How to Replace the Starter Rope on a Recoil Gas Engine


If you have a gasoline-powered lawnmower or generator around the house, chances are you'll have to replace the starter cord at some point. As the nylon rope wears against the housing, it gradually frays and breaks. Removing the recoil housing will give you access to the cord; you can fit a replacement without further disassembly. If you have gas-powered appliances, it's always a good idea to have spare lengths of 1/4-inch nylon rope available so a broken starter cord doesn't keep you from using them.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • 4-foot length of 1/4-inch nylon rope
  • Cellophane tape
  • Utility knife
  • Lighter
  • 4-inch length of 12 or 14-gauge wire
  • Pliers
  • Unscrew the recoil housing from the machine with a screwdriver. There are usually three to four screws evenly placed around the housing. Put them in a safe place so you can easily find them again. Lift off the housing, turn it over and pull out the old rope.

  • Wrap cellophane tape around the end of a 4-foot length of 1/4-inch rope; cut the end of the rope flush to the tape with a utility knife. Melt the end of the rope with a lighter.

  • Make a bend in the end of a 6-inch length of 12 or 14-gauge wire with a pair of pliers; push the bend through the rope about 1/2 inch from the end. When the end of the wire emerges, squeeze it upwards with pliers to secure the wire to the rope.

  • Rotate the spring-loaded recoil mechanism in the housing through three or four full turns and stop when the hole for the rope in the inner spindle lines up with the hole on the outside of the housing. Hold the mechanism steady while you feed the wire through the holes from the outside and pull it through from the inside, bringing the rope with it. You may need a helper to hold the mechanism while you do this.

  • Cut off the end of the rope with the wire attached and tie a knot. Pull the rope slightly from the outside until the knot seats securely inside the spindle; release the mechanism slowly and let it recoil, winding the rope around the outside of the spindle as it does so.

  • Thread the other end of the rope through the handle. Push the handle up against the housing and tie a knot in that end of the rope to hold the handle.

  • Set the housing back in place on the machine, making sure the recoil assembly engages with the crankshaft of the motor. Replace the screws.

Tips & Warnings

  • Removing the housing gives you a good opportunity to lubricate the recoil mechanism to keep it functioning smoothly.
  • Do not disassemble the spring mechanism. It is very difficult to reassemble.

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  • Photo Credit lawnmower image by sumos from
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