My Self-Propelled Mower Won’t Work…Help!!

Written by Gene Caballero on October 05, 2016

Lawnmowers and guns. These two items do not normally go hand in hand, but thanks to Edward Beard Budding, an English Engineer, they share a connection. In 1827, Budding was working in the cotton mills and noticed blades sheering excess fibers from the surface of cloth and adapted the principle to the world’s first lawnmower. Also in 1830, Budding designed a pistol more technically advanced than Sam Colt’s revolver of 1835, but it never saw full scale production.

Since Budding’s inventions, the lawnmower has been a ubiquitous marvel that keeps getting more efficient, easier to use, and cheaper to obtain. Mass production by companies like Murray and Honda have made mowers available to virtually every homeowner as well.

What happens when the wheels on my self-propelled don’t turn and/or the mower won’t go?

Below are some troubleshooting tips that the novice green-thumber and all the GreenPal lawn pros mowing lawns in Brandon, Florida or cutting grass in Johns Creek, Georgia can do to get their mowers back on track. Before performing any of the actions below, please make sure to disconnect the spark plug.

“My engine is running, but my wheels are not turning”

-Inspect the v-belt. The v-belt connects to the pulleys, which drive the lawn mower wheels. From time to time, the belt may wear out and need to be replaced. If that belt is worn out or broken, the wheels won’t turn. Below is a helpful video on how to replace the v-belt.


-Check the drive pulley. The drive pulley connects to the crankshaft and is turned by the v-belt. If that drive pulley is defective, the transmission will not be able to engage the wheel assembly and turn the wheels. With a few tools in the garage, the drive pulley can be replaced if defective.


-Check the self-propel cable. This cable runs from the handle of the lawn mower to the transmission. The location and high use of this cable make it susceptible to breaking. It can be checked by seeing if the control cable moves freely. If it doesn’t, some WD40 should be used to lubricate it a little. If that doesn’t work, it may need to be replaced.


-Check the transmission. The transmission is powered by the drive belt that connects to the crankshaft. If working properly, the drive belt powers the transmission, and the wheels turn. To check the transmission, carefully watch the transmission when the engine is running. If the pulley is spinning, and the wheels aren’t turning, the transmission is bad. Time to buy a new mower because this part is normally unreplaceable.


“My self-propelled mower only works in 1st gear”

-Check tension on v-belt. Tension should be tight. If it’s not, it could be slipping and only turning the wheels in first gear. Having the belt too loose can also cause long term engine damage. Tightening the v-belt is fairly easy and is explained here.


-Check gear box and wheels. If the mower is lifted off the ground, and the other gears work, wheels must be taken off to make sure that the toothed gear is engaging with the toothed wheel. The problem could be that a circlip slipped along with the washer or that either the gear or the shifting keys are broken or worn out causing it to slip. Video on checking the gearbox can be found here.

Most homeowners prefer the chore of mowing their lawn just for the exercise and to save money; any disruption of this can be a significant inconvenience and can lead to fines by the city if not mowed in ample time.

However, if none of these tips work, hiring a landscaping professional may be an option. In addition, regular mower maintenance can help in prolonging its life. For example, changing oil and sharpening blades regularly. Using gasoline without any ethanol may also help to reduce build up in the engine, ensuring the mower will run smoothly for years to come. Hope these tips have answered the call for Help!

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