How To Start A Craftsman Lawn Mower: A Comprehensive Guide

Craftsman is one of the most popular manufacturers of garden equipment in the US. The lawn mowers from the brand are known for their reliability and durability. Yet, starting a lawn mower could sometimes be challenging. If yours doesn’t start, the first step to troubleshooting is to check the owner’s manual. But what if you’ve misplaced or lost it? This guide can help you understand what’s wrong and how to start your equipment.

First, you should check the oil level and replenish it if necessary. Attach the spark plug and check the air filter. Prime your push mower several times, then hold onto the recoil starter handle. Pull the recoil rope rapidly, allow it to return gently, and repeat until it ignites. This is how to start a Craftsman lawnmower.

How To Start A Craftsman Push Mower In 5 Easy Steps

Craftsman manufactures various types of push mowers, including gas, electric, and cordless. Most electric and cordless mowers have few starting problems. However, gas mowers may be challenging to start after a period of inactivity. 

Depending on your model, the mower can have a recoil or key start. Regardless of the type, you should follow the steps below to ignite the motor.

1. Check the fuel and oil levels

While checking the fuel and oil levels before starting a mower is the basics, you’d be surprised how many homeowners forget about this step. 

Check the fuel tank and replenish if necessary. If the mower needs more fuel, only use fresh gasoline to prevent clogging. You should also add a fuel stabilizer to help maintain the quality of the fuel in time, especially if you’re not using the mower too often.

To check the oil level, remove the oil tank cap and pull out the dipstick. Dip the stick in the tank and pull it out to check the level; the process is similar to checking your car’s oil level.

Craftsman’s mower dip sticks have markings on them, making it a cinch to figure out whether or not you have to add oil. If the level marking says Add, replenish the oil. For an easier start, you could even remove the old oil and replace it with new oil.

2. Check (and replace) the spark plug

Similar to your car, a gas lawn mower has a spark plug that helps ignite the engine. Corrosion or wear and tear can damage it, but this piece is readily available on the market and easy to replace.

When storing your mower for longer periods, it is recommended to remove the spark plug or at least detach its wire. Thus, when starting the mower for the first time after a rest period, you should inspect the spark plug, replace it if necessary, and attach the spark plug wire.

3. Check the air filter 

Another reason why your lawn mower may not start is because of a dirty or clogged air filter. Open the filter cover with a screwdriver and inspect the filter. If it is dirty or clogged, replace it with a new one. The only thing to pay attention to is the filter number and size, as it can vary from one model to another.

4. Prime the engine 

Most gas mowers need some priming for an easier start. Priming is generally necessary after a longer period of inactivity and in temperatures lower than 55°F. Push the primer button (located on the right-side handle of the mower) three to five times

5. Start the engine 

Hold the control handle with one hand and grasp the recoil starter handle with your other hand. Pull the rope slowly towards you and allow it to rewind gently. 

Then, pull the recoil rope rapidly using a full-arm movement before letting it return slowly. Repeat until the engine starts. In cold weather, this operation might require some elbow grease.

If your push mower features key ignition, insert the key into the ignition switch and push it. Alternatively, push the start button if your push mower has an electric start. 

Most Craftsman push mowers with electric start also have a recoil rope that you can use as a backup to start the engine if the start button fails.

Things To Do Before Starting Your Lawn Mower

Starting the lawn mower isn’t complicated if you follow the steps above, but you should always start with a few basic checks. These are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of your gardening equipment and prevent future problems.

Inspect Oil Level

You should inspect the oil level each time before starting the mower, and especially after a longer period of inactivity. Use the dip stick attached to the mower for the purpose. Never start a mower with a low oil level

While inspecting the level, also check the oil quality. If it is a dark color, drain the old oil (you can find the drain valve under the fuel tank) and fill the tank with new oil.

Clean/Replace Spark Plug

The spark plug is generally located on the front of the mower and helps ignite the engine. Carbon build-up and corrosion can damage it in time. 

Pull out the plug and inspect it. Wipe it with a paper towel, checking its tip for rust, and replace it if needed. As a general rule, you should replace the spark plug once a year.

Change the Old Fuel

Fuel left in the tank during winter may degrade in time and has to be replaced before starting the mower for the first time during the season. 

You can use the dipstick to check the fuel level (wipe all oil off with a paper towel before dipping it in the fuel tank). Open the drain valve under the tank and remove all old fuel. Replace it with new fuel. You should also drain the fuel at the end of the season.

Check the Solenoid

A push mower’s solenoid is located in the right corner at the rear of the unit. If defective, the engine won’t start. Defective solenoids usually have a clicking sound and can’t be repaired. Simply replace it with a new solenoid.

Check the Battery

If your mower has a start button, it also has a battery that powers the electric start. If the battery is broken, the button won’t start the engine. 

You can run multimeter checks to see if the battery works properly. If the multimeter reads 12 volts, the battery is in good condition. Otherwise, you have to replace it.

Clean the Carburetor 

Leaving old fuel in the tank can result in residues that could clog the carburetor. A clogged carburetor can prevent engine ignition. 

Take the carburetor out and clean it with a spray cleaner. Keep spraying until you remove all grime, and a clean liquid starts oozing out. If cleaning is not effective, replace it with a new carburetor. 

Check the Fuel Filter 

Another thing you should check is the fuel filter. If it is dirty or clogged, pull it out and replace it with a new one.

3 Common Problems And How To Fix Them

You’ve tried checking everything above, but your mower still doesn’t start, or it has problems? Check out the three common problems below and find out how to fix them.

Lawn Mower Won’t Start

An empty gas tank is the main reason why your mower won’t start. Check the fuel level with a clean dip stick and add more fuel if necessary.

Starts Smoking

Smoke coming out of your lawn mower is usually an indicator of a leaking oil chamber. This could happen because the oil tank is too full or because of a crack in the tank. 

Check the oil level with the dipstick and drain some of it if necessary. If the oil level is low or normal, but smoke is coming out when the mower is running, you may have to replace the oil tank.

Loses Power While Moving

If your mower loses speed while moving, the most likely culprit is a damaged drive belt. Inspect the belt and replace it with a new one if needed.

Related Questions

Does lawn mower oil go bad?

Lawn mower oil remains stable for a long period, but it could start losing its properties after about two years. You can winterize a lawn mower without draining the oil if you’re using it a lot in the warm season, but you should replace it after a long period of inactivity. 

Where is the primer button on a Craftsman lawn mower?

The primer button is located on the right side of the handle and is generally attached to the carburetor. Its role is to pump a small quantity of fuel into the carburetor and aid the ignition process.

What’s the choke on a lawn mower?

A lawn mower choke is a valve that reduces the airflow to the engine, allowing for more fuel to be used. The choke can help you start the mower faster, especially in cold weather.


Starting a gas mower can be troublesome sometimes. We hope that users now know how to start their Craftsman lawn mower and troubleshoot the most common problems. If in doubt, asking a professional mechanic for help could be the best solution.