why? Well, let’s take a look at some possible answers to that question and examine the easy fixes that may get your mower running the way it’s supposed to again.
1. What Kind of Mower Do You Have?
Yes, it’s important to know what kind of mower you have to identify possible reasons why your lawn mower is starting and then quickly dying. Specifically, do you have a gas-powered or electric-powered mower? For example, if you have an electric mower, you don’t have to worry about bad gas being the problem.
So, let’s start with issues that an electric mower may face when it comes to starting and then shutting down.
2. Why Your Electric Mower May Be Dying
There are several things that may cause your electric mower to stop after starting. Below, you’ll find the most common issues and what you can do to fix the problem.
Your Electric Mower’s Battery Doesn’t Have a Sufficient Charge
This one only applies to battery-operated mowers, of course. And yes, you’d think this is the first thing you’d check but the trick here is that often a battery may still show a charge and not be completely dead. Depending on the electric mower, though, if the mower doesn’t sense there’s enough charge to keep going, it’ll shut down automatically as a safety feature.
The fix here is to remove the battery and charge it or switch it out with a battery that’s already charged.
If your battery doesn’t charge or maintain a charge as it should, then it may have reached the end of its service life. In this case, it’s time to replace it and move on.
Your Electric Mower is Overheating
This one you might not consider your mower is overheating right off the bat. After all, you were barely able to run it. How can overheating be the reason it’s shutting down.
Well, in this case you need to take into account the climate you may be dealing with and where you store your mower. If you live in a place that gets hot and humid, your mower is probably more than hot before putting it to work.
If you live in such an area and you store your electric mower in a place that gets hotter than the air outside, your mower might already be in an overheating situation before you run it for long.
In either or both cases, try to mow in the morning or late afternoon when it’s somewhat cooler. And let your mower at least acclimatize to the outside air for a while after pulling it out of the garage or shed. Letting it sit in a nice breeze can do wonders.
Now, if your electric mower does run for a while and then overheats and shuts down, you may have clogged vents. Inspect them and clean them out if they’re clogged up or obstructed with lawn debris. Clogged vents are a good way to see your motor overheat, which will almost always lead to a shutdown.
Your Mowing Height is Too Low
The good thing here is a power problem or a motor problem. You’ve simply got the mower height set too low and you’re essentially tasking your mower with more volume than it can handle. As a result, the mower shuts down similar to a gas engine stalling out.
The solution is as simple as raising your mowing height and not overloading the motor.
Grass and Debris is Collecting Under Your Mower
A quick visual inspection should let you know if this is an issue within a few seconds.
Take a look under the mower (after you secure your power cord or battery). Are there large chunks of matted clippings or dirt or both? Any branches that could be preventing your blades from rotating efficiently or rotating at all?
If the answer is yes, clean out whatever’s preventing normal blade rotation and get back to work.
Here, you’re just going to have to do a good visual inspection of your electrical cabling, checking for damage, cuts, and loose connections. If you have a corded mower, inspect your power cord as well.
Lastly, check your breakers on your mower if you have any and reset them if they’ve tripped.
Your Motor May Be Failing
This is the worst case scenario but shouldn’t be considered until the other tips above have been exhausted. If none of those correct your mowing issue, then it may be time to call a service center and consider the possibility of having to repair or replace the motor.
3. Why Your Gas Mower May Be Dying
If your gas mower is starting and then shutting down, one thing you can say for sure is that a power cord isn’t the problem. No, when it comes to a gas-powered engine, you’re going to look at several things not seen on an electric-powered mower.
With electric mowers, it was mentioned having a hot climate and storing the mower in a place that can get even hotter can place the mower in an environmental situation that favors overheating.
This isn’t so much of a concern for gas mowers. What is a concern, though, is how long your mower has been stored and how old the gas is.
The reason this is a concern is the longer gas sits in a mower, and if the mower goes through a range of temperature changes in the surrounding environment, things like sludge and condensation can build up in the gas. The result of this can be poor to incomplete combustion.
Poor or incomplete combustion ends up with a mower that will die quicker than it runs.
To fix this, you can try adding new fuel, fuel stabilizer, or siphon the gas out and refill with a whole fresh tank.
Continuing with the theme of incomplete combustion, if the gasoline is good or new, then the next avenue to inspect is your mower’s carburetor.
If you’re wondering what the carburetor does or why it’s important, let’s retreat back to that whole incomplete combustion topic. There are two important requirements for a gasoline engine to run: gas and air.
You’ve already addressed the gasoline. Now you need to check the carburetor to ensure enough air is getting mixed with the fuel prior to combustion.
If the carburetor is the issue, then you’ll likely just need to do a good clean-out. Although there are several ways to do this, it’s recommended to follow your manufacturer’s guidance for your specific mower. That being said, cleaning a carburetor usually always involves pressurized air and a cleaner that gets gunk out.
Bad Spark Plugs
Yes, more talk about issues with combustion. Already addressed the gas and the gas/air mixture needed for combustion. Now let’s get to the actual possible problem with making that tiny explosion within the engine that is converted into power (or makes the mower work).
In this case, you may have a bad spark plug. If you don’t know what a spark plug does, it basically provides the spark that allows for the combustion of the gas/air mixture. It creates the BANG!
If you’ve got no spark, you won’t have a running engine. If you’ve got a weak spark, you may have an engine that starts but then dies.
The solution is to replace the spark plug.
Trust Your Dip Stick
Time to talk about oil. Or rather, time to talk about how much oil you may be putting in your mower. If you’re overfilling your mower, you could be hurting more than helping.
Yes, it’s tempting to want to put more oil in. After all, oil is protective to all those rotating parts.
But, there is a limit to how much oil you can put in before the mower becomes too full. If there’s more oil than places for it to travel, you’ll essentially lock-up or freeze your mower’s engine. Also, because it’s a pressurized system, overfilling can lead to blown gaskets and leaks.
So, in accordance with what your manufacturer’s manual states, fill as required, not based on personal feelings.
If All of Those Fail
If any of the above fixes fail to correct your mower problem, it may be time to call for help from a technician or service center. The reason, at this point, is you’re probably dealing with a more complicated problem that could range from a bad carburetor to issues with your entire fuel system.
Lawn mowers should run when they’re expected to. But like a lot of technology, it doesn’t always happen the way you want every time. That being said, the causes of an immature mower shutdown are often common and easily correctable.
The main thing is to know your mower and what your manufacturer recommends as far as troubleshooting for your design and to not jump to the worst case scenario without exhausting those recommendations.