So your new petrol lawnmower has arrived and you've assembled it fresh out of the box. What to do next? Well before you fire it up, be sure to read these common causes for engine starting problems - and get yourself off to a roaring start!
1. The Manual: Oh no you say, not the manual! Who wants to read pages and pages of guff in twenty different languages before getting on with the important business of mowing the lawn. Boring, boring, boring! Well, hold on a second. Whilst it may not be the most exhilarating half an hour of your life, following the manufacturer's advice can save you a lot of bother especially when it comes to starting up your new mower. Bare in mind also that you have bought a mechanical device with some very sharp cutting equipment attached and it's important that you operate it correctly and safely. So, even if you have had tons of experience of using petrol mowers before, please do take the time to read the manufacturer's instructions prior to attempting to start the engine as there may be features and functions you are unfamiliar with.
2. Oil: It's really, really important that before you even think about pulling that recoil rope you ensure the oil chamber is filled with the correct quantity and type of lubricant. (If you have bought a new mower from MowDirect, a bottle of SAE30 lawnmower oil will be included in the box with our compliments.) If you try starting the mower with insufficient oil the engine will seize up and won't start again. If you put too much in it will also inhibit starting and you will have to drain it back out. Therefore always check the manual for the correct amount. (It will be somewhere between 400-600ml depending on make and model.)
3. Fuel: ‘Doh!’ - a schoolboy error but not an uncommon one. Check the fuel tank to make sure you are fuelled up and ready to mow. It's a good idea to only put in what you need as left over fuel can go stale very quickly causing starting issues next time you use the mower.
4. Fuel Tap: Most modern engines don't have fuel taps but if there is one fitted make sure it is in the 'ON' position.
5. The Choke: If you have a choke on your mower, make sure it is fully on when starting from cold. (You'll need to switch it off once the engine has warmed up a bit otherwise the engine might become 'flooded' with fuel and cut out. If that happens you will need to leave it for a few minutes before re-starting.)
6. The Primer: Primers are an alternative to chokes and now more common on mower engines. If your mower has a primer (usually a black or red plastic bulb located on the side of the engine) you will need to press it a few times when starting from cold. Don't squeeze it too many times as this can flood the engine with fuel.
7. OPC: Your petrol lawnmower will have a safety feature called the Operator Presence Control (OPC) lever and you will need to engage this in order to start the engine. The OPC lever is a bail arm that can be found in front of the top part of the mower handle and pulls towards you. Before trying to start your machine make sure you engage this lever. (You'll know if you haven't as the recoil will feel very stiff and won't pull over.) To stop the engine you simply release the OPC lever.
8. Oil in Air Filter: If after filling with oil you have for any reason tipped your mower on its side (air-filter side of the engine facing down) it is possible that some of the oil may have found its way through to the filter where it can restrict the air flow required for combustion to occur. This will prevent your engine from starting and usually requires a replacement filter to remedy. When cleaning or checking the underside of your mower, it's important that you either tip the mower backwards or filter-side up. (You might also consider draining the oil first using one of these.)
Finally: If you are new to petrol lawnmowers and still having difficulties, don't panic. Some people find it can take a bit of getting use to at the beginning and you'll soon get the knack. If you are worried about whether you are giving it sufficient 'welly' then keep in mind that when set up correctly modern petrol lawnmower engines are relatively easy to start and if you have followed our advice it should pull over reasonably easy on first or second try. Have a short break and go back to it if you find your patience being tested as you may have missed something - perhaps check that manual again or ask a friend or neighbour with experience of these machines for a hand. If using a recoil start mower just isn't for you then you may want to consider an electric start model or a cordless mower.
You can also find further advice on starting issues here.