Briggs & Stratton Pull Rope Starter Repair
for a Snapper mower
Someone gave me this Snapper mower that had been sitting more or less unused for a few years. It's been such a good mower that I got rid of a newer mower of some Home Depot off-brand and kept this one. It has always been hard to start, both because the carburetor was clogged, and because the pull rope would only catch about one of every three or four pulls. (Whacking the top of the mower increased the chances it would catch, we'll see why in a second.) First things first, I took the carb apart, and sprayed the little orifice with some cleaner and put it back together so when I was able to get the pull start to catch, it started right up. Finally the pull rope ceased to catch at all, and just spun without engaging the engine.
This is a really easy fix. The starter works using several ball bearing running in channels arranged in a star pattern. A rotor with a series of pawls on a center-mounted ratchet catch the bearings on the pull stroke and engages the engine. On the return, the pawls push the bearings into their channels so they do not engage. While the engine is running, the bearings are pulled to the end of their channels with centrifugal force and stay away from the stationary (or spinning, depending on your point of view) pawls. In my mower, the bearings and channels were greasy and filthy and were stuck to the walls at the end of their channels.
Remove the three bolts that fasten the engine cowling and remove the cowling. Engines will vary but mine had the choke knob on the cowling with a rod engaging the choke, use care in removing. Lift off the cowl, and clean the interior if necessary. You will see a four-sided fitting and a screen around it over the cooling fins. There are two small bolts holding on the screen.
Remove the two small bolts holding the screen on, and lift it off. Gently pry off the metal cover around the central fitting and you will see underneath the bearings and the ratchet.
Lift out the ratchet, and remove the bearings.
Use some degreaser to clean the passages, the bearings, the ratchet (don't forget the inside), and the central shaft. Lubricate everything lightly with lithium grease and replace the ratchet on its shaft. Drop a ball bearing into each channel, and rotate the shaft counterclockwise to watch the bearings roll freely. Clean the metal cover and replace it, then bolt on the screen and replace the cowl.