I refurbish a handful of tractors and snow blowers as a hobby and labor of love.  This site reflects the equipment I've completed and the ethical approach I take in selling these machines.  I also perform service and repairs on tractor-mowers, riding mowers, zero-turns, lawnmowers, and snow blowers.

This Library of Articles enables the homeowner to shop for, care for, and improve the ownership experience. 

Article 19: Installing a New Recoil Starter Cord

Installing a New Recoil Starter Cord

The recoil starter is the pull-start mechanism on the back of the engine that enables you to start your snow blower or lawnmower.  The starter cord is also called a starter rope.

Steps for Removing and Replacing the Recoil Starter Cord

The following are step-by-step instructions for replacing a broken cord in the recoil starter for your snow blower or lawnmower:

  1. First select the proper starter cord (or rope) size to use.  If it is too thick, it will not wind around the recoil pulley enough times to ensure proper resistance.  For most common applications, use a cord numbered 5 (5/32-inches), 5½ (11/64-inches), or 6 (3/16-inches).  Generally, we use cord size 5½ for snow blower and lawn mower starters.

    Cord sizes come in numbered increments of ½.  Each increment of ½ in size corresponds to an increase of 1/64-inch in cord diameter.  Similarly, each increment in size of 1 corresponds to an increase of 1/32-inch in cord diameter.  Cord sizes generally start at #3 (3/32-inches) and extend to #7 (7/32 inches).  So, the range of sizes includes:  #3 at 3/32-inches (or 6/64), #3½ at 7/64-inches, #4 at 1/8 inches (8/64), #4.5 at 9/64-inches, #5 at 5/32-inches (or 10/64), #5½ at 11/64 inches, #6 at 3/16-inches (or 12/64), #6½ at 13/64-inches, and #7 at 7/32-inches (14/64).  This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about starter cord sizes.

  2. Measure out the new cord so that it matches the full length of the old cord.
  3. Unscrew the bolts to remove the recoil housing from the snow blower.  Usually there are three bolts that face inward and screw through the perimeter of the recoil into holes in a small rim that protrudes from the engine shroud.  In some larger applications, there are up to four nuts that secure the recoil housing on exposed bolts that come straight out from the engine shroud itself.  Place the bolts (or nuts) in a safe spot so they do not get lost.
  4. Remove the old, broken section of cord from the pulley inside the recoil housing.  Also, remove the cord from the handle so you can reuse it.  If it is a T-handle, the top cap will slide out exposing the knot that secures the cord.
  5. Align the hole in the pulley, where you knot the cord, with the hole in the housing, where the handle returns.
  6. Thread the new cord through the hole in the housing and then through the hole in the pulley.  If that is too cumbersome, you can go the other way and thread the cord from the inside through the hole in the pulley and then out through the hole in the housing.  Tip: heat the end of the cord with a match or lighter to make a firm pointed tip for threading.  Do this step at each end.
  7. Place a sturdy knot in the inner end of the cord to hold it on the pulley.
  8. Attach the other end of the cord to the handle by threading it through the opening in the handle and knotting the end.  Reinstall the cap on the handle if applicable.
  9. Pull out a small section of cord (about 6-inches) in a loop away from the pulley.  You can use a paper clip to reach in and grab the cord.
  10. Hold onto the loop and use it to wind the pulley counter-clockwise until it is fairly tight.  If the pulley has a notch in it, you can put the cord in the notch and then use the exposed cord to wind the pulley.  Typically, you will wind the pulley (and cord) about 4 revolutions.  Note: if you wind the pulley and there is no resistance, the pulley spring is broken and you are best off replacing the entire recoil unit.
  11. Allow the cord to recoil back into the housing.
  12. Pull the cord out several times and let it rewind to ensure it rewinds securely all the way.  If it doesn't, wind the pulley an extra revolution counter-clockwise.
  13. Once you are happy that the cord rewinds properly, reinstall the recoil housing on the engine.  First, ensure that the handle is in the right position, leaning towards the fuel tank.  Then, make sure the bolt holes on the recoil align with the holes on the rim of the shroud or align the bolt holes with the exposed bolts on the shroud itself.  Screw the bolts or nuts back in securely.
  14. Try starting your engine using the recoil.  If it starts up, congratulations, you've done it correctly!

Video Demonstration on Installing a New Recoil Starter Cord

Here are several YouTube videos that will help you install a new recoil rope.  It's pretty simple.  Tip: if there's no notch in the recoil pulley, simply pull out a section of the cord and rewind the pulley as is shown in the second video for a Honda recoil starter.


Work slowly when replacing your starter cord.  The first time you do this, you may find it frustrating.  With time you will learn how to easily perform this job.


All article content and images copyright Jay's Power Equipment.  All rights reserved.