Lawnmower with Honda GCV engine will not start and is hard to pull

Lawn mover starting problem. Honda lawn mower won’t pull start? The lawnmower won’t start after winter? How do you repair a lawnmower that is difficult to recoil start? Is your Honda GCV engine hard to pull? What to do when the lawnmower does not get a spark on the spark-plug? Does your Klippo Excellent not start?

Klippo lawnmower with Honda GCV 135 engine

Why does your lawnmower not start?

This is how you fix Honda lawn movers like Klippo Excellent that won’t start. You will find two specific and common problems for this model and their relatively easy solutions in this article. 

A lawn mover engine, or any other fuel engine for that matter, needs three things to run: AIR, FUEL, and a SPARK. If your lawnmower is hard to pull-start, you can struggle even to get a spark. The spark plug is often the first thing people try to replace when a lawnmower doesn’t start, and then they replace the air filter, and that’s it! 

If it doesn’t start now, ordinary people usually give up and hand it into a repair shop or buy a new lawn mover. There are many cheap and easy things you can check and fix to get your lawn mover running again!

This guide focus on lawn movers that has no spark, is hard to pull, don’t start, and describes in detail specific problems with the popular Klippo Excellent model with Honda GCV engine. But first, we should check common starting problems which will apply to all lawn movers regardless of brand or design.

Lawn mower with Honda engine won’t start

First, check this list of typical lawn mover starting problems and their solutions, then check the Klippo Excellent specific problem section further down. This will reveal a less common starting problem with modern Honda engine lawn movers. It can be quite hard to trace down this problem if you are not a repair guy or mechanic yourself.

Common starting problems with lawn mowers

These are the most common problems listed on many websites and explained in various Youtube videos. I used this guide myself when troubleshooting my Honda GCV engine. Here is another great resource on how to fix a lawnmower with Honda engine is also excellent. My list of common problems preventing lawnmowers to start is presented here:

Problem: Fuel valve off 

Solution: Turn fuel on. I don’t know how many times I tried to pull-start something forgetting to turn on the fuel valve. That’s why it’s the No. 1 problem! Luckily it’s cheap and easy to fix 🙂

Fuel valve in OFF position, turn it on!
This is the OFF position, turn it to let the fuel flow!

Problem: No fuel.

Solution: Refill tank. Yes, I know it’s lame to list this one, but this is one of the more common problems with lawn movers not starting.

Problem: Old gasoline.

Solution: Fuel become bad after some time. Petrol station gasoline with ethanol can go bad already after one month, and it will be hard on your carburetor if you leave fuel in the mover. This could be your problem after the winter when the lawn mover that ran smoothly the previous season suddenly does not start this season. Replace the fuel in the tank with new fresh fuel and clean the carburetor. The invention of alkylate fuel solves this problem and is much more friendly against your engine, your body, and the environment. 

Problem: Recoil start is stuck.

Solution: Check if a branch or something has jammed the cutting knives or cutting table under the lawn mover. Remember to disconnect the spark plug before you put your hands under there!

Problem: Air filter dirty.

Solution: This is the problem that almost everyone knows – even my mother! The air filter gets dirty and sometimes oily when you turn the lawn mover on the side with the air filter at the bottom. When the filter gets greasy and dirty, it will not let enough air through, and your lawnmower won’t start. Replacing air filters is a quick and easy fix in many cases. You can check if this is the problem by just removing the air filter and give it a try without it.

Problem: Lawn mower will not start.

Solution: Sometimes spraying starting gas or even WD-40 or similar in the hole where the spark plug is will be enough to kickstart the engine.

Problem: No spark on the spark plug.

Solution: Replace the spark plug. This is also a problem most people know and try first. But sometimes it is the starting coils that need to be replaced. However, experienced mechanics know that the starting coil is rarely the problem on a lawn mover since it has no moving parts. Usually, the starting coils are one of the pieces on a lawn mover that survives the longest. The problem is likely somewhere else like in a lousy cable, which has become unshielded because a rat was there and had a meal on it during the winter. Sometimes the wire from the coil (ground cable) is glitchy and needs to be fixed or appropriately isolated. Sometimes the spark plug is just wet and needs to dry a little in the sun.

Problem: Carburator is dirty.

Solution: The carburetor needs to be very clean, and it contains very tiny channels that get clogged. See a Youtube video on how to clean the carburetor on Honda engines here:

Quite often the only thing you need to do is to unscrew the carburetor plug or bolt and clean only that. Make sure you clean the tiny tunnels on the screw which easily get clogged. This is a quick fix for your lawn mover that will make it start most of the time. Don’t buy a completely new carburetor before you tried this quick-clean fix!

Remove the bolt from the fuel bowl from the carburetor and clean it, this will surprisingly often make a lawnmower come to life again!

Problem: Speed control broken.

Solution: Sometimes, the brake wires need replacing. This could also be caused by the little metal pin jumping off its seat on the carburetor. Check that all cables and wires are connected to the top of the carburetor.

Problem: No oil.

Solution: This is actually the first thing you should check on any engine, and you know it! If the lawnmower does not start when you try to cold-start, it could be because you have no oil, and the piston is stuck. Refill oil SAE-30W or similar lawn more oil and gently turn the blade underneath, this should free the piston. Remember to disconnect the spark plug!

