Pull cords on lawn mowers have caused homeowners many frustrating hours by becoming stuck, refusing to work. Simple troubleshooting to determine one of two issues causing the problem can solve a stuck pull cord. Once the issue is determined, the correct solution can be implemented. A few preventative measures can help reduce the occurrence of a stuck pull cord.
Pull the cord multiple times to determine play in the cord. Slight play indicates blockage or debris trapped inside the housing on top of the motor. No play indicates the cord is caught and may be damaged. Unscrew the screw on top of the housing to gain access to the cord and pulley disc for further inspection.
Examine both the cord and the pulley disc for rocks, sticks or entangled weeds around either the disc or cord. Attempt to remove the object from the disc or cord; if this isn't possible without causing further damage, pull the disc and cord out together to gain access to the foreign object. Clean the disc of any dust or dirt. Return the disc and cord to their proper locations, reversing the order of removal.
A cord caught on the pulley disc or housing can seriously damage the cord and pulley disc. Examine the cord to determine the extent of the snag and the sharpness of the point holding the cord. Pulley discs can fracture or develop sharp edges over time and eventually snare the cord at the point of damage. Carefully remove the pulley disc and cord together. Unwind the cord completely and discard the cord -- once damaged the cord can easily snap. Replace the cord with fresh cord, installing in the reverse of how you removed the old cord. Make sure the cord lines up with the holes and notches or it will snag again.
Watch for potential problems when mowing high grass, weeds or on rocky ground. Grass or weeds higher than the mower can become entangled in moving parts or drop seeds and debris into open cavities such as the pulley disc housing. Dirt and dust kicked up while mowing can deposit into open cavities. Brush off the mower after each use. Blow compressed air into the pulley disc chamber to force out debris inside. Examine the cord on a routine basis looking for frays, tears and cuts. Replace the cord if you find damage.
Measure the length between the motor housing and the mower handle. Double that number to achieve the length for the new pull cord. Use coated cord to help prevent sticking or sudden damage; remember though that a coated cord will lose the coating over time due to friction between it and the disc.