Please help me fix my lawn mower!

I have a Toro 20333 lawn mower that I bought last year at Home Depot. It was REALLY expensive! I have followed all of the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance, cleaning, and storage, and so far it has worked really well. I’ve been really happy with it.

This model has a pull cord that you pull to start the mower. It has both new gas and plenty of good fresh oil in it (I check it every time I start it.)

But today I tried to start it, and the pull cord only pulled about three inches and then it stopped HARD. Like the cord was caught on something inside the engine. I’ve tried several times, and the cord pulls out a few inches and then stops hard again. So, of course I can’t get the mower started.

I bought this mower last year based on really positive online reviews I had read on it. But now I’m seeing really awful reviews for this mower and for its Briggs & Stratton engine.

I literally have no money to buy another mower. (Besides, this one is only just over a year old!) And I don’t have the money to pay someone to cut the grass. Toro customer service…well…isn’t. So before I take the mower to one of Toro’s “authorized repair” locations on Monday, I’d like to have a good idea what’s wrong with it first.

So can you tell me what’s wrong with my mower and why all of a sudden the pull cord is acting like it’s caught on something inside the engine? I mean, that thing stopped so sharply it almost wrenched my shoulder! I’ve searched online but I haven’t found anyone else having this problem or even any mention of it anywhere.

Can anyone tell me what’s wrong and how likely it is to get it fixed without spending a fortune that I don’t even have in the first place? I really appreciate any help you can give me.

Have you taken the top cover (or wherever the cord winds into) off to make sure there isn’t a rock or something in there? Maybe the rope came off the pulley and got wrapped around a gear or the spring?

Also, make sure there’s nothing blocking the blade from spinning. As well, try taking the spark plug out and pulling the cord.

Does the engine run handle (bar you have to squeeze to run the mower) still squeeze with the same force? That handle may release a mechanical engine brake as well as allow the engine to start. If engine brake isn’t released, then pull cord won’t pull (I imagine).

Just to eliminate it as a problem, replace the plug.

The cord may have knotted itself. Take the cover off, and unwind the cord by hand.

Either the engine is locked up for some reason, or the starter mechanism is locked up.

Let’s check.

First, remove the recoil starter mechanism. Don’t worry. It’s not that hard. That red cover is only held on by 3 or 4 screws; look carefully - they may be Torx heads.

After removing that plastic cover, the recoil mechanism should be held down at 4 points with screws. Remove them, and pick up the starter. The rope should pull freely, spinning and returning all the way. If not, it shouldn’t be too difficult to determine the cause. Maybe the rope got kinked or knotted, maybe a rock got in the gears - whatever. Figure it out as best you can.

If the starter seems kosher, then remove the spark plug and set it aside. Then, wearing gloves, tip the mower and slowly rotate the blade in the direction of the sharpened side of the blade. This is probably clockwise as you look down on the top of the mower.

If you can rotate the engine through several revolutions without a problem, it was probably the starter and something was trapped that you released when you removed it.

If you encounter a stop or blockage, the problem will be internal. It’s possible that you hit something with the blade - a rock, a root, a sidewalk - something that jarred or damaged an internal gear or valve.

This is not supposed to happen. All lawnmowers have a system with a weak link that is sacrificed in order to avoid this, but strange things happen. Google Woodruff key or parallel key for details.

I see that your model has the blade override system, so be sure that’s not engaged so that turning the blade will turn the motor.

Alternately, there may be a nut on the top that the starter engaged - you may be able to put a wrench or socket on there and turn it if it is 4 or 6 sided.

If it won’t turn, it will have to come apart. If it’s not something you’re experienced with, let the service center do it.

Let us know what you find.

I would check for something wedged between the blade and under cartridge before taking it apart to check the pull start as it’s the easiest to do.

Also, be sure to have the spark plug wire pulled off the spark plug and secured away from the plug before getting anywhere near the blade (duh). Losing fingers/hand due to the engine somehow strangely starting would really, really suck!

Moved MPSIMS ==> IMHO.

Just to underscore this, yes it would really, really suck. And it’s not that the engine would somehow strangely start, but if you turn the blade (with the plug attached) you really are doing pretty much the same thing that the starter pull cord does so it wouldn’t at all be strange to have it start. (Think of all those movies where you’ve seen them start an airplane engine by turning the propeller. Carefully consider how much a propeller looks like your lawnmower blade. Get the picture?)

Even if it doesn’t start, when you turn the blade by hand, you’re pushing the cylinder through it’s 4 strokes. After it goes through the compression stroke, there’s a little (very little) bit of energy built up and it can jolt forward a bit as the cylinder enters the power stroke.

Not without the sparkplug in place!

Sorry, but not having the engine start with the blade in your hand is only one reason 3 of us said “remove the sparkplug”.

The other is to allow the motor to spin freely to determine blockage/obstructions.
A novice may think the increasing turning difficulty is a fault, not design…