Problem: Flywheel key broken.

Solution: If you hit a stone or a thick stump, you can break the flywheel key, making it impossible to start. This is also called a timing problem. It can be a real pain to fix since you need to take the whole engine apart and reassemble it again. You also need special tools even to get the bolt out that covers the room where the flywheel key is located. If this is the problem, I recommend you hand the lawn mover into a repair shop. This video will give you a good idea about if you think you can do it yourself:

Problem: Lawnmower won’t start after cleaning the carburetor.

Solution: If you have determined that the engine does not get fuel and the cleaning of the carburetor did not solve the problem, then it is very likely the fuel tube from the tank to the carburetor is jammed. This can easily happen during the summer when all kinds of insects fly around and end up in the fuel tank. A fly can get flushed down into the fuel tube, clogging it up and preventing the carburetor from getting any fuel. No really, this DID happen to me! To check if this is the problem, simply disconnect the fuel tube from the carburetor and see if the fuel comes out easily or only drop by drop. If it is clean, the fuel should flush rapidly when you unplug the tube (if the fuel valve is turned on naturally).

Problem: Honda GCV lawn mover will not start and is hard to pull.

Solution: This is probably due to the dead man’s control brake block getting stuck against the flywheel. This is described in full detail under the headline “Klippo Excellent specific problems” further down in the article.

Problem: Lawn mover is leaking fuel.

Solution: When you have used a lawn mover for a couple of years, the fuel tube often becomes hard and stiff, and the clamps at the ends may be out of place, leading to fuel drainage resulting in the engine not getting enough fuel. You can also have a crack in the fuel tank, or the gaskets separating different parts of the carburetor needs replacing. This is usually an easy problem to detect and solve since you can both see and smell the fuel outside the lawn mover.

Klippo Excellent specific problems

Spark plug cover

Common issues with Klippo Excellent and other Klippo lawn movers are that the spark plug cover and connection are radio shielded. However this radio interference protection also sometimes shield the spark plug from sparking 🙂

There is an easy way to check if this is the problem, and that is to simply remove the rubber that covers the spark plug cable and try it bare metal against metal without any cover. If it starts now, then you have solved the problem cheaply and easily!

Hard to pull-start

Any lawnmower can get so dirty inside garbled with grass, branches, and soil to the degree it becomes jammed or at least tough to pull-start. A full cleanup of all moving parts will usually solve this problem. But for the Klippo Excellent with the Honda GCV engine, there is a specific problem that is due to something of a design flaw.

Still hard to pull after cleaning and giving it some WD-40 treatment?

The Klippo Excellent with, in my case, the Honda GCV 135 engine became harder and harder to pull-start. Eventually, after the winter, it did not start at all. What is the problem here?

I completely dismantled the whole lawn mover, cleaned everything, including carburetor and recoil starter pulley. But it was still hard to pull and didn’t start. I could not even get a spark when I unscrew the spark plug att put it against the metal of the engine (the common spark plug test you can see in many youtube videos about lawn movers).

Finally, I realized the problem came from somewhere else. On the Klippo Excellent and other modern lawnmowers, there is a dead man’s control lever on the handle that you squeeze when starting and running:

If you let it go, the lawn mover stops completely. This is due to a small brake that resides close to the starting coil and which pushes against the flywheel with the aid of a spring. When the dead man’s control handle is squeezed, the brake is lifted from the flywheel, and the recoil starter can move freely and easily. If the springs are rusty and broken or, in my case, the actual wire to the handle is broken, this brake block will never lose contact with the flywheel!

Check if this brake block is stuck on the flywheel. This will make the lawnmower hard to pull-start and you will struggle to even get a spark! Don’t buy a new starting coil before you investigate this issue.

Bypass dead man’s grip

If you don’t have a new spring or wire at hand, then there is a quick trick you can do to get the lawnmower to work anyway. But using a cable tie (ZIP-TIE, hose tie, tie-wrap, zap-strap) or whatever you like to call them, you can swiftly connect the brake against the location where the wire starts and simply turn the lawn mover into an “always-on” state. You will need to shut down the engine with the speed control lever instead, basically turning off the engine by strangling it from fuel.

Just zip-tie it!

This is the way the old movers worked before the dead man’s control levers (dead man’s switch) became standard design. 

On the Klippo Excellent, the design makes rain go straight into the wirehouse and accumulate in the bend at the bottom of the wire, eventually making it rust and break.

This is a design problem on this model, which is shared with some other types of lawn movers too. The brake-block will then get stuck more and more firmly against the flywheel, and the lawn mover will gradually become very hard to pull. When the wheel turns slowly, you will not get a spark on the spark plug, and many people end up buying new spark plugs and starting coils in vane. You often need to get over 250 RPMs on the flywheel to get a spark. At this point, many people give up and buy a new lawn mover. But the Honda and Briggs & Stratton engines are engineering marvels and usually never break during a lifetime. People inherit these machines for God’s sake, and they run forever!

The problem is almost always somewhere else. Not in the actual engine.

If you have a Klippo Excellent that is hard to recoil start, then there is a cheap and easy fix! You don’t need to buy a new lawnmower, this is very easy to repair and fix yourself. But the problem can be very hard to trace down if you’re a non-mechanic.

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