How to Fix a Lawnmower That Dies

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Typical gasoline-powered lawnmower.
Typical gasoline-powered lawnmower. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Lawn mowers, chain saws, trimmers and other gasoline-powered garden tools use similar small engines. They are fairly simple machines and can give hours of trouble-free operation. Like any mechanical device, however, they need routine maintenance and care, and are subject to operational problems. The most common problems with mowers and saws involve hard starting or difficulty in continuing operation. Follow some basic troubleshooting routines for mower engines that start, then die.

Things You'll Need

  • Fuel filter (optional)
  • Screwdriver
  • Air filter (optional)
  • Carburetor cleaner
  • Fuel lines (optional)

Confirm that the fuel tank is full with fresh gas or the proper oil to gasoline mixture. Drain the tank and refill it with fresh fuel if you have any doubts. Check the fuel filter while the tank is empty. Read the owner's manual to locate the filter, as locations will vary. Clean or replace it if it is dirty.

Check the air filter, typically at one side of the engine with a cap held on by a single long screw. Replace a paper filter with a new one. Wash a foam filter in warm soapy water until it is clean, then let it dry thoroughly and fill it with about 3 tsp. of fresh oil before replacing. Replace a foam filter if it will not wash clean. A dirty air filter will prevent an engine from running continuously.

Inspect the carburetor. Do this while the air filter is off because the carburetor is located just below the filter on most mower engines. Check for any obvious dirt, such as grass clippings that may have gotten into it. Spray it with an automotive carburetor cleaner to get rid of fine dust and other dirt.

Locate the fuel lines (check the owner's manual if they are not readily visible) and look for any signs of leaks or twists that might impede fuel flow. Replace any lines that show obvious rot or damage. Look at the muffler to see if it is damaged or plugged up with leaves or debris; a mower must have a proper exhaust or it will die.

Tips & Warnings

  • If none of these steps solve the problem, you may have a more serious problem, such as a bad piston, which requires professional service.

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